Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Another Perfect Day . . . . Well At Least It Started That Way

I woke up this morning a Bobblets Gap just before light.  I laid there and reasoned that since this was a little shorter day, I could sleep a few minutes longer.  It felt so good under my quilt.  Finally when I did rise I got a very pleasant surprise.  The spring at the top of the hill was flowing water!  Most of the time you need to look a little ways down from the shelter and with all the dry springs and streams I was sure this was a good omen.

About light I started up the hill to the trail.  My legs were a little sore but I knew they would loosen up in a couple of miles.  At Peaks of Otter Overlook I stopped to watch the sun come up.  The temperature was already coming up so I striped off a couple of layers and headed on up the trail.

Just before Cove Mountain Shelter I saw an actual live person hiking.  I had not seen another backpacker since before Daleville.  He was out for the week also and asked a lot of questions about my Gorilla.  I told him I would email him when I got back give him some information on lightweight gear.

By 11 AM I was at Jennings Creek.  I had planned to have an early lunch here but I wasn't hungry.  I filled my water bottles and headed up on Fork Mountain.  That's when I started noticing things were not right.

Just before the summit I started feeling week.  Okay, I really hadn't eaten a lot today, so I stopped at the top and pulled out lunch.  The fruit leather seemed to revive me a bit, and the jerky was okay but as much as I wanted to eat, food just didn't go down well.  Even the almond butter seemed to stick in my throat.  I ate as much as I could, which was not a lot and then moved on.  After a little ways I felt better.  May be all I needed was some food.

Two miles later I was at Bryant Ridge Shelter.  I made a quick stop there but I was still moving at a good pace.  It was just five mile more to Cornelius Creek Shelter.  There I planned a break and refill my water bottles one last time before going up to Thunder Hill.

About half way up Floyd Mountain it hit.  Gut wrenching nausea.  It didn't take my long to figure this one out.  I'd been drinking water but not eating much.  The same thing happened to Trail Trash on our thru-hike in 2010.  Okay all I needed to do was eat.  Easier said than done.  I had no appetite at all.  The thought of eating repulsed me.  I knew this was only going to get worse.  I decided to get to Cornelius and force down some food, spend the night and see if things were better in the morning.  My pace got slower and slower.  The pain got worse and at the top of the mountain I called Trail Trash.

The conversation was something like this.  "I am sorry that I was not more understanding when you got into trouble in Shenandoah.  I thought all one needed to do was eat but now I know you really couldn't swallow anything but water".

"I know this because it is happening to me right now".

We discussed a couple of options and in the end he called his mom and she headed out to rescue me.

Mean while back on the trail I was trying to get to Sunset Field Parking Area to be picked up.  I called Guthook to verify the mile marker on the Blue Ridge Parkway so my wife would know where to find me.  It was going to be dark I didn't want her looking at every overlook.  Guthook was only too happy to help.  He added at the end of our talk "the AT has really beat you up this year".  I agreed, but then I also set ambitious goals so I bring a lot of it on myself.

Sometime after 6:30 PM I found the side trail to the parking area.  I spread out my ground sheet and balled up next to my pack to wait.  I dozed off and on until my phone rang about 8.  Susan had arrived with a Pepsi and a large bag of chips.  Both were gone before we made it back to the access road off the parkway.

What I'm pretty sure happened to me is called hyponatremia.  It is a condition caused by the sodium levels dropping in your body.  It is characterized by thirst but no appetite.  Nausea and headaches and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.  The victim is usually confused and makes poor decisions because of swelling of the brain.  If it progresses to far there will be muscle spasms and coma.  It has caused death.    

Fortunately for me I identified the problem early and I have an excellent and loving support team that sprung into action.  If I had spent the night on the trail the outcome my not had been as good.  In the future there will be a bag of crushed potato chips in my pack.  Maybe two!