Friday, April 19, 2013

Island of Misfit Toys

"She just can't stop itchi-"



"What you mean to say is that she can't stop scratching."

I stared half-hearted daggers at the doctor's back as he leaned over to inspect Hot Dog's bubbly feet. I say "half-hearted" because I wasn't really angry at having my grammar corrected, I was mostly confused. Is an ER the right place to correct someone's use of the English language? Someone is covered in a mysterious, ever-growing and blistering rash, and the thing you are most concerned with is the words with which the emergency is described? Prioritization was an enigmatic concept for this hospital.

The doctor snapped some photos of Hot Dog's feet with his iPhone and declared that he had to go do some research in a textbook. The Erwin hospital is designed roughly like a small middle school. That is to say, I am 100% convinced that it used to be a middle school that closed down sometime in the last decade. After it closed, all the teachers unanimously decided to become FANCY DOCTORS! Then they all high-fived. This is the only explanation I can find for why all of the employees appeared to have a profound lack of knowledge regarding the medical sciences coupled with an equally profound attachment to proper grammar. Hot Dog and I stared at each other and waited, politely, for the doctor to leave before we discussed whether they were more likely to donate her body or eat her body when she doubtlessly perished.

On Friday, Dumptruck and I had received a phone call from Apollo, stating that Hot Dog had a bizarre rash and that Shanty Town was getting off the trail and coming to Erwin that night. We were delighted that we were going to be united, though worried about Hot Dog. We had gotten a ride from Gray on early Friday afternoon from Greeneville to Erwin, and we had spent the afternoon in the library. We told Apollo that Gray had kindly offered to drive us to Johnson City on Friday evening so we could go to the outfitters there, and we would meet the rest of Shanty Town at the hotel later that night.

Friday evening, Gray picked up Dumptruck and me from Erwin with his 4-year-old daughter Ryan. If Gray was an X-Man he would be Professor Xavier in demeanor: cool, brilliant, calm and utterly badass; and Wolverine in appearance (though without the intense sideburns). If Ryan was an X-Man she would be Rogue in demeanor: funny, kind, and incredibly able to absorb any and all knowledge/power around her; and a 4-year-old in appearance (without the intense sideburns). I spent the ride to Johnson City in the backseat with Ryan, who swiftly and deftly asserted that she was way more clever than any other 4-year-old I've ever met. She did this with the grace of a respectable politician, gently responding to my inane questions with thoughtful and well-articulated sentences that should have probably stopped surprising me after the 10th or 11th time this occurred. I am almost entirely certain that this child was smarter than me, and polite to boot, as she didn't even rub it in.

After meeting her mother Christy (Jean Grey) I was well-aware that I was in the presence of some of the coolest parents of all time. Ryan's brilliance and wit was the product of a pair of people who loved to play and sincerely engaged with their child while allowing her to build her own independence. Dumptruck and I were invited to dinner after the outfitters, and we spent a truly lovely evening at Gray and Christy's beautiful house while they cooked kebabs for us and I ran around the house playing with Ryan. Gray drove us back to Erwin that night, well fed and so very grateful.

Dumptruck and I met up with our humans at the Super 8, and we saw Hot Dog's rash for the first time. She was in good spirits, didn't have a fever, and felt fine, except that her skin was trying desperately to no longer be part of her body. It was bubbling in the sort of way usually reserved for zombie flesh, or pasta brought to a rolling boil. Hot Dog could not identify the origin of the rash, only that it had gotten worse over the day and she wasn't able to hike. Upon arriving in Erwin, she had gone to the Urgent Care center, but they were equally baffled. They gave her some steroids and sent her on her way.

On Saturday morning, Hot Dog's rash was more intense and had spread to a lot more of her body. We dealt with this increasing emergency by doing laundry, getting lunch with Otto at the Huddle House, coloring my hair candy apple red and going to see Jurassic Park in 3D. We decided that if it still wasn't better by Sunday morning we were going to the ER. Sunday morning came, and Hot Dog's entire body looked like a topographic map of the Andes.

We had made a wonderful arrangement with Otto, who has a pickup truck, to slack pack us from Erwin to Damascus while Dump Truck and Hot Dog were healing. Whistle, Donnie and Apollo still wanted to make up their missed miles South of Erwin (as they'd gotten off early for Hot Dog), but I had already decided that the miles between Firescald Knob and Erwin were not going to be hiked by me, as I'd donated them to the joint dislocation gods. So on Sunday, Whistle, Donnie and Apollo left to go hike, Dumptruck did resupply things, and I accompanied Hot Dog to the Erwin hospital.

After watching Hot Dog get prodded and poked at for many hours, we finally got news that the doctor had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what was wrong with her, in spite of his most concerted textbook efforts. Hot Dog and I had spent the day having a grand ol' time having a heart-to-heart (or as Shanty Town refers to it: a fart-to-fart), and sharing verbal hallucinations/fantasies about food. The doctor came in with his serious face on, and Hot Dog and I stopped talking about the benefits of differently textured macaroni and cheese.

"You have two choices. You can either go home, come back tomorrow, and see if the antibiotics helped," he gestured to the IV attached to Hot Dog's arm, "Or we can transfer you to Johnson City hospital butthatwouldbesillywhatawasteoftime."

As a professional in the health services field, I have a keen ear for detecting speech patterns that indicate someone is trying DESPERATELY TO GET OUT OF DOING PAPERWORK. I asked that the doctor give us some time to discuss our options, and after he left, Hot Dog and I decided that the safest thing would be to go to Johnson City, even though our doctor would sigh and barely conceal his disappointment at having to do part of his job that didn't include taking iPhone photos of his patient's bizarre medical anomalies to show off to his friends at the bar later. We called the doctor back and Hot Dog signed the paperwork for the medical transfer. She signed it with her real name, not Hot Dog, though frankly it probably wouldn't have mattered.

Four hours later we learned that there is but one ambulance for the entire area, and it kept getting distracted by pithy unimportant things like people falling off of horses, dying, etc. Dumptruck and Whistle came by in the evening in Otto's pickup truck to say hello and bring presents. The doctors pounced, sensing an escape from this pair of grammar flouting yankees who claimed to be cousins (but one has short-short hair and the other has hairy-hairy legs so we're not quite sure what's going on but it's probably not anything patriotic).

"You have a vehicle now?"

"Well, yes, it's borrowed but-"

"Great. You can just drive her to Johnson City."

"Is that... legal?"

"Not exactly, but we'll give you the paperwork and wrap her IV needle in gauze and you guys just need to promise you'll take her straight to the hospital."

Images of Dumptruck hurtling through red lights while I hung out the back window screaming "IT'S OKAY! WE'RE AN AMBULANCE!" ran through my head like sugar plums on christmas eve. Delighted, we broke Hot Dog out of Middle-School-Hospital-Prison, loaded her into the tiny cab of the pickup truck and the four of us took her to Johnson City. The hospital there was much nicer, and Hot Dog received several days of legitimate medical treatment. She told us to keep hiking, and that she's meet us whenever she was released and just slack-pack with us from there.

And that is how I got to spend many hours at 3 separate hospitals in 4 days in Tenneessee. I recommend the one in Johnson City.

On Sunday night the rest of Shanty Town holed up at the house of Miss Janet, a legendary and sweet trail angel. Donnie had, quite unfortunately, twisted his ankle. He decided to stay in Erwin for a few days while he healed, because he didn't want to miss or skip any miles (he was going to zero for a while and then go back to hike the miles South of Erwin). He told us we should hike on, and maybe one day he'd catch up with us. We'll miss him, and he will always have a place in Shanty Town. The five of us are steadily moving north, while Dumptruck and Hot Dog drive Otto's pickup truck, meet us at gaps and camp with us (neither of them are yet healed enough to hike). We are now hiking with Otto and Otto's hiking partner Apple Butter, who are fun to be with, but who will likely split off from us after Damascus. It's been sort of confusing, but basically here's how it's gone:

Monday: 20.6 miles. Erwin to Iron Mountain Gap. Only Apollo and I hiked this.

Tuesday: 15.2 miles. Iron Mountain Gap to Carver's Gap. Whistle, Apollo, Apple Butter, Otto and I hiked this, and we've absorbed Grim as well. Hot Dog was released Tuesday night and she camped with us! SHANTY TOWN UNITE!

Wednesday: 14.3 miles. Carver's Gap to US 19E Road Crossing. Whistle, Apollo, Grim, Apple Butter and I hiked this.

On Tuesday night, Dumptruck and Otto brought ice cream and subway sandwiches to the gap for us, and we feasted. When Dumptruck came back from the hospital with Hot Dog, she exploded out of the pickup truck wearing nothing but crocs, underpants and a hospital gown, and scampered into the woods. Don't worry, Whistle and I cornered her and calmed her. She's ready for the woods again.

Around 3am Tuesday night, I woke up to being elbow-dropped in the face.

"Erruugh...?" I questioned the darkness, smartly.

"Sorry, I don't have much control over my body weight right now," said Dumptruck, "I meant to just nudge you."

"S'ok," I said, rubbing my sore nose, "What's up?"

My question was immediately answered by the sky brilliantly lighting up with a bolt of lightning.


In my sleep-dazed state, I exited the tent barefoot, wearing nothing but my underpants and a fleece. It took Dumptruck and I about 10 minutes to put the rain fly on the tent, as he only has one arm, and I kept stepping on every possible root, causing me to tumble to the ground or crash into the tent, over and over again, with the grace of a newborn giraffe. We dove into the tent just as the rain began.

Wednesday morning we woke up to thunder storms, so we didn't leave until 1pm. But we still managed to hike 14 miles! The past 3 days have been gorgeous and largely uneventful during the actual hiking. I have finished listening to Ender's Game and Bossypants on audiobook, and I've basically been a hiking machine.

On Wednesday (the 17th) on the top of Hump Mountain (...) I was sitting at the peak with Whistle and Apollo. As I looked out across the stunning landscape, clouds rolled in over distant mountains and were lit up by the overcast sun. The breeze ran over my sunburnt skin, and I laid my head on Whistle's shoulder. I didn't really have words. The grandeur of the scene and the acceptance of my life on the trail washed over me and my eyes began to fill with tears.

"Guys," I said softly "I think I'm having a moment."

"Are you pooping your pants?" asked Apollo.

"Could you do it somewhere else? It's just so pretty right here," added Whistle.

I love my family.

Clever Girl


These are my iPod photos- not as good without Dumpy!

I'm at Kincora Hostel now near Hampton, TN.


  1. How is the Selsun Blue working??

    DFTBA! (Don't Forget to Be Awesome! Or, alternatively, Darling, Fetch the Battle Axe)

    1. I actually got Lamisil and it's worked great! It's basically all gone now. I thought that the Selsun Blue would be a little harder to manage in the woods every day.

      I ALMOST forgot to be awesome today, but don't worry, I remembered just in time.

      Love you!

  2. We thank you for being there with Hot Dog! I worried a pinch less knowing that there was someone at the hospital with her.
    And I do hope you are feeling better!
    Margie and Maurice

    1. I am feeling much better, thank you! I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else in the world than with Miss Hot Dog.

  3. Me...."hahahahahahahaha" Bern...."what the hell is so funny?" Me........"Clever Girls Post" Bern......" No f$#@kin way it's that funny" Me......"shut up, I.m reading" Thanks for the lol. Beth

    1. Hehe!! Thanks Beth! This comment totally made my day.

  4. Good golly! If that isn't the funniest thing I've read since the last time you posted I'm a horned toad. SO HAPPY you are finding a way to make this all work. Good news about the ringworm. Sigh... On to Virginia! We love and miss you. Your spirit lifts us all! Love, Mom and Dad

    1. Thank you!! You look good as a horned toad. Virginia is wonderful so far :)

  5. So wonderful to here you are back on track(trail). We are glad you are all together again. Very funny story. Nurse Aunt Carol suggests Monostat as treatment for ringworm. Wonderful to hear you are all in good spirits and on the mend. We miss you and love you much!
    Mom and Dad

    1. Nurse Aunt Carol is a smart lady indeed! I had already gotten Lamisil and it's working great, but I would have definitely taken her advice. Miss and love you too!

  6. You girl, have a knack for turning a phrase. I love reading your posts. (I don't even care if any of that was proper grammar or not)

    Carry on,

    1. Thank you so much EarthTone! I promise I don't care a whit about grammar :)

      Always carrying,
      Clever Girl