Thursday, May 30, 2013

Blue Ridge Mountains

Footage over the past week over the Blue Ridge Mountains - Slack Packing and Dumptruck's parents visiting!

5/25: 8.9 miles. US 501 to Bluff Mountain

5/26: 12.9 miles. Bluff Mountain to US 60

5/27: Zero Day with Dumptruck's parents. But we went on a 2 mile hike with them back on a part of the AT that took us to Apple Orchard Falls.

5/28: 19.7 miles. US 60 to Crabtree Falls 

5/29: 16.3 miles. Crabtree Falls to Reeds Gap


Falling in love is a crapshoot. Even if the person is fantastic, there are still fair odds of them coming from a completely bonkers and/or uncomfortable family. People become excellent in all sorts of ways. In some circumstances, it's learned behavior from a great family. In others, the person may simply be rising above. There's no real way to know until you meet the kin in question. Then it's up to you to weather the storm or abandon ship. Neither option is great because in either case seasickness is inevitable. 

Take Roald Dahl's Matilda for example. I'd still marry her because she's incredible and has TELEPATHIC POWERS for heaven's sake, but the family she comes from is nothing short of evil. Or what about that girl who fell in love with Mowgli from the Jungle Book? "Well, honey, I'm all set to marry you but you're going to have to learn the real meaning of the word bear hug. Also, you have a 50/50 chance of getting mauled by a panther."

When I first met Dumptruck, he seemed a pretty swell fellow. I haven't always had the best instincts when it comes to first impressions; that is to say, I like most everyone, and need some pretty serious persuading to think otherwise. What a delight it was to discover that he was indeed rather wonderful, and not just in a first-impression kind of way. He even bludgeoned a fish for me. The cave-woman in me swooned!

When it became apparent that I might be developing feelings for this person, I knew that eventually I would have to meet his family. What if they were really proper and fancy, and I would have to swallow my belches and hold in my farts and get so terminally inflated from all the withheld gases that I would have to tie myself to the ground lest I float away across the midwest? Or what if they turned out to be covered in coarse black hair and transformed into wolves every full moon?! I wasn't keen on having to explain my irrational fear of lycanthropy. These are serious fears of mine. 

Imagine my delight and good fortune when I met Dumptruck's family and discovered that they are truly, genuinely and superbly SPLENDIFEROUS. There are innumerable stories of wondrous times we've had together (setting fire to our own homemade gingerbread houses, firing potatoes out of a PVC pipe into my parent's back field, making cookies, etc), but nothing quite captures the brilliance of Dumptruck's parents like their phantasmagoric visit to us here on the Appalachian Trail.

They arrived on Sunday the 26th with more goodies than you can imagine. It was like Santa, his sleigh, and eight entire kitchen pantries. Their honorary trail names are Dump Daddy and Mother Trucker, and were more than Trail Angels for us from the 26th through the 1st of June. They're more like Trail DemiGods. Like Hercules of gatorade and other supplies. Herculean Provision. Band name. Called it.

They have taken us out to dinner every night, dropped us off at the trail, picked us up, brought day packs for us to use for the past three hiking days (courtesy of Bill and Laura!), gave us ice cold gatorades every night and day, treated us to nights in a hotel, a cabin, and a different hotel, hiked with us for a few miles, did our laundry for us, made pre-stamped postcards out or cardboard for us to decorate and send to folks, got Dumptruck and I our resupply, and finally (and most miraculously) didn't balk at our inane decision to mail home our sleeping bags and replace them with a sheet and a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fleece blanket. We still have our wool sleeping bag liners. Our sanity has yet to be accounted for.

Gratitude is something that can't really be captured in words. Hallmark pays people cumulatively hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to try and contain sentiments in 10 words or less on floral printed card stock, and yet even they have not been able to seize the actual emotional flood that comes along with genuine thankfulness. You'd think that with the law of large numbers they'd have been able to at least nail it down in some capacity, but alas, no. I like to think that I have been able to translate the feelings through the fact that I have been nearly bursting with tears for happiness. We can marvel at our own good fortunes, but when marveling doesn't quite cut it, hugs will suffice.

Thank you Dump Daddy and Mother Trucker. You are heroes of the woods.

Love forever,
Clever Girl

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Zip-Lack of Foresight

Some footage from the past month!

5/21: 3.5 miles. Troutvill to Fulhardt Knob Shelter.

5/22: 16.6 miles. Fulhardt Knob Shelter to Bearwallow Gap.

5/23: 15.3 miles. Bearwallow Gap to Cornelius Creek Shelter.

5/24: 19.9 miles. Cornelius Creek Shelter to US 501


There are some moments that are only complete with the addition of "Taps" being played on a trumpet. I don't have a trumpet. Trumpets are heavy. Also, blowing into trumpets and/or other wind instruments makes my lips tickle awfully. I just can't do that buzzing-duck sound. It makes me feel like there are a bunch of bees in my sinuses. In middle school I tried to join the school band, wanting to learn how to play the drums. I was crippled with dorkiness as an adolescent, and I thought that perhaps learning how to smash sticks against big round things to make thumping sounds would make me cooler. The band teacher allowed me the join the band, but only had one instrument available: the tuba. Contrary to what you may imagine, playing the tuba did not make me any cooler. Furthermore, as I mentioned, I can't do that buzzing-duck thing with my lips, so not only did I play the tuba, I also played the tuba badly. This only served to ostracize me even from the dorky band kids. Thus, my wind-instrument career was over. Therefore, sadly, there was no trumpet playing "Taps" available for the following scene:

Dumptruck throwing away 10 pounds of uneaten food.

He marched forward, cradling the food in his slightly quivering arms. The trash can sat under dancing shadows, as the gusting wind blew the trees overhead in whipping circles. The trash can was unaware of what was about to happen to it; the trash can was better off not knowing. When we had emerged from the side trail that led to the parking lot a few minutes previously, the boxy brown trash can had looked like a monolithic gift from god.

We staggered toward it, blinded by desire, and threw our packs to the ground. Tearing open zippers we ripped our food bags out and upended them, sending sacks of uneaten meals spilling to the ground. We tore through the bags, hissing and spitting curses at the sky like seething angry pirates pouring gallons of spoiled rum overboard. Like a furious hive of fire ants, we were of one mind and had only one driving thought: DESTROY.

When Dumptruck stood up in the middle of the wreckage, his right eye twitching with the subtle consistency of a madman, his arms were filled with our food. I sat and watched him go, and with the lack of a trumpet, I could only hum "Taps." Dumptruck pulled open the door to the trash can, emptied his arms, and closed the door, letting the food fall inside with a deep thud of finality.

I cheered and whooped, leaping to my feet, kicking the air and spinning around.

"What... the... hell?"

We looked up, and sitting nearby was another thru-hiker who had paused to watch this insane dance unfold. Watching a pair of unemployed, homeless hikers throw away 10 pounds of ostensibly perfect food was probably similar to watching a Wall Street banker set fire to a pile of money while cackling madly and pulling hair out his perfectly coifed pompadour. Food is like gold to hikers, so why would we throw out so much of it?

It was the bags. The ziplock bags.

A week previously when we had resupplied at Walmart, Dumptruck had picked up a box of Walmart "Great Value" brand ziplock sandwich bags.

"Look at these!" he said, triumphantly, "They're 2 dollars cheaper!"

Little did we know that saving those 2 dollars would end up costing us 50 dollars worth of food. Typically, to save space in our backpacks, we take all of our new food out of the packaging and put it all in ziplock bags. Everything packs down exceptionally well after this, and we have been doing things this way the entire trail. Never did I think that buying brand-name Ziplocks would be important. We hadn't really paid any attention to the type we would buy - we had just never gotten Walmart brand before.

It came on slowly. Like laying on the beach in the rising sun; you don't notice that perhaps you should put on sunscreen until you are burned to a crisp. The first thing to go was the Cheetos. I had eaten a couple of them, and then offered them to Dumptruck, asking if they tasted funny to him. He had replied that, no, they tasted fine. I continued to eat the Cheetos out of the ziploc bag a little suspiciously, thinking that perhaps the ones I had purchased had just been sitting on the shelf for too long.

The next day, my fruit snacks began to taste strange. Dumptruck had conceeded that the ziplock bags did have a slightly strange odor to them. But we are hikers, we'll eat anything. I ate my granola in the morning, and only when I began to burp back up the taste of the bags did I start to worry that something might be wrong. And yet we soldiered ahead, eating because we had to eat.

The next day, everything had taken on the bag flavor. It was getting more and more intense with every meal we ate. Dumptruck and I spoke for a long time about how to describe the flavor. First I will say that as soon as I would taste it, I would get that achey-sore feeling in my jaw that often preceedes vomiting. Dumptruck agreed that he had the same involuntary reaction. This is what we settled on for the flavor description.

Nerf gun darts boiled in a gallon of baby vomit and served over a bed of rotten scrambled eggs.

By the fourth day of hiking, I was consistently "Thurping" which is what I call "Throw-Up Burping." This translates to: every time I would burp (which was every ten minutes or so), I would throw up in my mouth and have to swallow it. I was also thoroughly nauseous and dizzy. Dumptruck was having the exact same symptoms. As we have both had the hiker flu, we could correctly diagnose that we were not suffering from that particular malady.

The flavor had even leeched into un-infected bags. I had a bag of trail mix from Apple Butter that had been in a perfectly safe Zip-Lock Brand bag, but because it was in my food bag next to the other noxious bags, the flavor got into the bag and INTO THE TRAIL MIX. It had become so potent that even opening my food bag caused immediate Thurping.

Whatever chemical was in those bags was piling up in our system and impacting us negatively. I hesitate to say it was poisoning us, only because that seems dramatic. But I will say that I thought about the play Aresenic and Old Lace more frequently than usual.

And thus, on Friday, we knew we would have to hike a 20 mile day to be able to get into a town because we HAD TO THROW ALL OF OUR FOOD AWAY. Those 20 miles were painful as Dumptruck and I were overwhelmed with nausea and had nothing to eat. But we made it. It did take us an hour and a half to hitch hike into the nearest town (Glasgow). I think I've had my lifetime supply of grumpy older ladies giving me the stink eye and driving all the way over onto the other side of the road to avoid me. I like to think that I don't look that homeless, but perhaps my judgment of visual perception has shifted as I have been living in the woods. Once we got into town Dumptruck and I ate an entire pizza, and delighted in our good fortune.

In spite of having to eat radioactive food for the past week, the hiking has been fabulous, we've been with our lovely folks Hotdog, Apollo and Apple Butter and things have been beautiful. Though it seems like we've had a lot of bad luck, Dumptruck and I wake up each day with laughter, and we are so incredibly happy to be doing this. We're luckier than weevils in a cotton barn.

Clever Girl

I meant to mention before that my sister Nelle (Helga the Amazing Toad Woman) sent Dumptruck and I the most INCREDIBLY AMAZING care package in Daleville. It was perfect.

Thank you to Carol in Troutville for bringing us to the Kroger and then to the trail head!! You're wonderful!

A postcard I drew to send to my sister's high school students!

Dumptruck with the food to be thrown away.

Would you like to use a toilet with a rat snake living in it?

Tiny salamander!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Hard Core Black Flies

This is a black fly:
Can't you see the evil in its tiny eyes?
They are small, cretinous insects that bite, not unlike mosquitoes. However, unlike mosquitoes, I am terribly allergic to black flies. Where ever I get bit, the spot swells up to the size of a clementine, becomes rock hard and waxy, and (if I'm lucky) starts to ooze creepy yellow pus. There have been several times in my life when I have gotten bitten directly on the top of my head, and it makes me feel a little bit like this guy:

This is a Pachycephalosaurus!
I have been allergic to black flies since I was a tiny child and got bit on the back of my hand. My entire hand swelled up like a baseball glove for a few days, then the swelling went down. I then had to deal with the subsequent tragic sadness that came from accepting the fact that I was not going to be a child baseball prodigy. I had dreams of a made-for-TV Disney movie called "Black Fly Ball," the tagline of which would be "It started with a bite, and ended with the World Series." But it was not to be.

Black flies are drawn to CO2, which we conveniently expel with every breath we take. Typically I can hike fast enough that by the time the little buggers get to my breath cloud, I am already gone from that spot. However, after only a few minutes of standing still, black flies will swarm like screaming tweens outside a Justin Bieber concert. The swarming is amplified if there are multiple people hanging out in one location, as the black flies send messages back to each other through Wretched Insect Fidelity (WiFi).

As we have been doing Hard Core, we have been standing in the same section of the mountain, digging through ragged earth to cut new trails. This is like a buffet line for the black flies, who gorge themselves on our sweaty, hardworking bodies. For most folks, black flies don't make much of a difference other than a small, unobtrusive bite that may or may not itch a little bit. For me, if I get bit on my neck, I have to take benadryl within a few hours, otherwise the swelling will cut off my airway and I will suffocate. This happened to me once in high school, which was not as cool and dramatic as you might imagine. My classmates found out I was in the hospital, and I had visions of swaggering back into school with heroic bravado, looking ruggedly woebegone. Instead, I had a swollen neck waddle that would make Wilfred Brimley bristle with envy. This did not do any favors to my cowboy badassery.

Hard Core has been pretty cool, as we have been cutting new switch backs in the section of the trail just South of Kincora Hostel. We all wear hard hats, wield axes, and dig through huge rocks and gnarly roots to make a level trail. It is intensely hard work, and I have so much new found respect for all of the work that goes into maintaining the Appalachian Trail. We have to hike 2 and a half miles straight up a mountain, carrying the heavy tools, to get to the section we're working on. I feel really good to be giving back to the trail, and to be part of making the trail navigable for later hikers.

Yesterday, I noticed a few black flies. They weren't terrible, but it was the first time I'd seen them on the trail. We haven't bought any bug spray yet, because bugs haven't yet become a problem. However, I noticed getting bitten a few times throughout the day. I hoped that maybe I possibly have outgrown my allergy, that maybe the bites would just be like regular mosquito bites.

This morning I woke up to my left elbow looking like Gandalf's bulbous nose. I was also bitten on my ribs and my back, both of which are oozing and surrounded by a few inches of bright red, raised skin. Where we are currently, there is nowhere to buy bug spray (we're in the middle of nowhere). We had only one more day, then we would be able to get bug spray and I would be in the clear. So I headed up the mountain today, hoping that the overcast sky would lend itself to rain and scare the flies away.


Dumptruck and I had cut about 20 feet worth of trail when I finally realized it was unsafe for me to keep working. There were black flies crawling inside my hard hat, nestling into the corners of my eyes, and trying to swarm into my mouth. I spent half of the time cutting the trail, and the other half of the time swatting, twitching and flailing like I was being repeatedly and startlingly electrocuted. I had been bitten a few more times (on my ear, and my NECK, for heaven's sake), and I had to hike down the mountain to get to my regular pack, which had benadryl in it. It took me about 45 minutes to hike back down, as it's a pretty good distance. By the time I'd gotten to the truck, my ear had already started to swell up. Luckily I was bitten on the back of my neck, rather than the front, so because I was able to get benadryl rather quickly, I should be perfectly fine.

I am (clearly) going to continue with hiking the trail, but I will probably have to be on a steady diet of benadryl, and I am going to have to shower in deet every day. The bugs are only going to get worse as we go. Though right now we are several hundred miles south of our actual hiking spot, the black flies are probably not far off from getting that far north.

We are going to head back up to the trail tomorrow, and keep on with our trek north. I have been able to spend some really fun time with other hikers who are also doing Hard Core, who we have known before, but who we haven't seen in a while (Garebear, BearSnack, Peanut, Buffalo, Splash, Moses, Waffles and Storm). Hard Core made me feel totally cool, and I was definitely happy to be part of giving back to the trail.

Clever Girl

Dumptruck likely will be unable to upload any more photos to the blog while we hike. His camera can still take photos, but the button for transferring the files to web-ready files is broken from the rain a week ago. So, we'll just have to go with iPod photos. Alas! I am taking more video too, so I should be able to put up some more little videos every once in a while.

This is from Daleville - but I forgot to put it up before

This is before we cut the trail...

And this is after!

My swollen elboooowww. It doesn't normally look like that at ALL.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Summer Camp for Grown Ups

I had a series of thoughts leading up to the moment when I mooned an audience of several hundred people. This is how my thoughts went:

I shouldn't moon everyone.

I should.

I shouldn't.

Oh, well. I just did.

I was in the middle of doing an interpretive dance for the Hiker Talent Show, and I had to focus on getting all of my movements down in time with the song. My decision regarding whether or not to end my dance on a bum-related note fluctuated with the laughter of the audience. I had been nervous about performing, because I wasn't sure if my dance was the right thing to do. I knew that it would be fine if it was just all hikers, but there were also a lot of town folk there (much older and much younger) and police. I was able to do it with the support and encouragement of Miss Apple Butter, Hotdog, Dumptruck and Apollo.

The song I was dancing to was Katy Perry's "Firework," and the dance is already borderline inappropriate. Several years ago I co-choreographed this dance with my regular-life friend Jessica (Combustible Marzipan), and we have performed it in many contexts. However, each time we've performed it, it's been in front of close friends. I've never done it on a stage in front of hundreds of hikers and Southern locals who had settled down to eat their corn dogs, enjoy the festival delights, and maybe watch some stinky hikers play guitar or sing on the stage in the middle of the carnival. They probably weren't expecting to see a girl flail around to made-up fake sign-language to a pop song. In the song, Miss Perry says the word "moon" several times. On the last instance of this, I decided that I just had to COMMIT.

And this it was that during the hiker talent show at Trail Days (a gigantic festival that draws a few tens of thousands of hikers and other people every year), I stood on a state and showed the world at large: my butt.

I won the talent show.

Trail Days is very hard to describe. Damascus is a small town that we already hiked through a few weeks ago, and each year, the entire town is devoted to a huge hiker hippie fest. They let a few several thousand hikers set up their tents in the woods just on the edge of town, have a whole bunch of hiking gear vendors (for tents, backpacks, etc) and events all weekend long. A lot of current thru-hikers find a way to hitch hike down to Damascus, so we were able to reconnect with a lot of hikers that we had seen earlier in the trail that we haven't been able to see for a long time (mostly because they are WAY FASTER than us). We also got to meet a lot of current hikers who started after us and who are behind us on the trail.

The atmosphere of Damascus was a little like if you gave 10,000 8-year-olds 50,000 pixie sticks. Everyone had the energy of the Energizer Bunny on methamphetamine. It was infectious, and my eyes started watering once or twice because I forgot to blink. There were bonfires each night, and blue grass music, and mud all over my feet from all of the dancing. On Thursday night Dumptruck and I went to bed around 1am, but we were camped right next to a bonfire with approximately 60 people still hanging out around it. You might think that would make it hard to sleep, but to the contrary, there were so many conversations that the English language became indistinguishable. All of the voices ran together into a beautiful symphony of white noise, and I fell asleep in less than 5 minutes, like a baby in a bassinet on top of a washing machine.

We spent a lot of the weekend gallivanting around the small town that was stuffed to the gills with our stinky kin. Friday, Dumptruck and I set up a little photo studio in the open-air garage bay of a house downtown (we rented the space from the woman who owned the house). Dumptruck then spent all day taking portraits of hikers against a very fancy backdrop of a white table cloth. The photos actually turned out really beautiful - and Dumptruck will use them for something one day. I got to have hikers sign model contracts, and tell everyone that they were looking "Beautiful, gorgeous dahling!" while Dumptruck took their portraits. I felt like a magician's assistant. Except I never got cut in half.

I was able to meet a wonderful, supportive, kind woman named Meg who helped us find the space to set up for our photographs. She also helped us out with renting the space in spite of our protestations, because she is incredibly generous. Meg is an author, and she is currently writing a book called "Wander Women" about ten women who thru-hiked the trail last year. You can find out more about her book here:

There were also standard carnival-type booths in the vendor village, which was delightful. In my opinion, funnel cake is one of the pinnacles of human creation. How can something so light and fluffy be so greasy and disgusting at the same time? How can the powdered sugar stay so powdery and yet so soaked in buttery grossness? How can I get so much of it in my mouth while simultaneously getting so much of it all over my face? These are the questions that cannot be answered, and that is why funnel cake defies the bounds of creativity. It also defies the bounds of my intestines.

I am currently doing something called Hard Core, which is two days of super intense volunteer trail maintenance. We will be cutting new trails for the AT and getting muddy and gross for today and tomorrow. I will save my description of Hard Core for the next post though, because I have become sleepier than a sleeper agent who has been hit in the head, forgotten his mission, and spent all of his spy money on cheetos and beer. You might be wondering when we will be getting back to hiking. Hard Core is over on Monday, and we will be getting back to Daleville on Tuesday morning. Then Northbound again we will be, and we have no more plans for times we will have to get off the trail. Unless of course there is a Dinosaur museum. Then I will be there for days.

Clever Girl

I unfortunately do not have video of my talent show performance (because my iPod was being used by the sound system guy for my music), but Apple Butter did kindly record it! If/when I get it online, I will post it here!

Trail Days Accident

When I was a little girl, I had a sheepskin blanket that was very precious to me. It was warm, made of sheep's wool, and was the perfect shape for me to lay on when I was small. Even when I got too big for it, I would lay it over my pillow and sleep with my cheek snuggled into the fluff. It never really had a name, it was just a blanket.

One time when I was maybe 3 years old, my dad was very sad about something. He recounts that he was sitting on the stoop outside our house and I came out to him, dragging my blanket behind me like Linus.

"Here," I said, and put my blanket on his lap. I took his hand, and showed him how I would curl my little pinky finger in the fluffy wool when I was feeling sad, and it would make me feel better. My dad has told me that he felt better immediately because of this, but that it made him cry even more, which confounded my tiny child brain. It's funny how sometimes only the simplest things can be comforting. I'm trying just to stick with that, and find goodness in spite of what happened. We all tried to continue on and enjoy Trail Days as best as we could, and to soldier on.

I'm not really sure what to say about the tragedy that happened at Trail Days, except that it was an accident, and it really, truly sucked. If you haven't heard what happened, I'll add a link at the bottom of this post. I don't think I'd really be able to describe it well. Dumptruck and I were in the parade, about 75 feet ahead of where the accident happened. Some of our friends were right there, though no one we knew personally was hurt. A few of our friends were the ones that lifted the car up, and we are so grateful for them.

Our thoughts and hearts are with those who were directly injured by the accident.

Here's the news story, though I should let you know that the "number injured" in the article title is a bit overblown - the actual content of the article seems accurate though.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Seiz(ur)e the Day

5/13: Driving back to Virginia

5/14: 20 miles into Daleville

"We have to pick him up. No one else is going to pick him up."

Standing on the side of the road was a young-ish looking drifter kid wearing a bowler hat and holding a cardboard sign. We were somewhere in Connecticut where we'd pulled off to resupply for the coming week. We figured it would be easier while we still had the car and could get groceries at a store that hadn't been completely gutted by hikers. It was a miracle to walk into a facility that had more than one completely molested Gross Flavor Clif Bar sitting lonely and disheveled on a shelf. 

Dumptruck and I have had relatively good hitch-hiking luck, but have not been able to repay the universe this favor. Mostly because we've been in the woods and have no car. I would like to imagine that hikers could hitch-hike on each other by riding on the top of each other's packs like roving totem poles. Then we could play fun games like Hiker Chicken, Longest Distance Without Serious Injury and, my personal favorite, Ouch! My Spine!

Nattie was a 25-year-old leaf on the wind who had been hopping trains for the last 6 years. He smelled exactly like a thru-hiker and traveled with a small rambunctious black dog named Kaia. He lounged across the backseat, leaning against his pack while wind from the open window ruffled his matted long hair under his bowler hat. He had the voice of a smoker twice his own age but laughed as easily as a ticklish toddler. He made his living playing guitar on street corners or pan handling.

He told us about the train-hopping culture, and it doesn't sound very different from the life of a thru-hiker, though the dangers are different. For example, instead of bears there are giant pieces of heavy machinery hurtling across the landscape at 75mph that you have to jump on. We don't usually have to wait for a passing bear to reach out and grab ahold of in order to get to Maine. Even if you did successfully latch yourself onto a bear without arousing his suspicion and/or murderous rage, you would still have to contend with the fact that you would spend most of your trip up to your neck in river water while your ride catches spawning salmon with its mouth. This is unlike a train.

Nattie was on his way home to see his mother who he has not seen in 3 years. We drove him for 45 minutes to the small Connecticut town, and he grew quieter the closer we got. I can only imagine what was making him nervous, but I suspect it has something to do with the fact that he is going to SEE HIS MOTHER for the FIRST TIME in YEARS after RIDING AROUND IN THE BACKS OF TRAINS, for HEAVENS SAKE YOUNG MAN, DO YOU WANT ME TO GO TO AN EARLY GRAVE?! That's not me being judgmental- that's just what I imagine his mother is going to sound like. There will probably also be a couple of "GET A JOB!"s and "WHAT WOULD YOUR GRANDFATHER THINK?!"s thrown in there, for good measure. I personally think his adventure is super cool and Kerouac-ian but I am also in the uniquely privileged position of not being his mother.

We dropped him and Kaia off in a little park on the outskirts of his mother's town. We drove away to the sight of him looking dejectedly down into the bowler hat in his hands, as though maybe he had been hoping to find courage somewhere in the felted folds. 

By 1am, Dumptruck and I were still a few hours outside Roanoke. However, we didn't want to pay for a hotel room because even though we took a break from the AT, we haven't stopped being homeless. We decided the most logical thing was just to sleep in the car somewhere. We pulled into the parking lot of a Super 8 and parked between a dumpster and a maintenance truck. We then settled down to the business of trying to get 2 tall people comfortable sleeping in a compact car. I am 5'7", Dumptruck is 6'2", and our rental car was about as spacious as the inside of a dishwasher. Trying to find a way to lay down and sleep was a little like trying to jam a pair of foam pool noodles into a lady's suitcase. But we persevered!

We woke up to the inside of the car being completely fogged over with our sleep breath. Dumptruck slapped some sense into himself and we rolled down all the windows, revealing a chilly morning. Dumptruck drove us the rest of the way to the Roanoke airport so we could drop off the rental car. At the airport was HAAWWWTTTDAAAWWWWGGGG! I almost exploded out of excitement to see her. She was driving her gigantic blue transformer Autobot truck, which could have fit 3 of our tiny rental cars inside of it, with space leftover for a few German Shephards and a refridgerator.

She drove us to the trailhead so that Dumptruck and I could hike our 20 miles into Daleville. Dumptruck and I loaded up our packs and took a quick glance at the map. The terrain looked tame-ish, and we got to go over McAfee's Knob, one of the prettiest and most photographed overlooks on the trail. There were approximately one zillion day hikers up to see the knob, so getting a photograph on the cliff was like waiting in line for the Dumbo ride at Disney World: worth the boiling hot shuffling wait in line, and not as scary once you're on it as you may have thought it would be when you're a terrified 3-year-old staring up at the underside of a bunch of flying elephants and imagining your own elephantine death. Luckily the knob was only 3 miles into the day, so the rest of the day we saw just a few other thru-hikers.

I had only a liter and a half of water, and the day was turning out to be a lot hotter than we had anticipated. Dumptruck and I met a fantastic, funny and engaging hiker named Reach, who kept a good hiking clip. She and I had hiked a bit ahead of Dumptruck, talking about all manner of fun things. After I'd been hiking with her for a while, I realized I'd run out of water.

"Hey Reach? Can you check the map to see how much farther to water?"

"Sure!" She checked. "There's no more water until Daleville, and that's not for 5 miles."

I goggled at her. We had apparently passed the last water source 2 miles previously. Dumptruck and I, having taken a few days off the trail for the wedding, and thinking we only had one hiking day until a town, had not paid close enough attention to the map. Reach had only a liter left for her and she still had to hike just as far, so we were out of luck. I was already pretty thirsty, so I waited for Dumptruck to catch up. He had 3 liters when we started, so I thought he might have had some water left.

5 minutes later: Dumptruck. He had zero water. We didn't really have a choice but to just keep hiking, and hope to get to the town before the dehydration got too bad. 

At this point I would like to interject the story and remind my mother and friends (I'M LOOKING AT YOU JES) that EVERYTHING IS OKAY. I am writing this blog, which means I'm alive, and at least capable of some degree of mental faculties. I promise that I will never make this mistake again, and that it wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. But what good is going through terrible medical maladies if you can't at least serve as a warning to others? No good at all, I say! So, in the interest of posterity, I will finish this story. But in the interest of not leading my mother to an early grave (like Nattie's), I want to be clear again that EVERYTHING IS OKAY.

I started hiking again with Reach. Dumptruck said he would just meet us there because we was pretty tired and wanted to take it slow. Reach is lovely and very engaging, so it was easy to keep my mind off my thirst by chatting with her for the last 5 miles of the 20 mile day. I will remind you that for the entire 20 mile day I had only a liter and a half of water (for the uninitiated, that's like a gatorade and a half, which isn't very much). At about 4 miles in, my vision was getting splotchy, and I was having black and white blurs across my vision. I kept hiking, knowing that the only fix was water, and stopping would not get me any closer to hydration.

With only half a mile left to go, we came across a tiny piddly creek. If you had asked me before I started hiking if I would have willingly guzzled muddy barely flowing water, I would have said no... No wait, that's a lie. I have no standards, as long as it's sterilized. But muddy water full of dead leaves wouldn't be my first choice. However, at that moment, it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.

I told Reach that I had to stop and get water even though we were almost to the town. She bid me farewell and left me alone, as Dumptruck was still behind us somewhere. I filled my water bottle and got out my chlorine drops. The drops have to sit for 5 minutes once mixed, then after you put them in the water, you have to wait for 15 minutes for it to sterilize the water. So one has to wait 20 minutes before the water can actually be imbibed.

I was sitting in the grass, staring at the chlorine drops and my timer when things started getting weird. My vision began to get seriously wonky and I felt freezing cold, even though it was hot outside. I started losing feeling in my fingers, which was only sort of alarming to me. my thoughts had to go through several layers of molasses-thick dumbness before they could access my frontal lobe. Dumptruck found me when I still had 8 minutes left before I could drink the water. I was rocking back and forth, completely unable to focus and taking strange, ragged breaths.

Dumptruck immediately laid me down and put my feet up on my backpack (the shock position! Yeah wilderness first aid!). The weird numb feeling had spread from my fingers, through my hands and to my arms. My body was twitching a little bit, but I attributed it to my chilliness. I had a minute left before I could drink my water when the seizures started. 

These were muscular seizures, meaning that my brain was okay, but the complete lack of water in my muscles caused them to contract and vibrate spasmodically. All of my fingers and my hands contorted into truly grotesque monster shapes, and my arms clamped against my sides and shook insanely. I've never seen my hands look like that, and I couldn't recreate the shape later when I tried to show people. I had absolutely no control over my body whatsoever- I tried to relax, I tried to exert control, but it didn't matter. The seizure was constant and was in my arms and torso (it didn't get to my legs). With my spine curled forward and my arms cramped and seizing against me, I looked a bit like a TRex that had fallen helplessly onto its back. Dumptruck had me take small, controlled sips of water from my water hose. I could only take tiny little gulps because of the seizing, and I couldn't take bigger sips without choking. 

Dumptruck stayed very calm, and even though I was horrified by my nightmare hands, I actually stayed pretty calm as well. I knew that I just needed to be rehydrated and eventually I'd be fine. Dumptruck called Hot Dog, and she drove to the trail head to meet us. Dumptruck got me to my feet once the worst of the active seizing had stopped (from start to finish it had been about half an hour of constant muscle seizure). 

When I sat up I immediately blacked out.

Dumptruck caught me expertly and apparently held me until I came around, which was just a few seconds later. I was able to get to my feet and shuffle along like an elderly lady in house slippers. My torso, arms and hands were completely rigid and immovable, though no longer actively vibrating. Dumptruck hid our packs in the bushes and then walked me the last half mile to the trail head. 

Hot Dog met us and drove me to the hotel which was about 200 feet away from the trail head. The Urgent Care center was closed, and we didn't think an ER visit was worth the money because we had the ability to rehydrate me (though probably not as efficiently as an IV). I got ushered into our hotel room and put on a drinking regimine, where I had to drink a gulp of gatorade every 5 minutes. I was feeling very goofy and loopy, rather like being drunk. This made my gatorade consumption the exact opposite of a drinking game- every shot made me a little LESS drunk. 

I woke up today feeling like my head had been a melon in a Gallagher show. I've been drinking so much water and gatorade that I've had to take a waz every hour, but I do feel quite a bit better. We are leaving early tomorrow (Thursday) morning to go down to Trail Days, so it wasn't worth it to hike today. Also, it's NINETY DEGREES OUT, so hiking didn't seem smart.

I am now reunited with Apple Butter and Apollo too! The next few days are going to be bonkers because of trail days, and I look forward to the insanity. I promise I will drink more water than a thousand dehydrated camels.

Clever Girl

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hiker Flu-ke and Wedding Bells

There are some things that should not be described in detail on the internet. Like the consistency of snot... or Scientology. The particular nature of barf and diarrhea are a few more of those things. So instead of using accurate descriptors to tell you what happened first to me and then Dumptruck when we got the hiker flu, I will replace any possibly offensive descriptions with the names of kindergarten arts and crafts. There's no real logic to this, other than the fact that I want you to keep reading this and not be scarred for life.

Dumptruck and I made it into Pennsylvania on Thursday night, happy and feeling excited about getting to see our friends. My parents, who have access to this strange thing called a "computer" had helped us figure out the planning of this sojurn, including finding a SUPER AWESOME rate for a rental car for us ($65 for 4 days, whaaaaaat?! Why did I ever live in New York??), and helping us find a good midway point to stay on our way to Boston. Dumptruck and I settled into the hotel room, snuggling into the blankets and pillows and starting to prepare our minds for a brief re-entry into normal society.

4am: Wake up to GLITTER! Glitter everywhere! 

5am: Felt!

6am: Anyone up for some macaroni art? 

Dumptruck woke up around 5am to the sounds of me hot-glue-gunning in the bathroom, and took care of me exceptionally well. This bout of the hiker flu was WAY WORSE than the last time. I was construction papering AND finger painting, wheras last time I was only finger painting. I was extremely exhausted, and couldn't even sit upright without unicorn sitckers exploding out everywhere. We had been planning on getting an early start and driving the rest of the way up to Boston, but I couldn't even move until after 2pm on Friday. Dumptruck rolled me down the hall and into the car, and I slept all the way to Boston.

We arrived at our friend Adrienne's Aunt Charla's place at around 1am. We found our amazing, favorite people there all at once. I will give them all complimentary hiker names for the sake of charity. We had:
Jessica "Combustible Marzipan"
Cory "Maple Leaf Thunder"
Adrienne "Dancer in the Dark"
Jes "Rainbow Runner"
Forrest "Nightmare Jellyfish Muppet"

They immediately took wonderful care of me and put me to bed straightaway. I woke up feeling much better, though still not 100% as all I'd eaten over the last 24 hours was 4 saltines. And I'd Elmer Glued up the previous days healthy ingestion of McDonald's fish sandwich, fries, and an entire bag of salt and vinegar chips. Word to the wise regarding salt and vinegar chips: OH GOD THE BURNING.

Aunt Charla was incredibly hospitable, and made us a lovely breakfast. Then we headed to Hingham for the wedding. We dumped all of our stuff into our hotel rooms, and met up with our other friends:

Barbara "Trigger Happy"
Pierre Marc "BeardMaster"
John "Bathtub Mermaid"
Gordon "Chantilly Laced"

Then it was off to the wedding of beautiful Meredith "Hidden Monster" and Sam "Tony the Tiger." It was absolutely perfect. The ceremony was beautiful, everyone danced, the cake was superb, and there was such happiness and love that it was overwhelmingly infectious. All of their guests loved Monster and Tiger so much, and when we all blew a thousand bubbles as they climbed into their escape limo, we all had no doubt that they were driving away into a glorious, laughter-filled future.

The next morning, we all got breakfast at the hotel. Afterword, Dumptruck Paint-By-Numbered back up all of his Froot Loops and waffles. No, he was not hung over, as he had not had much of anything to drink. It was the HIKER FLU AGAIN. Well, first time for him. We reviewed our luck, in that I had gotten better just in time for the actual wedding, and Dumptruck didn't get sick until right after the wedding.


We bid farewell to our loved, brave and incredible friends, and settled back into the hotel room for a fun day of MORE GLITTER!!

It's Monday morning now, as we couldn't leave yesterday because Dumptruck was covered in paste. We're both recovered and healed, and headed back down to Virginia. We do feel lucky that the hiker flu struck us while we happened to be in hotels and not on the trail. 

In regard to our other friends: if you get the sickness, don't worry, it'll only be 24-36 hours. Avoid Salt and Vinegar Chips.

Clever Girl

Dumpy's camera still doesn't work, but Rainbow Runner got this incredible photo of him with her iPhone.