Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Day 9: Sleep Apnea and More German Diversions

March 16: Dscn4134The strange fellow who showed up the night before throwing his cans of food into the fire turned out to be more than an odd duck. As it turns out, he has sleep apnea—and ranks up there as one of the five worst people I've ever shared a shelter with. Now, I'll readily admit I'm no expert on sleep apnea, but when a guy completely stops breathing for a good 10 to 15 seconds, then suddenly sounds like he’s choking to death and is loud enough to be heard over a 747 jet engine, then stops breathing for another 10 to 15 seconds and repeats ad nauseam all night long, I'm calling it sleep apnea. I grumbled about it to myself all night not willing to get out and move camp, but gave him the benefit of a doubt. Maybe he didn't know his snoring was such a problem, but seriously—how could he not?!

In the morning, the rest of us in the shelter had long since gotten up. Jacoby—who slept on the other side of Mr. Sleep Apnea—walked up to me and said, “I can probably guess, but how did you sleep last night?”

“Not well,” I answered, shaking my head and looking at the lump of a being still in the shelter. “Not well.”

Eliot joined us at the table in front of the shelter for breakfast. He didn't have a trailname—I suggested “Red” for the red coat he was wearing that morning, but he pointed out that it was the only red item he had and he didn't wear it most of the time. I said, “Who cares! It’s a great name!” =)

But I digress…. Eliot said he heard the noise coming from the shelter—a couple of hundred feet away, mind you!—and thought it was a bear attacking the shelter. This amused me to no end, not the least of which because I suspected there would have been more screaming if it had been true. Calling the guy “Bear” didn't seem out of the question, though. (He already had a trailname, though—Wildcard. Yes, I’m calling him out by name!)

When Wildcard did finally get up in the morning, we mentioned his snoring problem. Some of the other hikers seemed to downplay the problem as being a “little” loud. “There’s nothing little about it!” I said. Don’t beat it around the bush. This guy needs to know his snoring is a real problem. He should not be allowed to sleep in shelters and keep everyone else in it up all night. And frankly, sleep apnea, from all I've heard, is a serious health risk. For all I know, the guy might have a heart attack the next big hill he tries to climb up.

I told other hikers that if he ever tried to sleep in a shelter I was using again, I'd poke him all night and make sure he stayed up all night. I might not get any sleep, but I wouldn't have gotten it anyhow and at least by keeping him awake, everyone else in the shelter might be able to get some sleep. Or maybe we should take shifts keeping him awake—at least until he got tired enough of us keeping him awake all night long that he finally left the shelter and camped by himself like he should have done in the first place.

I never saw him again after I left the shelter—thank goodness for that—but we did warn other hikers ahead that he was behind and to avoid sharing a shelter with him at all costs. Either kick him out or get out yourself.

It was along a stretch of trail like this where I twisted my ankle!
It doesn't look dangerous, does it?!
As for the day’s hike, it was largely non-eventful. The sun was shining, life was good, the trees still in a state of hibernation that looked like a wildfire had ravaged the countryside. About a mile or two from Unicoi Gap, I twisted an ankle and crashed to the ground in a lump. OUCH! It was a very unassuming section of trail, and for some reason, my worst sprains always happen on those sections. It was generally flat with few rocks or other obstacles in the trail to make things difficult. I probably let my guard down. Whatever the reason, though, I crashed hard to the ground with my left ankle screaming in pain.

I pulled myself up and limped along at a decidedly slower pace. I knew I'd be feeling that injury for a few days. I tried wiping the dirt and leaves off my clothes where I had crashed to the ground and bitterly cursed the trail.

A few minutes later, I finally got a signal on my cell phone and I gave Amanda a call. She was supposed to meet me at Unicoi Gap and I wanted to give her an update on my progress. About a half hour away. Or rather, it had been a half hour away. Maybe 40 minutes now with my new limp. =) She answered the call and said that she was already at the gap waiting and handing out trail magic to any passing hikers, although since she had arrived, none had passed by.

That didn't surprise me much. Everyone from the nearest shelter—the Blue Mountain Shelter—likely had already passed through. And everyone from the shelter where I stayed at—I was at the front of the pack. There might have been a few people camped between shelters who were between Amanda at Unicoi Gap and myself, but probably not many.

I did finally arrive at Unicoi Gap where there was another hiker who said that I was lucky to have my own personal trail angel.

“Yes!” I agreed. “Everyone should have one!” I imagined thru-hikers strolling down the “Trail Angel” aisle of the local Wal-Mart, perusing the selection.

“This one is last year’s model, so it’s on sale,” the sales clerk says. “This one over here, however, is a popular model because it’s a flight attendant that can visit you anywhere on the trail!”

I’d nod my head thoughtfully. “Oh…. Yes, that does sound tempting….” =)

I also learned that before my arrival, Amanda had dubbed the hiker Donut. Or maybe Doughnut. I’m not sure the spelling of his trailname had been settled or even discussed, but Donut is shorter to write so that’s what I’ll use. =) She’d given him a box of Krispy Kreme donuts to munch on and said he could be called Donut, but only if he ate all of the donuts in the box. She really wanted to get rid of those donuts! (He didn't eat all of the donuts, however, probably wanting to leave some for other hikers, but we’re still calling him Donut.)

I partook from the trail magic as well, and while standing around chatting, a few other hikers arrived off the trail who joined the Unicoi Gap party. To make the party even bigger, a couple of more hikers who had stayed in Helen overnight were dropped off at the gap to continue their hikes including… someone I recognized! After having took four zero days, I thought everyone I knew was far ahead of me now, but it was Bionic Woman! I guess the one leg was proving to be a major handicap in her hiking speed.

Knowing she was from Germany, I asked her what she thought of Helen—our Disney-ized version of it. She thought it was hilarious. She also said that she was getting a new leg in Charleston, SC, soon, which she hoped would work better for a thru-hike like this. Amanda thought that was particularly interesting. And how cool would it be to just replace body parts as they wore out or got tired. Blistered feet? No problem! Switch them out for these new ones! Knees hurting? There are spares in Atlanta you can try!

Unicoi GapDscn4179
But in all seriousness, I was glad to see Bionic Woman still going at it. Her handicap might be slowing her down, but she wasn't going to let it stop her!

Amanda still had a bunch of drinks and snacks for passing thru-hikers, but we were ready to go back into town and we decided to leave an ice chest with all of the goodies for the thru-hikers. We’d pick it up again tomorrow when she dropped me off on the trail again.

We drove back into the Bavarian town of Helen and checked into the Super 8 for the night. We were a little surprised when opened the door and saw the whirlpool tub next to the bed and mirrors on the wall. I thought we got a room for the night—not one by the hour! I stood speechless for a few seconds upon opening the door, not sure what to think. Amanda was still pulling her luggage out of the car and came in a minute later, as stunned as I was.

“Well,” I said. “That’s kind of funny, really…”

As it turned out, it was also a smoking room, which neither of us cared for. I hadn't thought to ask for a non-smoking room. I tend to assume rooms are non-smoking unless otherwise noted, but I know some hotels sometimes put thru-hikers in smoking rooms because we smell so bad. It wasn't a particularly strong smell of smoke, though, so we propped open the door for the rest of the afternoon and decided just to live with it.

In the evening, we ate dinner at a local German restaurant for Amanda’s birthday (happy birthday, Amanda!). She does like her German restaurants, and we were told this was the best one in town. Then we walked over to the small grocery store for me to resupply. Tonight would be my last night with Amanda’s support and I figured I’d need 5 nights and 6 days of food to get me to the NOC for my next resupply. And rain was in the forecast. *sigh*
Steps today: 25,303 steps
Miles today: 9.7 miles
Total miles: 61.7 miles
The newly dubbed Donut—the first trailname Amanda got to give somebody! =)Dscn4184

Amanda and I were pretty surprised to see this whirlpool tub and mirrors next to the bed in our room!Dscn4186

We ate dinner here at the Bodensee Restaurant for Amanda’s birthday. =)Dscn4189

Good times!

And watch out for bears!


Violets said...

Sleep apnea IS a serious health risk. It's also treatable.
Poor guy probably hasn't reached proper REM in years. It causes depression, and heart issues, and a variety of other challenges related to waking up just enough to kick start the breathing mechanism all night long. But no...he might not know his snoring is that bad. He probably doesn't even know he's waking up so often. Hopefully he'll now go to a dr...get treated...and become a nicer person.

Just imagine how you'd feel if you hadn't had a full night's sleep in over a year...5 years...10 years...?

Anyways, yes...snoring is bad. But no, he might not know about the problem unless someone tells him.

Honey Bear Clan said...

Oh, there we go!

Benjamin O. Mayberry said...

I laughed as much reading about your sleep apnea sheltermate as I did while reading my favorite passage in A Walk in the Woods. Bravo.
"If the mattress stains were anything to go by, a previous user had not so much suffered from incontinence as rejoiced in it. He had evidently included the pillow in his celebrations.

Sue KuKu said...

I've decided to read these current adventures at the same time as your first time on the AT. Trying to coordinate so I'm reading about on the same stretch of trail, shelters, etc.

It's been fun, so far.

And, yes, the sleep apnea is funny to us because we weren't there!