Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Day 44: Considering Evacuation Options....

August 28: I woke up at about 4:00 in the morning with an urgent need to pee. Ugh. It was still dark out and my bladder felt like it was about to burst. I didn't want to get out of my nice, warm sleeping bag but I knew I couldn't hold it for another hour or two when I usually got up.

Not wanting to get fully out of my nice, warm sleeping bag, I decided to pee off the side of my groundsheet. Unzipped the bag enough to get the job done, but I didn't have to put on shoes and expose my whole body to the cold air outside.

It was the biggest mistake of my life. I started to pee and almost immediately, explosive diarrhea hit out of nowhere. I immediately clenched everything up and stopped peeing, but I could feel the shit in my underwear. This was bad. This was very very bad....

I let the sleeping bag drop to my feet and stepped out barefoot onto the cold ground, trying desperately to keep the rest of my bodily fluids inside my body. I took off my pants--I wasn't sure how much of the poop escaped my underwear and into my pants, but I didn't have time to check that yet. I set them aside on the ground. Then I pulled off my underwear trying to keep whatever crap was on them from rubbing against my legs.

And I was now completely naked from the waist down, in freezing cold weather, in the dark, with shit on my ass. I cussed. I cussed a lot. *nodding*

But priorities are priorities. I needed to get these bodily fluids out of my body! I took a few steps from my campsite, squatted and let it all go. Oh, the horror.... It didn't sound good. It didn't look good. I was glad nobody was around to witness the spectacle I made.

It was bad. Like horror movie bad.

Finally my body was done expelling noxious substances and the cleanup could begin. My ass was smeared with crap. I used an enormous amount of toilet paper cleaning up the mess, then wiped my hand-sanitizer all over my ass. It was the best I could think of to clean up with. All the while I'm freezing cold, naked from the waist down, and working by moonlight. My feet felt like frozen blocks by now.

Then I returned to my campsite. I didn't dare put my underwear and pants back on. The underwear was covered with crap. The pants... maybe had some. I couldn't be sure without checking, but that wasn't a priority for me at the moment. Instead, I pulled out my hiking clothes and put on those. The clothes were filthy, but at least they didn't have literal crap all over them.

I also pulled out my headlamp and checked my sleeping bag for crap. I wanted to get back in my sleeping bag--but only if it was free of crap. I checked both the interior and exterior and was happy to not find anything. At least that accident didn't escape the clothes I had on at the time.

Then I curled back up into my sleeping bag and tried to warm up.

I didn't fall asleep, though. I had problems. Big problems.

Eventually the sun started to rise. I had absolutely no appetite and decided to skip breakfast. I had skipped dinner the night before and now I was skipping breakfast. That was not sustainable. I started to worry if I could make it out of this wilderness on my own. I was about as far in the middle of nowhere as a person could get--smack in the middle of the Pasayten Wilderness.

I still hoped that maybe it was something like a 24-hour bug and by evening I might start feeling better. Then with another overnight rest, I'd be ravishingly hungry the next morning and everything would get back on track. I wasn't actually optimistic that this would happen--more of a hope that it might happen. I felt absolutely certain I must have acquired giardia. Probably from one of those water sources from cattle country a week earlier. Maybe a day or two before I arrived in Oroville. And I knew giardia wouldn't go away after a day or two.

With the sun now out, I checked out my pants to see how well they survived the explosive diarrhea and except for a couple of small spots, they had come out relatively unscathed. Relatively, of course, still made them unwearable. It was liquid poop. Even one small spot would have made them a bio-hazard!

I carried my pants and underwear to the creek where I tried to wash them out as best I could. I started with the pants since there was so little on them, and filled up water bottle after water bottle cleaning my clothes.

As I was doing this, a hiker approached from the other direction. Where did he come from?!

Normally, I would have liked chatting with him all morning long but as I was in the process of trying to clean my soiled underwear, now wasn't a very good time. I just wanted him to say hi and continue onward, but he seemed as starved for conversation as I did and he probably spent 15 minutes telling me his entire life story. "Yeah, uh-huh." I said as he told me something but I wasn't really listening very closely. "That's nice." I wonder if he's noticed the shit on the underwear sitting on the ground. Probably not. If he had, he'd probably have kept on hiking.

The hiker filled up with water--it was the only water source for miles in either direction--and eventually left me and I finished cleaning up my clothing. They were soaking wet now so I shoved them onto the back of my pack to dry out in the sun.

After the creek, the trail headed uphill and I found myself quickly exhausted. The hill wasn't especially steep, but I felt insanely weak. Probably not surprising since I had eaten absolutely nothing for breakfast this morning or dinner the night before. I had no energy!

I took a lot of breaks along the way to catch my breath. An hour or two into the day's hike, I tried to force myself to eat something. I knew I needed energy. I ate a few peanuts and a couple of almonds then a small beef stick before almost throwing up. That was enough. It wasn't much, but it was still better than nothing.

I continued the hike and my stomach gurgled noisily with the fresh food. A half hour later, I had to stop and do another poop. It was just as ugly as before, but at least I didn't soil myself this time around. I was prepared for a bad experience! I was running through toilet paper at an unprecedented pace, however. I had planned to go for 16 non-stop days on the trail and had quite a bit of toilet paper already but given the particularly long stretch without resupplying, I got an extra whole roll before leaving Oroville. At the time, I thought it was excessive, but now I hoped it would be enough!

I also found myself not wanting to pee. I was afraid the explosive diarrhea would hit if I relaxed enough to pee, so when I did want to pee, I would pull my pants down like I was about to do a poop. I would be ready if the explosive diarrhea tried to strike!

I finally reached the top of the hill at which point the trail headed downhill and my pace picked up dramatically. My sickness didn't seem to slow me down at all when I was going downhill, but the uphills--even short, small grades were absolutely exhausting and it seemed like I needed a five minute break every quarter-mile.

Later in the day, I tried to force myself to eat a second time. And again, I forced down a few peanuts and a couple of almonds. Then, rather than a beef stick, I ate a few Twizzlers. The Twizzlers seemed to go down better than the beef stick, but I could only eat three of them before it was too much. I started feeling nauseous and stopped.

For the most part, I didn't feel nauseous except when I was actually eating something. While on the trail and hiking, I had no urge to throw up. I just wasn't hungry. At all. And fortunately, my lack of appetite didn't appear to affect my ability to drink. I was able to drink plenty of water with no trouble at all. I wasn't going to die of dehydration.

But as the day progressed and I sweated out salts, I started worrying about the water-salt balance in my body. I knew water intoxication was a real thing and people could die consuming too much water. I didn't feel like I was drinking an unusually large amount of water, but I definitely was not replenishing the salts that were leaving my body. So I started worrying if that was a health concern. Were there symptoms I'd recognize if my salts got too far out of whack? Or would I just pass out on the trail unexpectedly? I had no idea. And I couldn't even google for the information--I was far outside of cell phone signals.

At least I had my SPOT device. There was a button I could press that would send an SOS signal to a satellite and help would be on the way. It would probably take hours for help to arrive, but it would arrive. Eventually.

It was meant to be used for "life-threatening emergencies." Did my situation count as a life-threatening emergency? I felt like crap, but for the time being, at least, it didn't feel life-threatening. On the other hand, it would take some time and effort to get help out here. If I waited until I felt like it was life-threatening, would it be too late by the time help could actually arrive?

I really didn't want to have a helicopter come out and pick me up--but if it was the difference between life and death, I'd take it. Ugh. This was bad. I was actually thinking about clicking that SOS button and getting evacuated.

If I did have to be evacuated, helicopter was really the only option. I looked around the terrain wondering where a helicopter might be able to land but I didn't see anything. Most of the time I was hiking through burn areas, but dead trees covered the landscape. There weren't open clearings for a helicopter to land, and I could imagine that a helicopter hovering above the trees could pose a hazard by the high winds from the helicopter knocking over the dead trees. How would a helicopter evacuation work? Was it even feasible? No, I didn't want a helicopter rescue. Nor even a rescue attempt--because for all I know, it might end up being a mere attempt.

My map showed an old airfield ahead on the trail. It was built in the 1920s or 30s or something long before the area become a wilderness area. It had no roads to it and nobody is really even sure how it was built. At the time of its construction, it's not like they could have carried heavy equipment to the site in helicopters--helicopters weren't around back then! The airfield hadn't been in use for decades, though, so I figured it was probably filled with trees. But maybe.... there was a spot large enough for a helicopter to land? If there was, maybe it would be a good idea to call for help from there?

And an idea started to form. If I could reach that airfield tonight, I could set up camp and see how I felt in the morning. If my sickness passed, I'd just keep hiking. If my condition continued to deteriorate during the night, I could call for help. I didn't have to use it, but I liked the idea of camping near where I could be rescued relatively easily. Assuming, of course, there was even an area large enough for a helicopter to land.

So that was my new a tentative plan.

After my second snack break, once again my stomach started its gurgling and once again I found an urgent need to do a poop. It seemed like the little food I was eating was rushing through my digestive track before any of it had a chance to digest.

The trail descended down a steep slope to another river that I had to ford. The knee-deep ford didn't cause any problems except for wet feet.

Late in the day, I finally arrived at the airfield which, as I suspected, was completely covered with trees. I didn't see any breaks large enough for a helicopter to land. I hadn't seen anywhere a helicopter might be able to land the entire freakin' day. I know it's possible to do rescues without landing a helicopter, but I imagine the logistics are a lot more difficult, complicated and potentially dangerous. Especially if I were surrounded by dead and burned trees.

Seeing as the old airfield provided no help for a potential rescue, I decided to continue on. I still preferred to hike out on my own and I needed to get the miles in if that were to happen. It was late in the day, but I still managed to knock off a few more miles.

By the end of the day, I had knocked off 19.1 miles according to my GPS with about 7,500 feet of elevation gain and loss. It was an astonishing number, I thought, considering how bad I felt and the fact that I had eaten almost nothing for the last 24 hours.

This was the creek I had to ford today. Not a big deal, though!

I set up camp under some trees. I had made it out of the burn area so I didn't worry as much about falling trees during the night. I still had absolutely no appetite, however, and decided to skip dinner again. Not eating my food was causing me two problems. The first was a lack of energy, but the other problem was that my pack wasn't getting lighter! I typically ate about 2.5 pounds of food per day. I probably had eaten 2 ounces in the past 24 hours so my pack was already 2.5 pounds heavier than it should be at this point! And unless I started eating, it was just going to get worse.

I did one more poop before going to sleep. I hoped a late-evening poop would get me through to sunrise. At this point, it was still explosive, noxious diarrhea--but since I hadn't been eating, the volume was much reduced.

I knew Amanda was probably watching my progress through the wilderness with my SPOT device. I had no way to communicate my distress except the extreme SOS option which I wasn't willing to use--not yet, at least. She probably saw my movements and thought everything was going fine. If she only knew what was happening. I wished I had a way to contact her and let her know of my trouble. Maybe she could pick me up at the next trailhead a few days from now.... assuming I could make it that far on my own. But I had no way to contact her so that wasn't an option.

I went to sleep restless and unsure of what the days ahead would hold.....

This is the old airfield which is why the ground is so flat. But it would be hard to land even a helicopter here now with all the trees! Looked like a nice place to camp, but I decided to push on.


GG said...

You've done it again.
Left me to wonder if you live or die out on the trail only to be eaten by catamounts and coprophagia vermin.

Bon Echo said...

A helicopter may have been able to land on that gravel bar in the creek that you crossed. I have the fortune to travel by helicopter for work a couple weeks each year, landing on gravel bars or small clearings by streams and rivers in remote forest areas. With 10-15 such landings over a course of a week, you start to realize how little space they need.

Bon Echo said...

I typically read the latest blog installment while at my desk eating lunch. Maybe I need to reconsider that after today's graphic tale...

Anonymous said...

Yuck! Next time, if you have the same SPOT we have there is a bottom that you can set up before you leave. I forget what message we set it up, but if we used it, our contacts knew we needed help asap, but not enough to press the SOS.
Pink Panther