Friday, February 7, 2020

Day 45: Connecting to the PCT!

August 29: In the morning, I woke up still feeling ill and ready for another horrendous poop. It had now been well over 24 hours since the full-blown symptoms of my sickness struck and I was not improving. More than ever, I was certain I suffered from giardia.
A warning to hikers everywhere?

I still didn't feel hungry but knowing I needed sustenance, I managed to get down a little cereal but it was a tiny fraction of what I normally ate for breakfast.

Out of camp, I had a long, steep climb to Frosty Pass. I struggled, slowly making progress and taking short breaks every five minutes. I felt so weak. It didn't help that my pack felt like it weighed a ton and it was not getting any lighter because I wasn't eating the food in it.

The views were spectacular--even being sick couldn't diminish the views! But it didn't exactly put a smile on my face. I felt miserable.

After what seemed like forever, I finally reached the top of Frosty Pass, then the trail headed steeply downhill to Castle Pass where it connects with the Pacific Crest Trail linking Mexico to Canada. Before heading down, I decided to do another poop at Frosty Pass. I didn't have to go, but I knew the PCT would be a lot busier with people than the PNT and privacy in an emergency would be a lot harder to come by. I figured it was best to evacuate my bowels on the PNT where privacy reigned supreme. I had only seen one person on the trail in the last 72 hours, so it seemed unlikely someone would show up just as I pulled my pants down. On the PCT, it would be a good possibility.

So I did my thing and took a short rest, then headed downhill to Castle Pass and linked my steps to the PCT. Having thru-hiked the PCT before, I was back on familiar terrain. Additionally, I could now say that I've covered the entire distance on foot from the Mexican border to Glacier National Park! And not by using the CDT!

It was a huge milestone for me.

A few blowdowns blocked the trail on the PNT. (The PCT was wonderfully maintained, however!)

The PNT overlaps the PCT for about 10 or 15 miles, and I headed south on the PCT. Within a couple of minutes, I passed four different hikers and a dog! Holy cow! This really was a highway! I thru-hiked the trail in 2010 and had heard the number of hikers has sky-rocketed since that time and I was now seeing it for myself. The PCT wasn't this busy during my thru-hike! Busier than the PNT, for sure, but four people in a couple of minutes? Wow!

I passed countless hikers on the trail. I actually lost count! It was nice having people around, and I chatted a lot of them up. Most of them were hiking toward the Canadian border so we were like ships passing in the night, and several of them congratulated me. "Good job!" they'd shout.

"For what?" I'd humbly say.

"For reaching Canada!"

"I didn't reach Canada," I replied. "I'm not hiking the PCT."

They'd look at me strangely for a moment. I could almost hear the wheels in their head turning, wondering if they should tell me if I was on the PCT.

"I'm thru-hiking the PNT," I finally said. Or at least I'm trying to! My illness could be a problem.

"Oooh! Well... that's cool!" I was surprised how many people were already familiar with the PNT. I knew most of the hikers I met were hard-core hikers--largely PCT thru-hikers and section-hikers, but they don't necessarily know about other, lesser-well known trails. The big three (AT, CDT and PCT), certainly. Outside of that... maybe. Maybe not.

The hoards of people was a double-edged sword for me. I liked the company and I liked the fact that if my condition suddenly took a turn for the worse and I passed out on the trail or something, it wouldn't be long before someone found me and could get help. A lot of them would even know how to use my SPOT device and could press the SOS button if for some reason I could not. I felt safer among the hoards of the hikers.

However.... the downside was that I still had bowel issues and if I had a sudden bout of explosive diarrhea, privacy might be hard to find.

I did meet a few hikers heading in the same direction as myself. They had reached the Canadian border then turned around and were heading back. I tried to keep up with some of them to chat but eventually I would need to stop for a rest and they'd pass me by.

One fellow I hiked with a bit was named Shirtless. He got his trailname when his shirt went over a 40-foot waterfall and he had to hike a few days without a shirt. I love that origin story! I had told him about my illness and he offered to contact Amanda to let her know that I would be getting off the trail to get medical attention. I'm fine... but not fine. He was hiking faster than me, however, and therefore would get a cellphone signal before me. He planned to get off the trail tomorrow. I would need more time.

The hikers heading back were going to Harts Pass--the closest trailhead to the Canadian border on the PCT. I could get off there but I was loath to do so. It was nearly 15 miles off my trail! Although I wanted to get off trail, I didn't want to hike off trail to do it. If I could push on an extra day or two, I could get off at the trailhead by Ross Lake without any off-trail hiking. Easy off, and easy on when I got back on the trail again. It was further away than Harts Pass, though. I still was weak and not eating anything.

Several people asked if there was anything they could do to help. I asked them if they had drugs for giardia. It seemed like a long shot but it didn't hurt to ask, right? But that's not the stuff most people carried and none of the hikers I met carried it. They often offered me food, however. "Ahh! No! I have three days of food on my back that I was supposed to have eaten but haven't! I need to start giving my food away to lighten my load!"

Of course, I'm not sure anyone would want to take food from someone suspected of having giardia.

In the middle of day, I had a sudden bout of nauseousness. It came suddenly and unexpectedly. For the most part, I haven't really felt like throwing up except when I was actually eating something. I wasn't eating anything but POW! It hit me and I found myself on the side of the trail throwing up--the first time I actually threw up since becoming sick. A bunch of water came spilling out. If I had a cup and caught it, it would have looked remarkably pure for having come out of my stomach. There was no odor and it didn't taste bad. As far as throwing up goes, it was the nicest experience ever. Normally my mouth tastes terrible and just the taste makes me want to keep throwing up! It just tasted like water, though--because that's all that was in my stomach.

Once my stomach was emptied, I dry-heaved for another minute which actually felt a lot worse than the actual vomiting did. The feeling finally passed and I sat down and rested for about 5 minutes before continuing onward. Hell. This was hell.

Another couple I met named Lori and....I forget the guy's name, and I feel bad about that because I'm sure they're going to read this blog later so I'm totally busted for forgetting his name--offered me salt, electrolytes and a small sampling of Jelly Bellies. I was happy to take all of them. I was still worried about my lack of salt and how it was affecting my body. I filled one of my water bottles with the electrolytes and it tasted delicious! Heaven on Earth! I didn't drink all of it, though. It was all I had and I wanted to spread it out.

I dipped my finger in the small bag of salt and licked it off my finger. I didn't enjoy doing this. I like salt--who doesn't?!--but pure salt that actually wasn't on something? Yikes.

Between the two, I felt my chances of water intoxication were much lower. I was going to get off this trail on my own power. Lori thought I should get off at Harts Pass for safety's sake, but she mentioned that there was a PNT crew working on the trail shortly beyond where the PNT veered off from the PCT. They were logging out fallen trees but apparently didn't think they would finish because there were too many blowdowns. Ugh.

By the end of the day, I was leaning toward getting off at Harts Pass. It was the safe and smart thing to do. But ugh! I so did not want to hike nearly 15 miles OFF TRAIL to get help! I figured I'd probably be off the trail for at least a week recuperating, and when I returned, I didn't want to hike another 15 miles just to get back to the trail.

Also, if I hiked to Harts Pass, I'd stay on the PCT and near people the entire way if my health took a turn for the worse. If I left the PCT and something bad happened to me, it could be days before anyone found my body. And when I pulled out my topo maps to check the trail ahead, it looked brutal. Lots of steep uphills, and I was growing weaker and weaker with each passing day. Today I was on track to complete a mere 15 miles. And although I knew there was trail work being done to clear out the PNT of blowdowns, the conditions were so bad that the work crew didn't think they'd get the job done. It could be tough going.

I didn't have to commit to a decision until I reached the junction where the PNT diverged from the PCT which wouldn't be today, though. It was a decision that could wait until tomorrow. Theoretically, if I headed to Harts Pass and could pull off about 18 or 19 miles tomorrow--a big if given how weak I was--I could be off the trail tomorrow and back on my way to health. I loved the idea of getting off this trail tomorrow. Maybe... maybe....

But damn, it was a terrible decision I had to make.

Late in the day, I finally stopped and set up camp at a nice overlook just past Woody Pass. I had initially hoped to reach the next campsite, but I was just too tired. I couldn't make it. My GPS had recorded a mere 14.5 miles of hiking today. It was a pathetic showing. If I weren't so sick, I could have easily have knocked off over 20 miles.

After setting up camp, once again I decided to skip dinner. I just couldn't eat a meal. Not even a small one. Instead, I decided to eat the Jelly Bellies that Lori gave me earlier in the day. I ate them one at a time, savoring each flavor. One, two, three.... I stopped after eight. It was all I could eat. Eight Jelly Bellies was my entire dinner.

What a horrible existence.....

1 comment:

Lou Catozzi (PI Joe) said...

Such a beautiful area to be under the weather in! The pictures are great from this day of travel.

"Additionally, I could now say that I've covered the entire distance on foot from the Mexican border to Glacier National Park! And not by using the CDT!"

Now, if/when you do hike the CDT you will have linked up quite set of footprints!