On May 9th, after resupplying in Roan Mountain, “The Family” decided to camp just a mile or two up the trail. We made a little fire ring and enjoyed some pizza and cold beverages. Since there was no call for rain, we decided to cowboy camp as we wouldn’t have to fool with our tents the next morning. It was my first time cowboy camping and I absolutely loved it! The stars were amazing that night, even through the tree canopy.The next morning, we started a 12 mile hike that consisted of a couple water fall stops, a lunch time swim and the crossing of mile 400. The day ended near The Vango/Abby Memorial Hostel where we ate pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. “Scotty” runs the hostel and is a fellow engineer and trekkie, so we had a lot to talk about! Our group cowboy camped again that night since the weather was so nice. The following day, we stopped in by Black Bear Resort for lunch. It was there that I made the worst decision of my trip, thus far–I purchased and ate a microwaveable, frozen chicken club sandwich. This sandwich would single handedly ruin the next week for me. Unknowingly, I indulged instead of making a typical peanut butter honey wrap. Bodyglide, too, enjoyed a chicken club before hitching a ride back to Mississippi. He had to step off the trail for about a week due to some prior obligations. We all said our goodbyes, and the rest of the group and I hiked on as we planned to stay at Pond Flats that night.
Before climbing the mountain to Pond Flats, a thunderstorm began sounding in the distance. Due to our recent scare with a lightning strike, we decided to wait out the storm at the bottom of the climb near Laurel Falls. Once the storm cleared we night hiked up to the top and set up camp.About 6am the next morning, I knew I was sick. I threw up once and hoped it was just a fluke. I ate some oatmeal and was able to keep it down. Perk cooked the group strawberry pancakes and after eating one and getting sick again, I knew it was no fluke. Everyone started looking at me as if I was a ferrel animal. Hikers fear and avoid norovirus (a highly contagious, common hiker illness) like the plague. I’m sure everyone was concerned that I had indeed contracted the dreaded sickness. Luckily, by lunch, Rigga debunked that myth when she talked to Bodyglide and found out that he was also sick. There were two other hikers we heard about that had eaten the same sandwich and suffered the consequences. So, do not..I repeat, DO NOT eat the chicken club sandwich at the Black Bear Resort. I have nothing negative to say about the resort as it was not their fault. In fact, it’s a really nice place and I would recommend it based on the lunch hour I spent there. But, heed my warning! I was unable to eat anything but skittles the first day of being sick. Somehow, I managed to hike 13 miles to the Vandeventer Shelter regardless of feeling that death was near. I didn’t get moving until 2pm the following day, but suffered through a 14.4 mile day as I was determined to walk into Damascus, VA for trail days. As I was hiking that night, the diarrhea hit. That experience is never fun, but having no indoor plumbing or at least a privy made it a thousand times worse. I was digging cat holes almost every hour on the hour. With not eating much except for skittles and mashed potatoes in 48 hours and not being able to retain liquid, the situation began to turn dangerous. The next day I left Double Springs Shelter and decided I needed to get to town fast. I hiked 3.5 miles completely dehydrated and famished until I reached a paved road at Low Gap. I was about 14.5 miles from walking into Damascus..an easily hike-able distance for that day. But, not with food poisoning. Feeling defeated, I thumbed a ride into town. I know it was the best (and safest) decision for me.
Some lessons learned:
-Carry more than 3 Imodium pills at a time.
I should have known this. Shame on me.
-Tums will be appreciated when you need them, trust me.
I would’ve traded my pinky toe for the settling ability of a tums the first day I was sick. Keep some around, they don’t weigh that much.
-Have ‘sick’ friendly foods in your pack at all times (mashed potatoes, Gardettos and skittles saved me).
Food you eat while hiking isn’t always desirable or nice to your tummy when you are sick. Thankfully, Rebel Yell traded me a mashed potatoes for a rice sides.
Drink water. Drink more water. Repeat.
-Know your limits.
This was the hardest for me. I really pushed my limits too far this time, but hopefully I won’t make that mistake again. I was lucky.
-Keep good company.
Thanks to Mountain Goat and Chance for hitching into town to get me some medicine. Also, to Rebel Yell for hiking slow and sticking with me, so if my stubborn self fell out someone could call for help.
-Be satisfied with the food in your pack.
Peanut butter wraps are much more trustworthy than microwaveable chicken sandwiches!
Although I wasn’t feeling too lovely, I was still able to capture a few additional moments…