It was a windy and chilly night, neither of us slept very well. We typically wake up in the middle of the night for a pee break, but Andy had two! This just shows how lightly we slept, and easily we were woken up.
When I woke up for the day, I felt a grumble in my belly, and a haze over my eyes.
Coffee. Must. Coffee.
It's always great having a real quality cup of joe on the trail. Helps wake up the soul and get you prepped for the day. Not to mention, it's the slightest and most comforting of reminders of home and the 'real' world.
Unfortunately, coffee didn't seem to do the trick today.
As we were slowly enjoying our morning camp fire, Totoro happily walked passed our camp. We hollered out to him and he walked over and we offered him a fresh cup of coffee. As is true with most hikers, he hadn't had a fresh cup in many days. He thoroughly enjoyed it.
We chatted away, and even did a short interview with him. He was having difficulties answering our questions in English, so he switched to Japanese. It was interesting interviewing someone in one language, and getting a response in another -- one which neither of us know! It will be an exciting surprise later on once we get it translated and we can know what he actually said!
After his cup of coffee was emptied, and the interview was over, we said our goodbyes and he was off for his day of miles, fully expecting to see us later on in the day.
While we were interviewing Totoro, I was sitting against a downed tree, fully layered up, bundled. It was chilly, but not that chilly. Every time I went to move around, pack up my gear, or get ready for the day, I felt very sleepy. It was as if I hadn't slept all night, and needed to go back to sleep in order to function - at all.
Well, it got worse. There was no hunger in my belly, and I forced down a small energy bar to get some food inside my stomach. Not a great idea as shortly there after, I threw it up. The nausea was overwhelming, but the real kicker was the lethargy.
Around 11, we decided it was time, and I wanted to push on to make our goal. We had 20 miles to go until we are finished with our first half of the journey, and planned to do 10 today, and 10 tomorrow. We were fortunate, because the entire days hike was going to be a on a forest service road.
Forest Service roads are a double edged sword when it comes to hiking. On one hand, it takes you out of the truly remote wilderness as FS roads can sometimes be popular off-road trails for ATV's and weekend campers. It all depends on how rough and remote the road is, but National Scenic Trails are often routed along FS roads in order to make for easy land management (the gov't already owns these lands), maintenance, and mapping.
Sometimes, road walking can get monotonous, and on the busier ones, it's not particularly enjoyable to be passed by zipping and zooming atv's. However, the positive side of it all is that the dirt roads are usually fairly flat, allowing you the freedom to not stare down at your feet ensuring your foot placement is safe. You're able to look around and enjoy the area you're trekking through. It's also much easier to kick out miles on service roads then the trail.
We got on the road, and hiked along it for three miles. During these miles, I felt as if I were sleep walking. My stomach killing me, head in the clouds, in a wash of delirious thoughts and feelings. I wasn't really sure how I got those three miles, and eventually I needed to stop and take a 45 minute nap.
As we sat on the side of the road, thoughts were racing through my head. I couldn't physically push on. It was road miles, and I wanted to just kick them out. Bumble down the road, pin-balling side to side as I stumbled along. It was only 7 more miles on the day.
What if this got worse? What if I continued to vomit and became even more dehydrated?
I wanted to stop for the day, but we weren't near any water. Our next source was our campsite 7 miles ahead. We could go back the three miles we went, but no one likes backtracking. Especially not when it's uphill and you're feeling crummy.
What was this coming from? Andy and I have been drinking the same water, and eating the same food -- so it couldn't be from food or water. We've been purifying everything. The one single liter of water I drank untreated was from a mountain spring at the summit of the mountain with the water coming straight from a rock (99.9% chance of being giardia - or any parasite/virus free), and that was way early in the trail.
I've had giardia before, on the Appalachian Trail. While there was definitely a second degree of the illness that I had not yet begun to feel, it did feel oddly the same. The nausea, zapped energy, inability to move with ease.
The plan continued to run through my mind. 'suck it up, it's a few miles' I'd say to myself. 'stop being a wimp, you can figure it out, we're almost done!'. A mixture of self-pep talks and a little smacking around. Trying to push myself to crawl across the finish line. 'Let's just push out the last 17 miles and call it a day' I toyed with the thought in my head. But I couldn't even stand up, let alone hike 17 more miles.
I had to make the decision, we had to go into town. I had to rest, before this got even worse. Never fun on any day, and definitely not in the mountains where the 'facilities' aren't easily accessible. I suggested to Andy that he push on to finish up our planned section, and I would meet him at the highway where we could reconvene.
If we learned anything on this trek, though, is when The Dusty Camel rides, we ride together. We decided to hike half the trail, together, and Andy was keen on keeping it that way. So the decision was to head home. There was no point in going into town for a night, coming back out for 17 miles, and then making our way back into the world.
We marked the spot on our GPS, so we knew where to return to for the second chapter. I got up, still bundled up (for anyone who knows me, they will know the only time I am bundled is in the early morning or in the arctic tundra. I'm very warm blooded, and I cannot hike in layers). I made my way back the way we came just a bit until we reached an intersection. We plopped down (well, I kinda fell) on the side of the road, and waited.
Luckily, this is a busy road, and it's a Friday. Lots of day users. Most of them jammed pack with family members and gear for camping. Nearly everyone stopped for us, as I pulled down my hood, off my hat and glasses, so I didn't look like a crazy hobo trying to steal their car. A couple folks offered what they could, some much needed water and Powerade to replenish the electrolytes lost, but none were able to fit us and our packs.
As I was explaining how I was feeling to people, trying to get a ride, it dawned on me. After the flash-flood, I never cleaned the hose of my water bladder, and my bladder had been washed down the trail in the mix with my other gear. The nasty wash water was filled with dirt, horse droppings, and who knows what else from the mountain above. It was quite clear, I did have giardia. And the worst of it was about to come, from what I recall on my days of the AT.
Fortunately, two guys pulled up in a big pick-up. With the realization of what my ailment was, and where it came from, I made a morse sense of urgency and they were kind enough to bring us down to the highway, 18 miles down a twisty, windy, dirt road. This didn't help my stomach, but I was out of the beating sun, and was happy(ier).
Our two saviors were from Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix. As we got talking, and they realized we weren't axe murders picked up from the mountain, they offered to bring us all the way into Chandler, negating any need to try and find a way into Phoenix and then back home.
Over an hour later, and we were back in a big city. Six lane roads, cars and trucks, department stores and delis; it had it all. Between my delirious brain and the different setting we found ourself in, I was a bit starry eyed.
The fellas dropped us off in-front of a local motel (true door to door service, thanks guys!) and we got our room.
We laid our damp gear out to dry in the room as we went to the laundromat to clean our clothes and get some food. I still hadn't eaten anything more than a bar, and the hunger wasn't quite there, but I knew eating is important... to survival and all.
We ate a bit, I stomached it. Still with a grumbling belly, but no throwing up, so yay! I did drink a bottle of extra strength Pepto, so I'm sure that was helping in some capacity, even if it is just a comforting reminder of my childhood and when I used to fake a belly ache so I could have some of that delicious pink goop.
Then, like an arrow in the gut, the second calling card of giardia came, with a vengeance. Confirming my fears of parasitic creatures attacking my belly, I ran back to the room.
I'll spare the dark details, but I was happy to not be in the mountains, to say the least. It was a long night, and early morning. BUT, all things considered, it wasn't as gruesome as the Appalachian Trail.
The first part of the journey is officially over. But we are high-spirited and excited to return in September to finish the second half.
Bummed the ending had to happen so suddenly, and due to health. But I rather get ill now if it's in my cards, then at the beginning of a journey or 30 miles from the nearest road. It's not an adventure until something goes wrong, as they say.