Day 15 – July 18, 2014
Odometer Reading: 152 miles
Miles today: 7
Camped: near Palisade Lakes – elevation 10,844
Today’s Key to Success: Immodium AD
Really rough night. My legs hurt so bad from my hips to the bottoms of my feet. I rolled around for a long time trying to deal with the pain before finally getting up around 2:30am to grab some Advil. My feet, swollen lumps with baby sausages poking out of them.
The bear did not re-visit us, so that was good. We named him anyway. Ol’ Ted.
Aidan was feeling a little better.
We got to the base of “The Golden Staircase”. A formidable climb. Completely exposed, fields of giant white boulders. Sage lined the trail. Wild mint filled the air, making me wish for a mojito. Aidan started feeling sick again; this time a fever accompanied his misery. Every twenty minutes, he needed to stop to have more diarrhea. We were out of Pepto Bismol. We were out of Tums. They didn’t work anyway. And he was losing too much fluid. I was alarmed. I made him an electrolyte drink. And then another. I took a few things from his pack when he wasn’t looking.
Why was he so sick? What was happening here?
We kept climbing. He was really, really tired. He wanted to turn around. He wanted to go back to the last ranger station. “No way,” I said. “What are they going to do for us? If they can’t help us, we’ll just have to climb The Golden Staircase all over again, and by that time you may be much worse than right now.” He said he didn’t think he’d make it to the top. “We have to keep moving. You can do this, but you have to keep hiking.”
We talked about possible exit strategies. We stopped again. Another electrolyte drink. His face was losing color. Fever blazed in his eyes.
A hiker finally came down the trail. “A HUMAN”. I was louder than I thought I was going to be, but it was effective. The hiker stopped. I hustled up the mountain. “What do you have in your first aid kit for diarrhea?.” I was talking too fast. My eyes were welling up. Shut up, I thought to myself. You’re getting yourself all worked up. Be calm. “Can I have whatever it is? My husband is sick.” The guy said he had two crushed little blue pills that he thought was Immodium AD, but he wasn’t certain since he got them from some other hiker. “I don’t care. It looks like Immodium.” I thanked him profusely and ran back down the trail to Aidan while the guy put his pack back together. Aidan was sitting in a little piece of shade he’d found. I poured the blue pieces into his hand. He hates medication. He swallowed them without fussing, proving how sick he was. He looked at me. The other hiker came down to us and said there was a trail crew up the mountain a little ways, and they could probably help us.
We did our best to get up The Golden Staircase. It was really slow going. ‘We absolutely have to catch that trail crew’, I thought to myself. ‘We just have to’. It was Friday afternoon. The trail crew was probably moving away from us, over the next pass and the only way that could take them home. We moved deliberately and stopped frequently. The diarrhea slowed down. We would need more medication whether we decided to continue or try to bail out. We finally found another couple who gave us a mess-load of anti-diarrhea pills. She said she didn’t have the box or the directions. She pulled out a miniscule piece of yellow paper where she’d written instructions for herself. “I don’t know what it said on the box for how many to take. I just wrote down, ‘take two at the first sign of loose poo’. Yep, that’s all I wrote, ‘loose poo’.” We were so grateful. She said she heard trail rumors that people were getting sick from the hot springs at MTR.
Aidan was so weak. I wanted us to get as far as possible to be closer to the next ranger station. I could see on the map that there was a trail that would get us out. We were never going to catch that trail crew.
We stopped for afternoon break. Aidan said he couldn’t go on. “You can’t go on, or you don’t want to? I know you don’t feel good, but we absolutely have to go a few more miles today. Otherwise, we’ll end up in the wilderness for an extra day.” I was madly calculating mileage. Three days to get out? Four? We were going so, so slow. He was noticeably thinner than yesterday.
“Why are you being mean to me?” He looked wounded. I totally did sound mean, but I was really just scared and did.not.know.what.to.do.
Aidan curled up in the dirt and was instantly asleep. Right there on the ground. A little ball of misery. My poor sweet husband. I wanted to yell at him. I wanted to make him keep walking. I wanted to get him the hell out of there. I was so scared.
I sat there for a while and then realized we really were done for the day. It wasn’t even five o’clock. I unloaded the packs and set up the tent and its innards. I got Aidan up and put him in the tent, and I moved in there with him for a little while. I started feeling sick. My bones felt like they hurt. My muscles hurt. My skin hurt. I took a nap in the tent. Was I getting sick? He was really sick, but was there something wrong with me too? I hadn’t been paying attention to me. Was this sympathy pains or something real?
We choked down some dinner. Aidan slept some more. Did I have a fever? I couldn’t get comfortable. I thrashed around. I felt like I was burning up. Aidan really was burning up.
Why didn’t we do normal people vacations, like go to Mexico to an all-inclusive resort? There’s a reason they call it ‘Conventional Wisdom’. This wasn’t fun. Conventional would’ve been okay. It would’ve been just fine.
Were we sick because of the hot springs?
Maybe we couldn’t do the PCT in Spring. Maybe we were just bad hikers. I wanted to go home. I hated the Whole Universe. We drifted in and out of consciousness for a while. In the evening, Aidan broke out the JMT guidebook he had on his Kindle. It said the exit point we were headed toward was a poorly maintained, difficult trail that would’ve dumped us in a vacant parking lot 17 miles from Hwy 395. It said if you need an exit, there was a good trail over Bishop Pass that is frequented by many people, and it’s easy to get a hitch at the trailhead. That was back the way we came. That was back down The Golden Staircase. That was at the junction where the last ranger station was located.
We’d walked off that particular map, and I’d put it at the back of the stack. I was only looking forward. Why hadn’t I looked at the last map? Why hadn’t I listened to Aidan? I was so upset with myself. I’d dragged the poor guy all the way up this mountain when the help he needed was behind us. I coudn’t believe it. That was an error I’d never repeat. Now we were further away from civilization and it was totally on my head. I really am stubborn to a fault sometimes.
We had to turn around.
Birds landed in the trees around us, calling out their beautiful good-nights to the world. Humming birds flitted around the tent, looking down at our misery and moving on.