Day 17– July 20, 2014
Odometer Reading: 164.5 miles
Miles today: 2.1
Camped: Le Conte Canyon Ranger Station – elevation 8,758
Today’s Key to Success: Ranger Matt
Aidan had a really hard time getting out of bed. Right when we left camp, it started to rain. Then it turned to hail, then sleet, then the trail was a stream, then the trail was a river. My feet couldn’t get more wet, but I tried to avoid the puddles anyway. For good measure.
We passed groups of hikers, huddled in the trees, calling out niceties from under their selected colors of plastic waterproof coverings as though this were the most normal thing in the world. They shivered and waved. We smiled and waved back.
We stopped for a few minutes under our own tree. Watched as the river breached the trail’s edge and quickly made a new stream. It came downhill straight toward us. Creating something new. We moved some items and let it cruise right underneath our legs. We’d just keep getting more wet and cold if we kept sitting there, so we got moving again. Moving would keep us warm enough.
Periodically, Aidan would take my hat off for a hair test. My hair never stood up. At least lightning wasn’t going to be the thing that killed us.
We sloshed back over those giant slabs of ancient rock, through the same stands of trees, back over the bridge. Then – the ranger station. That beautiful, glorious, beacon of hope.
Untold amounts of water pouring from the skies. We were soaked through. Our water proof gear didn’t stand a chance against this. Costa Rica kind of rain, but cold. Very cold.
A group of people stood on the porch, shivering in rain gear. We crowded up on the porch with everyone else. The ranger poked his head out of the door and asked what we needed. We asked him if we could talk to him in private. “What’s up?” He asked. I looked at my poor Aidan in his scarecrow clothing, bedraggled and wet, his face ashen.
“I’m sick,” was all he said.
The ranger kicked into high gear. He brought us inside the cabin, sat us down, instructed us to take off all our wet gear, and started taking notes. We used this diary to recant the whole story and get the timeline of events straight. Nearly passing out, the bad cheese, the hot springs, more bad cheese, food from MTR hiker buckets made in some random person’s kitchen, anything else we could think of that may have made Aidan so sick. He started a little fire in the wood stove. I warmed my hands.
The ranger, Ranger Matt, went out to the porch and asked the people there to leave since we were having a medical issue and needed privacy. They said okay. He came back in and said he’d call for a medic’s advice as soon as the Boy Scouts on the porch left. I asked if they were really Boy Scouts. “Yeah, and as soon as it started raining they immediately wanted shelter on the porch. I told them they could stay because I thought they’d only be here for a minute.” He went outside and asked them again to leave. They again said ‘okay’, and stayed put. He told them again that there was a medical situation happening and we needed privacy. They assured us that they were just leaving. Ranger Matt came back in the cabin, and the Boy Scouts settled themselved on the porch and started sorting their resupply.
We told Ranger Matt some more. Diarrhea every 30 minutes, stomach aches, headaches every day, burning fevers, muscle pains. Ranger Matt went outside AGAIN. One of the Boy Scout Troop Leaders complained, “But I’m cold. I thought I was going for a summer backpacking trip in the Sierras. I didn’t expect a storm.” He looked into the cabin, clearly wanting an invitation inside to be by the fire.
I was dumbfounded…and really pissed. We’d gone through so so much to get here, and you’re complaining because you got a little wet on day two of your trip? Won’t show any courtesy or compassion? You’re a BOY SCOUT LEADER. What happened to being prepared? You didn’t expect a storm in the SIERRAS? Pathetic. Get off the porch. My blood started to boil. The Momma Bear in me was coming out. Things were about to get really un-pretty.
I went out to get the packs and bring them inside. The Boy Scouts were in the way. I advised them I was coming through. They looked at my face and moved. The same Leader blew on his hands and shivered dramatically, looking in the door again.
“Do some jumping jacks,” I told him.
“Yeah,” he schnarked at me and blew on his hands some more.
“You think I’m kidding? You’re cold because you’re standing still. Get off the porch, go over there and do some jumping jacks. It’s hardly even raining anymore.” I looked him straight in the eye and stood there. A challenge. He stared right back. Challenge met. For once in my life, I let it go. I decided if Aidan had already been sick this long but was now inside by a fire, he’d be okay for another hour if need be. There was no sense in getting in a fight on the porch. With a Boy Scout Leader. After all, we were finally safe. Complicated emotions coursed through my veins. Inconsiderate bastard. I slowly turned and went back in the cabin. Closed the screen door very purposefully and stood inside, watched him for a moment. Point made. I retreated to the warmth of the wood stove and turned my back to him.
The Boy Scouts gradually moved off the porch. They said they were going another six miles. They left trash in their wake. Right there on the porch of the ranger’s house. The only ones who didn’t leave were this Leader and his equally awesome brother.
“We have to change into dry clothes before we can go,” the Leader said. They changed into cotton shorts and cotton tee-shirts…and flip flops.
Ranger Matt finally got the final two off his porch by telling them to set up their tent nearby and lay down in their sleeping bags. He told the brothers if they were that dangerously cold, they should snuggle together in the same bag. They didn’t think much of that plan, but they did set up one tent and the Leader crawled into his bag for a while.
All told, it had taken three and a half hours to get them off the porch. Ranger Matt made us some hot chocolate and was finally able to call a medic on the radio. He gave the cold facts of our story. The medic instructed us to stay where we were for the remainder of the day. She said to split the remaining journey over Bishop Pass into two days. She read us the directions for the Imodium AD and we were relieved to find out that Aidan could take more than he had been taking.
Dispatch agreed to call my parents and get a message to them. The message read: “No longer exiting Kearsarge. Exiting Bishop Pass instead. Will call from Bishop. We are okay.” …stop… I hoped that was good enough. If we could drop them enough cookie crumbs of information, they’d figure out what was going on. At least enough to not worry, right? We hoped. We hit the SPOT again. We are okay.
Ranger Matt said he was hiking out tomorrow, so he’d hike with us a little to make sure we were doing okay. He was so wonderful. He offered us Clif Bars, which we turned down. He let us dry our socks by the fire and hang our clothes on his balcony to dry. He was a kind heart with a sympathetic ear. I think he was secretly glad to be able to help someone in need. It seems he deals with a lot of idiots out here…
I’d been a stern and focused person for days, and now we were finally safe. I felt a sudden rush of deep, tender emotion and love for my husband. My little heart burst open.
Ranger Matt told us to camp in his yard and insisted we wake him up if Aidan got worse during the night.
The Boy Scout Leader and his brother finally packed up and left. They said they didn’t have the gear for this and were abandoning the rest of their Troop to go back over Bishop Pass so they could go home.
We slept in the tent for hours and hours and hours. We had a hot electrolyte drink and some peanuts for dinner.
We hit the SPOT one more time. Yes, we are still here. We are okay.
More diarrhea. More Imodium. It got colder and colder. I got in my silk liner and we curled up together. Aidan’s breath became a regular and familiar rhythm. I gradually realized I was relaxed and comfortable for the first time in a long time.
We were almost out. So close. My love by my side, within reach, safe.
I watched the confused bugs trapped under the tent fly. Always new bugs. Always just as confused. Mindless entertainment for me. My thoughts drifted. It was still light out.