Oh Hai

I haz a blog. But no pictures. I wrote this about two weeks ago and still haven’t had time to go through the pictures…

The short version* of my hike:

It started out great, then it was two days of rain where I did too many miles because it’s never fun to stop and enjoy a view in the rain. I ended up with a few blisters, two very painful and one infected.

Since skin is skin, and I’m prone to those types of infections, I was prepared with antibiotics packed in my emergency gear. Day 4 it was very easy to road walk a few miles to a motel room right across the street from a great restaurant.

I stayed there all of day 5, resting and popping pills. (The restaurant supposedly has a full bar. I wouldn’t know because I didn’t drink. Not even once. THAT’S how committed I was to getting better and continuing the hike.)
I drew a circle in permanent marker around the angry redness on my foot and by the next morning most of the red was gone and the swelling had reduced greatly.

Day 6 was pretty awesome; not too hard miles and I treated myself to a campsite at Gooseberry Falls State Park so I had access to water, bathrooms, and trash cans. It’s very surreal to be a backpacking camper among car campers though.

Day 7 kind of lagged. The antibiotic best for me (given the type of infection I get and other medications I take) is probably the only antibiotic ever prescribed that requires an EMPTY stomach. And I had to take it 4 times a day for peak effectiveness. The first and last doses of a day weren’t too difficult, but as I tried to hike, fuel, and medicate during the day it was tricky. I was also in a good bit of pain from walking on blisters, infection or no.

I rallied that afternoon by meeting some cool kids (probably in their mid to late twenties) and hanging with them for a bit. I had another reservation for Day 8 at Tettegouche State Park and we were too far away on the trail for me to make it so I left them and camped solo at a beaver pond complete with active beaver making a dam. That was pretty cool.

Day 8 started OK, had some high points of some really great views, and then hit a huge low point that evening. A miscalculation plus poor trail signage meant I was mentally prepared to be done hiking around 6pm yet it was 7:30pm before I got to my cabin.

When I got to my cabin – a rustic walk-in only site – the park staff had been nice enough to open it for me, but they forgot to leave me the key. Which is also the only way to get into the bathroom and shower facilities.
I had been counting on the shower to clean my feet and to wash my clothes. It was yet another mental setback. There was no phone service, although there was a landline courtesy phone outside the shower house. I tried calling the office but they were closed for the night.

I made the best of it with pump water and a basin I’m pretty sure was meant to wash dishes and not feet. It was set to be the coldest night since I started hiking and I was inside, with a wood stove. It had rained the night before so I used more emergency supplies (fire tinder) to get the place FIERCELY warm (I had to open the windows after a few hours!) and set my tent up to dry. Things could have definitely been worse.

Luckily I didn’t need to take a sh*t during the night, so I made do with watering the grass outside my cabin. In the morning, I left the office a message and a park ranger came down with the key, coffee, a certificate for a night’s stay, and many apologies.

So in many ways Day 9 started quite well. I showered, got to wash my hands with soap after a good flush, and got an extra caffeine buzz. I also was shocked at how short the spur trail seemed walking back OUT to the Superior Hiking Trail. It seemed 5 miles long the night before.

Unfortunately I hadn’t slept well the night in the cabin. I kept getting up to regulate the temperature (more wood, open windows, close windows, more wood?) and my mind just wouldn’t shut off. I also was having a more and more difficult time eating. Dinner was about the only meal I could complete.

The antibiotics, while requiring an empty stomach for absorption, weren’t any more delicate on my stomach than those taken with a meal. I would get horrible chemically burbs about a ½ hour after a dose and feel very queasy.
Basically, my stamina was shot. After I took the wrong turn at a fork, I sat down to re-orientate myself, figure the way back to the trail, and call a shuttle.

Originally I thought I might get a shuttle just a little further north up the trail, to a lodge where I had a food box waiting. I could spend a night or two and try to get back on the trail. But the more I texted back and forth the shuttle service, the more it made sense financially and physically to get back to my car, go home, get better, and come back to finish another time.

I had originally planned to spend 15 days on the trail. So I was short by a little less than a week. It’s unlikely I could have finished in the time planned, although I was technically only one day behind my schedule. I was very aware that it was taking me longer and longer to cover less and less miles. And I was in pain while I did it. (I have yet to speak to my doctor. I can just hear her, “You have the antibiotics so you don’t die. Not so you can continue to try and kill yourself.”)

If anyone wonders if I was sad to quit this hike, the answer is no. Yes, it’s discouraging to have made some small mistakes in the beginning (I knew I was hiking too many miles before my feet acclimated to all day hiking) and have it cost me the trip. But since I could not go back and change the past, looking at the situation I was in and how I was feeling, I know I gave it my best and I was very happy to quit. It was the right decision for me.

It was also the right decision because many of the mental reasons I yearned for this hike were satisfied. I turned off my email for over a week. I pretty much ignored social media. I did not have to juggle two jobs plus a foster dog plus a regular household. All I had to do was put one foot in front of the other. It’s an incredibility freeing sensation. One that I have missed and was glad to feel again.

I plan to go back in October. Maybe to finish it all. Maybe just to do another section. We’ll see.

*Daily write ups of my itinerary and some reviews will be forthcoming as time (HAH!) permits. (I actually have lots written, but all in first draft fits and starts as I find a moment or two.)

Drive

I pulled into a private drive. I only realized after the fact it was private; I thought I was pulling into the business next door’s double drive. But the snow was too bad. It couldn’t be helped. I had decided quick enough to act, but not quick enough to pull over correctly.

The yelling commenced.

“Where are you headed?!”

“Woodruff!”

“I’m going to Saint Germain!”

“We’ll take it!”

And so I ended up with two passengers on my drive to work.

My Facebook memories told me that two years ago we had a huge snow that day. So I was trying to be a little more stoic about the current wet, slushy mess. For the most part, this spring has been easy. And snow was all but gone.

But that day there was snow. And two guys walking down the road in it.

Their names were Jamie and Rob. I didn’t ask. We exchanged that unimportant info when the ride was over.

Rob, in a suit made for riding snow mobiles, sat in the back and pretty much said nothing. Jamie was lankier, had a black eye, and more talkative. The black eye was from his son. The talk was the usual hitchhiker banter.

The walk was because of jail.

This did not surprise me. The county jail is in our city and I picked these guys on the typical “The Walk of Shame” out of town.

Jamie admitted to it pretty much as soon as I got the car back in drive. “Had a fight with my son. Have one of those breathalyzer tests to start my car. Got so mad I had a few drinks, blew into it, and told them to come pick me up.”
Now I did not know his name, but I knew “his” story.

“Hey, I’m here to drive, not to judge.”

And so I drove. We passed two bad wrecks. I couldn’t take my eyes off the road but Jamie reported the second one was horrible – car was totaled after swerving off the road, down a ditch, and into a huge stand of pines. At least they didn’t go in the river.

Picking up hitchhikers is something I decided to do after I’d been a hitchhiker. When you are a hitchhiker, you have stories of the angels on wheels that save you from miles of road walking. These aren’t the stories of hitchhiking shown on after school specials. For good reason, I suppose. But I like the idea of being that angel on wheels for someone. I like the idea of filling up my hitchhiking karma bank for the day when once again I need a hospital or a meal or a hotel room that is miles down the road.

I apologized to the gentlemen that I couldn’t take them further. I had to work. They nodded and understood. Jamie let slip that Woodruff wasn’t their final destination. But if they got there, they could get to Minocqua. And if they got to Minocqua, someone was always going back and forth from “The Res” and would pick them up.

This falsification could have been because of the length of the drive or because they wished to curtail prejudice against the tribe. Either way, it reminded me sometimes it’s good to lie to strangers. No one is making you tell the truth to every person you pass on the street. They weren’t applying for a job or asking me on a date. I wasn’t there to judge, just drive.

After we arrived at my work space, we exchanged names briefly while getting out of the car. I shook Jamie’s hand. They said thanks, but were already halfway across the parking lot before I got my purse out of the trunk. They had miles to go before they slept.

I went ahead and locked the doors of my car, and the door to the office after I was inside. I wasn’t there to judge, but I did a bit anyway. I told myself I was only being smart; protecting myself against the possibility that picking up two guys fresh out of jail wasn’t the smartest move in the world.

It’s really easy to think that in my hitchhiking, that is not a thumb I will have to stick out. That I could not land in trouble with no one to help me but passing cars full of strangers. I hitchhike because I want to get into a town from a hiking trail or vice versa. My hitches are about conveniences, not requirements.

But really, no one is that far from it. The mighty fall, and the less mighty only need to stumble. One too many drinks…one too many arguments…one too many mistakes…and anyone, including me, could be out there with a thumb up hoping someone else won’t judge and just drive.

Planning a Hike

I have been planning a 3-week hike for myself in May.  That’s been keeping me somewhat busy and away from writing.  I say “somewhat” because the planning is only monopolizing half of my time.  The other half is devoted to daydreaming about it and/or having nightmares about what might go wrong.

Superior Hiking Trail

photo credit Superior Hiking Trail Association

I am planning to thru hike the Superior Hiking Trail.  While the trail extends 350 miles, only about 300 of it is considered part of a “thru hike”.  The last 50 are in the city of Duluth and then further south in a state park where there is no overnight camping.

I would ideally like to start at the north terminus (near the Canadian Border) and hike south.  That way if I have time, it would be easy to add as many southern miles as possible before my return date.

But May* is not the ideal to hike in northern Minnesota.  There could still be snow up north.  In a different year, there definitely could be.  Thanks to El Nino, this winter has been mild and I am not delusional for thinking the snow will be gone.  It is the mud and the rivers and creeks gorged with spring melt that I have to be concerned about.

So I will start at Martin Rd in Duluth and hike north.  That gives the north end a few more days to dry out as I hike towards it.  If I have time (and energy) in the end, I may stop in Duluth and hike a bit more south before going home.

I will blog this hike, although I’m still not sure of the format or how frequently I’ll post.  Probably more frequently than I did in March!  April TBD.

*Why am I hiking in May?  Because Memorial Day is the start of our busy season.  There will be a lull in late October/early November before the holiday shopping.  Last year Tom and I managed to close the shop and get away for few days then.  Maybe we will do so again this year.  But I am concerned that I will be too exhausted from our season and/or something else will come up that will keep me from hiking.  So I am sacrificing the “perfect” hike, for a hike.  Which is perfect to me.

Hike One For Me

I haven’t slept in a tent since our last night on the Appalachian Trail in 2013.  I remember some about that site and area.  I didn’t remember (reading a few days back) how close we’d been to getting inside and clean and dry the day before.  Wow.

It makes me wonder, “What if”.  Except…man, I was sick.  I can think of maybe two times in my life I was worse off.  Getting rest would have been nice, possibly getting treatment earlier could have meant an easier recovery.  But quick and easy enough to hike again?  I’m not so sure.

And of course, Tom had a deadline for when we HAD to leave the trail, Maine or no Maine.  There was too much to do at the cabin before winter came.  It didn’t look like we were going to make it.

Maybe it’s the cabin fever.  Maybe it’s the frustration that becoming independent and running your own business can mean less flexibility instead of more.  Or maybe, just like someone a few years out of college who still gets that fall rush because “school is starting”, I am jonseing for a good long hike because the thru-hiker season on the Appalachian Trail starts soon.

Some have already started – January 1st is popular with the winter hikers.  But in less than a month, a huge bubble of hikers will start in Georgia.

Since I won’t be there, or at the Hudson river to start up where we left off, I’ve been living vicariously.  Red Beard thru-hiked in 2014 and vlogged it.  I’ve watched his GA video and New Hampshire (where I haven’t hiked yet).  I quite enjoy them and hope you do too.

And if you can, please go take a hike.

 

Hike Four Out Of Fifty Two – Apostle Island Ice Caves

Why yes, observant reader, I have not written up hike two or three of fifty two yet.  Today I am writing about hike four because it occurred this weekend and my new theory is I will write about it the day after or never.  (Although I do plan to write up hike two or three. You know, when I get some free time.)

First off, let me say that I enjoyed this “hike” immensely.  It was worth the car trip.  I’m glad we went and I hope we go again.  I feel the need to preface this post because there were a lot of annoying things we did not anticipate about the day.  Some things we could have planned better, some things would have been nicer/easier to deal with had we just known what to expect.
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The ice caves are in the news a lot these days because it is the first time in five years that Lake Superior has frozen over to the point the caves are accessible and open to the public.  Bayfield, WI is about a three hour drive from us. Annoying issue #1 for me was that if you map our address to “Bayfield, WI” you are actually still a 1/2 hour away from the access point to the caves.  Tom had done better research and knew where we were going but we didn’t realize we had different information until way into the trip.

In general, I am not a fan of driving to events that will not last longer than the drive time.  The walk onto the ice is described as a 1.1 mile walk, meaning even in the worst conditions ever it might take us 2 hours.  But what I haven’t seen described anywhere is that once you reach the sea cave location, there is another 3/4 miles+ of caves.  This was a nice surprise for many reasons.  Not only did it elongate the trip, but it meant that Annoying issue #2 – The Horde Of People – wasn’t a huge deal when you got out there because there was enough room to keep walking and find a quieter area.

Yeah, Annoying issue #2 – the ice caves haven’t been open for five years and Wisconsin has had some bitterly cold days resulting in cabin fever galore.  The day we went, it had warmed to a welcome 15 degrees above freezing with only a slight wind.  I would guess they exceeded their 1,000 person estimate in the park that day.

We hit traffic and the line of cars parked on the road about 2 miles from the actual Meyers Rd entrance. We decided to drive forward, hoping for a closer spot.  I have been having ankle support issues with my winter boots.  Tom wears his actual hiking shoes on these treks because they are made with Gortex.  But mine aren’t (in nicer weather, my feet sweat too much for Gortex) and I’ve been trying to get by without making another shoe purchase.
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We ended up with about a mile walk to the entrance.  Road walking is never fun.  Road walking along a row of vehicles with other vehicles and people trying to also the road?  Blech.  But again, if it weren’t for my ankle, this addition added mileage/time to the trip which in my mind is a win for the amount of time we spent driving.  I just wish we had understood/anticipated the crowd and parking situation. (We also came at a weird time and if we had driving patience we would have found many empty spots closer to the entrance.  I would highly recommend to someone to just keep driving until a closer spot opens up.  You will want to stay out and play in the caves as long as possible and therefore be pretty tired coming back.)

Now, everyone in The Horde of People was nice and pleasant and very much into their own thing.  It was fun to see all the little kids bundled up.  And the dogs!  The park allows dogs and many people brought their dogs.  It was very fun.

The bad thing about The Horde of People being families is that the walk to the actual ice caves is a pretty narrow strip of packed ice/snow.  If you have snow shoes, skis, or heartier ankles, you can venture further out on unpacked snow.  But as it is, walking with The Horde of People means 1) getting stuck behind families taking up the whole trail 2) or feeling pushy as you try to pass them.

And the extra bonus of 3) feeling pushy as you try to pass them then promptly putting your BAD ANKLE foot in a hole in the soft snow because you yourself are trying to not take up the whole trail and falling forward onto your face.  NOT THAT THAT HAPPENED.  Also: Ow.

(My ankle actually felt fine most of the day, the swelling compressed by thick socks and the boots.  And some anti-inflammatories, rest, and compression pretty much fixed it.)

(I still opted for #2 Feeling Pushy  because fifteen degrees on the open lake is still COLD and moving makes you warm.  As does indignation that PEOPLE WILL NOT GET OUT OF MY WAY.  You should totally take me to a major amusement park or concert venue.  I am fun.)

There are suggestions to bring snow shoes or skis or crampons or ski poles to help you walk on the lake.  We brought our Microspikes (a type of..diminutive crampon?) and put them on about 3/4 of the way out to the caves. I would recommend them.  From seeing what other people did, I would also recommend snow shoes.  The people wearing them seemed to enjoy them and were able to get around easier (most modern snow shoes have some sort of crampon/spike on the bottom to help when you get on pure ice).  The skis looked too awkward once you were there and navigating the cliff.  And the ski poles were 1) just another thing to keep in your hands and 2) a hazard in the tight Horde.
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A guy in front of me went from using his (which he was swinging way back and up), to carrying his and his wife’s and kept switching the hand they were in.  Which meant as soon as I figured out the “safe” side to walk on it became the “pokey” side.

I really do try and be patient of people not paying attention to their surroundings because I tell myself we are ALL that person at some point or another.  But DUDE.  You are swinging pointed sticks at my stomach!

But, here we are finally.  At the caves.  And….Awesome.
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What I realized after would have been more awesome was if I wore snow pants.  Because while the caves and crevasses you could walk into were great, there were several ice rabbit holes which people would slip into, exclaiming on their exit that the tunnel opened up to inner caves complete with ice stalagmites and stalactites and triceratops.  (One of those things was to see if you are still reading.  And I reward you with more parentheses!)
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However, I did not feel cheated by the fact that I wasn’t layered appropriately to go sliding myself across ice tunnels.  The cliffs and accessible caves themselves were awesome.

If you need to pee, follow the last faint foot prints out onto the lake.  When you reach a yellow spot, you’re there.  (Ladies, THIS is why you need a pStyle.)

On our way back to the car, I sent Tom ahead so that I could hopefully minimize the stress on my ankle.  Only one car stopped and offered me a ride (which was close enough to our parking spot that I worried I’d cross Tom’s path).  We tried to offer a ride to several people after he picked me up and were turned down 100%.  Wisconsin?  Is not a hitch hiking friendly state.

But that’s another post.

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Back in The Saddle Shoes

It’s been two months since I got off the Appalachian Trail in Fort Montgomery, NY.  It was supposed to be a quick resupply, shower, and move on.  I had no idea how sick I was until the next day when I could barely walk.

I miss hiking.  But I do not necessarily miss hiking the AT.  I have followed several hikers on trailjournals.com and seen their pictures.  We were getting into more and more challenging ascents where there are stretches re-bar jammed into a side of a rock.  That’s…climbing.  Something I’m not very comfortable with or interested in.

I do want to finish the trail.   As turned off as I am of the pictures of re-bar ascents and slippery granite descents, I am excited by the pictures of Maine.  The lakes…the moose…the views.  It definitely looks worth it.

(BTW, I have heard from Handstand.  She climbed Katahdin early this week!)

It took me about a month until I was healed to the point I could throw on clothes and go about a normal day without stopping to apply ointment or a poultice of Epsom salts.  Since then I’ve stayed pretty busy.  Any time I want exercise I only have to consult our task list.  I’ve raked and chopped wood and moved furniture and excavated.

The cabin is located on a small lake in the north woods of Wisconsin.  My father swam across it once when he was in college.  A friend canoed next to him and when they got to the other side they switched places.  Swimming across has never interested me that much.  But walking around the lake has.  It always seemed like this huge project.  And then there was the fact that Tom and I had such little time up here and since he doesn’t like road walking it never was on our agenda.

But now that we live here and I’ve hiked the AT, I realized the less than 10 mile walk was a completely doable task even on a not-so-slow day.  So to commemorate 2 months off trail and 1 month of healthy limbs, I set off today a little before lunch.

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A Hill!

I wasn’t even sure how far it was.  I’d always heard seven miles from my grandparents.  My brother whose done the route via bike thought it was closer to nine.  Turns out to be damn near in the middle.

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How kind of them to map even though 3.4 mph is definitely not a “run”.

Even though this is area I’ve driven past time after time after time, it felt new from the eyes of a walker.  I found a large patch of blueberry bushes I hope fruit next year, and I small patch of blackberries still holding on to this year’s crop.

I hope to get on a “real” hike soon.  But it felt great to get back in wool socks and a day pack today.

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Supposedly old Christmas tree farm that’s gone to Prairie now.

Day 122-127

Start: Fort Montgomery, NY/Holiday Inn
End: Fort Montgomery, NY/Holiday Inn
Miles: 0
Total Miles: 1399.4

Today Outfitter gallantly went off early in the AM in search of a pharmacy to find me Epsom salts.

But even before lunch, it was obvious I was worse, not better.

After the clinic visit and dire warnings to go to the ER for IV antibiotics if I ran a fever, we got my prescriptions, got back to the hotel, and I promptly ran a fever.

We opted to try and wait it out. The antibiotics should squelch the infections and get rid of the fever- they just needed time to work. It was a pretty uncomfortable and somewhat scary night.

By morning, my fever had broken. Now I just needed the actual abscess and local infection to go away.

We stayed in that hotel room for six days. I returned to the clinic for my GYN appointment. This originally was for an incision and drain. I was pretty sure I’d healed enough to not need it, but I only had four days left of antibiotics and figured I wouldn’t be 100% with just that. The healing goes very, very, very slow in such a critical, er, junction.

No picture. You’re welcome

Running Water and Electric Outlets and Mattresses, Oh My!

I ended up not needing the incision (for now, fingers crossed), thank goodness. But I was no where near healed so I kept my follow-up appointment to get different/more medications.

Then we promptly started looking at flights for me to Atlanta.

Outfitter/Tom (may I call him Tom again?) made the difficult decision to continue hiking without me. This was an outcome we’d discussed before ever stepping one foot on the trail and one we agreed on – if someone wished to hike solo while the other had to stop, that’s what they would do.

But it was hard for him to decide. He was very worried about me and despite being a grown woman and sending me to his mother, A NURSE, he somehow thought I might decline without his constant attention. But finally he decided I seemed well enough I could be trusted with my own health and that he would regret not pushing on.

I came to my in-laws instead of my mother for many reasons. They have a bigger home with a good spare bedroom/bathroom set-up on one floor. They are closer to FL if I felt like visiting friends. And they have all my stuff.

Although I did not pack our clothes very well. All the easy-to-find clothes are jeans and sweatpants. Luckily I found some capris and one dress (my favorite dress) that are appropriate for summer. And since I’ve been wearing one of two shirts for months on end, it doesn’t bother me that much.

I was scared to travel since it involved an hour long car ride, a two and a half hour plane ride, an hour and a half van ride, then a final hour car ride. That was a lot of scheduling and walking and being clothed. But in the end it all went very smoothly and while I was tired and in pain by the end, I was here no worse for wear.

I’ve been in Georgia for four days now. I am slowly feeling better. I do not miss the trail right now. Even with just sitting around the house, I get tired enough that I sleep a full 8-9 hours a night. So it’s very evident I did the right thing.

It soon became evident to Tom that he did not do the right thing. I wish he could have enjoyed solo hiking as much as I did last year. And perhaps he will someday if he specifically plans a lone adventure. But for this hike, he just couldn’t get into it. He lasted three days on the trail without me. Then he hitched to the train station right on the trail that goes into New York City. From there he took another train to my mother’s.

Yup. We switched. Some fucked up adult version of Parent Trap.

You see, we are not planning to returning to the trail this year. At all. I have mixed emotions about this. I think if we didn’t have the adventure of the move to the cabin ahead of us, we would definitely try to get back to at least get further along. We have 800 miles (a little less) still to go so that’s a huge chunk of time, especially if you consider whenever we go back we’ll need to get back into “trail shape”. Although at least in Wisconsin we can do some hiking on hills to train.

So I hate that our hike was so abruptly ended with little thought of how we’ll get back. But on the other hand, I am excited about the cabin and I’ve been looking forward to this move. One thing I was sad about at the beginning of this year was that the hike meant we wouldn’t get to enjoy any of the summer time at the cabin. Now we will.

ANYWAY, Tom went off to my mom because he decided we really needed the Corolla (which I had driven Lady there in and then left) to make the trip north with three cats. (Tommy, Tom’s dad, exclaimed, “Well that don’t make no sense.” “Yup. But he’s decided so there’s no point in telling him otherwise.” “Don’t know where he gets that from…”). I’m not in a place to argue since I can’t/won’t drive the truck pulling the trailer.

At some point today I expect Tom to start the drive down here. We’ll then coordinate a time to hopefully stay with friends in Tampa and crate up the cats for our great trip north.

I still have one day left of the trail to re-cap for you, but I’ve been putting it off. Maybe that is when it will hit me that we’re done (for now). Of course, I’ve been here four days and today is the first day I decided to fire up my laptop and type on something larger than my iPhone screen. Civilization is great and all, but I need to take baby steps. (And not just because of my infection.)

Behind and Fair Weather Skin

Since my last update, we’ve had good if challenging times. NJ was easy(ish) to hike but full of mosquitoes. We ran into Handstand and Apollo again and had a few good days on the trail with them. Our new shoes did make a difference on our feet. Southern NY is known to be a very difficult part of the trail and it was true for us. Yet somehow, I enjoyed it. It was the right sort of difficult for me.

We made good time to Bear Mountain/the Hudson River and got a hotel in Fort Montgomery. Unfortunately, that was Thursday. We’re still here.

I’ve mentioned in past posts that my skin has not liked the hike. My legs especially have broken out in angry bumps quite a bit. The heat and sweat makes it worse, but I try to counter that with cleaning cloths, clean clothes, and bandana bathes.

I have also been susceptible to a more painful, serious condition of ingrown hairs causing abscesses in my inner thigh/groin area. (Oh, you didn’t want to know that? My bad. It’s not exactly a joy for me to share either. But it is what’s going on in our hike right now.)

I’ve had two or three angry, hard abscesses/boils/what-have-yous through out the hike until now. And until now, I have been able to treat them with my general cleaning regimen and frequent coats of Neosporin.

But the day before we arrived in Fort Montgomery, after two days of walking in wettish clothes (light to medium rain every day for a short period of time) and insufferable heat, I had the mother of all ingrown hairs. Out in the woods, I had no other remedies. So we walked to town. I still didn’t realize how large it was, although I should have because none of the others impinged on my hiking the way this on did.

At the hotel, I tried a bath and more generous coats of antibiotic ointment. I was stubbornly against zeroing. I thought maybe I could do five miles to a monastery where they let hikers tent and shower. But it was clear in the morning I couldn’t go anywhere.

Outfitter headed out to find a store that sold Epsom salts. After some soaking in the morning, it seemed worse not better. So I bit the bullet and we went to the Hudson Valley Family Health Clinic.

The lady who did my history and intake? Did not know that the word “labia” meant. Because I was a hiker, she kept staring at my feet trying to see the problem.

Thankfully, the nurse practitioner was better versed in anatomy and medicine. She was very, very concerned for me. She felt very strongly that I’d need “surgery” (I put that in quotes because it’s a surgical cut, not knock-me-out on an operating table surgery) but nothing could be done right then because the area was so inflamed.

So she put me on two antibiotics, got me an appointment with a GYN who can do the incision and drain at their clinic on Wednesday (!!), but was adamant that if I got a fever or felt worse, I should go to the ER for IV antibiotics.

She was amazingly quick-thinking on ways to handle the fact that right now I don’t have transportation or true health insurance. (We have some six-month policies in place to cover major accidents or illnesses. Fingers crossed this does not escalate to “major”.)

I did have a fever (about 101) that evening, but we countered it with ibuprofen and ice compresses, hoping that once the antibiotics got into my system I’d feel better.

And by yesterday mid-morning, I did. The swelling had gone down some and no more fever. I am continuing the Epsom salt baths (per Dr instructions) and those are somewhat helping.

But.

But it does not appear that drugs and soaking will help enough. We have currently arranged to stay in the hotel until at least Thursday. If something changes, that will be awesome. If not, I am resigned to the idea that my hike is over.

I do not believe I can keep an incision site clean enough and healthy enough while hiking. I also think the recuperation time until I can walk the miles needed might be too long. It’s one thing to say I can go for a walk the next day. It’s another to say I can walk 15 miles into the woods and repeat that two or three more times before I get a shower.

I’m numb to this conclusion right now. I’m in a lot of pain and don’t want to put myself through more. While this is a kinda superficial illness, it also is serious. Most bacteria that cause this kind of thing is staph. This is not something I want to play around with and take chances.

For now, please keep your fingers crossed that I get better before Wednesday. And I will try to write up the missing days of our hike. It’s not like I’m doing much else.

Day 122

Start: William Brien Memorial Shelter, camping
End: Fort Montgomery, NY/Holiday Inn
Miles: 10.1
Total Miles: 1399.4

I pretty much felt horrible all day today. I made the detrimental decision to wear compression shorts this morning, thinking part of my problem was chafing.

In reading about ingrown hairs and abscesses, they strongly suggest loose clothes that won’t hold sweat next to your skin.

We started the day with small but steep climbs and ascents. We walked the median of the Palisade Parkway to reach a rest stop for water. Their water wasn’t working, so we shelled out cash for some sodas and Gatorade. Then we had the big up of West mountain. It was fun and cool to get up top and retrace some of the trek we took with Merry and Sweet’n’Sour on the 4th.

We’d been concerned about the next climb- Bear mountain. We’d heard it was tough- both up and down. So we were happily surprised to find the trail well graded. There were a lot of steps, but they were pretty evenly spaced (both in height and width) so we could walk straight up/down without doing the awkward shuffle-half steps I often need on large rock steps to keep myself from always leading with the same leg.

Bear mountain climbs down to the Hudson River and the lowest point on the AT- 164 feet- by the trailside zoo.

But first we had to walk through tons of picnics by the river. We caught the eye of some inner city kids who were amazed to find out those white paint splashes on the trees spanned Georgia to Maine. Outfitter seemed to really enjoy answering their questions.

The zoo is a small, donation-only place with pretty much just indigenous wildlife. I would not be surprised that the residents had been once in rehab and deemed unreleaseable.

I found their cages small and depressing. Yet there were signs they wanted better for their animals too. A huge, unfinished natural enclosure was labeled as the future coyote home. I’m sure Outfitter and I will arrange a bigger donation to them when we’re able.

Right after the zoo, we got into Fort Montgomery. There are only two hotels listed, and the smaller, slightly cheaper place was full. We’d gotten out of practice of making reservations.

Considering all that happened, I am happy we ended up at the Holiday Inn. I’m sure we had a better set-up for my illness and recovery.

There wasn’t much but a gas station convenience store and a BBQ joint near by. We ate BBQ for dinner and searched in vain for Epsom salts at the store. I settled for a regular soak in hot water and a good slathering of Neosporin.

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Bear Mountain