Day 15: 4/23/14, PCT Mile 239.7

Miles hiked: 7.8 miles to Mission Creek Trail Camp
Camped at: n/a, in Big Bear Lake

Wow, what a day – I bailed from the trail for the first time on this trip, unfortunately because of illness. The day began with my alarm waking me up, which almost never needs to happen – I’m usually awake before hand and it just reminds me to actually start moving. Moving was incredibly slow right from the get-go, despite the cold constant wind. I choked down breakfast, also not typical, and TDP and I got on the trail at about 5 am. My low grade nausea and generally feeling not well from the last few days took a sudden turn for the worse, as I vomited – luckily I got off the trail to the side and then quickly buried it so no one else got a nasty surprise. Yikes, a bad sign indeed – no longer in denial that I’m unwell, my main thought then was “Cr**, I’m in the middle of no where, sick and exhausted, and facing a 3000 foot climb before I may see one of my hiking partners again. Not good.” I hurried as fast as I could to try to catch up to TDP, and very fortunately for me she had stopped to talk with….Hemlock! Hemlock had ended up camping only a short ways ahead of us, though none of us knew that last night. She had stopped to take a break when TDP saw her. I don’t think I even said hello when I came up and said I wasn’t doing well and needed to get off the trail if at all possible to be seen by a doctor.

We debated bailing options for me, none of which were ideal. I could have turned around and gone back >15 miles to the Whitewater Preserve and hope for a ride out, but knew I would face a decent climb and be by myself; or I could go forward with the ladies, but would need to climb 3000 feet in 6 miles, which was reported to be hot and miserable once the heat of the day set in. I could have also stayed where I was, set up my tent and rested, but if not feeling better would have faced the same choices the next day, alone. I chose to go on, and it took me until nearly noon to go less than 8 miles total. Hemlock and TDP (who is considering a name change, stay tuned), were so great – continually reassuring and hiked for the most part with me between them, going my miserably slow pace up and up the hills. I am so lucky to have had them there, as well as the wonderfully graded trail. We realized I also had a fever, as I found the wind cold and clammy when it was simply refreshing to the ladies. Oy.

No cell signal at the dirt forest service road wasn’t encouraging, but I had my trusty Delorme InReach with me, and asked Dad and Kelleye, a friend of Hemlock’s, to call local trail angels (including the Bear,who I had just met on Monday!) for me to see if someone might be able to come up and give me a ride to town. I learned rather quickly that a ranger would be coming up and to sit tight. We were all relieved, and I told Hemlock and TDP to hike on without me. A nice section hiker (and former thru) “the Count” was there and planning to stay the night, and he told me about an alternate way I could hike out tomorrow to the road if needed. TDP left with other hikers, but Hemlock seemed hesitant. I was quickly very glad of her continued support as a helicopter began circling. Ummm, they do know this wasn’t a life threatening situation, right?! Not knowing how bad off I really was, the Calvary was called in, otherwise known as SAR, the Forest Service, and the county Sheriff. Surreal. There was no place to land the second rescue copter which eventually came, but they dropped a guy down who quickly checked me out and listened to my lungs – with my history of asthma altitude sickness is a chief concern. They had a ambulance lined up if I needed it and could have airlifted me out, but I quickly asked simply for a ride down the mountain, after thanking everyone, who were so nice to me. I have a big aversion to rescue dollars being spent unnecessarily, and so was rather mortified by the whole situation, but I’m truly grateful for the very quick response of everyone involved, THANK YOU!

The sheriff gave me and Hemlock a ride down the very bumpy road – no regular car short of a high clearance 4×4 would have made it up there so my original plan was rather naive – and dropped us off at an urgent care. Unfortunately they were about to close for the day so couldn’t see me, and I didn’t think I needed to tie up the local ER since I wasn’t actively ill. I decided to get a hotel room close by and go first thing tomorrow morning. Hemlock went to the hostel as we weren’t sure if I am contagious, so here I am, in a suite all to myself and my pack, scratching my head over the events of the day. I’m kind of lonely, but it’s also nice to have some time to myself. I just hope it works out to meet back up on the trail with TDP and Hemlock. I’m not a purist, and there’s little chance I could get back to exactly where I left off, so I’m fine with getting back on the trail right out of Big Bear City. We’ll see what the doc has to say tomorrow morning. I’m definitely taking tomorrow off, though, still no appetite to speak of, and I’ve maybe eaten 500 calories today that actually stayed down. Time to sleep.

One of the helicopters circling overhead, and in the back of a police vehicle for the first time!

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2 thoughts on “Day 15: 4/23/14, PCT Mile 239.7

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