I envisioned this post to be something much more different than it will be. I thought I would be thanking Ihduhapi for teaching me to carry my own weight, and thanking Menogyn for giving the desire to spend time in the wilderness. I envisioned myself stronger and more in tune with Mother Nature and myself. Yet I come back feeling weaker and more distant from myself.
My creative mind was working every step I took on the trail. Our first night was “A cold night in tick city and mosquitoville.” The mosquitoes were horrendous and the ticks were on everything. The camp site took me back to my years on the river back at Ihduhapi and we stayed at a campsite that was so infested with mosquitoes that they found ways inside our jackets. This situation was similar. We hiked through two miles of swamp to our first camp site, with the sinking realization that neither Kate nor I knew had to use the dragonfly stove we’d borrowed on our own (sure we’d cooked over one before and started it with assistance….). But the mosquitoes gave us no time to fiddle around. Cold dinner (aka, lunch for dinner) and a night spent hanging out in the tent. It was a cold night and adjusting to sleeping in the tent was a little rough. Still a lot of mosquitoes, so we ate poptarts and marched on our merry way.
Day two- a 5.3 mile hike, with a 250 ft climb, and a much longer descent. It was a struggle for me, and I didn’t think I was taking in enough liquids, but it didn’t hit me until I started getting a headache at camp. We got to our campsite fairly early (much earlier than I’d realized), so there was time for relaxing and hopping in the nearby stream. We met four people on trail on day two. A woman doing a two day hike and three guys who we shared our campsite with (Bailey really appreciated this because she sneakily stole some jerky from them to supplement her dog food diet). They taught us an Israeli card game which they had forgotten its original name and redubbed it “Hutzpah.” It was nice to enjoy the camaraderie of strangers and feel part of something bigger.
Day three- It was intended to be a 7.8 mile hike. Early morning rain storm (downpour, really) gave us a sluggish start and a mini swimming pool in our tent. The boys packed up and left before us. My headache was better, but I knew it was important to stay hydrated. I hadn’t even considered that I might overhydrate. Obviously. We started out doing pretty well, with Kate trail blazing the way (sometimes Bailey). As the morning went on, the fog and clouds began to lift into a gorgeously sunny day. I wish I could have enjoyed it. I felt my strength waning. I couldn’t figure out why and I just couldn’t simply believe that I was that weak. I ran out of water (my 3L pouch, which probably had about 2.5 liters in it), so Kate filled me up with another liter. I ran out again, so I filled it up with the last bottle I had (I think it was probably about 1.5 liters). It was not until we stopped at a stream to get water I realized something was seriously wrong. Initially I was fatigued and a little dizzy a little earlier in the day. Now I had started to feel drunk and nauseous, but in a different way than I had ever experienced those feelings before. Somewhere in my head there was a logical voice (and also a hysterical voice freaking out about dying on the Superior Hiking Trail), but above it all was Kate’s voice– “get me your wfr book to see what it says we should do.” Trying to play your own first responder while delirious is a lot more difficult than you would think so I’m thankful I had Kate to investigate, but after consuming massive amounts of salt and powerade, the only way to go was forward to the nearest parking lot and hope for the best.
It was at this point when the logical voice kept telling me to put one foot in front of the other. Leave the backpack behind, keep moving. Slowly but surely we made it to the parking lot, where we still did not have cell phone service. By the time we finally flagged a car down, he drove down to the nearest house to call 911, and I realized I could barely form coherent phrases- it took an unbelievable amount of effort. So Kate and I started walking to town (unnecessarily, but it was the only thing we could think to do), but turned around when our initial 911 caller told us it would be best to wait at the parking spot. When the ambulances (yes, plural), deputy, and SHT volunteers finally showed up, there was something inside me that knew that it was okay to stop fighting to put one foot in front of the other.
And this is where things got fuzzy. The first EMTs on scene took vitals and gave me O2, asked me questions, and after the paramedics showed up, I fainted. So I got put on a big, comfy stretcher, hoisted into the Cook County ambulance, and we were on our way to Grand Marais! After fainting I do remember laying on the stretcher vaguely. I also remember talking to the paramedics and trying to tell them I was A on the AVPU (which means awake- they laughed after I said this so I think I must have said it right after I passed out and woke up). I also regaled them with how I had received two promotions at work, but been able to take time off for this trip before the next promotion. Side note- I have extremely small veins, so people have always struggled to get blood, insert IVs, etc. One of the paramedics was struggling to get an IV in, and in my half lucid state I made a noise from being in pain. He said, “Did that hurt?” And being the smart ass I am I replied, ” Nope, I just like to make that noise.” More laughter. Then they continued to ask me questions, but I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I tried really hard to understand, but my hearing was no longer working, and I passed out.
At the ER, I remember they cut my shirt off, except that I didn’t realize it was being cut off at the time. I knew people were talking to me, but I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. I read the report about me today and it said “patient was confused and kept saying ‘what’ when asked day, time, location, name. Didn’t know her name.” Which was annoying because I DID know my name, I just didn’t know what people were asking me (which is why I kept saying “what,” obviously). And how the hell would I know the day or time when I was on trail and we weren’t keeping track of it? And how would I know where I was if I was unconscious on the ride there. Good news, I wasn’t upset about it until I read the report today (I was discharged yesterday). Also, I was upset that they initially didn’t believe me when I said I was overhydrated. Things on my report listed dehydration as possible problem. Seriously?
By morning I was feeling mostly back to normal and ready to bounce out of the hospital. Although I had to wait until 1:30 before they would let me go (it was supposed to be noon). I was ready to release myself. And say goodbye to my adventure. Goodbye to my bucket list challenge. And goodbye to the north shore. I think I was still in shock about everything that had happened. Our trip was fucked.
This morning as I gathered my things from my parents house I couldn’t help but think about how much money I had spent that was now wasted. Money spent to be ready for this trip, to buy food for the trip (mostly dehydrated, high calorie, high sodium) and other miscellaneous items. What are we going to do with all that camping food? So. I’m still trying to adjust to being home. Still trying to adjust to being back in the city. Still missing mother nature.