March 28, 2018
I awoke the next morning to find that the cream had actually caused the rash to spread! I immediately walked over to the nearby clinic and made an appointment to see a doctor. Thankfully it didn’t take long and I was directed to come back around 1pm to pick up a prescription steroid cream that would fix the problem right up. Thank God! They also wrote me a prescription for my UTI. Excellent.
While all this was going on, I’d made a point to stop in at a place I’d read about on Guthooks called Carmen’s. It was a little restaurant located right on the main street and the owners name was, you guessed it, Carmen. During the tourist season she was only open a few days a week. The rest of the time there was a banner hung across the main entryway that read CLOSED – EXCEPT FOR HIKER TRASH. Thru-hikers were given a free beer of their choice from the back cooler and could order off the menu during lunch and dinner hours, and there was a washer and dryer for open use in a shed on the patio so I took advantage of that. I’d only been on trail for a few days, but I’d worn about every article of clothing I’d packed with me and it was all stinky. Plus, it was nice to sit on a patio in the sun with a cold beer rather than in a hotel room with a stranger I was becoming rapidly more uncomfortable with.
While chilling at Carmens, I learned that in the evening all the tables inside and out were pushed into corners and hikers could spread their mats and bags out and sleep on the floor. I think, had I known this, I probably still would have paid for the hotel room because I desperately needed a shower in order to properly tend to my poison oak, but maybe the Cling-On would have opted to stay here instead of following me around. As it was, we’d only paid for the room for one night so I planned to stay at Carmens that following night to complete my zero before getting back on trail the next day. When the Cling-On appeared to claim his free beer, I told him my plan and he said that sounded like a good idea and decided to do the same. Ugh!
When I picked up my steroid cream, I went back to the hotel and used one of my clean bandanas to wash my poison oak rash again before applying the cream. The hotel bathroom was a disaster after the parade of hikers last night and there wasn’t a clean or dry towel to be had. After applying the cream I lay on the bed for a while and tried to relax and let the healing powers of the steroids do their work. My “roommate” was over at Carmens working on his third or fourth beer of the day. I just hoped he was paying for them. He was always talking about how poor he was but somehow always had money for cigarettes (and a hotel room?). During the afternoon and evening while I was there I tried to notice if he was putting cash in the jar intended for the hiker beer, but never saw it happen. I hope I’m wrong.
That evening I met lots of other awesome hikers at Carmens, as well as Carmen herself. Jumanji and John were there, which was a treat. By that evening, however, it became apparent through some conversations that people were associating me with the Cling-On. Was he telling people we were hiking together?? Or, God forbid, that we’d shared a hotel room in a not-platonic way!? What the hell had I gotten myself into!? And all in a misguided attempt to not be rude to a stranger. Well, no more of that. I was going to need to beat a hasty retreat the next morning. Maybe if I was up and out by the road early enough he wouldn’t follow me.
No such luck.