April 27, 2018
I rose early to grab one last quick shower. We’re leaving Hiker Haven today. I’m sad and honestly a little nervous. Since I lanced my blister and took a day off I’m not limping as much. Barely at all, really, but a few people are still looking at me with concern, especially Mrs. Saufley. She admonished me again to stay, saying even though they have a 2-night limit on how long hikers can stay (because otherwise, some might never leave), she would make an exception for me. She said, as kindly as possible, that if I pushed too hard there was a good chance I wouldn’t make it all the way. I thanked her, but it was really important to me that I stick with my trail family. I should have listened to her.
I was feeling pretty good physically and was optimistic that my new shoes and insoles would do the trick. I’d left my old, gutted Altras lined up with 20 other pairs of discarded hiking shoes in the “Shoe Graveyard” by the hiker boxes. It was actually kind of sad to leave them behind knowing they’d carried me so far already, if begrudgingly so. My new shoes seemed to look up at me from the ground and say, “Put me in, coach! I won’t let you down!” So I did.
Sparky, Ghosthiker, and Alias caught the first shuttle into town so they could eat breakfast at one off the local restaurants, but I’ve never been able to eat much for breakfast right before hiking so I opted to stay at Hike Haven. I took my time getting my stuff around, made some fresh coffee and even poured in a little peppermint Kahlua someone had left in the hiker kitchen. Yum! The morning dragged on and my trail family didn’t return. I sipped coffee on the patio with my feet propped up and acoustic guitar playing over some speakers. I eventually became hungry and decided a bagel and peanut butter were in order. Toasted. Mmmmmm…
When the others arrived, we took the next shuttle into town. As soon as my phone had service, I saw that I had a voicemail from the ER in Big Bear Lake. The nurse said they’d received my culture report back from the lab and that they needed to speak to me right away. It took about half an hour to get in touch with the right person at the hospital in Big Bear, who explained that I had a bacteria that was resistant to the antibiotics they’d given me as well as the first round I’d taken at the beginning of my hike. Whatever was up with my intestinal tract, it had never actually gone away, just calmed down some under the influence of mild antibiotics. I ended up needing to hitch to the nearest pharmacy, a 30-minute drive back to Santa Clarita!
Fortunately, there was a former thru-hiker eating at the nearby restaurant named Stew Beans (whether that was his real name or his trail name, I never did find out) who was happy to take me into town. Ghosthiker rode with us. To this day, I’m still impressed with how devoted my trail family was to one another. I kept telling them to go on ahead, that I was surely slowing them down, but they insisted on waiting. Even Alias waited, bless him.
On the way to Santa Clarita, I called the pharmacy to inquire about getting a generic version of whatever drug the hospital had called in, and the pharmacist happily directed me to a website called GoodRX.com where I found a coupon that took my $80 antibiotics and made them cost only $15! Since I’d already shelled out $60 for the round in Big Bear, I was ecstatic to receive a discount on this round.
On the way back, I decided to check out the warnings on the drug fact sheet and was rather alarmed by what I read.
“This stuff sounds really dangerous.”
“What is it?” Asked Ghosthiker, a former pharmacist herself as well as a former champion bodybuilder and a retired Houston police officer. I would come to learn that there was very little Ghosthiker HADN’T done. I handed her the drug fact sheet.
“Oh…Oh, don’t take this. This is terrible stuff.” She told me a story about a friend of hers who had been on this drug and had suffered permanent nerve damage in her hands and feet. Warnings included staying out of direct sunlight, avoiding strenuous activity, and the side effects included severe dehydration, nerve damage, loss of vision, and possibly death. What the hell!? I called the nurse in Big Bear and explained my fears. She told me that they give their patients this drug all the time (this was confirmed later by my brother who is also a nurse), that the side effects are extremely uncommon, and she advised me to get off trail while taking the drug to ensure my safety. I told her I couldn’t do that. “I don’t even have any symptoms,” I said. After some deliberation, the nurse and I came to an agreement. I would continue hiking without taking the drug, but I would keep it with me in case I started experiencing severe symptoms again.
So that was that. We shouldered our packs and set off down the road toward Canada. I was in good spirits, what with a slow morning, new shoes, and feeling revived from a day off with half a Chipotle burrito in my pack. But it was a hot day, and starting the day with several miles of road walking did not bode well for me. By the end of the day, I had a new hot spot on the ball of my OTHER foot and a terrible shooting pain in both my legs that might have been the start of shin splints. Again. Shit, I thought.
Shit. Shit. SHIT. I can’t do this.
I’d signed up for the discomfort and strenuous activities and being dirty and the foot pain that is common with long-distance hiking, but not the constant, consecutive stream of issues. I couldn’t even enjoy what I was doing or where I was because all my energy was focused on the pain and trying to prevent it, with every step proving to be a challenge of navigation and my only real goal was getting to the next resting point so I could sit down. I couldn’t look around and enjoy my surroundings and it was dawning on me then that I hadn’t been enjoying any part of this hike for some time. I’d expected bad days but this had been going on since the start. I didn’t know what to do. If it was shin splints, I needed to get off trail. This hike wasn’t worth completely wrecking my feet and legs over. Tomorrow we’d be hiking only 14 miles to Casa de Luna and I was seriously considering hitching to Hikertown from there. I really didn’t want to skip miles and have to come back and make them up, but I also didn’t want to lose this group.
That evening, I washed my feet really well, applied some athletes foot cream, took a Tylenol PM, and slept with my pack under my legs so my feet stayed elevated almost all night. Sleep eluded me, though, despite the drugs.
Just as I was drifting off another hiker with a VERY bright headlamp approached, shined his lamp directly at my tent which kind of blinded me even with the tent fly in place, and asked if anyone was awake.
I hesitated, then said “relatively.”
He asked if I minded him camping next to me. I was already right next to the trail.
“Right next to me?” I asked, dubiously. I was too tired and frustrated with my other issues to be overly polite.
Sparky chimed in and said there were spots just a little ways up, so he headed that way. We still don’t know who he was.