June 13, 2018
Despite my best efforts, I awoke early the next morning. It took me a few moments to recall where I was, and for a while I simply lay there, unable and unwilling to move. The bed felt so cushy and I felt so bone-weary. But I did eventually move, slowly. I sat up, stood up, feeling every muscle protest, then quietly slipped out the door (my roommates were still asleep) and into the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth. How luxurious those simple tasks seemed to me then, to be able to perform them with running water and not needing to be constantly in motion to keep the mosquitoes away.
When I went into the kitchen, Eric had already made coffee and there was a hiker preparing some pretty legit bulletproof coffee in a ninja blender. I had my own coconut oil in my food bag and she was kind enough to let me use some of her butter. The result was some intensely good and calorie-rich coffee, with cream.
Last night during my shower I’d taken all of my dirty laundry in with me to get it somewhat clean, since there is no washer or dryer at the hostel. There was, however, ample patio space and a line strung up to hang wet laundry on, and this is where I’d hung all my wet things the night before. With my coffee in hand, I started down the stairs to the lower balcony. Forgetting the trouble I’d had the night before, I only made it one step before I had to stop. Everything from my waist down was stiff, uncoordinated, and in immense pain. My legs were shaky and I opted to leave my coffee behind so I could grip the railings with both hands, I felt that unsteady. After I’d checked my laundry and climbed slowly, carefully, back upstairs, I reclaimed my coffee and sat in the living room for a while, just sipping and staring at nothing. I’m not sure how long I sat there.
Eventually, I finished my coffee and rose to pack up my stuff. I didn’t know how long my visit to the hospital would take or when/where I’d be reconnecting with my trail family once they made it to town, but I knew I had to vacate the “family” suite, for no matter where I stayed that night it would not be in that room. Eric was nowhere to be found, but Spice Rack seemed to know what was what at the hostel and told me I could leave my pack in a corner of the living room while I went about my day. It wouldn’t be bothered by anyone. I thanked him and walked down to the bus stop, where I caught the trolley to the hospital.
The only thing my insurance will cover out-of-state are emergencies, which is why on this trip I always head for the ER rather than find a local doctor. It is admittedly faster, too. I spent almost 4 hours at Mammoth Lakes Hospital while they ran some tests and I spoke at length with the doctor. I have to say that the staff there were some of the most thorough and attentive people I’d ever had the pleasure of dealing with at a hospital. Or most doctors’ offices in general, for that matter. This would prove to be true time and time again as it became necessary over the following weeks to be in contact with them in order to procure my medical records and get them faxed, emailed, or what have you, to the different places they needed to go.
The doctor spoke with me at length about my condition, ordered my lab results from the hospital in Big Bear Lake, and wrote me a prescription to give me immediate relief of my symptoms while they sent a new sample to a lab for testing. According to the lab results at Big Bear Hospital, I had a mysterious strain of bacteria that had been in my system for some time, and what we needed to figure out now was whether my symptoms were being caused by the same bacteria or something new. We’d know more in about 3-5 days, he said, and advised me to stay in town until then so we could go over the results. As for my tailbone, after I described what had happened and the ensuing pain, he asked me some pointed questions and then assured me that, because I didn’t have any signs of long term damage, I’d most likely just bruised it well and good and it would take a long time to heal.
I’ll admit that I’d been hoping he might say something like that. In my mind, the timing could not have been better. I had no desire to hike out and suddenly find myself suffering from these symptoms on trail again, I was in a large enough town that I would have no shortage of places to walk and things to entertain me, the hostel was very affordable and full of supportive hiking peers, and extended time off-trail would give my body the time it needed to recover, especially after my long hike the day before. The only problem was that I’d be forced to bid farewell to my trail family, but that was not such a problem, really. I knew they were planning a 3-day trailcation very soon and that would probably give me the time I’d need to catch up to them. My legs were stronger now. Well, not at that moment, but they would be after a few days. Making big miles should be easier now that the most challenging parts of the Sierra were behind us.
During my time at the hospital, mostly spent waiting alone in an exam room, I heard from Sparky and Ghosthiker. They’d arrived in town late that morning and reserved a room at the Motel 6, saying I should come there directly when I finished at the hospital. I had kind of hoped they’d consider staying at the hostel where there seemed to be such a great crowd of hikers, but I knew them better than that. They’d be wanting peace and quiet, and I could hardly blame them. The Davison Street Hostel has a strictly-observed quiet time of 10:00pm, but that’s much later than my trail parents usually like to stay up at night.
When I finished at the hospital I took a series of trolleys and busses to the pharmacy and then back to the hostel, where I collected my pack, got back on the bus half an hour later, and was dropped off right outside the Motel 6 to be reunited with my trail family. We sat around sipping red wine from disposable plastic cups and chatting for several hours before heading to Mammoth Brewing Co. for some delicious dinner and even tastier beer. Should you ever be in Mammoth Lakes during the summer and they have their Summer Trippel on tap, I highly recommend getting a pint. Maybe even two.
It was during this delightful evening out that Ghosthiker made a confession. Back at the base of Muir Pass, when she’d insisted on hiking a little further to camp and I’d had such a bad attitude…you remember that bit? And do you remember how Sparky and I had waited for what felt like a long time before Ghosthiker returned to fetch us? She’d told us at the time that it was because she’d been post-holing on her way up and down the hill, but the truth was that she’d been busy using the snow to cover up a sign that said: “Restoration Site – No Camping”!
Somehow, Ghosthiker managed to admit this to us while looking both ashamed and amused with her own sneakiness, and Sparky just looked like he didn’t know what to think. I think Ghosthiker and I might be the rule-benders in our group, especially compared to Sparky. He has spent a lot of time in the past volunteering on trail maintenance crews and is very passionate about obeying signs and ordinances, and had he known Ghosthikers’ excellent camping spot was a restoration site there was no way in hell he would have agreed to camp there – or let either of us, for that matter. But we’d all had enough to drink and it had been so many days ago that all we could really do at that point was laugh!