Looking Back: struck down by sickness (pt. 2)

We left off with Jonathan and myself making our approach toward Snoqualmie Pass (see part 1 if you're curious). My condition was somewhat stable - I was experiencing stomach pains and suspiciously frequent trips to the tree toilet (going to the bathroom meant running off into the trees as quickly as possible), but my spirits were high, I could eat and I had caught my hiker friends.

After our 30 mile day we woke with a 12.5 mile hike to Snoqualmie Pass. I was still feeling good and was hiking fast. I was so hungry! We got moving early and hoped to reach the pass by lunchtime. As I went I started to get that familiar stomach ache, but didn't think I would have a problem eating.

 Soapbox the morning he and Smokes hiked into Snoqualmie Pass

Soapbox the morning he and Smokes hiked into Snoqualmie Pass

 View of Mt. Ranier before we hiked into Snoqualmie Pass.

View of Mt. Ranier before we hiked into Snoqualmie Pass.

The hike to the pass was gorgeous. We were high up on a ridge looking down into a valley, able to see highway 90 and hear the sounds of cars echoing off the mountains, quite amplified as they were a thousand feet or more below us. Again, I'd like to emphasize Washington's beauty. As we walked north through the state I was continually struck by the raw quality of the forests, challenges presented by the sheer mountains, and the impressive infrastructure people had built to cross the wild country.

We gained the pass and I descended with Smokes to Snoqualmie (I'm not sure if it's really a town, maybe more of a highway exit with a ski resort?). We ran down a ski run towards a gas station and hotel at the bottom. We knew there was food. We knew there was beer. We had resupply boxes at the gas station. Pedi and Frizzle were there already, having camped ahead of Butters, Smokes, Trail Dancer and me (oh, and Frizzle and Pedi tend to get up early and walk crazy fast).

We arrived at the Chevron gas station as a school bus was making a pit stop. Smokes and I dropped our packs and made a bee-line for the toilets. Oops. Huge lines. Two toilets. School field trip. Not. Good. Anxiously I walked around the store - tons of random stuff. Hiker resupply boxes apparently were delivered from a post office in North Bend (20 miles away) and stored in a walk-in cooler-turned-post office, and your usual gas station food and drink options were all over. Finally, I could take care of my business (the toilet). Next was the food. I assure you, gas station cheeseburgers never tasted so good. Eventually, Smokes and I tracked down Pedi and Frizzle at a coffee shop/DoT bathroom and shower facility (the two shared a building; I don't know how else to describe it).

 Hiker trash hanging out, going through resupply boxes in Snoqualmie Pass. (Smokes, Trail Dancer and Frizzle)

Hiker trash hanging out, going through resupply boxes in Snoqualmie Pass. (Smokes, Trail Dancer and Frizzle)

Still feeling okay. It was early afternoon. My stomach may have been a little sore, but I attributed this to hunger, not sickness, and hoped all that was behind me. I'm not sure I've ever been so wrong.

Our little hiker band had reunited - Pedi, Butters, Frizzle, Smokes, Trail Dancer, myself and even Early Bee had joined up while we went through our resupply boxes (on the ground on the side of a public restroom). We were able to buy some beers, we had some coffee, we decided we would share a hotel room and rest up (thank god).

I think the trouble started at dinner when Smokes and I went to the hotel restaurant. I started eating my sandwich and french fries. Then disaster struck. The first time I just briskly walked to the restaurant bathroom. Not good. Let me just summarize that everything coming out of me was liquid, and I didn't feel safe leaving the bathroom. I threw my card at the server, quickly signed, and ran back to the room, replacing myself on the toilet therein.

Not good. My condition rapidly deteriorated from beer-drinking, burger-eating hiker to a feeble, shaky and pale toilet-hugging mess. As the rest of the hikers were enjoying beers and eating in the room I struggled to lie on the bed without running to the bathroom. I managed to drink water and eat some Triscuits (both of which still upset my stomach and triggered toilet trips). I kind of slept, but I discovered rolling onto my stomach, my back, or right side was more movement than my body could deal with. I would have to drag myself back to the bathroom. It was truly a sad state of affairs. I think somewhere between 10 pm and 1 am I was unconscious, but 2 am to sunrise was a back and forth routine from bed to toilet. I felt like hell - I was painfully hungry as my hiker body craved calories to replace the thousands it had consumes over the previous couple of days (not to mention that this was day 130, and I had virtually no body fat left) on top of the frequent ejections my body forced me to make.

Morning came and the other hikers woke, packed and hit the restaurant. I took Imodium and was scared and uncertain about what to do. I could not hike. The closest clinic was in North Bend and there were no public transit options. As sick as I felt, thumbing it was out question. Pedi and Frizzle asked around to find a ride. I called a trail angel, no luck - the angel was on vacation. Once the Imodium took effect I passed out. Thank god. Sleep never felt so good. While I was passed out Pedi and Frizzle had found a ride! Ghost Angel's husband was driving past North Bend and would help us out. I loaded up on Imodium (I wasn't sure how long I could last without a toilet nearby) and we waited for him to get back.

All the hikers who had seen me get sick waited around to make sure I got help - the trail is an incredible culture and  there is a camaraderie and sense of family among these beautiful strangers that I have not experienced in regular society. I mean, these folks don't know me but still watched to make sure I got a ride. We hugged, shook hands and said we'd see each other again before I got in the car to find a doctor.

We made it to the clinic in North Bend; our ride dropped us exactly where we needed to go. The clinic was great and helpful. New experience: I had to shit in a "hat"... they needed to test my stool for all the gross things that cause violent pooping and nausea and all that jazz. Unfortunately, I had to evacuate as soon as I got to their office so I had to bring the "hat" with me - Pedi, Frizzle and myself stayed in a North Bend hotel where I would have to collect a stool sample (yippee!). It was strange to spend so much time off the trail around people and more strange to not be able to eat. The clinic doctor, who went to med school in St. Louis, prescribed me Flagyl, a strong antibiotic used to treat Giardia, and I went to the hotel to PTFO (pass the f@#$ out).

I still had to run to the bathroom, but the severity of awfulness I was experiencing had subsided slightly. I slept off and on through the night. I was on antibiotics for 12 hours. By morning I was hurting, but hurting from hunger more than anything else. We went to a restaurant and talked over our plan. Frizzle would hitch out immediately after breakfast. Pedi and I would squat in the room as long as we could. For lack of other options Pedi and I decided we would hit the trail and just hope I would recover quickly.

At 11 am we packed our bags and walked out of the hotel room. I was shaky and honestly afraid I would have to run behind a building to go to the bathroom while we walked to the highway to hitch back to the trail. Luckily we made it and promptly were picked up by a thru-hiker from a previous year, she dropped us at the trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass where I was able to use a privy. We were back on the PCT and would continue our hike while I (hopefully) recovered.

To be continued

Hope you are enjoying the saga

Dan (aka Soapbox)

 Sick Soapbox and trusty friend, Pedi hitching to get back to the trail from North Bend.

Sick Soapbox and trusty friend, Pedi hitching to get back to the trail from North Bend.

 View of highway 410 before we hiked into Snoqualmie Pass, near Sheep's Lake.

View of highway 410 before we hiked into Snoqualmie Pass, near Sheep's Lake.

 Some nature being all natural and stuff.

Some nature being all natural and stuff.

 I was low on substantial food so i make a Cheeto, mayo, parm, mustard, hummus wrap. Felt like Arrested Development. No way this is why I was feeling sick...

I was low on substantial food so i make a Cheeto, mayo, parm, mustard, hummus wrap. Felt like Arrested Development. No way this is why I was feeling sick...