Sometimes you have to ask yourself the important questions in life like do I have the Virginia Blues or do I have Lyme Disease?
The last time I updated I had just entered the lovely state of Virginia & was enjoying my time at Trail Days. My tramily spent a week there together having the time of our lives. We biked along the Creeper Trail, drank all the margaritas and busch lights at Hey Joe’s, won free gear in the raffles, & rented an air b&b for our last night in town.
Then shit hit the fan. At least for me.
Saturday night I was walking around tent city when I got a text that two dogs had gotten into a fight on my tent and ripped a gash into it. One of the dog owners disappeared before I got there but the other was nice enough to offer to go to the zpacks tent with me in the morning to explain what happened & to see if they could do anything for me. In the meantime I went to the gear repair tent where they gave me some repair tape. My friends helped me try and fix the gash with the repair tape & some cuban fiber tape and I went to bed. It was supposed to rain that night so I would be able to tell if the patch job worked.
The next morning I woke up in 2 inches of water. Either the patch hadn’t held or the places where the dogs’ nails scratched my tent weakened it enough that water had seeped through. I was livid & was even more pissed when I saw that zpacks had already packed up their tent and left. I was screwed. How was I supposed to thru hike without a waterproof shelter? I wasn’t about to wait another couple days in town for my mom to send me my brother’s hammock or my dad’s tent.
So I went to the local outfitters and saw what they had for sale.
The only 2 person tents that Sundog had were Nemo tents which I’d heard nothing but bad things about. The other outfitter in town only had heavy marmot tents. I went back to Sundog and asked an employee about hammocks. I wound up spending an hour choosing my setup. Unfortunately they only had heavier hammock gear so my shelter setup went from being less than 2 lbs to 4 and a half pounds. But I had a working/waterproof setup so I didn’t care. And it was cheaper than a new tent.
Everything between leaving Damascas and getting to Marion turned out to be great. We had some shitty weather in the Grayson Highlands but the trail fam made the most of it. We saw the ponies, had a movie night in Chips’ tent, reached 500 miles, enjoyed an awesome hiker feed for memorial day, & started to get back into the swing of things after taking a week off for trail days.
Then it was time to go into Marion. The plan was to go in, resupply, and get the hell out of dodge.
We were done spending nights in town. Or so we thought. My knees were killing me & Little Foot’s stuff had gotten wet in the downpour the night before. So the two of us & our friend Nanner decided to stay one night while our other friends kept hiking. Then we stayed another night. We spent the next couple days trying to catch up to our friends but they were pulling big miles. We got to Atkins & that’s when Nanner decided to yellow blaze up to Bland. Little Foot and I didn’t want to spend the next couple weeks trying to catch up to everyone so we chose to yellow blaze too. I instantly regretted it. You can’t be a thru-hiker if you skip miles. Looking back I don’t regret the decision because I’m going back to VA this year anyway so it won’t be hard to hike that section but at the time I felt terrible.
The next day I was miserable.
I didn’t want to hike with anyone else. I just wanted to catch up to my friends Huggy Bear and Chips because they were doing big miles and I felt like that’d somehow make up for the fact that I’d skipped 40+ miles. My mood lightened up a bit the next day when I found out that we were going to Dismal Falls. I was even more excited when we got to the falls and found that our other friends were there too. We spent the whole day there and camped in the nearby campsites along the trail.
Then we got to Pearisburg. And shit hit the fan for all of us.
We got there on a Sunday (screw that descent!) but some of us had packages to pick up from the post office. We found a donation based church hostel (which has been one of my favorite hostels so far) so we didn’t mind staying in town for the night. One night wouldn’t be too bad… right?
The next day it poured. All. Day. Long. So we took a zero day. That night Huggy Bear got really sick. So we took a zero day. The next day I woke up at 3am and barely made it to the bathroom. I spent 5 hours there before I decided to get a motel room. So we took another zero day. The next day Chips’ stomach was bothering him too much to hike. So we took another zero day. The next day Nanner’s knee was bothering him. So we took another zero day. The next day Chips and I had had enough of Pearisburg so we left. We did 10.5 miles and they all sucked. My legs felt like jello, I was still dehydrated from getting sick, and it was so hot out. The next few days we set a goal to hike 15 or more miles a day but we only reached that goal once. I blamed my tiredness, achiness, & general bad mood on having the Virginia Blues. I kept telling myself I just had to make it to Harper’s Ferry and everything would be alright.
We continued doing smaller mile days but they still took all day to finish. I blamed it on the blues again.
We hiked up Dragon’s tooth & McAfee which brightened my spirits a bit. But then going into Daleville we still had 3 miles to go and I felt like I couldn’t walk any further. The next day we took a zero because our feet were destroyed from the multiple days of rain we had encountered. The next day we slackpacked 20 miles. Most of it was downhill yet I still was hiking way slower than I usually did. I blamed it on the Virginia Blues. The next couple days were more of the same.
We finally made it to Glascow. We wanted to go into town, resupply, and then night hike out of town. When we got to the town’s hiker pavilion that was made as an eagle scout project we decided to stay because I was tired and it was an awesome spot for hikers. Also, that morning I’d been attacked by a swarm of no-see-ums so I was happy to have a place to sleep away from them for a night.
We woke up, finished some last minute errands, and made our way back to the trailhead with our friends Lil Wayne (who also writes for the trek!) & Pineapple. I made it the first mile without even stopping for a break but then I started to feel sluggish again. My knees ached with every step I took. My legs felt like I’d just ran a marathon. It took me two hours to go 3.5 miles. When I got to the top of the first hill I collapsed to the ground. I was exhausted, out of water, and a bit lightheaded. I tried blaming it on the trail but honestly the hill was extremely graded and it wasn’t even hot out. It was perfect conditions for hiking.
I’d eaten a good lunch and drank 2L of water on the way up so there was no reason I should’ve felt that tired.
I started naming off the symptoms I was feeling when Pineapple told me he thought I might have Lyme disease. He’d gotten off trail for a month and a half because of it so he was very familiar with it. There was no way I was going to be able to hike the 7 miles to the shelter & next water source so I decided to head back to town. Chips was nice enough to hike down the mountain with me.
The next day I went to the ER where I was diagnosed with “a tick borne illness.”
They said it’d take too long to test me for lyme (the hospital was only rated 2.7 stars so it doesn’t surprise me that they said that instead of actually testing me) so they prescribed me doxycycline and told me to wait for at least 4 days before hiking again. Oh, and to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of liquids.
Seeing as I’d be hiking in the sun, Virginia’s water situation at the moment isn’t the best, & I wasn’t feeling better after 7 days in motel rooms with two more weeks of antibiotics left, I decided to come home.
I am not quitting the trail.
I’m just going to take longer than the usual thru-hiker would to finish. I’ve been home for a week now and thankfully have started to feel better. I still get tired sooner & more easily than I should but my joints don’t ache nearly as much and my daily headaches have vanished. This week I’m going to start going on smaller hikes so that I don’t completely lose my trail legs. Once Chips gets to Harpers Ferry he’ll come up to NY where I’ll meet him & we’ll catch a bus to Maine. That’s right… I’m gonna be a flip flopper!
I’m actually quite excited to flip flop because it’s what my dad did in 1980 & I’ll get to see all my friends that hiked faster than me at least once before we all finish the trail. I should be flipping in ~2 weeks. In the meantime you can find me walking the trails of the Catskill mountains, sitting in my hammock in my front yard, or handing out trail magic at the RPH shelter along the AT.
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