An easy hike gone terribly wrong!

It’s been 6 months, and I’m finally ready to write about it!  Six weeks after my “graduation” from work and a month since turning the corner on 6…0……Bandanaman earns the new trail name “Chopper”

What started with a summer 4 day hike from Pa. SB into Maryland, turned into a Chopper Ride 1/4 mile from the “finish line”.  After 4 years of attempting to keep up with my better conditioned brother, “Shrek”, I finally listened to the “hike your hike” mantra.  Joined for the first time by our niece, Kelsey, a recent graduate from Georgetown College and cross country and track student-athlete, Kelsey and “Shrek” started a day further north with the understanding they’d catch me on my first day heading south.

Little did we know that we were actually starting our trip at the site of the ice cream challenge!  We’ll all have to save that challenge for the real thing coming up!  Unbeknownst to me, they had put in a 20 miler on their first day, putting them in no mood to start too early.  They met me at camp, a shorter 10 miles down the AT that afternoon.  The rookie, Kelsey, came much better prepared as a first-timer, with her sleeping equipment.  My brother and I learned how cold it could be in the Pa. mountains in August and froze our tails off.  Me in my Eno Double Nest and he in a lighter ground cover.  Temps reached down into the lower 40’s…..OUCH!

That first day we met “Brother Blood” and his team of “Legal Eagles”, three lawyers hiking with him.  Brother Blood is another aspiring 2016 thru-hiker and is also an REI professional.

Hike your hike was great for my mental makeup as I took side trails if I wanted, ate lunch and snacked or rested as needed and met up with the crew later each day.  I also spent considerable time making sure to keep up with my hydration.  August was HOT during the day and saying that I sweat profusely would be a laughable understatement.

The Day Out Hike after 4 days was a short 6 miler to “High Rocks” in Maryland.  Rocksylvania obviously poured over into northern Maryland and there were a couple spots where hiking solo, I lost sight of the white blazes and got a little off track.  When I was hiking with Shrek and Kelsey, Kelsey was always way out in front and identifying the route for us when she let us catch up.  Thus “Scout” became her trail name……an appropriate moniker to be sure!

As the early morning started heating up, I made sure I kept up with my hydration, constantly sipping down small to medium gulps as I snacked on gorp, nuts and licorice and kept a good pace.  When I got a little off track, I found myself in a larger Boulder field and instead of the easier backtrack, I made my way cross country thru the boulders to the white blaze in the distance.

It was soon after one of these side trips that I started feeling it…..sweat was pouring off me like a faucet and when I’d stop to rest, I noticed a feeling of fatigue unlike any other time.  I’d stand over my hiking poles and lean over a rock until it was saturated with dripping sweat and then move on.  After several rocks, I noticed it simply wasn’t taking as long.  Keep hydrating I told myself over gulps of water.  I finally took off my pack and sat on a large rock and tried to eat something.  That didn’t go well at all as I couldn’t stomach it and spit it out….drink more, drink more.  A day hiker passed by and when I asked about my  finish line, he told me it was only 1/2 mile or so.  SWEET!

The mind was willing, but the body was NOT…..I made a little progress and stood over  my hiking poles again as a couple and their dog came down the trail from their starting point and my finish point….1/4 mile further, but a pretty steep ascent.  I knew them….from a lunch break only two days earlier….nice couple, doing day hikes on the AT through Pa. And Maryland on weekends and days off.  They asked if I was Ok.  I didn’t lie, “no”, I replied.  They asked if they could help by carrying my pack to the top.  I agreed.  As I set my pack down, I felt a wave a nausea  hit me.  “Hang on a second” I said as I leaned against a large tree.  The next thing I knew, I was laying on the ground facing up  with my newfound friends standing over me.

I had FEINTED…..SERIOUSLY??????  The first thing she asked was…..”do you want me to call 911?”  “No”,I replied, “I must be dehydrated”, so I sucked down more water and relaxed for a couple minutes before getting up.  When they asked if I wanted help getting up, I denied them thinking if I couldn’t get up by myself, I certainly couldn’t finish my last 1/4 mile!  Mule…..I got up and thought I was ready until step #3 when I returned to my tree……2nd verse, same as the first……FEINT#2.

“Yea, call 911 and could one of you let my brother and niece know?”  It didn’t take long for a swell of rescue workers to show up along with Shrek & Scout.  They hooked me up to an IV immediately and took all my vitals.  Scout held the IV bag as I hatted with one crew.  In the meantime, a separate emergency extraction team was planning my “out”.  I heard talk of carrying me out that was VERY brief.  “Let’s find space for a chopper to pull him out” I heard as my IV was starting to create a brand new me.  ” I feel really good” I said, ” I can walk out”…..”No”, the professionals said looking at the white chin whiskers and wrinkles.  I deferred to the pro’s judgement and the chopper was called.

I heard a chainsaw and felt a deep sense of loss as a large mature tree paid the price for my upcoming extraction.  In its place was now an opening large enough for a sled drop.  Walking to the site on a serious hill, I watched as the chopper lowered the sled with the helicopter blades churning and throwing broken limbs and debri around with the rescue team dodging the debri.  A helmet was placed on my head and strapped on.  My instructions: “climb in, hold on and don’t try to get out”.  My brother Shrek at this point tells me “I’ve gotta get this on video, I’m going up to High Rocks” as he disappears up the trail.  I didn’t realize these things didn’t have seat belts as I climb in and wedge myself in.  Thumbs up and I’m getting pulled up, spinning slowly.  I feel the tremendous power of the blades 100+ feet above me as they crank me up.  A huge dead tree with big branches reaching out try to bring me back to earth as the Maryland State Patrol Chopper and crew quickly pull me past the danger and I’m in the clear.  What a view is all I can think as I’m spinning in slow circles and getting 360 degrees of view.  Wow, Shrek and Scout were right about the view……but wrong about me getting to see it (unfortunately).

The trip to the emergency room was fast and along with another IV and blood pressure, they hooked me up to an electrocardiograph.  They were fast and incredibly efficient and handed me off to the 2 Sarah’s on the emergency room staff.  More tests and a 3rd IV bag later, they declared my heart strong and attributed it to “dehydration”.  When I protested, they indicated that it was a generic term and that I had lost an incredible amount of electrolytes through the hot weather….Hyponatremia was a distinct possibility…..and a well earned trail name evolved…..Bandanaman was now also Chopper.  A reminder that my preparation was not complete.  The first thing that I did after being released 5-6 hours after being admitted, was to read Zach’s article on “must haves” for a successful hike.  Electrolyte replacements were one of the “must haves”.  I’d missed that and paid the price.  It’s also the last thing I’m researching before making my choice of products.  Less than 4 weeks left before our intended departure.  Time to make a decision.  Lastly, I asked myself “what would you have done if this had been your thru-hike?”  “I would have taken a zero, set up with electrolyte replacements and gotten right  back on the AT at the point where I was airlifted.”  With a big smile and nod of my head, I headed home.

 

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Comments 18

  • Brother Blood : Feb 17th

    Hey Chopper !!! It’s Brother Blood.
    Seems like you learned a lesson a really, really, hard way. But glad to hear you’re ok. This should make you an even better hiker.
    Everything is set for my hike, my start date is 3/28, the day after Easter. The “Legal Eagles” are joining me to Neel’s Gap, 31 miles in. 40 if you count the Approach Trail.
    Find me at Facebook, Alec Kohut, & Brother Blood’s 2016 AT Hike. E-mail: [email protected]

    Hope we can stay in touch!

    -Brother Blood

    Reply
    • Duke Conrad : Feb 18th

      Brother Blood!

      Good to hear from you! Yea, lesson learned the hard way to be sure! We start from Rt. 60 SB in Virginia to miss the madness of NB hikers. It’s 806 miles south to your Georgia start point , so we hope to meet you somewhere in between. I’ll be with brother Shrek and niece Scout (at least to start). I’ve been working out 5-6 days a week trying to get in the best pre-hike shape possible before departing and hoping for fair weather (that may be a stretch!). Good luck to you!

      Chopper

      Reply
      • Brother Blood : Feb 20th

        I’m sure we’ll meet somewhere on the trail. I’d love to get your pre-hike thoughts on video before you leave. As well as “Scout & Shrek”‘s thoughts too. Let me know if that would be cool. at[email protected].

        Reply
  • Duke Conrad : Feb 18th

    Say hito the. “Team Eagle Crew”!

    Chopper

    Reply
  • Tom Bebee : Feb 18th

    Chopper,

    With that title, I had to read the article and it was good. First of all I am glad to hear that it ended up OK and you are all set to head back out. It seems what happened to you, parallels an experience I had last May after doing my semi-annual trail volunteer work in the Adirondacks. It was un-seasonably warm and with no tree cover, it was not a good combination to be working in. However, my “exit” was not as interesting as yours. I finished the work and headed to the local brew pub for a beer and dinner with my wife. As they server the food, I took one look at it and the next thing I knew I was staring at about 10 people standing over me as I gazed at the ceiling. Since they were not letting me up, I agreed to let them take me to the hospital (as everyone sipped their pints and ate :-). Same thing as with you after many tests at the hospital, they gave me an IV and I immediately felt better. Bottom-line it was a electrolyte imbalance. Looking back at it now we laugh, but the time after it happened I have spent many month’s proving to my wife that I have the common sense necessary to attempt my AT thru-hike this coming year. Also I noted you mentioned the “must haves” article by Zach – needless to say the Heed mix he mentioned will be a daily part of my hike. Thanks for posting and good luck with your hike this year.

    Reply
    • Duke Conrad : Feb 26th

      Tom,

      Just as a side-note….I tried Heed numerous times in numerous varieties and simply can’t stomach it. Many suggested particular flavor and I’m simply not a fan. I recently switched to Nuun and I’m happy to say that I’ve found my perfect electrolyte supplement…..simple, pretty light weight, with a hint of taste (I tried both grape and lemon) that were actually tasty. Make sure you try several types before committing and best of luck!!

      Chopper

      Reply
  • Peter Quinter : Feb 23rd

    Duke a.k.a Chopper,

    It’s Peter ‘Maverick’ Quinter, one of the Legal Eagles you met on the Trail last summer. I remember you all well, including your enthusiasm for the AT and your story of how it came to you in a dream to thru-hike. Brother Blood provided us the link to your experience. Wow! So glad you are ok. Also pleased that your brother and niece will join you on an AT 2016 thru-hike. Marvin a.k.a. Silver Fox and my sister, Sheryl a.k.a. Nodoz, and I are going to hike with Brother Blood the first 4 nights of the beginning of his trek to Katadyn. We then plan to connect with him in NY/CT sometime in August 2016. Sure hope we get to see you again. At least, I would like to read about your experience. Do you plan to keep a blog, Facebook page, etc.? Let me know. If any of you ever get to South Florida, know that you have a friend. I am at [email protected].

    Reply
    • Duke Conrad : Feb 24th

      Maverick/Peter,

      Glad to hear that Brother Blood shared my blog with the Legal Eagle’ team (Maverick, Nodoz & Silver Fox). Our visit was a great experience and shows the potential power of social media when teamed with an AT experience. I’m as deep into my training as I can be since my “graduation” from work and I have mixed anxiety and excitement as I look forwadd to our start in less than 3 weeks. I’ll continue blogging on Appalachian Trials and have a new Facebook page (Duke Conrad) that I imagine I’ll post on from time to time as well. A South Florida visit would be fun and my wife really wants to go back to Key West, which we’ve visited twice…..and likewise, if you’re ever in the Hampton Roads area (Virginia Beach/Norfolk), you likewise have a friend!

      Chopper

      Reply
  • Scott Hammond : Feb 25th

    Hey Duke! “Shrek” told me about this place. I will check in once in awhile to see how things are going. Good luck on your trip. Hopefully you’ll get ahead of the dehydration this time. 25 years ago I went backpacking with my Montana relatives up into the Beartooth Mountains in southwest MT. I was in pretty good shape back then for my age and I thought I was ready for it. We started the same day I flew in (mistake) at 9000 feet and over the next 3 days climbed up to 11,000 and something. This Ohio boy (used to 1000 feet above see level) got an introduction to Altitude Sickness. I have never felt so rotten in my life! The pounding headache and dizziness were almost unbearable. Had to lie flat on my back for a full day. And no cell phones back then to call for a chopper! The next time I went backpacking in MT I did my homework was ready for it. Hoping you all have a good, safe, and healthy hike.

    Reply
    • Duke Conrad : Feb 26th

      Scott,

      Great to see a fellow Yellow Springer following my posts! The 4-5 years on short week preparation has gone a long way towards telling me what I need to know/do. Like your 1st Montana trip, if you don’t learn from your experiences, you’re destined to repeat them or even fail. On this hike, failure is NOT an option, so I’m in full workout mode trying to better prepare physically for the beginning and lightening the stress of being “trail ready” after 2-4 weeks. As my host on this site, Zach likes to talk about….the mental aspects are key and I firmly believe that I’m where I need to be to be successful. I’ll be trying to post on a regular basis and happy to have you following our adventure!

      Duke/Chopper

      Reply
  • Nick Wagner : Feb 27th

    Epic story, Duke! Glad they are able to get you out of there safe. Can’t wait to hear/see your through home chronicles. Best of luck to the three of you!

    Reply
    • Nick Wagner : Feb 27th

      That should read “thru hike”!

      Reply
      • Duke Conrad : Mar 2nd

        Thanks Cuz, it’s good to get the Wagner clans support?

        Reply
  • James Alexander : Feb 29th

    Duke..
    All I can say is I’m very proud of you. I’ve always looked up to you…every since you taught PE…in second grade thru Jr high. Looking forward to following your experience. Hope all is well, stay safe and strong! You got this!

    Reply
    • Duke Conrad : Mar 2nd

      James,
      Thanks for the support! You’re the first former student to recognize that I’m taking this trip and I hope to see many more follow our experiences. I hope to reward your faith in me by climbing Mt Katahdin in August or September in completing the 2189.1 mile thru-hike.

      Duke/Chopper

      Reply
  • Ann Phinney : Mar 6th

    Wishing you good luck on your hike. I’ll be watching for updates!

    Ann Phinney

    Reply
    • Duke Conrad : Mar 7th

      Which I hope to update regularly Ann?. I will also try to get a couple updates in that first week when Ron Gillingham is hiking with us!! Thanks for your support girl!
      Chopper/
      Bandanaman/Duke

      Reply
  • Sheila : Jun 19th

    Licorice depletes potassium and is generally overlooked by hospital staff. Please research.

    Reply

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