Day 41: Roan High Knob and Norovirus Fears

Good Morning

It had rained sometime in the night. All I could think of was that I’d be putting a wet tent in my bag. And I did. I forgot I left a pair of socks and underwear outside too, so they were soaked.

Everyone left camp at around 7:30 with plans to meet at the next shelter for a snack. The hike wasn’t bad at all. There were some steep parts, but they didn’t last long. The time went by quickly.

Clyde Smith Shelter

The Clyde Smith Shelter appeared over the horizon and I walked the short spur trail. Kea was already sipping on some tea and Sweeper was just starting to eat his snack. Two others were there, both talking about how they weren’t feeling well. The lady was debating going into town. The man wasn’t overly nice, though. He was smoking and blowing smoke in my face. I got up, took some water from Kea, and marched on.

There was some elevation gain before we dropped down. Hughes Gap was the place we planned on eating lunch at. I was tired and lagging. I was ready for some food. The others were just right behind me. We had hiked eight miles before noon. That was a new personal best.

Say What Now?

In the midst of eating, the lady, who wasn’t feeling well from the previous shelter, sat down near me and explained that she was going to town. She really wasn’t feeling well. “I was up all night vomiting and having diarrhea. I need to eat some bread.” Everything in me stopped. I suddenly felt dirty and contaminated. “Sounds like you have noro,” I say, discreetly moving away from her. “It could be. I think it may just be a stomach bug.” Nope, that sounds exactly like norovirus. I started having flashbacks of setting my phone and other stuff down on the shelter table near her stuff, of wipping the sweat off my face on the uphill immediately after the shelter, and touching my cheese with my bare hands because the wax shell semi-melted to the cheese.

There are flyers on several shelter walls – including the one she stayed at that night – that go indepth about norovirus. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy was sending emails about the virus weeks ago. The trail community talks about it constantly. How could she have missed that? I became very angry that she did not inform any of us of her symptoms. Some may consider that information private, but when it affects whoever stays there, you need to communicate what’s going on.

The Hike Up

On the way up to Roan High Knob, all I could think about was that either late tonight or tomorrow, I would know if I had it. I have a history of people who are close to me not sharing that they are unwell because they don’t think it’s that bad and I have gotten sick. Super sick in some cases. It was an immediate trigger. I tried to distract myself by listening to podcasts. It worked, thank god.

The climb up wasn’t as bad as I thought. I set a pace and just kept going. I was doing great! I rarely stopped as I hiked the five miles up. I ended up passing Sweeper and Kea. At the top, there was a cleared area that used to have a hotel. I walked around before continuing the final half mile to the shelter.

Reunion with Fine Young Buck

I thought the shelter was right off the trail. It wasn’t. It was a 0.1 mile climb upwards. I also thought that the shelter area would be exposed and have views. I was wrong again. It was situated in a spruce forest, which was pretty. The moment I arrived, Fine Young Buck came up to me and gave me a hug. I didn’t even get a chance to tell him I may be contaminated with noro.

His back wasn’t hurting him and he dropped some pack weight by sending home his winter gear. He did mention that he may regret that tonight. Roan High Knob Shelter is the highest shelter on the Appalachian Trail. It sits at 6,270 feet. It was already chilly to me and I only just stopped hiking. I was glad to see him doing well.

Norovirus Worries

The view from the Roan High Knob Shelter.

The others arrived and began setting up. I needed my tent to dry out first. The spot I picked out wasn’t the flattest, but it was the only one not covered in mud. We all began cooking dinner and the conversation steered toward the norovirus encounter.

Sweeper and Kea weren’t concerned, though. I may just be freaking myself out, but norovirus is 400 times more contagious than covid. If you had covid, you would infect two others. With noro, if you have it, you infect eight. And norovirus lasts up to two weeks on surfaces. The odds were not in my favor.

I ate as quick as I could before wipping the dirt off my legs and feet. The chores sucked because it was windy and cold. The moment I finished, I burrowed into my bag. There were others out and about socializing, but I wanted to be warm.

More Worries

I spent the entire time worrying about possibly having norovirus. I use hand sanitizer before every meal (which doesn’t kill the virus apparently) and try minimizing direct contact with food. Today was the exception because the damn cheese wouldn’t come off the wax. It only takes one time. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to get out of my sleeping bag and tent before the symptoms suddenly started. I feared that I would be stuck on top of Roan High Knob as I spewed out of both ends. The fear was so strong, I was making myself nauseous. I was literally bringing myself to tears.

I had to stop and remind myself that norovirus isn’t deadly. It just fucking sucks. Especially when you are out in the woods. I looked over the map and created exit points. Carvers Gap was close. If I feel completely fine, the I’ll continue to US 19 like planned. The panic tried to come back, but I took deep breaths and reminded myself that I wasn’t going to die.

Sleep didn’t come easy though.

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Comments 2

  • Chris : May 9th

    I’m hoping you didn’t pick it up. And yeah, I totally agree with you about that one lady, she should have told everyone about her symptoms and not sat next to you. I guess we’ll know how you fair in the next post,..

    • Morgan Schmidt : May 16th

      Yeah, I’m so glad I didn’t get noro. It was inconsiderate what she did, but everything turned out fine. I can be glad for that.


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