Day 46-Day 50: Damascus to…Damascus
I’m down and out in Damascus. I woke up the morning after making stew with the nausea that has been been plaguing me since Vandeventer Shelter in full swing, so Shade and I took a second zero while Silver and Robyn hiked out. It was a nice day, we hung out at Mojo’s Coffee Shop and got some work done, and otherwise had a nice lazy day. The problem was, the nausea never really went away. I ate, but it was a struggle to do so. And when I woke up the next morning it was still there. So Shade hiked out ahead of me and I have been here ever since. I tried to hike out on Thursday but only made it five miles before I hitched back in at the road (many thanks to Lisa and Tim, who turned their truck around to give me a ride back to Damascus. I can’t say enough how awed I’ve been by the random acts of kindness toward me out here). I just couldn’t make myself eat, and if a thru-hiker can’t eat, she can’t hike. It’s bad news.
On Friday I went to the doctor in Damascus, which gave me access to some interesting information. Most shockingly, I’ve lost 27 pounds over the first 45 days of this hike. I know I had lost some, but that was a much higher number than I expected. I’m still in a healthy weight range for my height, but I actually need to monitor that number now to make sure it doesn’t keep nose-diving. The nurse also told me that my vitals indicate I am in exceptional health. Other than the fact that I don’t feel well, of course.
Nothing definitive turned up in the exam so the doctor prescribed me a generic nausea suppressant and an antibiotic to try if that didn’t work, and sent me on my way.
I’ve been getting a little bit better every day, but it’s depressing to sit still while my friends get further away. Woodchuck Hostel is a wonderful place, and I like Woodchuck, the proprietor, quite a lot. He’s a wonderful guy who clearly cares about hikers and the hiking community a great deal. But all the same, I want to get back to the woods, because hiking is what I’m here for, and it’s frustrating that I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
Anyway, I have been whiling away the time with a few random observations and thoughts which I’ll share here, for lack of anything else to talk about.
One of the most incredible things I’ve been able to see while I’m stationary is how many hikers are all around that you never know about, because they’re always a day behind or ahead of you. I’ve met two whole new groups that had no idea I was ahead of them, and vice versa.
Atman and Prof showed up the day after Shade left. I ran into them a few times before this and spoke with them the first time at Firescald Knob, but they were extremely peripheral figures on my hike. Now, though, I’ve had ample time to talk with them, Atman in particular, and I feel like my general evaluation of thru hikers holds true for them as well: that is, they are great people. I also met a big rowdy group of guys who have been slowly closing ground with me over the weeks, and I suspect they are part of the “party bubble” Moose warned us about. But the AT always has lessons to teach and in this case, it’s “don’t be so damn quick to judge.” I got to chill with them for a few days and they are as warm-hearted and fun as anyone else I’ve met out here. They’re like a band of brothers, teasing each other and enjoying an easy camaraderie that’s nice to see. I really enjoyed meeting them, and I am looking forward to the challenge of catching up. Let’s see, it was a big group, so I might miss some names. There was Red Bull, Red Beard, Centaur, Squatch, Gator, Aquaman, a woman named Waffles who showed up quite late at night after pulling out some huge miles, anddddd I think I’m missing some folks. Happy Feet was there, that’s right. I feel like I’m forgetting maybe two people. I liked Aquaman and Centaur particularly, as the two I talked with the most, although Centaur told me I was a civilizing influence and I can’t decide if that’s good or not, haha. Anyway, it was a big group, and they don’t all hike together all the time but they have a good group feeling about them. Waffles is still here with me, Prof, and Atman, but it seems like she hikes much faster than I do so I bet she disappears over the horizon very quickly.
After the bulk of that group left, some other hikers have been straggling in. Sweetie, J3, and Panda were all here today, as well as Veto and Simba, all (I think) younger guys in their early to mid-twenties. Tuck is here as well, who I first met coming out of Hot Springs, and told me that her hiking partner Sunshine (not the Sunshine I’ve mentioned most recently) had to get off the trail for health reasons. It’s too bad.
Anyway! That was a long roll call and it got in the way of my original thought, which was that there are amazing groups everywhere on the trail, but sometimes they are invisible to us because of where we are in our own hike. It’s an observation that translates well to life in general I think: there’s good all around us. Sometimes we just have to let go of what we had and open our eyes to what’s in front of us right now. I came out here to hike, and be in the woods and see views and bears and such, and haven’t I just. But I wasn’t expecting the friends, you know? And yet I’m pretty sure when I look back at photos and can’t remember which mountain it was, I’ll remember everyone I’ve met, from the people who gave a smelly hiker a free ride to the friends who encouraged me when I was sitting here feeling down about being out of the hike.
In an aside, the image at the top of this post is my new pair of trail runners sitting next to the pair I started the trail with. They are exactly the same shoes. Same color, same model, same size. Yikes!
That’s about all I’ve got for this post, other than to throw a shout-out to Mountain Man (remember him? The guy who hiked southbound through the winter?). He finished his thru on the 11th, so congratulations! What a badass.
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