Hypothermia

June 3, 2016

This was one of my scariest days on trail. It was summer, warm, middle of Virginia. I thought I was safe and invincible.

Throughout the night there had been a gentle rain. When I woke in the morning it was cold and foggy. My gear was damp and wet. I packed everything up, made breakfast and attempted to warm up by walking quickly. I got a late start this morning and found myself at the tail end of my hiking group. I wasn’t feeling great from the beginning of the day.

The green ferns and trees were almost glowing from the dim white light. As the day progressed I found myself feeling less and less energetic. I stopped at a wayside and bought food, as a rare treat for myself. Throughout Shenandoah Park a road runs along the ridge top; we were never far from the civilized world and all of its comforts.

I decided that I would try to push to the hostel that night after talking to Flask and No-one. I really wanted to get out of the park because the camping regulations had been forcing large groups into small areas. I was ready to see the signage marking the end of that park and the end of crossing a road every half mile.

As the day began to wane I sat down on a rock. I had been crying in frustration. I called my friend Mikie and told him I was having a rough time. After some words of encouragement I scraped the mud off my boots and continued onward. It was starting to get late and the rain had picked up. There hadn’t been any campsites all day and I had passed the last shelter a few miles back. I climbed a hill using the last bit of energy, hoping for a campsite.

At the top I saw the clearing and almost collapsed in relief. I ran into the site and set up my tent quickly as the rain became more intense. It was cold and I was soaked. I climbed into my tent and noticed finally that I was shaking.

In moments of emergency I tried to think of things my dad had taught me when we first started backpacking. I had mild hypothermia as a teenager and heard him saying ” Get into warm clothes, eat something or at least drink something warm.

Everything I had was damp, but I knew my body heat would dry it out overnight as long as I could maintain a balanced body temperature. I made dinner. Instant mashed potatoes were a god send in emergencies when the brain wasn’t quite capable of making dinner. The food was consumed instantly. I made a cup of my fancy green tea and began to warm up.

I sat in the tent and thought about my luck of finally finding a flat spot to place my tent and about the dangers of underestimating smaller mountains in nice seasons. As I began to feel better I slipped my rain gear back on and left my muddy sanctuary to hang my bear bag (I had  seen a large bear near the wayside). As I wandered around looking for a nice limb to throw the rope over I looked down and found a mud covered, long handled steel spoon. It was a glorious moment to find a spoon in the wilderness I could never bring myself to buy in town.

I happily cleaned it off and retreated to my tent.

After about an hour another couple desperately walked into the site. I poked my head out and said hello, welcomed them to join me in the smallish site but warned them that I felt a bit sick and would not be socializing.

They were happy to stop and I felt better knowing I had people near me.

The next day I concluded that I had a mild case of hypothermia and took a nero at Terrapin Hostel.

If you are ever hiking it is important to know the various signs of hypothermia and the best ways to remedy the situation as soon as possible. Especially if you are hiking alone.

Hypothermia Symptoms

Trail Log:

Cold and scared tonight for the second time on my hike. It rained all day, and I am sitting in a damp sleeping bag, damp clothes and a sopping wet tent. I think I will be fine, but I still have a few miles to the hostel in the morning. Worried about being too cold.

I cried all day along the trail. I’m not sure why, maybe I just let the weather get to me, or I didn’t realize how bad the weather was getting. I was starving and drained when I got to camp. I’m never been so happy to stop short of my goal. I wish I had a buddy today and tonight. I felt so alone today, so lonely and sad. I’m happy to have people camping in this site with me, although it is too wet to be social. It feels nice to have people close by. Fuck it is cold.

 

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