The consciousness cruciality

June 12

22.2 miles, 1233.9 overall (Allentown Hiking Club shelter)
When I wake up it is indeed raining, though it is only a sprinkle. I am hopeful that it stays that way all day. It is 6:00 already and by the time I get packed up it is 6:30. If I went to the restaurant for breakfast I wouldn’t get started until 7:30 or maybe even 8. I decide I don’t need a town breakfast so soon after returning to the trail and settle for my usual bagel and peanut butter. As I eat it Lime Green and Austin return, separately, from the restaurant. If I had gotten up earlier I could have joined one of them. Oh well.

As I leave the pavilion I realize that I have no rain gear on. I stop to put on my pack cover. I debate with myself whether a rain jacket is worth wearing today. For now I decide it is. The rain is light, the temperature is cool, and I am walking on level ground. This means I am not likely to sweat much, the main reason not to wear a rain jacket.

The trail takes me out of town and immediately up a hill. I walk slowly to avoid overheating and thus avoid sweating. Despite my slow pace I soon catch Unbreakable and No Trace, a pair of older hikers who have apparently already hiked the PCT.

The trail is quite bipolar today. In some areas it is incredibly easy to walk, following forest roads that although flooded by the water are level and rock-free. In other places it is covered by large rocks made slick by the rain. Usually I can dance over the rocks fairly quickly but with the rain my speed is dramatically reduced. My hip flexors, not being used to stepping sideways so much, get quite the workout.

The rain does not stay a light sprinkle for long. At some points it rains quite heavily – not the downpours that I walked through in Shenandoah but heavy nonetheless. However today my attitude is much better in response. I am determined to get some good miles in, figuring that there’s no point in getting wet and only doing a few miles. I have my eyes set on the third shelter out of Port Clinton.

One fortunate aspect of the rain is the chance to test my new footwear. I had been getting blisters at the point where my insole and shoe meet on the back of my heel, especially when it rained. This time I get none. Part of the solution may be the Superfeet (I got the brown/copper ones) but part of it is also my socks. I have been trying different socks since Georgia and I’ve finally settled on the best ones. I found them by accident. When I left for Georgia I accidentally grabbed a pair of Christy’s REI merino wool socks – women’s small. Turns out these are the best socks for me. Ever since Georgia if I wear those socks my feet don’t get blisters and if they already have blisters they feel better with these socks on. When I was home I picked up 2 more pair. I considered getting men’s socks but why mess with what works?

I don’t see any other hikers after I pass Unbreakable and No Trace. When I finally arrive at the shelter I find the Myakka Mules and Tipsy and Fetch along with some section hikers and a thru-hiker I can’t recognize because he is already in his sleeping bag. Although it is raining I decide to tent. The shelter is looking pretty full and it looks like it will rain into the morning. If it is raining in the morning I have already decided I will not be hiking. I get my tent set up, throw a line for my bear bag, and fetch water from the spring.

I head to the shelter to cook dinner. Although I like to sleep in my tent I still enjoy the company of other hikers. I set up to cook on a counter built into the outside of the shelter and while I cook I talk to Tipsy and Fetch, two hikers I met about a week ago but didn’t get much chance to talk to. They are an interesting pair from Cincinnatti and they learned about the AT from a documentary. At first they joked about thru-hiking but at some point the jokes became serious and now here they are.

As I’m talking to Tipsy I start to feel nauseous. Since I started hiking I sometimes feel nauseous when I’m hungry, but this time it is more intense to the point where I actually feel like I might throw up. I wonder if I’m getting sick with something. I put my arms on the counter and my head in my arms…. and I wake up on the ground.

Apparently I passed out. The other hikers help me up and tell me I was out for about 5-10 seconds. I immediately feel fine again – even the nausea is gone – and my first thought is to check my dinner before it burns in the pot. My close second thought is how dirty I got having fallen on the wet ground. I drink some water and eat my dinner, which by now is done, while we ponder what might have caused my syncope (Scrabble word!).

It was not heat exhaustion. I was actually cold and shivering while cooking and was certainly not hot all day. I drank lots of water all day and used a drink mix for electrolytes. In fact I stopped for several bathroom breaks while hiking so dehydration is unlikely. Eventually I reach the conclusion that it was one of 3 things: low blood sugar (although I was snacking, I had more candy today thanks to the Peanut Shop), fumes from my stove (not a problem in the past, but I don’t usually cook with my stove right by my face), or a heart problem.

In order to rule out a heart problem I’ll have to go to a hospital. Luckily there is one in the next town which I can get to tomorrow. If the rain stops tonight I’ll hike to the town. If not then the checkup may have to wait another day. Either way, I don’t expect to find anything. My ticker has always been healthy before and it should only be better now. Stove fumes and low blood sugar won’t be detectable by the time I get to a hospital. So, assuming nothing is found at the hospital, my game plan is fewer sweets that can cause my blood sugar to crash, constant snacks to keep it up, and keeping my stove away from my face. We’ll find out how adequate this plan is when I get to Palmerton on the Appalachian Trail.

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Categories: PA | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “The consciousness cruciality

  1. Eric

    You should insist on a Lyme test at the hospital.

    • I’m sure it isn’t Lyme. I don’t have any other symptoms other than the one fainting spell. If I were fatigued, nauseous (other than immediately before fainting), achey, or anything else then it might make sense.

  2. Kory

    Sounds like you have your differential covered– whatever comes together to make the physics work, your brain ran out of oxygen/blood for a moment. Most commonly it is a quick change in head position, bearing down (bowels, cough, sneeze, etc), low blood sugar or pressure, or decreased oxygen intake (hypervent or hypovent via a nice gas stove). Rarely its a bad heart rhythm. I’m seeing a 22mile hike in a trash bag/rain coat after a recent break from the trail. Still usually it is a combo of factors hanging out together at the perfect time. Definitely get an EKG to be safe. They are going to see your beard and do a Lyme check before you even tell them your name but that’s not what this is.

    • Thanks Kory. I didn’t have to worry about the Lyme check. They did do an EKG as you suggested but it turned out normal (as today’s post details). Are you also the person who suggested I was low on electrolytes about a month ago when I had fatigue issues? If so then take a bow because I haven’t had any problems with that since I started using some drink mixes!

  3. Wow, that is a little scary, but I can definitely say, I’ve had that happen because of low blood sugar… when I was pregnant with child number 2. The shivering is what I was experiencing right before it happened to me. I was checking out at Winn Dixie, was feeling funny and went down, clutching a Snickers …. paramedics determined low blood pressure caused by rapid drop in blood sugar. Hope yours is a similarly simple case. Good idea to have it checked out though. Hope you are fine and can enjoy another many miles of Happy Hiking on the AT!

  4. Shannon

    Glad people were around to help you up and that you are getting it checked out! Keep it up!

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