How a nine mile hike became a personal lesson on dehydration

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Summary: Sarah and I set out to do a hike today, but due to tenacity and youthful (but fading) energy, ended up going for about twice the length as planned. Resulting in a serious case of dehydration that could have ended up much worse, except luckily one of us does not suck.

BLOT: (17 Apr 2011 - 09:52:25 PM)

How a nine mile hike became a personal lesson on dehydration

When we set out to hike about noon today, Sarah and I had no real plans. I had mentioned Panther Knob (it's a trail on Monte Sano that goes up and over one of the nearby peaks, combines some rock-shuffling with some short, steep moments) but beyond that, the possibilities were endless. When we got to the State Park, that idea had suggested itself upon us with a degree of definiteness. We were going to Panther Knob, but what else were we going to do? We set out down North Loop, hit Cold Creek, and then Mountain Mist to Sinks and Logan's Point to the backside of the Panther Knob trail. If that means nothing to you, know basically this: we took the long way. It was also the very muddy way, and there were a number of moments where we had to sludge through. Kind of fun, though, because there were also moments were we got to actually hike down around gorgeous little streams.

It was a pretty, pretty day. Lots of deep greens, bright greens, and faint blues mixed with flowing streams and fair little waterfalls. It was great to be out in it. I have not truly hiked in a year or two, the last one was my Walls of Jericho hike and that was dated November 2009. I've hit up Hays Nature Preserve a couple of times, did a couple of urban hikes, but that's all. I am well out of shape for ups and downs and rock hops and stream crossings. Except, well, I was also out of touch with just how pretty nature can be and my soul needed it today. This is partially why I decided to not take, say, the short trip back to Bankhead and then leave. No, we went through Stone Cut and Sinks and completed Mountain Mist and did some South Loop. All told, we put in about 9 miles. Here's the rub: we had enough water for maybe half of that.

I had less than a liter, Sarah had half of what I had. We were out of water about with miles to go, and that was with us drinking sparingly. By the time we were getting to the end of the Mountain Mist trail (about three miles of minor elevation change, the worst bits are only about 40-50 feet worth of change), we were both aware of the uh-oh aspect of the situation, but there was no way out but through. We had no snacks or trail mix or anything that might helped to counteract the glucose and electrolyte drops. If we had had some, what would we have done for moisture to swallow? I don't know. We started taking frequent stops and slow downs. Were still mostly on schedule but we tried to keep the sweating and panting down. Which worked until we got the uphill swing about that brings Mountain Mist into connection with South Plateau. This is where things went south (no pun intended).

My lungs were starting to feel dehydrated. Deep breaths were threatening to send me into asthmatic attacks. Even avoiding them, there were a couple of moments where they would spasm. By the time we had climbed the uphill bit (probably about 70 feet up over about 100 yards, maybe less) and were on the really flat South Loop, it was almost too late. My body was in a panic. I started having to tell it, "No, we cannot drink the stream water. No, we cannot sift through the garbage can to see if there are any bottles." It was trippy. It had been an hour and a half since it had any water. For some reason my shoulders started cramping and I had to stop about every quarter to half mile to let them rest.

Finally, we reached the critical point. I was having sharp head-pains, and my stomach was cramping. Not really delusions, but my brain was having a hard time functioning. Pain in my shoulders was so bad that I had to cross my arms or lift them up in weird ways. We got about a quarter of a mile from the trail-head and Sarah went on ahead and grabbed our big water bottle, the one we had stupidly left behind, and brought it back to me while I rested a few. Almost immediately the cramps stopped, my head cleared, and my shoulders stopped aching. Still, it was a balm on a blister at that point, and we left and got me some fluid. Without exaggeration, I consumed about a gallon of liquid within an hour off the mountain. Took a short, thirty minute nap, and now feel ten times better. My lungs were kind of hurt in those spasming moments, and it still aches to take a deep breath, but they are a mostly well.

It drives the point home. If we had to go even another mile or two, I might not have made it without earnest help. It was hard to just walk, much less walk up and down little hills and around roots and stuff. Next time we go hiking, we will definitely be bringing water. I'm just glad that Sarah doesn't suck as much as I do and was able to have enough energy to that little bit, though I suppose if I was by myself I would probably just got off the trail, crashed for about an hour or two, and then limped on out.

First hike of the year. 9 miles. Total elevation changed of only about 500-600 feet, I think. And I feel it. Woo. But in a lot of ways, it was awesome. Lots of pretty sounds, lots of pretty sights. A couple of chipmunks. Just, next weekend, going for a lower level hike and building back up my hiking legs first.



Written by Doug Bolden

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