Box turtle had come in to the camp in the night, afraid, thirsty, wet, and tired. Having showed her the water and helping her back to feeling safe we went to bed. Waking up after the rain is always the best, you feel refreshed and full again. Heading downhill for the next four miles we made great time, Huckleberry and I, down to the gap at the road. We started our trek into town, soon realizing that it would have been better to stay put if we hitched. This little oversight led us to walk just under three miles to town, almost doubling our distance for the day. We had no intention of staying, just resupply and get back out.
Heading back out we made great time in the rain. The trail was flat and skirted the nice large lake for over three miles. Then it hit me, I had to go to the restroom bad, I had already gone two or three times this morning. I was not feeling good at all, whatever was going on was wrecking me internally. I immediately be lined it for a tree and told Huckleberry I would catch up. Judging the condition I was in, I called home and wanted to see if getting of the trail was a good choice. Curiosity sated I headed back to town, the three miles of trail and then walked in, then was no hitch to get again.
Things went from bad to worse, my account had been maxed out and I had no money to stay at the hostel, my only choice was to hike out and suffer through whatever illness was affecting me. The sky opened up and just dumped rain down on the area, I was standing at the road trying to get a hitch out completely drenched from the rain. I stood there for a good fifteen minutes before one car finally pulled over and offered to take me to the trail head. I was feeling worse and I made slow progress as I hiked out in the onslaught of rain, hiking back over the same three miles for the third time today. No amount of imodium was helping me, I had to go again, getting off trail, doing what needed to be done, and getting back on I made little progress.
The intense effort it took me to hike these few miles led me to drink all my water in four miles or so. I was losing more fluids than I could replace while hiking. Making my way to the other side of Watauga lake I came to a road. Here I met the trail maintainer who informed me that there was little to no water for the next 20 miles of trail. Great I thought how will I ever make it with 4 liters of water and no way to refill I was drinking upwards of six to stay slightly dehydrated. My only option was to skip ahead a bit to Damascus where Kevin was. How the hell would I get there?
I left messages for Kevin and Miss Janet, it turns out that he had blown through his budget again and had no money. I was so angry, I was ill and the one person I was suppose to rely on was consistently unable to be relied on. I figured he would just quit eventually which made me even madder. My only option as to pray and hope to get a hitch. There was no way I would make it the next three days at the rate I was losing fluids if I wasn’t in a town. I stopped almost every car on thier way to and from where I was, no one was going near Damascus or other parts of the trail. Beginning to lose hope, I thought I would never make it there, I had no clue what to do. My brother wasn’t near the hostel and wasn’t able to get ahold of, of course why wouldn’t he be, he knew I was calling him.
Then as luck would have it a young couple pulled over and asked if I needed a ride. I was excited and told them Damascus. They informed me they couldn’t go that far but could bounce me up to another gap about 20 miles up. I took it, at the very least I was ahead of the drought area and could walk in, if I had too. Riding with the we got to know each other a bit and I couldn’t have been in better hands, they offered me food and water, and told me that I could get another hitch where I was going. I wasn’t feeling any better physically but my spirits were lifted a bit when they dropped me off at the gap. Grabbing my stuff I thanked them and walked over to the map to look at where I needed to go.
I heard a car and moved to the road to see, putting my thumb out, a truck appeared and pulled over. Three men a dad and two sons all looked at me when the youngest boy asked where I was going. I told them Damscus and the only response was get in, thank you god, I thought. Hopping in the back of the truck, he whipped me down the mountain roads all the way to the state line. He took no scenic route and wasted no minute while bouncing me farther forward. Only slowing down once to show me the shortest tunnel in the world. When I got out I thanked the guys and they informed me it was just a mile walk form here. Grabbing my gear I waved good bye and started walking when another truck appeared.
Putting my thumb out once again two young men pulled over with there fishing gear and told me to get in. Telling them where I was going they drove me to the hostel and gave me Gatorade and wished me well. I was excited to be in Damscus, excited to see my brother, happy I’d be next to a permanent toilet for a day or two. Kevin and I hugged and I told him I was happy to see him. The next three days I would spend on the toilet and dehydrated, unable to keep any fluids in me. The two of us fought once about our finances and came up with and plan. It was evident for me he wasn’t going to finish this and he wanted me to quit with him. Tabling that conversation I recovered slowly in town and came back to the land of the living.