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Ailments and Survival

AZT: Patagonia to Collossal Cave

Day 3:

22.5 miles — North Spring to Patagonia (town, resupply) to camp spot by gate on a ridge.

I woke up with the sun and had a lovely and easy 6 miles to patagonia, the first trail town. I texted back and forth with Mary, the local trail angel and hostel owner, and was excited to get my first resupply and have a moment off trail. I passed many hikers that morning, breaking down tents. I maximized cell phone service to arrange my resupply box number 3 with Jeffrey, as I needed to make many tweaks, primarily salt and beans and rice flavoring. I touched base with family for the first time and sent pictures.

I met Mary, who drove me to the post office, where I picked up my box. I mailed a few things home, got back in the car, and realized I didn’t have toothpaste in that resupply box and I had just thrown out all of my trash, which included my old toothpaste tube. Mary took me to the general store and all they had were gigantic tubes of toothpaste. I bought Fritos as I desperately needed salt, as well as antacids. Mary then took me to her hostel and give me a travel size toothpaste tube. We were there for about 10 minutes and I charged my phone a few percents.

She then went to a different trailhead to pick up some hikers to bring to the hostel. After doing some errands with Mary, she finally took me back to my trailhead, and I still had 16 miles left in the day. It was around 11 AM. I pushed hard during this very exposed and sunny section where I didn’t see water for 10 miles. At one point, I decided to lay down on the side of the trail and elevate my feet on my pack in a tiny shade spot when a mountain biker pulled up.

The mountain biker and I chatted for a little while, and it was nice to have a social connection.

I continued on until I finally reached a gate where it looked like I would be taking some switchbacks down toward the coveted water source. These switchbacks had shade! It was much appreciated!

I met Derby and miscellaneous woman hiker (I can’t remember her name). They told me to skip the water I was aiming for because the source less than a mile further was 1 million times better.

I did what they said, and it was well worth it! This was the best water stop I had seen on trail yet! It was called “the bathtub.”

I met two other solo hikers, Magic and Ryan at this water source. They both left before me. I soaked my feet and then decided to get all the way in as it was so deep in sections and k had been so hot all day. I submerged completely, fully clothed, so that my hat, buff, shirt, shorts etc. would all be wet after leaving there to keep me cool in the sun.

After getting out, I was pretty chilly and had goosebumps all over. The wind was picking up. I threw on my pack and began hiking the rest of the way where I knew I would be dry camping. I carried about 10 miles worth of water so I could camp wherever I needed to.

I passed one or two small streams immediately after the bathtub, but didn’t stop because I was carrying so much water from the bathtub stop.

I passed Magic with about two or 3 miles to go on a climb, and this is where I was starting to hit my second wind. I felt great on this climb, and was practically dancing up the climb!

When I finally arrived at camp, Ryan was there setting up his tent. I found one small flat-ish spot near his, but I was slightly on a slant and definitely on a rock.

It was windy night, which made it colder and trickier to cook. However, the sunset was absolutely gorgeous!

The social connection with Ryan was nice so I didn’t have to prepare dinner completely in silence. Ryan hiked the AT in 2019 and has done other smaller section hikes and plans to do the first 200 miles of the AZT in 10 days, averaging around 20 miles per day. This means I will likely see him again.

I crawled into my tent, used up my phone battery unwisely, and set my alarm for an early wake up to try to get an earlier start the next day.

My ailments today included:

  • fever feeling (went away after bathtub submerging and is likely due to lack of salt/electrolytes)

  • Shoulder chafe (my right shoulder strap is curling and digging into my collar bone in the most painful manner

  • Feet tired, SO tired.

  • Hips bruised and achy

  • Kneecap injury still bugging me.

Day 4: 23.7 miles. Camped at “Stream just north of gate” at mile 92.5

My alarm went off at five but I wasn’t hiking until about 5:50 am. Ryan was up and at it and left before I did and I never saw him again.

I had a very slow morning. I was tired and decided to do a bunch of my repacking of food and morning costume change once the sun was out, which meant a couple of longer breaks early.

Day 4: 23.7 miles. Camped at “Stream just north of gate” at mile 92.5

My alarm went off at five but I wasn’t hiking until about 5:50 am. Ryan was up and at it and left before I did and I never saw him again.

I had a very slow morning. I was tired and decided to do a bunch of my repacking of food and morning costume change once the sun was out, which meant a couple of longer breaks early.

The morning was nice, but I wasn't walking very fast

I arrived at Kentucky camp late morning. It is an old mining ruin with about five cabins, and there were people doing maintenance on the cabins out there. There was water from a spigot(!), restrooms, and an outlet! I decided to charge my phone, which was on 5% battery. This meant mandatory break.

I met Bluepy and Bloppy, who are young, new through hikers — your typical 20-something “hiker trash.” I hung out with them underneath the shade tree, snacked, clipped my nails, laughed a lot, and just patiently waited for my phone to charge. I filled up with water and got ready to go, and my phone was now at 45% charged. Not ideal, but it would get me through the day. I left Bluepy and Bloppy, expecting them to pass me like they had earlier in the morning, but I never saw them again either.

This afternoon was an afternoon full of dirt road walking in the exposed sun.

Eventually, I got to a water source and soaked my feet. I met Hayden, an older hiker, while we filtered water. We chatted a bit while I soaked my feet and then he was off.

I spent 40 minutes at the water stop and it was only intended to be a 20 minute stop… Oops!

As I was walking in the afternoon, I had a really hard time moving. The miles seemed to go by so slowly. The wind was blowing consistently at 20 mph, and the gusts nearly blew me over. The consistent wind was loud and it felt oppressive. I am also noticing that this time of day is the most difficult time of day for me, (between 2 PM and 4 PM).

At around 5:00 PM I got to a trailhead where I was hoping there might be a water cash. All of the water was gone but I had still intended to take a break and elevate my feet. I was toast.

I met Grasshopper and he decided to dry camp there for the night.

After laying down on my sleeping pad and elevating my feet on top of my pack, for who knows how long, I put on some music, put on my pack and marched on the 1.6 miles to the wash where there was supposedly a stream with water and campsites.

I seemed to hit a second wind after leaving the trailhead, and all of my ailments vanished. I had repacked my pack to put the tent on top instead of down below with my sleeping pad, and that seemed to relieve some of the weight on my hips and redistribute the weight differently. It just felt so good!

I was also running low on water, which meant a lighter pack!

When I arrived at the wash, the stream was kind of pathetic, and there were no campsites immediately in the vicinity. Plus, I was feeling so good! I read some comments on the FarOut app that said there was a stream with campsites 1 mile north. I pushed on one extra mile.

When I arrived, I set up my tent, cooked ramen (Yay! A new meal!) All of my dinners prior to this had been flavorless and saltless beans and rice and the flavoring of the ramen was so delicious. I burned my tongue, trying to eat it!

I was exhausted. I thought I would have energy and time to journal and write in my tent, but I fell right asleep around 8:30 PM

During the night there was a lot of loud howling and laughing. Pack of coyotes, but wow! The multiple different high-pitched sounds had various vibes to them. The high pitched laughing, howling, screaming was pretty consistent and loud throughout the night.

Day 5: 24.9 miles, camped at La Posta Quemada Ranch

My day was long and tough, so I jotted down some notes:

  • condensation on tent this morning

  • Had to filter water this morning because I didn’t last night and it took a while. Freezing cold hands.

  • I threw up walking back to my tent after filtering water — I think from taking supplements 30 minutes prior on an empty stomach… Didn’t have an appetite for a few hours hip belts on backpack hurt stomach, but overall I think I’m OK.

  • Had my first very satisfying poop this morning

  • Running out of sunscreen… Maybe a tiny tiny bit left for tomorrow.

  • Wearing injinji toe socks this morning instead of my Darn Tough socks to let the Darn Toughs dry out and just try something new on my feet

  • Carrying 3 L of water is really hard. Pack is heavy. Will I ever feel strong enough that it doesn’t feel heavy?

  • I want to get better at hiking early in the morning and later in the evening and taking a siesta during the heat of the day. This means my mornings need to be more efficient.

  • There is rain in the forecast for today or tomorrow. It doesn’t look rainy or windy right now, but it’s morning anything could happen later…

  • my battery pack is shit. When purchased six years ago, it was supposed to be able to hold seven full cell phone charges. That was a few cell phones ago and six years ago… This one now barely charges my phone two full times. I am running on very low battery, so hoping to charge tonight at the Colossal Cave campground.

  • When I’m walking, I think of blog post stories but every time I’m not walking all I can think about is making sure I stay alive. I don’t have much bandwidth after the day is over like I have on previous hikes. Every ounce of my energy is being used to focus on surviving and getting to the next benchmark.

  • The water situation is very uncertain out here and so I end up carrying a lot of water whenever I come to a good water source.

  • 25+ pound pack is about 25% of my weight. (I’m actually ~105 pounds so slightly under but for simple math let’s use 100 pounds). I was walking with another hiker, who was telling me about all the things he was able to carry and as we were discussing, we came to the conclusion that his pack only weighed 15% of his body weight. Being small and having to cut down weight means I am cold, hungry, and must carry water just like everyone else. I can’t think of anything I would drop at this point besides maybe some first aid items. I would like to switch out my shirt for a long sleeve hoodie because there’s a gap in between my short sleeve shirt and my arm warmers that is exposed and I think getting sunburned. Long sleeve shirt would have been better, but I didn’t have too much time to prepare for this hike because my brain was so focused on everything else life-related & work-related.

  • Knee and hip injury from before The hike are no longer bothering me.

  • Only new ailments! Toes are hanging in there, right front shoulder area is chafing where shoulder strap is rubbing. I think this is due to a heavier pack than normal. The strap is also curling strangely on the right side only. Reminds me of the winter, hiking on the Appalachian Trail — my pack was so heavy, and I began to have a shoulder injury as the unevenness of my pack as felt more pronounced with more weight. My hip bones are still feeling so bruised. Majority of the weight is on my hips as that’s where I carry all the water, so I’m thinking about moving some of the water to inside of my pack to redistribute the weight off my hips a little bit better.

  • Midday: met Calves who gave me trail magic: two oranges, took my trash, gave me sunscreen & beta, charged phone w/ his power bank some, commaradarie

  • Left heel hot spot —ouch

  • Put moleskin on right front shoulder (thanks, Calves)

  • Fresh H2O from resupply box at TH

  • 6.2 until creek to soak feet

Calves suggest epsom salt soak for sore feet — will do in towns.

  • hot spot on right heel is not a hot spot. It is Achilles pain.

  • Soaked in Ciénaga Creek 6 mi after trail magic.

  • Pulled a leech off my ankle even in this fast moving water. Gross!

  • finally arrived at the campground!

  • I was able to charge my phone and battery pack, which gave me a sense of relief. The anxiety I feel about my phone running out of battery is pretty high most days as it is my guidebook to tell me where water and camping spots are.

  • I set up my tent in a Meadow spot near the restrooms and enjoyed cooking at a picnic table.

  • The sky looked cloudy and it began to rain as I settled in my tent for the night.


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