JMT Day 12: Meadows, waterfalls, and tossing my cookies
JMT Day 12, August 15, 2013 Thursday
We slept in a bit this morning. After getting up, I laid out all our food and we judged it to be sufficient for nine days (which is what we plan to take to finish). We ate breakfast in camp, then headed over to Muir Trail Ranch, where we got water, left trash and things we no longer wanted (Elfstones, baby powder), and weighed our bags. Mine was 32 and Russell’s 38. Several staff at the ranch told me thanks for helping Luke yesterday, and he said hi also. I threw a ball for the ranch dogs a bit. We headed out around 9 , or a bit later.
The hike felt pretty hard this morning, well, the whole day. Heavier pack, been out of routine. Once we got off the Florence Lake Trail back to the JMT, we were following the San Joaquin as it tumbled down a canyon. We crossed into Kings Canyon National Park at AM snack time, and kept following the river upstream. It was hot and without much cover, but gorgeous. The river makes many small cataracts & waterfalls.
We climbed up right after lunch into Evolution Valley. The climb was rough — drinking a lot of water made me a touch queasy. Once we got into the valley, the climb continued, but much more gently. It’s a narrow valley, mostly wooded without much to mark passage of distance, except the several large meadows it opens into. We had PM snack by McClure Meadow, and saw a doe or two crossing the trail. The valley is truly gorgeous. Lots of trees, nice trail intersected with easy enough granite climbs, some wildflowers.
We camped at Colby Meadow, about 5-6 miles past the last trail junction. It’s an easy walk to the creek, and there’s a tiny hummingbird in the bush near the tent. The mountain the Hermit stands tall & imposing across the valley. We hung our excess food, after enjoying a nice meal of potatoes & then chocolate.
Earlier we had to ford Evolution Creek, and decided to do it in our shoes. It felt squishy and wonderful, and then our wet shoes picked up massive quantities of dirt. After they dried (1-2 hrs later), the dirt fell off.
Feet: left pinkie is doing good. put more moleskin/duct tape on my heels after the [San Joaquin] river fording this morning. Russell cleaned up the right pinkie & put a burn bandage on, the duct tape. it has survived so far, and felt less raw during the day.
Body: good. hips protesting the extra weight but got used to it. may have sunburnt right ear. again.
- JMT miles: ~12.1 today, 120.1 total
- Total miles: ~12.8 today, 149.1 total
Blayney Hot Springs 7790′ → Colby Meadow ~9720′
That night took a turn for the worse. I didn’t write about it until the next day, so here is the first paragraph from Day 13 for continuity.
Last night turned eventful. I was feeling nauseated, couldn’t poop, and after a few false starts, vomited. Before I did, I felt so awful I thought I was going to die. I was worried I’d die in the woods, far from medical attention. After puking, my stomach felt tense for some time, and it took a while to get to sleep, but I slowly felt better. My best guess is that I ingested something poisonous that my body rejected. It could have been eating, drinking, or licking, as I haven’t been real fastidious.
Welp, there it is: my worst night on the trail. I had never been ill in the backcountry before, and it was not a fun experience, to put it lightly. I was so very glad to have Russell with me; his support never wavered and he kept his cool for me, even though it was frightening for him as well.
I hate throwing up in the best of circumstances. Something about my nose or sinuses makes the puke come out my nose — if you’ve ever had that happen, you know how painful it is. The rest of you, you’re lucky bastards and I don’t want to hear about it.
Having braces really amps up the gross factor, as there are so many more places for little chunks to hide. I had only puked once before since getting them on, and thankfully I didn’t again before getting them removed shortly after the hike.
Vomiting is also a lovely reminder for those of us who tend to not chew well enough… The biggest physical impact my sickness had was leaving me with less energy to power my next day — those tortilla chunks on the ground were part of a calorie plan! I felt slow and sluggish as my body recovered.
As for what caused this, your guess is as good as mine. I hadn’t been washing my hands, though I used hand sanitizer after each bowel movement. The only wild foods I ingested were currants and swamp onions, which I had positively IDed. Perhaps some animal or person had contaminated those?
Another possibility is a bit more unsettling. When I was at VVR, I bought a small baggie of laundry detergent. The staff said I could bring the bag back for reuse, and I remember thinking, “Yeah, I better return it or I’ll end up doing something stupid like putting food in it.”
I can’t remember returning the bag.
It’s possible I put food in it, and then ate the detergent-contaminated food.
Whatever the cause, being sick didn’t end my hike. Russell didn’t have to hike out to the ranger’s station to call for help as he promised to do while holding my hair out of my face and rubbing my back. It wasn’t enjoyable, and I hope it doesn’t happen again, but it’s likely that I will get sick again at some point.
Whenever that happens, now I have a memory of going through it and living to tell the tale.