Heebie Jeebies!

12 Jul

7/12 – 18.6 miles
AT Mile Marker – 1,160.5 miles

In my post yesterday, I promised to attempt to capture, in a photograph, the next rattlesnake I came across.
Promise delivered, folks, here ya go!

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It is a black phase timber rattlesnake.

After this sighting, I made Bojangles go first. And BOOM, not ten feet away, a copperhead slithered out from underneath a rock just inches away from his foot. He emitted a string of curse words and leaped a great leap. We later learned that timber rattlers and copperheads are known to den together.

Talk about a case of the heebie jeebies for the next mile afterwards.

Return to Appalachia

10 Jul

5/31-7/1 – 32 zero days (tonsils-be-gone)
7/2 – 10.5 miles
7/3 – 15.6 miles (passed through West Virginia and into Maryland)
7/4 – 13.1 miles
7/5 – 22.4 miles (crossed the Mason-Dixon Line into Pennsylvania)
7/6 – 17.7 miles
7/7 – 19.1 miles (passed the AT halfway point)
7/8 – 11.8 miles
7/9 – 16.8 miles
7/10 – zero day at Bojangles’ house
7/11 – 18.6 miles
AT Mile Marker – 1143.5 miles

I’m back on the Trail! It’s a different can of worms this go around. MUGGY and BUGGY come to mind.

There have been a lot of milestones in the last 10 days of hiking, to include the 1,000 mile marker, new states (WV, MD, PA), and the midpoint of the AT.

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It says 1000, I swear:

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Our favorite state so far is West Virginia. This is because the Trail in West Virginia is 4 miles long.

At the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, WV, we got our pictures taken and were officially branded 2013 thru-hikers 886 and 887.

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Other news, other news…

At Pine Grove Furnace State Park, Bojangles undertook the famed “Half Gallon Challenge,” in which AT thru-hikers attempt to eat a half gallon of ice cream as fast as possible. The record is 8 minutes. Bojangles put down his 2,480 calories in a respectable 15 minutes, 40 seconds. He would *not* recommend mint chocolate chip.
Here’s him at at the start:

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And while underway:

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And afterwards:

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Also offered was the “Gallon Challenge,” in which hikers attempt to eat a gallon of butter as fast as possible. The record is 43 minutes. In a moment of remarkable prudence, we did not partake.

We have seen a lot of snakes on the Trail, to include rattlesnakes, black rat snakes, and an unidentifiable gray snake with creepy eyes. The rattlesnakes have blown me away. They are massive, and their rattle is so loud. I’ll try to spend less time freaking out and get a picture of the next one. No such problem with this rat snake:

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We are liking Pennsylvania — primarily because we are currently stationed at the Harrisburg home of Bojangles’ parents, who are kindly “slackpacking” us. Slackpacking is when others help you with modern inventions like vehicles so that you can hike with only a daypack and sleep in a bed. We never want to leave, which is problematic.

Pennsylvania so far is best described as “rocky, with a side of cornfield.”

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Lucie Kerouac

29 Jun

 Below, my attempt at Kerouac-style stream of consciousness.  [Otherwise known as frantic scatterbrained late-night typing sans editing.]Jack Kerouac Making a  Face

McAfeeI was at a bookstore in Perth, Australia at the end of last year when my eye caught the Warhol-esque cover of Jack Kerouac’s On the RoadOn the Road, of course is Kerouac’s memoir of his travels across America that has come to define a generation – namely, the postwar 1950s “Beat Generation.”

And the thought first bubbled in my head: Is my adventure kinda like Kerouac’s?  I mean, it too is rebellion of sorts against societal norms that insist upon conformity.  It’s a search for meaning in my life, a longing for something to believe in, a hunt for a compass heading in the life ahead.  And I’m doing it in my own, uniquely American way – you know, equal parts individualism, conquest, and self-discovery.

Right?  It’s the same unabashed pursuit of happiness – a year of capturing memories like fireflies in a jar on a mid-summer night.  But realizing that, even when that’s your only aim in life, you still have to deal with a whole lot of gnats dive-bombing into your eyeballs and skeeters chomping on your exposed (and unexposed) flesh.  Oh, and — as the case may be — disease-riddled ticks.

I picked it up, but I didn’t buy Kerouac’s book – because as much as our journeys are the same, they are different.  Kerouac is not me, his trip is not mine, and his generation is not mine.  Kerouac’s trip was a rejection of the postwar American Dream – a gray flannel suit job, a wife, 3.4 (?) kids, a house, and a picket fence.  He divorced his wife and went on a mad hedonistic rush through sex, drugs, jazz, and alcohol.  “Wild and unrestrained!” boasts the cover.

My trip is not that – a full-scale rejection of society – but a quiet, contemplative pondering of how I fit.  Kerouac’s trip was mindless; his writing only maybe held together by some so-called “stream of consciousness.”  But my wanderlust, while perhaps rooted in the same thirst for a flood of emotion, is an ache – not a mad addiction. Continue reading

Scribbles from 9 Months Ago

19 Jun
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Yes, there is a cow scratching its head on a downed tree… in the street.

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I began this journey — “my one year escape from the real world,” if you will — on September 4, 2012 with a one-way solo plane ticket to Kathmandu, Nepal. That was only nine months ago, and I’m already doing that thing you do a decade later. You know, the “What was I thinking?! Geez, I was so young and dumb. How did I ever survive.”

I just found a scribbled note from those early days. It made me laugh and dusted me with a light coat of wonder. Maybe it’ll do the same for you.

“9/9/2012

Observations from Kathmandu

Problems in my life right now:

  • No visa for this country. I could go to jail.
  • Brushed my teeth with tap water this AM. Creepy shit is swimming around in my gut.

People pee in the street.

Internet is very slow, goes off sometimes. Cannot stream YouTube video in all of Nepal, too slow.

Rubble on the streets.

Coffee with our landlord. He brought us coffee. Then he bought us some kind of chicken salad sandwiches. Then chocolate cake. Then some kind of shortbread soaked in syrup. I ate it all with great appreciation. Especially since he was dressed in rags. 5 minutes we sit there, have 20 second conversation, watch dog fight, look at guy selling stuff, then 5 mins sit there.

Stray dogs.

Rubble in the streets. Feel like I am in sarajevo.

Bumpy roads: next time, note to self: wear sports bra, full-body airbag, and back brace.

Problems in my life right now:

  • Need SIM card. I have no phone
  • roads here… all this crap on the road
  • I am the tallest and fattest person all up in here country”

Continue reading

The Light at the End of the Tonsillectomy

18 Jun

Flowers

It’s been two weeks since The Great Tonsillectomy of 2013, and things are finally looking up.  My throat still hurts, I’m still eating Ramen, and I’m still guzzling liquid Tylenol but oh-my-gosh, I am one happy camper.

I imagine most of my readers are over this whole tonsillectomy business.  You’re probably like, “can we finally get that post about the silent meditation cult you joined in Canada?” or “Lucie, can we get back to the bears and the mice and the hiking partner breakups and makeups and the Confetti Cupcake Pop-Tarts (seriously, who buys those?)?”

Sorry, guys and gals, this post is not for you.

It’s for those other poor souls out there — past and present

who will get a tonsillectomy,

who will spend several miserable days coping,

before breaking down in tears at the dinner table when even butternut squash soup won’t go down,

and who will Google “tonsillectomy recovery” and find this post,

and know that someone else out there has lived through their hell.

I found this gem on my Dad's iPad.

I found this gem on my Dad’s iPad.

Now then.  Getting your tonsils out — as an adult — sucks.  This fact is evidenced by the many entire blogs devoted to the horror of tonsillectomy recovery and the reams and reams of message board chatter on the topic.

The women on these blogs and forums always relate tonsillectomy pain to childbirth.  “I would rather deliver six more babies than go through this again” becomes “I would rather deliver six more 10-lb babies” becomes “I would rather deliver six more 10-lb babies in a Quonset hut than get another tonsillectomy.”

The men are more, umm, well, they get their point across:

“Eat a broken beer bottle and wash it down with battery acid. Feels about the same.”

“Holy fucking balls did that hurt. I would rather amputate my arm with a steak knife.”

“My fucking doctor took out my tonsils and replaced them with razor blades.  And he put a few in my ear.”

“As painful as this shit is, you’d think they were removing the tonsils through the anus.” Continue reading

No More Tonsils, Way More Pain

10 Jun

Cap and Gown

So last Wednesday was the big day.

I dropped Bojangles off at the Trail.

And went into the surgery center, where they hooked me up and fiddled with me.  I remained remarkably calm for reasons unbeknownst.

Then they started to wheel me into the operating room, and my Dad began bawling.  Big, heaving tears.  “Dad,” I hollered back, “Get it together.  The only part of me you’re not going to see again is my tonsils.”  I caught my last glance of him as I was pushed through the double doors.  The nurses were patting him on the back.

The good news is that, according to Dr. ENT, my surgery went great.  He was beaming when he explained to my teary-eyed Dad that my extracted tonsils were cryptic like coral reefs – and filled with bacteria pus balls politely called “tonsil stones.”

If you count surgery day as Day 1, today is Day 6 of my recovery.  And there’s a reason I haven’t posted yet.  It’s because I haven’t wanted to be depressive.  You see – as I was warned – getting a tonsillectomy as an adult FREAKING BLOWS.  I’m not going to go into all the details, but even without any complications (which hopefully I will continue to avoid), it is miserable.

I live from Percocet to Percocet.  My throat is raw as a slab of beef.  Swallowing is like my worst Strep throat times ten.  My ears scream in pain.  Everything in my throat region is swollen, to include my uvula – that little pink thing that hangs between your tonsils – which now touches my tongue.  I can’t talk.  I eat only applesauce and watery mashed potatoes drowned in gravy.  My mouth is coated in white fur that tastes and feels nasty.  Coughing fits due to mucus drainage keep me awake at night and leave me sore.

I’m trying to drink lots, which is one of the few things that seems to help.  I’m sure I’m going to turn the corner on this thing soon – and, in the meantime – I’ve just got to fend off the urge to wallow in self-pity. (Watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians usually helps with that.)

Oh, also, I literally just texted Bojangles for an update.  “How are things going?”  His response:

“I have a sore throat.”

Yeah, I’m going to go crush up another Percocet now.

Never a Dull Moment

3 Jun

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So yeah, that happened. I felt like pond scum over the weekend – feverish, malaise, nausea, and like my neck was in a vice.  Leaving the apartment for an Indian food buffet almost did me in.

Then yesterday morning I woke up with a full body rash and swollen, painful lumps in my neck. Dr. ENT declared it an allergic reaction to Bactrim, my latest antibiotic (a sulfa drug). It’s not a typical allergic reaction per se but a delayed kind that strikes 7-10 days after you start the medicine. Basically, your body produces antibodies in response to foreign proteins in the drug. Those antibodies bind with the proteins and form immune complexes, which do fun things like enter your blood vessels and provoke inflammatory responses.

So I had a fun return trip to Dr. ENT.  The highlight was him sticking a creepy crawler down my nose into my throat to check on the swelling down there.  We’re hoping high-dose prednisone – a steroid – will knock it out and that we can still go forward with the tonsillectomy tomorrow.

In the meantime, Velcro the puppy goes in for his own surgery today – to get neutered. Exciting times around here!

And, sensing the brewing sh*t storm associated with having two surgery patients and my fretful Dad under one roof, dear Bojangles may finally hit the Trail again. The plan is for him to keep hiking during the next 3 weeks, likely covering the 270 miles between where got off and Harpers Ferry, WV (essentially the halfway point). I’ll meet back up with him in Harpers Ferry upon my recovery, and we’ll head north. Then, later, I can return to hike the section I missed.

But for now, I’m just trying not to go crazy.  Dr. ENT yesterday morning: “How is your breathing?  Are you breathing okay?”

Me: “Yes.  Until I think about it for too long.  I am developing a freaking anxiety disorder over all of this.  I’m going to need a referral to a psychiatrist.”

Dr. ENT: “Well at least you weren’t still on the Trail.  Then you would really have problems.”

Touche.