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One foot after the other…

It was great to see my grandkids last Tuesday! And my son and daughter in law as well! It was brief but wonderful – probably there for around an hour, long enough for some laughs and hugs and to bring the kids some treats. And of course, to unload and deliver the dirt bike and ATV.

We met them at my nephew’s house where the bike and quad will be housed until the construction of their house if completed. They are actually staying with another of my nephews in a different town while the house is being built, but all the trail riding will be done in the town they are building, so that’s where we dropped off the “toys”.

It was a little bittersweet; the trip up proved that we are not really all that far away, but seeing them and then driving off also reminded me of how much I miss them. I expect that I miss them more than they miss us. They only saw us on Wednesday family night for a few hours and then Friday night and Saturdays – the math says maybe 14% of their average week. The rest of the time they were living their lives, much as they are now.

And since they are up in Maine on a new adventure, every day is filled with something new and exciting; new places to go and see, new discoveries – adventures and excitement at every turn. Meanwhile, here at home we continue with the exact same daily routine, only without getting to see them. I am sure they miss us at times, but I like to believe that the joy and excitement of this new chapter is keeping them fully occupied. It is as it should be, but it does leave a hole.

I’ve been on two eventful hikes recently. The first was a wonderful wandering through some areas I do not frequent too often. But as I progressed, the trail went from relatively dry to muddy and wet; nothing really unusual there, it happens a lot, so I continued on. It got wetter and muddier but I stayed on trail when suddenly it went from trail to pond. Literally a huge body of water right where the trail used to be.

I figured no big deal – this happens sometimes. I planned to just circumvent the water by moving up to some higher ground and then heading back towards the trail. But I quickly found myself in a swamp; mud and muck, vines and briars, and more briars. They weren’t just your everyday little pricker briars, these were the big boys – massive thorns between a quarter and three-eighths of an inch. And insidiously entangled and entwined with each other as well as every other vine, bush, and plat growing in the middle of the swamp.

I tried, for almost an hour, to scamper up to high ground and get around the swamp but each time I’d cut back towards where the trail should be, I’d end up back in the swamp. So I decided if I couldn’t go around it, I’d try to go through it. That was a mistake. I went from wet and muddy shoes in ankle deep water to wet and muddy short in water that was more than mid-though deep. But as bad as that was, my legs kept getting caught up in the underwater snake-pit of vines and briars. I nearly fell a couple of times which would have been God-awful in that mess.

Eventually I came to a complete standstill as I was encircled by thick brush, vines, and briars. I ended up having to cut each briar, one by one, with a pocket knife to extricate myself. I was finally able to backtrack and got back to higher ground – solid and dry – but still very loaded with briars and other growth which made moving through it difficult. Ultimately – wet, muddy, sweaty, bleeding, and hot – I doubled back completely and rejoined the trail I had been on and came in onto the flooded trail from the other side. Unlike my original approach, this one had a sign on a tree stating that part of the trail was closed due to flooding. Better late than never!

My next hike was a bit more eventful; while no swamp was involved, it was extremely hot and humid. And I, per usual, brought no water with me on the hike. Rarely is that an issue. It was this time. I had done this same route before – not a stretch for me from a time or distance perspective – last time. This time was different.

It is an out and back route, meaning you retrace every outbound step on your way back. Not my favorite route – I prefer loops – but as I said, one I’ve done before. It is not an overtly challenging hike until you get to Long Pond where there are frequent and sizeable elevation changes. And while I have done it before, and while the first part is no really difficult, I was struggling a bit by the two hour mark: hot, humid, sweaty, and thirsty. Nothing new there though.

I had planned to be home at a certain time and based on my route, I decided that I would turn and head back at the three-hour mark, regardless of where I was on the hike. Six hours is a good workout and six hours would also get me home when I needed to arrive.

I found myself stopping and resting, something I almost never do, but not once or twice, but a lot – which I never do. I have hiked a lot of RI and I know where to find berries and water when I need replenishment. But not here; I could not find a drinkable spring to save my life (pardon the pun). As to berries, I always know where to look for them but it was just a week or so too soon – the best I could do was six or eight black huckleberries and maybe twenty blueberries. It helps, but not nearly enough.

By two and half hours I was sweating profusely, was a little dizzy, and was needing to stop often to sit and rest – most all of which is completely unfamiliar to me. I ended up taking four or five handful scoops of water from a stream that was not one I would usually drink from, but today I had no choice. I was now into the Long Pond trail and was exerting far more effort than the previous five miles or so. And air temps were continuing to rise….

I hit the three hour mark and immediately transitioned from outbound to inbound – but I had three tough hours of hot hiking ahead of me and I was getting a little worried. At around hour four, I had a headache, was off and on dizzy and nauseous, and most troubling of all – my heartrate was far higher than it should be given the effort I was exerting. I usually struggle to break into the 120’s on a hike – it takes a serious uphill trudge to do so and even then, it is not common and doesn’t last. But on this hike, at this time, I was not experiencing anything really stressful and yet my pulse was consistently in the mid 130’s – something I almost never see on a hike. I found I had to sit for a few minutes just to get back into the 120’s and I found that concerning.

I ended up drinking from two more streams that I usually would not consider, but I knew I was experiencing heat exhaustion and needed hydration before I went into heat stroke. Despite the ever-increasing air temps, I was not sweating as much as before and that was troubling as well.

Ultimately, I made it back to the truck but it was an effort to do so, with many stops along the way out and a great deal of beating myself up for not bringing water. But the truth is that no matter how I felt, I knew that the only way out was on my two feet. In the woods there is no cabs, no Uber, no call a friend for a ride. Your two choices are to pony up and walk out or lay down and call 911 to have rescue carry you out. And there was NO way anyone was carrying me out of the woods – unless it was my lifeless body. As long as I had breath in me, I was leaving under my own power, even if that meant resting every five steps and not getting out until after dark.

I recovered quickly once I got the AC on in the truck and had some water from the bottle I had left in the truck. The water was the temperature of a hot cup of coffee, so not all that satisfying but hydration was the key, regardless of the temp. I downed a huge Gatorade when I got home and that helped tremendously and by that evening I was pretty much back to normal.

There remains one lingering after effect of the hike: deer ticks. I found one on my calf the next day, already bitten but not deeply attached and quickly removed. But later that night I found another deer tick on my thigh, this one deeply embedded and hard to remove. And tonight – another on my other thigh – also deeply embedded and really hard to remove. Three deer ticks in a short period – ridiculous!!

So of course now I have to monitor myself for signs of Lyme disease, the symptoms which can be really varied and hard to recognize or discern. The doctor that guided me through five or six bouts of Lyme is retired and I will surely miss him should I be unfortunate enough to come down with a case of it this time.  One of the few downsides of hiking in New England.

Our youngest grandchild (as of now) is on the cusp of two – another week to that landmark – but being quite a bit bigger than most his age, you would have easily believed he was two several months ago. Weather permitting, they are having his party tomorrow and I eagerly look forward to it. But at the same time, I will be acutely aware that this will be the first birthday that my other grandkids will not be able to attend; and that is sad. But beyond that, my granddaughter’s birthday is two weeks away and my eldest grandson’s is less than two weeks after hers. Come hell or high water, I will see them for their birthday! Stay safe dear reader!!

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Margarett Dickinson

    Your recent content has been a valuable resource for me. Thank you for consistently delivering high-quality articles. Looking forward to more from you!

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