Last February, I started following 14 thru-hikers of the Appalachian Trail via their online journals. Three have completed the trail (Which Way, Bamadog, and RTK), another has reported climbed Katahdin, but has not reported doing so on his blog, eight have come up short of their adventure and two remain on the trail. One, Opa, returned to the trail on August 29th, after some major physical problems and several weeks at home. He is hiking SOBO (southbound) after traveling to Maine and moving back toward Vernon, New Jersey, where he left the trail in May. The other, Chip continues to hike NOBO (northbound) racing against time and the coming winter in Maine.
My last update was September 9. Chip was in Gorham, New Hampshire with 300 miles to go while Opa was in Stratton Maine having hiked 188 miles in 12 days including the 100 Mile Wilderness and the Bigelow Mountains.
Fast-forward to September 26 and Chip is in Caratunk, Maine, having crossed over the Kennebec River (where hikers are shuttled over in canoes as the official part of the trail, including a white blaze in the canoe). He has 152 miles to Katahdin. This portion of the trail took me ten days to complete. If he can duplicate my pace (which should not be that difficult to accomplish) he should summit Katahdin on October 6.
Chip has had some chronic physical injuries throughout his hike including difficulties with his left shoulder due to a fall and knees that have taken a toll over the rugged terrain. He provides some interesting insights into the physical problems still facing him as he progresses toward the finish line.
…..injuries, here’s the current report: I’m hiking with my arm in a “sling” again because of my shoulder re-re-injury. I had a minor fall on the other arm and now my right shoulder hurts too. My knees are screaming for time off (at least I’m not limping because they BOTH hurt). I’m also beginning to get a chest cold accompanied by a nasty cough. I have some antibiotics left over from my mid-hike root canal that I’m taking for that, it seems to be working.”
Opa appeared to be going at a strong pace through Maine averaging 14.8 miles per day. On September 17th he hiked 12 miles including the Mahoosuc Arm and the Mahoosuc Notch, two of the most strenuous obstacles on the trail. Then came the concerning news in his September 18th post,
Looks like I’ve contracted Giardia, which comes from a parasite in untreated water. I make it a point to always treat my water, but I have recently had a couple of instances where I was careless. A few days ago I do recall mixing up water bottles, and not being certain which one had been treated. One bottle may have gotten a double dose of AquaMira, and the other no dose. Also, you are supposed to let Parts A and B mix and sit for 5 minutes before adding to the water. 5 minutes can be an eternity when treating 3 bottles, I maybe gave it a minute. Stupid on my part. I started having a bout of mild diarrhea along with an upset stomach a few days ago and didn’t think anything of it, but last nite….. I was up about 6 times trotting to the privy, and when I woke this AM around 8 (very late for me) I was an exhausted wreck. At one point during the day, I literally laid down right on the trail and took a 30-minute nap I was so exhausted. I didn’t eat anything all day, except for a cup of hot chicken broth tonite for dinner. Every step was a struggle. Not to mention that about every 20 minutes I had to go trotting into the woods….. Of course, the trail had no sympathy, on a couple sections, I thought I was back in the Mahoosuc Notch. I kept thinking of bailout options, how to get to a road, but nothing. On the last climb of the day up Mt. Success, I felt so wasted that I was contemplating calling 911 for help. Lo and behold on that climb I ran into a couple of NOBOs, who turned out to be my salvation.
Turns out that one was a nurse, and he asked Opa a lot of good questions concluding that he most likely Giardia. He offered some good advice. The other hiker gave Opa some electrolyte pills and some Flagyl pills, which is a prescription drug used to treat Giardia. Opa was able to hike 13 miles the next day and made it into Gorham, NH. He was able to see a doctor who gave hi a prescription for Flagyl and recommended rest for a few days. After zero-days on September 20 and 21, Opa was off again. His next three days averaged 8.7 miles per day, which is not bad through the Whites.
Then on September 26, Opa was hiking over Mount Hight and into Zita Pass in New Hampshire.
“The day started so promising today, I felt pretty good – except for that incessant C Diff diarrhea which won’t seem to go away and is a real annoyance while on the trail…. Then all of a sudden at Zeta Pass I got very dizzy/lightheaded to the point that I thought I might faint. This happened to me once before since I’ve been on the meds for my C Diff, although not as severe. Anyway, today I tried to regroup and regain my strength, and started up the trail towards the next peak, but there was just no way – I was a wreck. My hike was over, my body was trying to tell me something. Fortunately, there was a 3.6-mile bailout trail at Zeta Pass that took me down to the road. I stumbled on down that trail, going ever so slowly so that I wouldn’t fall (as it was I fell once), then hitched a ride back to the hostel. I have no regrets, I gave it my absolute best shot, but my thru-hike attempt is over. I am very comfortable with my decision. I always told my family, and myself, that I wouldn’t do anything stupid and press on with my hike if that entailed compromising my health. The time has come to get off the trail.
I am very grateful for the time I had on the trail: I met some great people, was the beneficiary of the kindness shown me by others, got to see parts of the country that I had not seen before, and had the time of my life. I have memories to last a lifetime. The good Lord watched over me for 1700 miles, I am grateful and thankful for the many blessings he has bestowed on me.”
I am very sorry to see Opa have to leave the trail again. He was a warrior and should be very proud of his efforts.