Monday, June 21, 2010

Great Company, Rough Conditions

Well, no more Giardia jokes.

I couldn't have been much sicker and lived. I guarantee you that you don't want to know the details, but I will say this: purify your water. As romantic as it sounds to drink water straight from a mountain's spring, it's simply not safe. Last week, I stumbled into Port Clinton, dehydrated, starved, vomiting, *cough,* 10 lbs lighter, and my vision swirling.

I'm not sure I know the words to express my experience of receiving letters that day. I sat outside on the cement steps of the little post office jamming chocolate in my face, greedily opening letters and the box of food I had prepared for myself before I left. My family had spruced up the box with letters and chocolate and almonds and Walden. It was better than Christmas.

I carried everything back to the Port Clinton Hotel, up to a tiny room above the bar. I took off my shoes, surrounded myself with these treasures, ate more chocolate, and fell asleep. And I slept. Boy, did I sleep. When I woke, I read everything again. Finally I emerged and went across the street to explore the candy store. (There's no grocery store in town, just a candy shop, barber, and bar/"hotel".) The place is floor to ceiling, candy. An old woman runs the place, and I thought she'd enjoy her work, but she was like the witch in Hansel and Gretel. Turns out she doesn't even like candy. I asked, and she said she only likes spaghetti. I'm serious. Just spaghetti. When I get old, if I only like spaghetti, I don't want people questioning me about it, so I didn't push the issue. I just bought more chocolate, since it seemed to be helping with the Giardia, and then scurried out along my way.

The following day, I tentatively set out again. My own condition had improved, but Pennsylvania's terrain, begrudgingly known as "Rockslyvania," had not. The rocky trail waits hoping to twist, sprain or break hikers. It is the land where shoes go to die. There are some bouldering sections, such as "The Knife Edge" yesterday, where choice words are uttered. Some sections, I have to sit down and slide along slowly. Some sections, I sit down and just say "No." I'm not sure to whom. We hikers all wonder whose bad idea it was to run the trail through these miles of raggedy boulders.

Fortunately, I've met Charlie/ "Ramblin Rick," a retired Georgian. He has a charm all his own, and I've greatly enjoyed his companionship. We became friends when I sat down at a shelter across from him and said, "I'm interested in your stove," which was a hole-punched a tuna fish can. We got to talking and then kept bumping into each other over the next few days. Now, a week later, we have a fun rapport, and I'll miss him when he gets off the trail this weekend.

The other memorable hiker I've befriended is "Pop". He had been hiking with "Snap" and "Crackle", but then stayed on an extra week while Kristin R met up with me. The three of us had a great adventure, but I stopped feeling well halfway through that week. Pop helped me get to the hospital when Giardia had taken over, and then took heart-breakingly good care of me as I waited for the antibiotics to kick in. He bought me yogurt and probiotics, and he told me funny jokes and stories as I was shaking with fever. Heck, he even did my laundry! A perfect stranger took care of me the way my grandparents take care of each other. It still seems unreal. What are the chances I'd meet someone like Pop as I grew sick? I don't know, but I'm grateful for these magical coincidences. I feel I need to pass these gifts, love and generosity, on.

Whew. Let me finish with today: BEAR! and HITCH HIKE! Two scary things in two hours. So now I'm wiped out and looking forward to holing up with Thoreau for the rest of the day. I'm staying in the basement of the city borough hall, free for A.T. hikers, across the road from this practically one-room library. I'm meeting up with Anna F in Delaware Water Gap in a few days, and hope to be in Unionville, NJ by July 1. If you'd like to mail me, please address to:

Julia Tyler
General Delivery
Unionville, NJ 10988
Please Hold for Thru-Hiker ETA: July 1

Again, thank you for your letters. I adore them. Especially because I am alone most days, your words have heightened importance and love in my eyes.

Happy Summer Solstice!


1 comment:

  1. I am really enjoying reading your writing! I feel like I am vicariously hiking the trail and I am so appreciative that I can join you for a little part of the trip. It sounds challenging, I truly hope I can hack it. I'm bringing the camera (it's waterproof) If nothing else it will give me an excuse to pause every once in a while!! :), and document some of this adventure!!