MagazineAugust 2008Stings and Storms

Stings and Storms

The box should read: “May cause dizziness, nausea, and lightheadedness. Do not drive, operate large machinery or hike 40 miles on the AT until you know how this medicine will affect you.” But no, once again the medical field has ignrored the plight of the thru-hiker. So when I popped two extra strength Benadryl this afternoon to fight a bee sting, I had no clue that for the next 10 miles my head would feel like it wasn’t connected to my body.
Now I am allergic to bees. Forget the bears. For me, the most dangerous animal on this trail are small, buzzing, blank and yellow insects. I carry an EpiPen to use if I am stung near my respiratory system or if I start wheezing, but I really hate needles so I refuse to stick myself unless the situation is dire. That being said, in retrospect I should have used the EpiPen today because the benadryl made me feel intensely sick and caused ten very mild Virginia miles to become some of the hardest of the entire trail. Until I reached the road where I met Brew, I wasn’t sure if I could make my miles for the day, and I certainly didn’t think that I would be able to make them without passing out or throwing up first. Still, I pushed through my doubts and ailments and stumbled to the car and the arms of my hubby without suffering a major catastrophe.
My overdose episode came a day after I hiked through four electrical storms. The morning was humid but pleasant enough. I naively thought I could make it to Brew’s and my first rendezvous without my lightweight jacket or my raincoat, and that was a decision I soon regretted. When I reached the top of my first ridge, it started to rain. Soon after, the sky started to rumble, the rain drops turned into sheets of cascading water, and the air around me lit up with lightning. I spent two hours practically swimming through some of the worst storms I have ever experienced on the trail. After a while, I felt the effects of not having an extra layer and I started shivering and tensing up. I think if it had been just a few degrees cooler I might have been in danger of hypothermia.
The trail is hard. It hurts. It takes everything out of me- physically and emotionally- everyday. But I can share these incidents in good spirits because I know that while they may have slowed me down, neither stopped my progress. I know my bee sting, although it itched and swelled at first, will fully heal. And after the storms subsided, I walked through misty sunbeams so thick I felt I could brush them away. It was like some enchanted fantasy land. It was one of the best moments of the entire hike.<br />
These two events are a microcosm of the past 7 weeks: incredibly hard, but entirely worth it. I look forward to the challenges and rewards of the final 500 miles, bee stings and all.

Places to Go, Things to See: