Dang! Sick at Halfway

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Bummer. I got sick on the Appalachian Trail right before the halfway mark of Harpers Ferry. Even though I had just hiked two easy days back-to-back, I took a zero day at Ed Garvey shelter on the trail (it’s really swanky, nice place to hole up). I felt better the next day, but my nose was still running nonstop. Thus, I decided to shuttle to town, get some decongestants, and take one more zero at a hotel. I’m pleased to say that despite the sinus infection and Chris no longer being with me, I was still able to pump out 2.5 mph to the pickup location. Personal solo best. Woohoo!

Got My Official Appalachian Trail Tag

I was going to blow through Harpers Ferry at night to make miles, but I decided to do a short day so I could camp just before town. That way I could see this glorious halfway point during the day. This also gave me an opportunity to swing by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters. I got my picture taken there and added to their official AT hiker book. Anita wasn’t in the book, but Meta was. Like Anita, Meta slipped by me over the weekend when I was spending time with Chris. Meta is another Calendar Year Triple Crown hopeful, who also started long after me and still passed me before the halfway mark.

Also, I finally got my 2023 Appalachian Trail tag. It’s purple this year. I was the fifth thru-hiker to sign up for the Appalachian Trail back on January 1, but unfortunately Amicalola Falls had not yet received their supply of AT tags. Thus, I had to walk 1032 miles to the ATC headquarters to get one. Sheesh! 🙂

Bennett Lee holding his 2023 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker tag.
Bennett Lee's 2023 Appalachian Trail tag, thru-hiker #5.

Thick Yellow Snot

I’m not sure where exactly I got sick, but I suspect it was at Bear Chase Brewing. Chris and I stayed at Bear’s Den Hostel, which is an awesome early 1900s mansion converted into a hostel for the Appalachian Trail. The brewery is within walking distance, so Chris and I went there for food that night. The brewery is in the middle of nowhere, so I assumed it was going to be a little hole-in-the-wall. Boy, was I wrong.

The brewery is a four million dollar establishment with a massive parking lot and huge indoor and outdoor seating areas. Unfortunately, it was a tad rainy, so everyone was indoors. Plus, it was Friday, so a bigger crowd than typical weeknights. Friday also means live music, so even bigger crowd. And unbeknownst to me until we got there, it was St. Patrick’s Day (dates lose their importance on the trail). The place was packed. Chris and I even had a discussion about how many cases of COVID we estimated were in the brewery that night.

However, I don’t think what I have is COVID. COVID is viral. My nose is clogged with thick, yellow snot, which typically indicates a bacterial infection. Yes, a bacterial infection does not preclude a viral infection, too, but I had no other symptoms than a sinus infection. I had constant pressure behind my eyes of a sinus headache. I laid on my side all day so only one side of my nose would get clogged, then I would blow it out and lay on the other side. I also tried not to sit up because then the snot would drip down my throat, and consequently make my throat sore and make me cough.

If that doesn’t gross you out enough, let me tell you about snot rockets. If you’re a long-distance hiker, particularly in cold weather, you probably know about what I’m talking about.

When your nose gets runny as a hiker, one option is to stop, get out a tissue, blow your nose, then put the used tissue in your trash sack, which you carry around for days until you find a trash can (extremely rare on the trail). The problem is that, particularly on cold days where your nose just drips a little, you might be blowing your nose several times an hour all day long. That’s a lot of tissues for what is usually just a little drip. Furthermore, that’s a lot of trash to be carrying around for days. But most importantly, thru-hikers don’t carry boxes of tissues on the trail! So that means using toilet paper, which is a scarce commodity that you certainly don’t want to run out of.

Instead, some hikers do snot rockets. Turn your head to one side, use a finger to push one nostril closed, and blow a sudden burst of air out of the open nostril. Snot then rockets out. Repeat for the other nostril. Really gets the nasal passages clean because you can blow so much harder than into a flimsy tissue. Only catch is that when my nose is stopped up, I have to be gentle with the first blow or two. Otherwise, I’ll blow out my eardrum.

Despite saying all that, during the night I didn’t want to get out of my sleeping bag to snot rocket outside of the shelter, so I used my toilet paper. And I ran out. Uh oh.

The next day I was feeling better, but my nose was still running like crazy. Thus, I decided to get that shuttle into town to get decongestants (and toilet paper!) and take one more zero. (Technically, it was a nero since I did hike my blazing 2.5 mph to the road crossing.)

Great respite. I’m feeling so much better now.

Next Time: Weight Loss

Stay tuned for my upcoming post about my weight loss on the Appalachian Trail. It surprised even me. Crazy numbers. In the meantime, enjoy these photos from the trail.

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