The plague began as a rumor we heard from far away. Hikers were geting sick over at such and such shelter. Or, stay away from such and such he's been puking since yesterday. We had not seen anything out of the ordinary until we came across a sign at Little Laurel shelter around mile 294.
About 100 yards before the shelter on the trail was a hand written note protected in a ziplock bag. It read an ominous "People who stayed here last night got sick. Vomit and feces everywhere. Strongly suggest you move further on." We walked by the place. It was quiet. A few tents were set up on the distant periphery. There was nothing inside the shelter except for an eerie darkness.
We moved on, we avoid shelters because they are concentrations of human filth. We pressed on the remaining miles for the day and set up camp at mile 310.8 Sugarloaf Gap. We set up in a nice flat site with tons of firewood and little use. We cooked mashed potatoes and biscuits and went to sleep.
When Dumpstermouth woke up his stomach was in knots. He threw up outside the tent after struggling to get out of his sleeping bag in time. He wretched and went back to sleep. The sun was just coming up. "I just puked twice man," he said clamoring back into the tent. "Whaaaaat?" replied Mr. Dallas, who fell right back asleep.
Later, Dumpstermouth tried and failed to eat his breakfast. This was unprecedented, and worrisome. Afterall, it's in his namesake that the food disapears into his dumpster which is his mouth. After a few nibbles on our supercharged oatmeal, he was spewing all over the place. Mr. Dallas cringed a little and held back his own gag response.
The well ones decided to let Dumpstermouth sleep in and try and recover. He slept untiul 3pm. While they waited, Josh, Muffins and Mr. Dallas made sure Dumpstermouth had plenty of water, and played improvised disc golf on the side o the mountain. Everything was packed up except for Dumpstermouth who layed on the ground tossing and turning and puking a couple more times. We kept the fire going and listened to pop music on Mr. Dallas's solar-crank radio, and waited for our compadre to get better.
Dumpstermouth is a rock solid mountain beast like no other. With chills, fever, and absolutely no energy, he managed to pack up and roll out of camp and move 10 miles away. We divided the heaviest elemements of his gear and carried it. At lunch time, we got a closer to the epicenter.
Josh had gone ahead to set up a campsite becasue we anicipated moving slow and possibly having to hike in the dark. Mr. Dallas, Muffins, and Dumpstermouth moved slow and finally made it to a halfway point for the day at Hogback Ridge Shelter. Another note preceded this shelter as well. "Got sick here last night, boil water, Vomit everywhere, avoid this area 4-7-12 -Auto."
We needed water, and a structure to rest on. We proceded with caution down to the shelter. Dumpstermouth looked like garbage, but was feeling better, and capable of holding his food and water down. They ate lunch quick, filtered some water, and dodged piles of vomit aging in the sunlight in a perimeter around the shelter. They pressed on and made it to the campsite that Josh had bushwacked and set up.
The next morning Muffins woke up feeling queesy and Dumpstermouth was feeling much better. It wasn't long before Muffins was spewing, which at first relieved his symptoms. He also tried, and failed to eat his supermeal. Mr. Dallas was getting worried. He knew how easy this type of thing spreads. He knew it was only a matter of time before his puke number was called.
We needed to cover 16 miles that day. Muffins started out feeling optimistic and confident he could make that distance. Josh and Dumpstermouth rolled out and planned to wait for Muffins and Mr. Dallas at a lunch rendezvous point some 8 miles away. Muffins made it 1.3 miles up the mountain with Mr. Dallas carrying most of his pack close behind him. Muffins suddenly bent over and vomited violently some greenish brown slime.
Mr. Dallas kept his distance and remained quiet. He was tired and really couldn't think of any encouragement for a miserable brother turning his stomach inside out. Mr. Dallas thought, "There I was on the side of a mountain watching my friend puke his face off...can't wait for my turn." Luckily, the breeze carried away the bile smell and it was barely noticeable.
Muffins took a few more steps forward, made it about a quarter mile, and threw down his gear collapsing on the side of the trail. "I need to push that reset button," he said, and then hurled a bunch of nothing out in a savage dry heave that doubled him over. Mr. Dallas knew it was going to be a while, the day's plans needed to be changed. 16 miles was not going to happen. Mr. Dallas texted Josh, "Stop and set up camp and nearest water ASAP, Muffins is expletived and puking everywhere collapsed on the trail." Josh did not get the text until he was 9 miles away.
Muffins got his space blanket and sleeping pad off Mr. Dallas's pack and layed out ont he side of the trail in a cold sweat. Mr. Dallas was concerened that Muffins was cold, it was 85 degrees outside and sunny. He had puked most of his water which was 1 liter. Every 30 minutes or so on the the dot, Muffins would turn over and heave bile onto the side of the mountain. Mr. Dallas gave him the rest of his water and looked at the map. The next water was a little over 2 miles away and uphill. That was too far away.
Mr. Dallas remembered a powerline they had passed only moments earlier. He told Muffins he would be back soon with more water and some snacks. Mr. Dallas followed the line about a mile and discovered it led to a cabin resort community. There, he refilled his water from a garden spicket and aquired some fresh fruit and cereal for his brother in need.
Mr. Dallas returned and refilled Muffins' Nalgene again, and put a slight dab of salt in it to replinish his sodium. Wretch after wretch, Mr. Dallas sat and tanned snacking on snacks while Muffins was doubled over in muscle cramps and misery. "You better take care of me when it's my turn!" he shouted down to Muffins who sat there delerious. Mr. Dallas was trying to stay out of the vomit vapor blast radius.
After failing to contact Josh, Muffins and Mr. Dallas were finally able to move after staying put for over 6 hours on the side of the trail for 11 vomitous movements. In that time, only 5 other hikers passed northbound, which was very out of the ordinary. Absolutely depleted, Muffins pushed it another 2.1 UP to the top of Big Bald with Mr. Dallas behind him weighed down like a pack mule. Muffins had to stop frequenlty and focus on keeping it down.
At the top, communications could still not be established. Mr. Dallas and Muffins were frustrated. There was no way they would reach Josh 6.8 miles away at the road. The sun was going down. Then, they received a text about getting a ride from a road at the top of the bald. They didn't believe any cars were going to make it up that road.
Muffins and Mr. Dallas planned for the worst and decided to push downhill another 1.3 miles to the nearest shelter Bald Mountain shelter. On the way there, Mr. Dallas started getting chills and nausia. They made it to the shelter, and were appalled by the conditions there. The shelter was surrounded by piles of vomit and dead mice.
The location was contaminated, but they were tired, weary, and defeated. It would have to do. Muffins was getting cozy on the top bunk of the shelter with his phone about to die when it rang. Timing is everything, coincidences are synchronizing at an unusual rate.
Dumpstermouth was on the other end telling us to turn around and walk back up to the bald. He and Josh had got in contact with a Trail Angel who was driving a 15 Passenger Doge van up the bald to get us. This was the sweetest news Muffins and Mr. Dallas had ever heard. They packed up and moved out fast. Morale had improved, but their bodies were being ravaged.
On the way to the top Mr. Dallas fought hard to hold on to conciousness and his stomach contents. He was woozey. 1.3 miles up, back at the top the sun was setting in a beautiful pink firescape cloud burn. Muffins and Mr. Dallas saw headlights moving down the washed out ancient logging road. It was our ride. We had been rescued and with perfect timing.
A Trail Angel named "Miss Janet" whose phone number Josh had received from another ill hiker "Auto" made it happen. She opened the doors, drove the roads, and lifted the gates, between us and the safety of her giant van. Once we were in the van and bumping down the mountain Mr. Dallas relaxed into his own symptoms.
The van stopped twice on the way down the mountain. Josh hopped out and emptied his stomach on the side of the road. Mr. Dallas chucked his chunks out the van door while it was still moving. Miss Janet took us into Erwin, TN to the Holiday Inn.
It's impossible to describe the feeling you get when you go from being defeated in the wilderness, to being raptured by the graces of good people in civilization. We owe a debt we really cannot ever repay to Miss Janet and Pilgrim who saved us from certain misery. The Trail provides, and it's hard to explain but, Trail Angels exist for the sole purpose of helping others.
We are all recovering and feeling better. Thank you Miss Janet and Pilgrim.
Authored by Mr. Dallas