TMI Alert — You’ve Been Warned
Since about the time I turned 40, I’ve had 2 health things to deal with…acid reflux and frequent urination. Both problems joined forces and made for an interesting night on Ramrock Mountain.
The Beef Ramen noodle, Chicken Ramen noodle, and tobasco sauce trifecta began working their magic both north and south of my stomach. I popped some Tums at 2 a.m. which quelled the reflux. The real issue that night, though, involved urination.
Apparently as men get older, their prostates grow. I believe mine is probably about the size of a can of tuna. The doc told me it pushes on the urethra (which, quite frankly, sounds like something only women should have) and this irritates the bladder walls, which contract, making you have to pee. So for most nights over the past decade, I get up at 3 a.m., shuffle to the bathroom, relieve myself, then crawl back into bed. In an RV this is really easy because you just take one full stride, do a left face, and fire away.
That’s all well and good in a house or RV, but not so fun in the wilderness at 3 a.m. in all sorts of weather. So I brought a Mountain Dew pee bottle. Before judging me, hear me out. It’s ultra-light. It fits neatly in the side pocket of my backpack. I’m in a Flycreek 2 tent, which implies pants fly and creek or stream. There’s a technique that can work…and did work at 3 a.m. on our first night on the trail. First you get up on your knees, placing the top of your head at the top of the tent. Ideally you’d have 3 hands…one to hold the bottle, one to aim with, and one to hold a small flashlight. (Headlamps are not recommended as they illuminate the tent and may cast an awkward silhouette.) With only 2 available hands, this must be done in the dark. You assume the position, aim, fire, put the lid on tightly, and go back to sleep. Then empty the bottle the next day. Why no one has written about this technique in all the AT guides and books I’ve read is beyond me. It’s called The Johnson Method and it worked beautifully on night 1 near Hightower Gap.
Night 2 at Ramrock…not so much. I made a critical mistake. As I rose up on my knees, they were on the air mattress rather than straddling it. I grabbed the bottle, aimed, and fired. About 6 ounces in, all was well. As the Mountain Dew bottle warms up, you know good things are happening. Then disaster struck. About mid-stream, my left knee slid off the side of the air mattress, sending me in to a topple. Your instincts are to reach out and catch yourself, but there were no available hands! In moments like this, mid-stream, job 1 is to keep the Mountain Dew bottle connected to the mother ship. So I held on for dear life and fell over sideways with my head and shoulder hitting the side of the tent. But I kept firing. At age 50, there’s no way to turn off the spigot until the tank is empty. I laid there for a moment…relieved that I wasn’t injured…and just relieved in general. As I lay there on my side, my next issue was that the bottle cap was on the other side of the tent. So with all the energy I could muster I swung my legs around while maintaining the link up with the mother ship. I grabbed the bottle cap with my toes like a ballerina and swung back around. I then leaned the bottle up, capped it, and rolled back onto the air mattress. Tragedy averted! It’s the unexpected things on the AT, the surprise moments, that will make or break you. Ya gotta rise to the occasion or urine big trouble.
Matt and I left Ramrock about 8:15. About 20 minutes into the hike, I got that rumbling in my stomach. The tobasco-laced Ramen noodles had worked their way through my digestive track. I knew Woody Gap was near and had an actual toilet. And so, in answer to the question, “Woody finally go on day 3?”…the answer is he would. In honor of the occasion, I renamed the location He Would Gap.
After a peanut butter, trail mix, and beef jerky lunch at Jarrard Gap, we made our way toward Blood Mountain. It is the 6th tallest mountain in Georgia and the tallest AT mountain in Georgia. Some say the mountain was named after a bloody battle between the Cherokee and Creek Indians. Others say it’s based on the reddish color of lichen and Catawba near the summit Others say the Bloods beat the Crips there in some gang warfare. (Just 1 person said that.) Sadly, what’s for certain is that it was the location where a hiker named Meredith was murdered in 2008. The killer is in prison for life.
We ascended blood mountain in the rain. On the way up, we saw a few birds…the first wildlife of any kind so far…besides one salamander. It was a long ascent but not too difficult other than my right heel was bleeding a bit. We hung out with some hikers at the Blood Mountain shelter for awhile and shot a video clip that wasn’t audible due to the wind. The descent was more challenging due to the wet rocks (lots of them to scramble over) and the wind. I’d hate to be a south-bounder going up that side. On the way down we passed 3 New Yorkers also planning to stay at the Walasi Yi hostel for the night. That would prove to be a key pass, as when we got there around 5, we got the final 2 remaining bunks.
First order of business, even before showering, was to eat. I drank a Diet Coke that was magical. Matt and I then split a large 3-meat pizza. I then ate a burrito and then an apple and then drank a Ginger Ale and a PowerAid. I was just starting to fill kinda full when 15 students from Armstrong State University in Savannah came rolling in with baked ziti, salad, and bread. So I ate it. These youngsters do this on Spring Break as part of a Christian ministry outreach and we really appreciated it.
We got a shower, did laundry, and got to know a wide assortment of humanity. Among the cast of characters was Book in Boots, an Australian lady who bunked below me. There were two Indiana University ladies who we shared a bear bag line with on Ramrock…one is a competitive cyclist and one wants to be a brain surgeon. Next there was Emily, a very kind and interesting transgender photographer from Houston. A lady about my age named Driftwood was there with Wildwood, her 20 year old special needs son. They are attempting a thru and I really admire that. Several of us stayed up til 10:30 watching The Matrix and burping ziti.
My final challenge of the night was climbing up to the top bunk with sore feet and a sore body. I finished off the day listening to an excellent sermon by my friend and former fellow teacher, Donald Ballard. (Thanks Ross and Crafton for putting these on the web.)
I was in a warm bed, with a bathroom nearby, and my Mountain Dew bottle was securely tucked away in my backpack.
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