The Via Ferrata in WV – Part 3 AKA “Backpacking – Dear God, what did I get myself into?”
June 6, 2008, 7:39 pm
Filed under: Outdoor Adventure

I’m an introvert by nature.  One aspect of introversion means that I recharge by being alone. 

Backpacking with 18 other people pretty much guarantees that you aren’t going to be alone ever for the entirety of the trip.  This may have been the motivation behind a few impromptu hikes to the car for some others.

My nerves were paper thin by the time we made it to the trail head.  I was also suffering deeply from motion sickness because we’d gotten lost driving to the trail head.  Oh yeah.  I get motion sickness, that’s another small detail that I had forgotten about myself.

We had to drive over a twisty, curvy, mountain road, and then turn around and drive over it again and then up another mountain to get there.  We had left the via ferrata later than expected and it was getting cold and dark, quickly.  It was obvious that I wasn’t the only one feeling agitated.

After a little hiking, setting up camp (We managed this in record time, even before sun-down.  Ok, so there are some advantages to backpacking with a small herd. ) and having some warm food trail food, I was feeling more balanced.  My body stabilized a little bit before bed.

It was cold that night; much colder than I had expected.

I was dumb enough to leave my sleeping bag liner at home.  My body is anti-cold.  My brain hates it, my sensibilities hate it and my body hates it.  I’ve learned that as long as I am well-prepared, I am capable of doing outdoor trips in cold weather.  The key word here is “prepared.”

For awhile, my unprepared self lay shivering in my sleeping bag which is rated for 25F (some kind of cruel joke, obviously, and yes, I was using it correctly), but then I started cooling down far too quickly after the days activities.  Every muscle I own cramped up at once.  I did my best to stretch the cramps out, but any movement created more cramps.

The pain was so intense that I started crying.  Adam has a degree in Exercise Physiology.  You’d think this would be a time during which it would be a huge advantage to be sharing a tent with him.  I tried to wake him up as quietly as possible because we were sharing a tent with a third backpacker.

He woke up.  I explained my problem to him.  He mumbled something and went back to sleep.  I tried again.  He reassured me that I was fine and went back to sleep.  Great.  Prior to this, I had no idea that the definition of “fine” included being nothing more than a pile of excruciating cramps.

I knew I’d have to make some serious noise to get him up for real, plus, there was still that excruciating pain distracting me from being overly rational.

I lay there in a crumbled, painful, knotted-up sobbing heap for about ten minutes.  During this time, I concluded that:

  1. I am now officially too old to abuse my body anymore.
  2. I have to drop out of skydiving.
  3. I have to drop out of Lake Placid.
  4. I should never, ever, ever leave my warm bed overnight ever again.  Ever.
  5. I was just not made for this.
  6. I miss my cats.
  7. I would kill for a hot shower, right now.

I think that’s about it.

I find that crying is a good stress-reliever.  It relaxes the muscles and re-aligns the thoughts.  It’s an outburst of emotion that drains out all the negativity.  When someone says that she’s had “a good cry,” this is what she means.

Or maybe all the trembling finally created enough heat to make me feel better. 

Either way, I was able to relax a little bit and maybe even get a little sleep.

The next day was a ten mile hike.  We weren’t sure where we’d end up, so we took everything with us.

We had to do a few stream crossings.  For some of these streams, we had to take our boots off and wade through knee-deep water. 

I was a little worried about this, but only a little.  It was going to be my first time wearing a pack and wading through water as it trickled over sharp rocks.  The first stream was ankle-deep.  The water was ice cold, but I could handle it.  Nothing big.  A little ankle numbness never killed anyone.

Feeling more confident at the next stream I stepped right in and screamed.  My legs were plunged in up to my knees.  Ouchouchouchouch.

Painfully cold. 

Luckily, the day was hot and sunny and once I was out of the water, I felt refreshed.  After a few stream crossings, it started to only become annoying to constantly remove our boots, cross the stream and put them back on, which always seemed to happen just as my water shoes stopped dripping.

Pretty.  Not the most fantastic falls I’ve seen (disclaimer: I’ve seen some really fantastic falls.)  A few brave/crazy souls jumped into the swimming hole below the falls.  I took some pictures and video.

After lunch, a break, and a chat with the day hikers, we set off again.  The nice flat trail was replaced by a steady incline.  The hike became grueling at times, but not death defying.  By the end, I was feeling ever so slightly beyond <i>sore-in a-good-way</i>, and partly into <i>ok-enough-of-this-already</i>.

While looking for camp, we inadvertently finished the trail.  Our alternative was a pretty campsite that we had passed early that morning, after leaving our first camp.  We hiked the entire trail, and then some to get to that camp.

I was feeling slightly bitter that I had just lugged 30 pounds of stuff around a 10.5 mile loop only to camp a few yards down from where I had camped the night before, but too tired to care. 
Adam and I set up the tent and lay down as the sun went down.  Everyone else had the same idea and the campsite was solemn for awhile.  I was achy and ready for some non-trail food, warmth and indoor plumbing.

Once a fire was going, most of us emerged, ready for dinner.

That night, I was given a fire and the camaraderie of a lot of wonderful people who had felt a lot of the same things I’d been feeling during the past three days.
Thanks to the generosity of those backpackers, I had a nice headband made from a sleeve to keep my head warm and my hair back, I had stream water filtered for me, after I ran out, and later, something to boil that water, when I needed food.

The next morning, we were shuttled back to the camp ground.  I took a shower while the others packed.  We stopped off at an adorable motel/restaurant, called 4-U.  They offered tasty made-to-order home cooked meals (crucial for vegetarians and vegans trying to survive the wilds of West Virginia).  The staff, composed of what seemed to be a hardworking WV family, passionate about running a motel/restaurant and home cooking.  They literally ran from table to table, like maniacs, to serve the 40-something people that our group provided.

For the journey home, I laid down in the backseat of the car and leaned up against a pillow.  I fell asleep looking at a clear blue sky, white puffy clouds and mountain tops passing through my view.