As has been a trend lately, all of this happened several months ago. I was just too traumatized to post about it immediately following the event. This is how I remember hiking through a monsoon in the mountains on my period.
It all started with me trying to calm down. I probably would have been a bit calmer had I actually trained the way I know I should have trained but, you know, there were like lots of tacos to be had and bachelorette weekends to attend and weddings at which to get sunburned. All of this is poor planning and preparation on my part. I own it so now it's time for me to tell you what happened in the woods.
Like I was saying, I was trying to calm down because everyone kept telling me that this particular Ultimate Hike, the first "Alumni" hike, meaning that if you had already participated in an Ultimate Hike, you could now sign up to hike 25.1 miles on a different stretch of the Foothills Trail and then hike up an 1,100-foot elevation gain over the last two miles to get to the finish. Which had sounded quite sadistic to me from the very start. I am really, really bad at estimating distances, but that sounds just horrible. In fact, I was at Kings Dominion and as we were taking the elevator up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I made a comment that I wish the stairs were open to the public because that would be some good training for the hike because it's like REALLY high up there. Then we got to the top and the operator said, "You are now 275 feet in the air." Then I just died a little inside.
So you can see why I was trying to calm down. Because I had done some lazy half-ass training and just basically eaten lots of tacos. It wasn't looking good for me. At the hotel, I popped open a beer and some Cheetos, but the only Cheetos available were extra-spicy ones, and this just led to heartburn which was NOT CALMING ME DOWN.
Then I started sniffing soap. Because that's what I do when I get stressed out. I usually do it in private, like in the shower, or at parties when there is soap available and everyone else has had enough to drink that they won't remember I was at the dining table sniffing soap the night before. I was stressed because I wasn't prepared, I was stressed because there was a 100% chance of rain, I was stressed because I would be on a mountain top with metal hiking poles during a thunderstorm, I was stressed because I was on my period, and I was stressed that everyone was telling me everything was going to be okay.
Everything was not going to be okay. I really can't stand it when people tell you that because they don't what else to say. Friends told me that when Eve had some mysterious lump we had to go get checked out. People are often wrong and it is more appropriate for them to say, "I hear what you are saying and can imagine what you must be feeling. I hope it won't be as bad as you think. Let's go get a taco together." But they don't have to say it quite so eloquently. It could just be a quick That sucks. Wanna get tacos?
We were up so early the next morning that this is what it looked like with the flash:
You see all that? All that nothingness? That was what I had inside of me. Until I called shotgun in the van and found out that someone had left a Kidz Bop CD in the dash. And it was a good one, not like Kidz Bop 24. I'm pretty sure I was the only one singing along and sniffing soap to Kidz Bop 20 at three in the morning. Everyone else seemed kind of not into it but I was on my period, dammit, and the soap sniffing only gets you so calm.
After at least one whole listening of Kidz Bop, we were forced to leave the van and head to a boat that would be taking us to the trailhead. There was a full moon, which I believe also stirred up some extra crazy in me so I made sure to bring along the soap. The boat ride across Lake Jocassee lasted about an hour and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes dark boat rides at 4 a.m.
It was so dark that the emergency guys who were with us let us look through the night vision goggles. It instantly made me want to own a pair of night vision goggles and an invisibility cloak. I'd solemnly swear that I'd be up to no good all the live-long day.
You see that? That's a boat that is taking on water. There are too many people in the front.
I asked to get my knees taped before we started so midway on the boat ride, it was my turn to move to the back and get fixed up. After I was done and stood up to move back to my seat, I heard, "No, you stay here. We need the weight."
There is not enough soap in the world.
I was very sad to leave the boat because someone told me the first thing you do after hitting the trail was to tackle something called "Heart Attack Hill." Nothing ever in the history of the universe has been affectionately named "Heart Attack Hill." It's more like accurately named. I am only smiling because someone said to say cheese and cheese makes me think of nachos and nachos make me happy. I don't know why the rest of them were smiling. I don't like the thought of hills and heart attacks paired together.
I have this thing where I can't breathe sometimes when I work out so I decided it was time to refill my inhaler prescription. All the cool people puff. All both of us. The rest of them were pretty much in shape.
Then we were off. Heart Attack Hill was one of those stretches where everyone was quiet. It wasn't until everyone began pausing with their hands on their knees that you knew the reason they were quiet. It was kind of like trying to carry on a conversation while you are in labor but with more sweat and less sedation.
In fact, this was a pose that we would assume on and off again in between the times that we were hiking, peeing, and wheezing. Here we are neither hiking or peeing but wheezing and cheesing. We were just happy to be alive. It felt touch and go there for a bit.
There were bridges, which are fine because they usually are flat.
And rushing water, which I presume would carry a dead hiker pretty far.
And suspension bridges, which would swing wildly back and forth because you would make this happen on purpose because you like to see the person in front of you break into a fast trot.
And of course if you swung them too wildly, more water to carry their dead hiker body away.
And more bridges. Nice, flat bridges.
At least they hid the stairs from the nice, flat bridge so your trip over wasn't filled with disappointment.
Because there was a lot of this.
And even more of this.
And I'm quite surprised that people didn't die. But Lake Jocassee was pretty enough, although it may have appeared even more beautiful since I was admiring it on a 30-yard stretch of flat land.
For some reason, I came upon a bench that warranted posing like this on it. Unbeknownst to me, my friend had just done this while I was climbing this bitch of a hill to get to it. We're the same level of kickassiness. As in, under-prepared, slightly asthmatic, and really, really sweaty.
Here we are with directions to stop posing all sexy-like. We were too hot for that bench. This would be the last group picture of us before we started dropping like flies.
It was kind of like The Hunger Games except we didn't have to be killed to not finish the hike, we just had to get back to the boat and be like, no thanks, drive me to the finish! But other than that, it was just like The Hunger Games. We had to pee in the woods, like, A LOT.
And there was also lots of limbo, just like The Hunger Games. There are loads of deleted scenes just of Katniss and Peeta peeing and doing the limbo.
Of course, it started raining a couple of hours in because THERE WAS A ONE HUNDRED PERCENT CHANCE OF RAIN. And every time I got to an aid station, I would have to get re-taped because between the rain and the obscene amount of sweat my body was producing, the KT tape wouldn't stay on. This is the same tape I have seen on Olympic divers. That's how much sweat and rain was out there.
But surprising as it may be, I did not melt in the rain. Which really shouldn't be surprising at all because I'm not green and I don't fly on a broom. Believe me, if I had a flying broom, this hike would have been a lot easier. Turns out I'm just a plain old foul-mouthed hiker.
It was nice that there were pickles-dipped-in-nacho-cheese-rolled-in-crushed-Doritos because inhaling them slowed the stream of curses coming from my mouth considerably.
I'm fairly sure this is the last picture I have because the rain soon turned into the mountain monsoon. No one thought to bring their underwater cameras. But it was hard to see, especially because makeup was running into my eyes. I looked like a water-boarded hooker.
Sorry, no water-boarded hooker pics were taken to verify this, but the people on the trail with me didn't say anything to the contrary. Because those are my very best friends out there.
I'd like to say I was taking in the breath-taking scenery but rather it was still the scenery that was taking my breath away. As in, I didn't magically get in shape over the past few hours of this hike. I totally would have taken steroids had they been available at an aid station or from some muscular man's pocket.
I actually didn't feel so bad not being able to breathe anymore when the cramps started kicking in. Not the period cramps which OH YES THEY WILL MAKE AN APPEARANCE HERE SHORTLY, but the kind that run down your legs and into your feet. The really mean ones that jump from muscle to muscle so no matter how you stretch, you are still saying really bad words. 3 bananas and 4 liters of Gatorade later, all I had were banana burps and blue teeth. Oh, and the leg cramps. The gosh darn leg cramps. Which may or may not have been what I referred to them on the trail. It wasn't, by the way.
At this point on the trail, none of the spouses were together so us women proceeded to tell the men exactly what they should do to be better husbands. It was a mildly distracting hour in the never-ending leg cramp saga but what all men should take away from the event is that they are always wrong and if they aren't always wrong, they would be wrong to say so. It's not about the nail.
My stomach started hurting incredibly bad thanks to that tramp Aunt Flo, so I made a joke at an aid station to our friend who takes so much pleasure in pooping in the woods that I would, in fact, need to be leaving a trace. His first reaction was to try to give me the world's most enthusiastic high-five. I imagine this level of excitement at Whole Foods when someone decides to give up gluten. Of course I would not be pooping in the woods, I said. That is gross, I said. Never, I said.
Then two hours later, my stomach was so swollen, it looked like my water might break at any second. Which would have gone unnoticed in the monsoon. My stomach hurt. My legs hurt. My soul hurt.
Me: How exactly do you do it?
The expert: Do what?
Me: How do you poop in the woods?
The expert: Are you serious?!?
Me: Will you teach me?
If I had a waterproof camera, I would have taken a picture of his overjoyed face. He was more excited than I was and I make this declaration without exaggeration.
I changed my mind about ten times during the next mile as to if I would actually go through with this thing. But, we were the last hikers on the trail and I didn't think anyone else would come out in the rain, which I am convinced was so soaking that my internal organs were pruney, so I finally gave in and said I was ready. Mr. Miyagi showed me how to dig a hole with my pole. Daniel-san got stage fright and couldn't go. It's incredibly hard to get over stage fright the first several times you have to pee in the woods; I'd say it took me almost a whole year when I started hiking. Pooping in the woods is an entirely different story. I don't think this needs explaining as I was trying to POOP IN THE WOODS.
You know what else makes pooping in the woods kind of hard? Extreme leg cramping. Squatting down hurts but then you get stuck and then it hurts even more and you have to choose between the poop and the pain but the pain is also coming from the poop and ohmygod what am I supposed to do? So you try your best and you have another friend a few yards away to keep you company while you give her a running commentary of what you are doing and then when the magic happens, you use the biodegradable toilet paper that the expert has given you and then you feel bad because the whole bag is getting soaked in the rain but you make sure you wipe good because he put the fear of swamp ass in your mind and then you cover it up and move on before you feel the need to stop and do this again an hour later.
This is how much I hate kids' cancer.
At least with the monsoon, you kind of have a bidet. Ohhh, I went there. Actually between all the number ones and all the number twos, I kind of went lots of places.
The two of us girls who were left had never bothered to put on rain gear. Sometimes you get just as wet if you are sweating inside a rain jacket as if you were just hiking through the rain. But when you stop, you will quickly get cold. Which is why we tried not to stop. Except to pee and poop and change tampons and all that jazz. If you hike with me, you can rest assured that I will be carrying trash bags, hand sanitizer, and disposable gloves. I've officially done about everything that can be done in the woods and I am always quick to make sure my hands are clean. Side note: it wasn't until this writing that I have realized how many times I have accepted food from men who I've known to have gone the easy pee in the woods. And what that means had just touched their hands. And now I'm thinking that is even worse than pooping in the woods. Ugh. Must bring more sanitizer to account for the whole Donner party.
Us girls were splashing in the puddles. The boys were covered head to toe in rain gear and gingerly tip-toeing around them as if there were a liberal's chance on Fox they weren't going to get their feet soaked. This game went on for a long time before someone tried to pee and the seal was breached and then slowly, men started joining us in what I like to call the "I don't give a bad word how wet I am" death march toward the finish.
By the time we got to the last bail out point, I was debating whether I should finish the last two miles or hike a mile out of the woods that would not encompass an 1,100 foot elevation gain. There were five of us left. My girlfriend was ready to be done. I very much wanted to finish the hike but knew that there was not enough daylight left at the pace I was going. I have the night vision of a very elderly gentleman who has had botched cataract surgery. I went back and forth on the matter but ultimately knew that I would have to take a few more poop pauses if I went on and didn't want to slow down my friends. I hiked the mile out before stripping completely naked behind a van and changing into dry clothes. Because I just had pooped in the woods, so I was kind of not caring if a vehicle came around the bend and saw me. They'd just be like, oh, look at that poor, drenched, pregnant girl. But I totally did moon someone with my pruney-white ass as I was getting my comfy pants on. And they're totally welcome.
Getting my shoes off was even more painful than pooping, because I don't know if you've ever tried to remove double-knotted hiking shoes when you have severe leg cramps but good gosh darn. That's why I called a friend over to remove my muddy shoes and socks because that's what friends are for. To do disgusting things for you that you'd have to be drinking a lot of tequila to do for them in return.
And then I drank tequila and went to bed. I have never been to bed so early after a hike but I think this one kicked my ass in ways that no ass has ever been kicked. In fact, on the way home, we stopped at an Indian buffet and I only got one plate. ONE PLATE. At an Indian buffet. Can you imagine? I was too tired to eat.
But wouldn't you be tired after this?
Here we are, on the way back, in a position that I would stay in [with my eyes closed and mouth hanging open and most likely drooling] until we got back to my house where Matt was waiting for me.
Matt: How was it?
Me: I pooped in the woods.
Matt: Alright! [engages in world's second most enthusiastic high-five]