On Wild and Being the Adultiest Adult

My mom recently started a bookclub, but not just any bookclub.  In this bookclub, we read books that have been made into movies.  We vote on a book, read it at our own pace, and then get together at the end of the month to watch the movie in our comfies.  Layer on top of that the fact that all women's book clubs have wine.  Yes.  Yes to all of it.  I'm free that night.

For the inaugural month of this bombshell idea, the ladies of the club voted on reading "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed.  I had actually already seen the movie in theaters (and liked it), so I was excited to read the book, which is almost always better than the movie.  As I started listening (oh yeah, I now listen to audiobooks while running.  All about that life), something about the memoir irritated me, something that wasn't present in the movie.  It wasn't the series of horrible decisions that the author made that that were both hurtful and destructive...we all f&*^ up at some point.  It was that--strangely--she seemed to take pride in these poor decisions as she relayed them to her audience.  Perhaps this impression came from the inflections/intonations of the reader of the audiobook, but even so, I had trouble seeing Cheryl as the protagonist of her own story.  She was both protagonist and antagonist: someone so deeply hurt, but the one inflicting the hurt and then kind of...boasting (?) about it.  Maybe that's what she was going for.  If so, it was strange.  Not my scene. 

Despite not being totally on board with the overall tone of her memoir, I really liked hearing about the times when, due to elements beyond her control, her hike of the Pacific Crest Trail didn't go as planned.  For me, these sections were relatable; "game changers" happen to all hikers at some point or another, and I found myself nodding with empathy as she told me about hers.

In particular, these parts of the book called to mind a fiasco from this summer, during our annual siblings trip, "BroSis 2.0".  My brothers & I were deep in Zion National Park, hiking the northernmost, permit-controlled stretch of the Virgin River known as "the Narrows" when our game changer slapped us in the face.

Starting Out!

Starting Out!

When considering our options for hiking the Narrows, we all agreed:  We wouldn't follow the crowd, who hiked "bottom-up" until a mandatory turn-around point.  We would obtain the necessary permits to hike the entirety of the Narrows from the top-down, a 16 mile, one-day affair.  Described as "a LONG day", "strenuous-but-doable", and "16 miles that feel like 26", we were giddy with excitement.  This was the kind of adventure we loved!

Since the park shuttle did not support transportation to trailhead for those hiking top-down, we hired a local shuttle company. At dawn, our hired shuttle dropped us off at the trailhead and left.  We had put in about three miles when Marc, a few paces ahead of me, rolled up his sleeve and muttered "ohhhhh no."  

I caught up with him, grabbed his arm to take a look, and my stomach sank.  My poor brother was having an allergic reaction.  He had been bitten by some sort of insect and the ~15 bites had swollen to the size of golf balls.  A rash of hives was beginning to spread away from the bites, over most of his upper body.  I rifled through my first aid, praying I had remembered to put an antihistamine in there.  I had only a Benadryl cream, which we applied to the bites. 

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You know that moment when your first instinct is to look around for an adult, and then you realize that YOU are the adult?  Yeah.  That moment sucks.  I quickly ran through the options: we could go back to the trailhead, but nothing and no one would be there.  The van had left.  Even if we did turn around and go back, we still had to hike over 16 miles to our car, which was parked and ready at the southern trailhead.  We had no choice.  The quickest way out was through......a grueling 13 miles through.  "Tell me if you begin to have trouble swallowing or if you feel dizzy," I told Marc.  Marc and I caught up with Michael, filled him in, and agreed to double time the rest of the hike.

Picking up the pace was easier said than done.  When  hiking the Narrows, you don't just hike along the Virgin River...you hike IN IT.  Footing is uneven and slippery as you make your way along the shallow riverbed.  As a result of our frenzied speed and a poor choice in footwear (What I thought would be appropriate wasn't, see bottom for "Lessons Learned"), I sprained both of my ankles over the course of the next 13 miles.  

Somehow, despite the panic, and the alien bites and the two swollen ankles, we did it, and in record time.  Once we arrived at our rental car (which we had left near the southern trailhead) it was getting late. There was a pharmacy and clinic in Springdale, the town at the entrance of Zion National Park, but it was a Sunday night so everything was closed.  The nearest 24-hour pharmacy and ER were an hour away.  We started toward the pharmacy and called Dr. Dad.  After listening to Marc's symptoms, which had gotten worse, he called in a prescription for him. 

By the time we got Marc his meds and the swelling went down, it was late and we were exhausted.  Having eaten nothing but jerky and trail mix that day, we were also famished.  All of the restaurants in the area were closed, except for the In-N-Out, whose neon sign shown like a beacon of hope and grease.  As I ordered, I mentioned that this was the first time we had been to In-N-Out, something that the staff did not take lightly.  When we pulled around to the window to pick up our food, they supplied us with extra fries, hats, and stickers.  It was as if they knew everything we had been through that day!

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What happened that day made for a good story, but in all reality, we were not adequately prepared to handle what happened to Marc.  Things turned out ok, but I've definitely noted a few "Lessons Learned":

  1. First Aid: I will forevermore have an oral antihistamine in my pack.  We're still trying to determine why Marc had such a severe reaction, but we will also carry any other preventative or arresting epi pen/medicine that the Doctor recommends.
  2. Footwear: If you're going to hike the full Narrows like we did, sturdy hiking sandals are NOT enough.  The 16 miles of uneven footing will not feel good, you need ankle support. Several outfitters have rental equipment in varying packages and at varying prices.  A lot of them sell water socks as well, in case you're going at a time when the water is colder.
  3. Hiking Poles:  My brothers didn't need them, but I would have liked to have had them.  This is the second time I've said this.  I need to just buck up and go buy myself the poles.
  4. In-N-Out is out-of-control good. #fanforlife