August 27, 2016
I’ve cut back my hiking since the Long Trail by design. In large part because it was a huge sacrifice for my wife to watch a 10 year old and 9 month old baby while I was gallivanting in the woods, and I naturally what to spend time more time with them.
On a sunny Saturday, I couldn’t resist the trail. Ramona had a friend sleep over so we loaded up the car and all 5 of us drove to the Winding Stairs. This is not the Winding Stair Gap outside of Franklin off the A.T., but the gap on the Bartram Trail past the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
This is considered the northern most terminus of the 111 mile Bartram. The trail is known for its solitude, and true to form we saw nary a soul all day. From the Nantahala River the trail immediately follows a series of steep switchbacks up the first mountain, terrain filled with oaks and pine trees. Spider webs were plentiful, I doubt anyone had been on the trail for days.
After the first ridge, the foliage changes from the hot pine-needled forest to moss and rhododendrons. Emily and I will routinely share the duties of carrying Alice, so after 2 miles Emily wanted to carry her. As we started hiking again, I felt a sharp pain in my hand, akin to a penny nail being driven into the skin. I starting waving it, to shake off whatever was there. When I lifted my hand up, there was a giant stinger stuck in my thumb.
To the best of my knowledge I am not allergic to wasps. The immediate area around the thumb was throbbing, but the hand was not swelling. Our goal was only a mile ahead, so we decided to push on to Bartram Falls.
While the last mile is fairly uphill, there is the added bonus of hiking beside Ledbetter Creek. The air was cooler and reviving on a humid day in the mid 80’s.
A half mile before the falls the girls were overheated, so Emily decided to watch them, while I pushed up to the falls.
Bartram Falls aren’t the most impressive, but there is a quiet beauty to them.
The return trip was nice, but all of a sudden my left leg started to throb. While I was on the Long Trail, I didn’t have many health problems, other than 2 days where my Achilles hurt. Since returning to my desk job, my hamstring has periodically given me real problems.
When we got back to the house, my hand really started to swell, not only the thumb, but the entire hand. I noticed that slowly the venom was working its way down my limb. By nightfall it looked like a balloon. We called my mother-in-law, who is a retired ER nurse. She told me to take Benadryl and ice it. When I woke up this morning it literally looked like an Andre The Giant hand (pictured below). Emily said I had to go the doctor.
I’ve never been a fan of the doctor’s office. I hardly get sick, so it works out for this fear. I mean, I’ve only had one cold in the past 4 years. The receptionist asked what was wrong I showed her my right hand as compared to my left hand. “Oh”, she responded. “The doctor will be with you in a moment.”
Luckily, this was not as a severe a reaction as I had thought. The Dr. And RN were super cool and told me stories of the worst of the reactions they had seen. They put me on a series of steroids to get the swelling down.
It’s funny how a little day hike can be more challenging than a 272 mile one.
Total mileage is 6 miles.