I wake in the morning and it seems like my nausea has passed. Should I hike? I wonder. I have messages from Mark saying he knows exactly where I am and can come and get me. Okay, I think. Come and get me.
I get up to move my tent to the shade and am instantly glad I didn’t try to hike – my skin is tender to the touch and I’m pretty sure I still have a fever. It hurts to move. So for most of the day I sleep. Another hiker, Whoopie, had been puking at camp all night. He asks if he can get a ride too. Of course, I say. Later, another hiker who’d passed by us, Harvest, hiked back to us – 6 miles forward, 6 miles back – because she could feel herself getting sick. Can I get a ride? she says. Of course, of course.
So we lay there all day. Around 2 pm, Mark texts me: his car has broken down. He has to get a tow, and a rental. He’ll be a few hours later. Fine fine, I think. Sleep sleep.
At six, he texts: I’ll be there at 7:30. I let the others know. I pack up my things and we head over to the road.
When we reach the road I get a feeling of dread. What if he can’t make it here? He should have called a ranger. He’s not going to make it. He’s not going to make it. I try to quiet my brain. But 7:30 comes and goes. And 8:30. I walk up and down the dirt road hoping for headlights. I don’t see any.
At 8:45 I say we should set up our tents and we do. Harvest is too sick to do much so she continues to lay on her pad with her sleeping bag, cowboy camping. I send Mark a message – we’ll figure it out tomorrow. There are other dirt roads. I should be able to hike tomorrow. Please let me know you’re OK.
I get a message back: I went to the coordinates and you weren’t there. I’m driving to your last known InReach.
How far out are you? I ask. But he doesn’t respond.
It’s well past dark. I don’t want him on these mountain roads. And, truly – I don’t think he can get to this road. It’s too rough. The only way I’m getting out of here is by hiking. Still, I set my alarm for a half an hour. And then again. And then I shut it off. I have to sleep if I’m going to hike. He tried his hardest but he couldn’t make it.
And then, at 10:30, I wake to a voice: “Colleen.”
It’s Mark, standing outside my tent.
“What…?” I want to cry but I’m too dehydrated so I settle for a half-cry tear-welling kind of sound. I look around. There’s a massive truck in the road. “A truck…?”
“It’s a long story,” he says. “I told you I’d come get you.”
I try to pack while half-crying and then we get in the truck. Here’s what had happened:
Mark went to the place I told him we’d meet originally, the place I would have needed to hike 23 miles to get to. When that didn’t work, he drove around the roads a little looking for me. When that didn’t work, he went back to cell service to message me and pull up my last known location via my InReach, which hadn’t occurred to him to do before. He set off to find me and then came to a gate and drove around the gate. Then he came to another locked gate that seemed impassable. He was yelling, frustrated – he was only 6 miles away. That’s when Bryan approached him: “You know you’re on private property?”
So he told him the story – he’d been driving since 6 am, his car had broken down, he’d gotten a tow, and a rental (and the rental place had told him they were out of cars until the tow truck driver intervened), and he’d been trying to come to find me.
So Bryan showed him to his house and Mark connected Bryan’s iPad to the internet for him (they’d just gotten the internet) and Mark showed him the coordinates of where I was. “Oh,” he said. “I know where that is. But your car is never going to make it there. You need four wheel drive.”
So Bryan and his nephew Dylan drove for six miles up a windy, rutted dirt road in the dark to help Mark come get me and my two sick hiker friends. And then drove us back to Mark’s car, and Mark drove us to our hotel.
Mark said my name outside my tent at 10:30 p.m. We got to the hotel at 1 a.m. Harvest and Whoopie crashed on our floor before figuring out what they’re going to do tomorrow.
We’re spending the weekend near Lake Isabella. Tomorrow (Sunday) is my birthday. I’m not sure where I’ll get back on trail yet, only that I won’t be able to get back on exactly where I got off because the road is too rough. But those are problems to solve for tomorrow’s Colleen. Today I feel I’m around at 85% – my fever seems to have broken but I have a sick-hangover from lack of water and food. I am feeling really grateful to have my husband here, like magic, exactly when I needed him. I am grateful at how quickly and intelligently my body seems to be healing. And I’m happy that I wasn’t alone yesterday, not the only sick girl on the trail, not the only person wanting to me safe and healthy and happy and here.