Location: Frye Notch
I left Andover with a full pack today. I had expected to reach Baldpate Mountain lean-to across the open ridgeline of the mountain, but I only reached Frye Notch. I felt sick for most of the morning because of a hangover from the night before with Sean Boyle and his sons. I dragged along for five miles until I reached the lean-to. Ketchup, Heavy Foot, and Fisherman Tom were taking a zero day. For the last month, I’ve been reading Tom’s entries in the registers. I felt like I had already known him when I first met him today. I caught up to him because he has seriously sprained his ankle. He doesn’t think that he’ll be forced off the trail, but the ankle has already kept him at the lean-to for three days. Ketchup and Heavy Foot have decided to take six days to hike to Gorham because their mail drop will be getting to the post office late.
Also, when I reached the lean-to, a family that I had seen yesterday was camped at the tent sites. One of the young sons had drunk bad water and become violently ill. Starting at midnight, he began vomiting, hour after hour. This afternoon he took a fever. The father hiked to the road and made a 911 call as soon as he got cell phone reception. I decided to stay at the lean-to although I had only hiked 4.5 miles. I wanted to make sure that the situation was resolved.
After a couple hours, the daughter came down to tell us that the father had returned and told them that the wilderness rescue squad was being dispatched. Several hours later, the first of the medics arrived. In the next hour or two, a dozen volunteers arrived. I caught a glimpse of the sick boy when the medics rolled him over so that his back was on the ground. He looked as though Death already had a hand on him. He was pale and bony. He had little color in his lips and eyes. His mouth hung open just a bit. The medics gave him an IV and a hose to an oxygen tank.
When a deputy and a game warden arrived, they called a meeting. They asked for volunteers to carry the boy out on a stretcher. Heavy Foot, Ketchup, and I all raised our hands and were included in the count. Apparently it would take 30 people to carry him in shifts over the 4.5 miles of rugged terrain. I filled my water bottle, gathered a few snacks, and borrowed a headlamp from Fisherman Tom. I really got excited about the prospect of carrying him out. I waited on the outskirts of the crowd with the boy’s sister, waiting for the call for the volunteers. Soon the call came, but the deputy announced that the boy would continue to take fluids throughout the night and then they would decide whether or not to carry him out of the forest. They also decided that it would be safer to carry him out with plenty of daylight.
The volunteers needed tents. I set up my tent at the campsite for two of the medics. Every available tent was erected in a small tent site. The outer walls of every tent touched another tent. As the boy looked physically healthier after a couple hours of fluids, the mood lightened. Everyone socialized and ate dinner around the tents. The father and mother fed the boy as much as he could keep in his stomach. I heard the helicopter leave the road around dark. I think everyone expects he will be much better after a good night sleep. Most seem to think that he is suffering from heat exhaustion, not bad water or because of the dirty privy (which was disgusting).
I am going to sleep early tonight because we may have to get up at 5:00am to carry the boy.
Just before bed, I began a long conversation with Heavy Foot. I did most of the listening. Heavy Foot, 27, has lived quite a difficult life. At fifteen, he began hitchhiking around the US. From Massachusetts, he hitched to DC, to Pensacola, and to San Francisco, all for Phish or Grateful Dead shows. When he returned home, he had a fight with his mother who filed a restraining order against him. In a desperate situation, he knocked on her door for food and warmth and she called the police. Heavy Foot became the youngest person in the county jail at 17. He spent two weeks in prison. Afterwards, he battled crack, crystal meth, and LSD addictions. Homeless, he lived for two years in the woods. Spring, summer, fall, winter. He built a lean-to and scraped by an existence without working. Since then, he has kicked all drug habits except marijuana. He has come to the trail to discover a productive direction to take his life. He plans to write his life’s story, and his life is quite the book. The anecdotes from the different periods in his life are remarkable.