We planned this to be our longest hike to date at 14.4 miles round trip to Mount Isolation. No doubt the name of this mountain speaks for itself. Notice I said "...planned this to be our longest hike to date..." Unfortunately, we never made it to the summit.
Our planned route used the Rocky Branch Trail for 3.7 miles, then the Isolation Trail for 2.6 miles, then a final .9 mile on the Davis Path plus a short spur to the actual summit. All in all about 7.2 miles one-way. This following map shows our expected route.
All seemed well when we started out just after 8:00 AM. The trailhead sign showed our first leg of 3.7 miles was ahead of us. There would not be an easy warmup today as the Rocky Branch Trail climbs pretty consistently for the first 2 miles or more starting right at the trailhead.
According to my GPS, we made it about 5.2 miles of our planned 7.2 miles before deciding to bag the remainder of the trip. A mere 10.4 mile walk in the woods with nary a view. The image below is our actual movement as logged by my GPS and overlayed in Google Earth. Mt Isolation was so close yet so far. It may as well have been 200 miles away as opposed to the 2 miles that it was.
So what happened? At about the 5 mile mark I suddenly began to have significant cramps in my quadriceps. I rested for a time and began drinking water profusely. I was soon to learn that it was too little, too late -- or was it too much, too late?
I also tried to fuel by eating but I was nearly choking to get things down. Food was the last thing on my mind. I had no appetite and swallowing was difficult. My cramping eventually subsided a little so we again began to press on towards Mount Isolation.
At best we covered another 1/4 mile and all of a sudden my quads effectively locked up. The cramping was constant and very painful. No position, whether sitting, lying down or standing seemed to be comfortable. It was clear after about 15 minutes that I was not going to make it to the summit. I tried to convince my wife to continue on her own. I suggested that I would slowly make my way back to the river to cool down and get water and that I would wait there for her. Being concerned about my condition she was not, under any circumstances, going to leave me alone. Bless her soul!
We waited a bit longer, I choked down some minimal amounts of food and I kept drinking water. I finally felt able to walk but the cramping continued. Though I was able to keep moving, it was at a slow pace.
At the second crossing of the Rocky Branch River on our return we stopped so I could filter more water. By that point I had consumed 4 liters of water and two bottles of Gatorade. I felt sluggish and still did not feel like eating. We rested for a time while I filtered 4 more liters of water (thank goodness I brought my Katadyn filter which I occasionally leave behind to conserve weight). I did manage to take one photo of Sue while we rested.
From this point we had 3.7 miles remaining to get back to the car. A short time after restarting our descent I perked up a little and kept a reasonable pace. Then with about 1.5 miles to go I hit the wall yet again and slowed to a snail's pace.
By the time we reached the car it had taken us 4.5 hours to cover 5.2 miles - downhill no less! Over that distance and time I had consumed yet another 3.5 liters of water. We survived though.
Thankfully Sue offered to drive (I always drive). On the road my leg cramps continued intermittently though they were less severe and kept diminishing. My stomach however also began cramping and I was very nauseous. About an hour into our drive I suddenly began scrambling for a plastic bag into which I quickly deposited 2-3 liters of water. It was not pleasant.
So it seems I had become severely dehydrated and then in my zest to drink water I became overhydrated. I had no idea the latter ailment was possible but apparently it is. A nurse friend of ours lectured me about it later that week. It would appear that my electrolytes were so low that my system was not absorbing my water intake properly.
After doing some research later that week I decided that I needed to begin to carry an electrolyte supplement. This is the second or third time in 2014 that I've become dehydrated, though this time it was much worse, so I knew I needed to take action. I settled on trying Nuun tablets in my water to add electrolytes. See my upcoming post for Mt Greylock to see how I fared using these supplements (it was good news).