January 7, 2014
My rescuer Dave and I continue the fairly difficult 1.5 mile climb toward Bull Pasture, an actual pasture which early ranchers used for their cattle. Very soon I begin to struggle. I’m thinking my adrenaline is dropping from the fright of being lost in the desert. I’m quickly out of breath and a little tired. I tell Dave I need to stop and rest a minute, drink a little water, and get my heart rate back to normal. He complies even though we had really only progressed a few paces. We both drink water and chat for a few minutes. I’m feeling much better so we begin again. Immediately I am struggling again. I just feel weak. The trek is difficult but I have hiked much more difficult trails. In September, Stephen and I completed a four-day backpacking trek in the High Sierras of Yosemite. Just a few months ago I hiked to a glacier in Great Basin National Park with my 22-year-old son, Phillip; and kept up with his youthful legs just fine. I tell Dave I don’t think I can make it all the way to Bull Pasture and encourage him to go on without me.
Dave leaves me on the trail and I just sit there trying to decide what to do. I have no energy to return to the trailhead. Plus I am not a quitter. I know better than to push beyond my limits; but this is not above my abilities. I really want to accomplish my goal and sign the book at Bull Pasture. The decision is made for me because suddenly I feel very nauseous. I scramble behind some cactus and proceed to loose my breakfast, picnic snack, and lunch. I tossed all of it. And felt so much better! Yay! It was just nerves caused by being lost, confused, scared, and subsequently rescued! I can continue the trek! I can sign the book and let the world know that Ruthi made it all the way to Bull Pasture in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument! And this time I will stay on the trail and not follow a wash.
With eyes focused on the trail, not on the scenery, I pick up the pace. Maybe if I hurry I can catch Dave. After a while I begin to get a headache. Oh no! Dehydration! That’s what it is! But I have been drinking and drinking and drinking. I refuse to turn back now so I take two Advil and keep going. I continue to drink water thinking my headache will eventually subside. I make it to the spur for the ascent to Bull Pasture and, after a series of steep switchbacks, I arrive to find Dave, a spectacular view of Mount Ajo, and the sign-in book.
A few pics later, we begin the return 2-mile downhill trek to the trailhead and our vehicles. My headache is not getting better, but it is not getting worse. We hike for quite a while before I tell Dave to continue because I want to stop and throw up. He moves down the trail and waits while I toss up the water I have been drinking. He asks if I am ok and I tell him I think I am just dehydrated; although I have been dehydrated once before in Big Bend and the headache was a lot worse. And I have been drinking plenty of water. The entire return trip continued with this routine: Dave moves down trail and waits, I throw up the water I ingested the previous 15 minutes, Dave asks if I’m ok, and I tell him I am dehydrated, I’ll be fine once I get back to camp. This sequence occurs four or five times until we reach the trailhead and our cars. I thank Dave from Oregon for finding me when I was lost in the desert near the Mexican border, listening to my chatter when he wanted to be listening to the sounds of the desert, and babysitting me while I vomited all the way back down the mountain. I inform him he has a friend from Texas for the rest of his life, and get in my car. What should have been a 2-3 hour moderately difficult trek turned into four hours of nauseous humiliation. Stopping twice to throw up during the 11-mile all-gravel drive, I arrive at camp just before sunset, crawl into my tent, and attempt to rehydrate and sleep off the headache. Only things continue to deteriorate.