I woke up a little sore the next day, sleeping in a less comfortable position in my front seat as I hadn't set up my air mattress the night before. I quickly left that campsite and headed back to Zion for a 2nd day of adventure and beauty. I knew I was going to do the Observation Point hike. An 8 mile path, although not as treacherous as Angel's Landing, it's arguably more grueling as it climbs 500 ft higher and 3 miles longer. The view offered at the end captures the whole canyon however, and that's what I wanted to see.
I brought my headphones with me this time and turned on my shuffled playlist. As I began the hike, a few classical songs from Chopin, Mozart, and Debussy played and I realized that beautiful high altitude hiking is my favorite way to listen to classical music. The instrumentation complimented the scenery and less pronounced beat was better for hiking.
Though at this point their bodies were reminding them of their limitations but that didn't stop them. After a few chipper motivational comments I joined their group for the remainder of the hike!
Hiking with a group was a nice change of pace, especially with the home state similarity there was more in common to discuss. The Hike up was a bit grueling, but there were beautiful vantages scattered throughout. It wasn't quite as exciting as the Angel's Landing hike because most of the observation point hike involved following the ridge line on larger pathways around the basin below, instead of practically scaling a rock formation with narrow and at times undefined trails as with Angel's Landing.
The forcast for the morning was beautiful, but the afternoon was almost guaranteed rain. Throughout the hike we were trying to race the storm as we would hear distant thunder from time to time. Thankfully it didn't start raining until after we had completed the entire hike.
We finally reached the top around 2pm. I pulled out my tuna and crackers and enjoyed the view. A number of other groups were also at the top and I ended up taking photos for a couple of them. We exchanged emails for sending my higher res photos from my T3i. Our MN group took some different photos, silly and serious, and then around 2:30 made our way back down the path, noticing the simpler to hike downgrade almost immediately.
Then I noticed my sinuses overproducing and thought "good old seasonal allergies, I wondered when I would face them on this trip" and after that thought nothing of it. After another 15 minutes I felt my throat tighten, my stomach became uneasy, and my ears would not pop for anything. This was starting to become a pretty significant hinderance to my hiking stride and I started falling behind the pack.
I began considering why my body would have these reactions. Had I overworked myself the last few days? was I suffering from heat exhaustion or a combination of seasonal allergies or a cold from being out late the night before? I asked the group to take a break and I downed a bunch of water while we took a break.
I was so confused as to why this all would happen out of nowhere. My head started to feel cloudy but I kept pace with the group and made it to the bottom about 4:30pm. We then waited for the bus to come take us to the visitor center and noticed a rescue operations starting to unfold as someone apparently had gotten stuck off the trail. I wasn't able to see where everyone was talking about but at that point my mind was 100% regardless.
The bus ride was packed but bearable. I itched my face and noticed it felt tender and like the nerves were inflamed. I figured it was a combination of sweat, sunscreen, and whatever I was coming down with so I would need to wash my face as soon as I got back to my car.
We exited the bus and I bid them farewell. Thanking them for sharing the hike and wishing them well as they went to get rest they direly needed.
I grabbed a cloth and soap from my car, leaving my backpack and most of my things in the car because I was going to be coming right back in a few minutes anyway...yea...
I got to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. My face was slightly swollen and I noticed red rashes at the base of my wrist and my inner elbow. Then I lifted my shift and saw what was happening. I had severe hives on and around my waist, back, armpits, crotch...basically everywhere I wasn't looking before. Finally recognizing this as being a bit more than normal allergic reaction, I decided I should ask the information desk if they have any on staff medical personal. I waited in line maybe 10 minutes while the woman behind the desk helped answer an older couples question, then apologized when I got up there. I said "I think i'm having an allergic reaction, do you have somewhere I can go for medical concerns?" and lifted my shirt a little to show the coverage of hives.
Her eyes got big and she grabbed a phone and said "I'm going to get someone for you" as she looked a little like facing a emergency situation she wasn't prepared for. I thought maybe she was just new, thanked her, and sat down across from the desk.
Within a few minutes I heard sirens. Then another set of sirens. All I could think was "ugh, its not that bad..."
Then one, two, three, four, and five first responders arrived! Within a couple minutes I explained what I thought could have happened and relayed all my symptoms while they grabbed vitals. They had me remove my shirt and informed me I was having a severe allergic reaction and the nearest ER was an hour away in St. George, UT. They asked if I thought I needed an ambulance, and I said I wasn't sure, and then Tim (who had taken the lead) said he normally doesn't suggest people take the ambulance ride, but in this case (without knowing exactly what stung me) my symptoms could worsen at any moment and potentially incapacitate me. He also mentioned there were shuttles that went back and forth from St. George if I need a ride.
Still in a bit of shock/unclear thinking I said that yes maybe they should and next thing I know there was a stretcher and I was off! My phone was low on battery and I wasn't quite thinking so I didn't get any photos of my severe symptoms.
My first ambulance ride was rather pleasant. The worst part of this whole situation was honestly having an IV line in my arm (I hate those things, and needles in general). I got to chat with Tim the whole drive. He's technically a ranger for the park, a police officer for the park (As it being federal they require their own police officers), and recently the medic as he has been at Zion for 15 years! He mentioned he had been leading the rescue mission before he got the call about me and I apologized for taking him away from the action. He laughed and said ti happens twice a day during the busy season and since he's in charge he just sits behind a computer so he was glad to hand it off and accompany me!
We had intelligent and interesting conversation the whole way. I learned about what Tim does in his current role and about the parks in general. Tim also worked at Yellowstone for 15 years prior to Zion so he has seen his fair share of parks (He also admitted he enjoyed Zion more!).
We arrived at the ER and I was carted in, was given a chance to pee, and waited to hear what the docs would say. Since my condition had stabilized after taking Benadryl during the ambulance ride, they simply IV'd me some Pectin and Prednisone which after half an hour cleared everything up. Without knowing what exactly got me, there wasn't much else that could be done.
I was discharged and found out the buses had just stopped running for the night.
Frustrated and with 10% phone battery remaining, I texted Nate and the MN gang to see if there was any hope of them rescuing me, mostly expecting to pay a cab a ridiculous amount of money to drive me back to Zion.
Miraculously they were already out and about and agreed to come get my all the way in St. George. I was so gracious and humbled that they were willing to go out of their way, exhausted after a full day of rigorous hiking, to take the time to retrieve me from an hour away. I told them I owed them a few rounds back in MN, and thanked them numerous times.
All and all, I made it back by 9:30pm. And since I had aquired the nighttime parking permit, I decided "ah what the hell, might as well make the rest of the day worth the ordeal." So I drove around the park at night (though not as nice a night as the day prior) and took photos and did my best to relax.
I ended up driving right back to the same place I had slept the night before, and like the night before, simply leaned my seat back, and passed out.
I had a couple notable sensations throughout the day admits the rest of the excitement. First, as I took the bus ride up to the Observation Point trailhead that morning. I felt like William Dafoe in the movie Boondock Saints where he plays a detective who uses classical music while investigating crime scenes to help him focus. Probably just a side effect of the classical music my ipod had decided to shuffle my way, but it put my in a strangely bouncy mood!
Second, after everything was done at the ER and I was awaiting my Minnesota heroes to arrive, I considered that, had I stayed home and not gone on this trip, none of that day would have happened. The good or the not so good. And that gave me a sense of acceptance for whatever ER bill I would be receiving. Because taking adventures and breaking routine has risks. Routines are easy to plan and prepare for. Although I strive to prepare for most situations (My Eagle Scout Blood), sometimes you can't be, and thats the risk of adventure, thrill, and experiences. This ironically tied into the end of Neverwhere and I continued to ponder that within context as I drove to my campsite that night.