The smell permeated the woods, every breath becoming an exploration into a world of flavor. Each breath inhaling particles that once interpreted and understood by the brain caused a chain reaction. First, a tickle in the throat that turned into uncontrollable gagging. Then a shiver that trembled through our body as the wrongness of the situation was felt in every pore. Third, a clammy sweat that broke out across our skin. Then the final piece, as the brain knew now for a fact it was smelling rancid hot dog meat brought about a deep desire to eat a few combined with the instinctual knowledge that if we did, problems lay ahead. What do you do when everything you know and love has betrayed you? When what once was comfort, joy and happiness contained within a tubular piece of meat, becomes your own death and destruction?
, The moment of truth!
If you take a look at Magpie's face you will see already the decision was questionable at best.
If it was not hinted at strongly enough, let us go ahead and directly and heavily recommend against packing out hot dogs. Well, at least hot dogs during summer, that have sat in your pack for 180~ miles. We would and have packed out hot dogs to consume the first day or two on a section, which is already itself somewhat questionable when eaten without cooking, but in no reality should you ever push the limits. Well, it ultimately is your choice, but let us take you upon a little story that may or may not help your decision next time you glance upon the hot dogs in the grocery aisle and think fondly to bring them along on your backpacking trip.
It was summer. Late May creeping into early June. My partner and I had an aggressive itinerary ahead for our next week or so. We were on our NCT thru-hike and needed to make up some miles after going slower than anticipated while in New York. These thoughts rumbled around my brain as we began shopping for our next food carry that would last for about 6-7 days. What could I carry that would be compact, dense in calories, dense in shape, and bring me a lunch-time pick me up mentally and physically. As I wandered down the refrigerated meat aisle, my eyes fell upon the rows upon rows of hot dogs. In that split second my brain knew instinctually to keep going and in fact carried my bodies momentum past the hot dogs, desperately trying to break the gravitational pull that I could feel heavier and heavier every second. A step or two past, and I paused, again using a split second to have an internal argument with my instincts, and being the stubborn person I am, refusing to budge, so as my body swung around and once again faced my destiny, I had won the argument. As my hand clasped around a pack of 12 circular meat tubes of happiness, I felt joy, yet a deeper and animalistic place in me echoed with dread... Won is a funny word, we would ultimately find out I lost, not only lost, but spectacularly failed.
The first day hiking into Pennsylvania was glorious. Emotions were bountiful and feelings were running high crossing into our next state. Finding a wonderful log to place our own bountiful backside upon, we quickly and efficiently assembled together a sandwich. Yes, a hot dog is a sandwich! Cheese, tortilla, hot sauce, and then the piece that really brought it all together, the hot dog. As we pulled the meat sack out of our lunch bag, it had been close to 48~ hours since we purchased them, and while they didn't contain the shine they once did, they still looked "edible." Anything becomes edible when you are hungry enough, so as we opened the package, breaking the seal, a smell permeated into the woods, breaking the serene and peaceful setting. We should have known then as the air crackled as if spiderwebbed glass, that if an item of food could cause such a shift in the very essence of the woods themselves, what destruction could it possibly wreak upon a singular body. Yet, our joy overrode our instincts and we slapped the slimy hot dog into its blanket of cheese and tortilla, plugged our nose, and happily chowed down.
The face of someone who not yet knows what is to come...
In all honesty, we do not believe this is where the mistakes were made. Our stomach felt as it usually does after lunch, tight and a little queasy, but that is every lunch we eat on trail. With the high output of miles we tend to do, eating is more so obligatory than chosen. We know we have to fuel our bodies, and it makes us more sluggish immediately afterwards, but in the long run we know it is energy. So, the initial hot dog, was consumed as any lunch is, quickly, efficiently, and without much thought.
Another day or two went by, and we had believed at this point we would have mowed through many if not all of our hot dogs. Yet, due to many factors, such as limited hunger, acclimation to high mile days, and many snacks eaten, the hot dogs remained untouched in our bag. Until, either the 3rd or 4th day in the section, when we once again excitedly remembered we had those beautiful cylindrical meat collages. Looking back, this is where the mistakes were made.
The first tell tale sign that we were on a journey to pain, was the consistency of the meat bag we still carried with us. As we extracted it from our lunch bag, the juices were yellow, overflowing, and had a consistency not unlike Jell-O. That combined with the smell when we cracked the seal, should have sent us running. If you have yet to smell 4 day old unrefrigerated hot dogs, count yourself successful in this life, count yourself lucky, count yourself sane. It was pungent, sweet, sickly, aromatic, and rotten all rolled into one. Well, you know how the phrase goes right? Hikers hike... but an unspoken one right alongside this is, hikers eat. So, we ate.
The queasiness after the initial consumption, was again normal, a queasiness to be expected when fueling on hard mile days. Yet, after the initial 5 minutes, a new story started to unfold. Indigestion, burps, and bodily noises and fragrances that wreaked havoc upon my body and my partners olfactory senses. My body was not comfortable with what it had just ingested, but it also wasn't extreme levels of discomfort... at least not yet.
Packing up lunch we resumed our daily tread up and over the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. About 20~ minutes or so into our resumed pace, the skies began to open fully and rain pelted our bodies. Usually I am akin to a cat when it rains, grumpy, upset, and will claw my way up the closest tree for cover. This rain was different, well I should more so say my bodies reaction was different, the rain was just rain. My body however had begun to heat itself like a furnace. Again, not uncommon for an aggressive pace over hills, but the uncommon came in the ever increasing temperature. My bodies heat wasn't capping off, instead it was drastically increasing. Thus began an interesting hour - 2 hours of my life.
Beautiful, isn't it?
The storm was on the inside... with the occasional fear of it becoming on the outside
As the hot dog was processed by my stomach juices it began its journey of destruction throughout my body. A headache was a pleasant effect as the meat juice ran up my spinal column. Extreme fever or heat, honestly I do not know which since it was so extreme and