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The old settlement

To celebrate our first anniversary, my husband and I went to the Greyfield Inn on Cumberland Island. This is a beautiful, historic inn that at one time was part of the Carnegie estate. We planned to bike, kayak, hike and relax the entire weekend. The island is largely public land now, is 18 miles long, and ranges from sand dunes to pine stands to fields of saw grass palms.

Saturday morning we packed a lunch, about a gallon and a half of water and lemonade and set off on our bikes. Our goal was the church JFK, Jr. where JFK, Jr. got married. This tiny chapel, the First African Baptist Church, was, we thought, 7 or 8 miles away.

To condense this long story, the church was more like 14 miles away, through deep sand and rutted roads. We had seriously misjudged this trek. This realization hit me 4 hours later after visiting the chapel and then biking out to the ocean to take the beach back. Not only did the beach route seem shorter, the hard pack would be easier to ride on.

Don’t get me wrong, we had a great time! Biking in the shade, pushing our bikes through sand and seeing wild horses, passing old coquina buildings that were a part of the old settlements peppered across the island. We love that kind of stuff and were in our element.

Chalk it up to being in love 🙂 or a little spun from crazy work weeks, we just didn’t realize until we started the beach ride back that we were in over our heads. Ten miles to go and 14 ounces of water. The tide was going out and the pack was NOT hard. The sun was out and the wind was blowing. Already tired, we walked as much as we rode, keeping good attitudes and laughing about the situation. Trying not to admit we were in a bit of a jam.

I started to get really week about 5 miles down the beach. I became a little confused and had a hard time breathing. When I sat to rest, getting no relief from the sun anywhere, I really began to have trouble breathing. We decided to take a trail back to the tree line and cut through to the main road. It looked like a 1 mile trek on the map, and maybe a longer distance, but at least we would be out of the sun.

Climbing over the dunes, Chris took the bikes and I was trying to find the trail. That is when I started to see spots. Perhaps I panicked. I know I couldn’t find the trail. Chris started to say things like “stay with me” and such. I told him I just needed to sit down and then I did. I walked a few feet to a small dune and sat down and black out. I mean OUT.

I thought it had been an hour when I heard Chris’ voice saying “Shae wake up! Stay with me. Help is just around the corner, we just need to get back to the beach.” I heard his voice through this louder humming, much like the Ohm sound we chant in yoga. I had this feeling that my Aunt Joyce was close by and that I absolutely had to pull it together. I felt horrible for how much I must have been scaring Chris and I couldn’t let that continue to happen.

I think that is what did it in the end. I did not want to worry Chris anymore than he already was. I opened my eyes, asked him if he had gone for help, (No!,) and how long had I been out (a few seconds- later I find out it was about 20 seconds,) and then I said “okay let’s go.”

I stood up, he grabbed the bikes and we headed out to the beach. I walked slowly for a bit, the wind helped cool me off. I eventually began to push the bike and Chris watched me like a hawk. I then began to ride the bike very slowly. My muscles started to cramp and I actually watched them contract in my legs and arms. This hurts. It is painful.

Coming to the point: in one of my yoga classes they talk about being calm in an uncomfortable place. Usually we are talking about frog :).

I started thinking about how important it was to stay calm. It might be slow, but we could make it home. Breathing trough the cramping helped as well. By focusing on my breath and picking a spot in the distance, my dhristi I guess, I kept going. 

We ran into the owner of the inn about 2 miles down. Thank goodness. She was on the beach with her family. They had driven a truck out. They had water and a banana. It was wild to watch my muscles release as I ate the banana. We pulled through, made it back and recuperated in the AC with water, lemonade and some food. We didn’t do much the rest of the weekend and were perfectly happy that way.

Yes Mom, I went to the doctor when I got home.

I had a classic heat stroke. My husband is my hero. I am so grateful for him and for my life. We learned an important lesson about preparation and expectation. And I learned how to truly stay calm in a very uncomfortable place.


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