We descended the steep slope down to Green Creek and followed the trail that runs beside it, stopping along the way to let the dogs drink where the sandbars were, or to gather large stones or small pebbles to add to rock cairns erected by past travelers in random places along the hiking trail.
That late September afternoon, the skies were cloudless, and ever so often, a slight breeze would drift through the hemlocks, making it the perfect day for a walk in the woods. We crossed Green Creek twice on foot-bridges, and began the gradual incline that carried us deeper into the forest and closer to our end point, the South Pacolet River.
My wife and I held hands and talked about both past and future adventures in this mountain cove, and I recounted for her the details of hunting trips, just over the mountain.
Two miles in and a half mile to go, my wife's hands started to tremble. Soon, her arms felt so heavy that she could not lift them to brace herself on a oak tree. She told me how dizzy and sick to her stomach she was, and I told her we'd turn back, but she said that she'd never make it. I tried not to show signs of fear or panic, but the fact of the matter was that it would be nearly impossible for me to carry her back to the car, even though she is a small woman. She felt it was best that she sat down, and she did.
Sometimes she gets that way if she hasn't eaten, and that morning she skipped breakfast. We were foolish, in that we didn't bring a single thing to eat, only two bottles of water. I mentioned walking back myself and rifling through our car to find anything-- a few spilt peanuts, a Lance cracker between the seats, a single piece of peppermint candy.
She wouldn't let me; she didn't want to be left alone there, and I couldn't blame her.
Now, it was up to me to find something out there that would help her, but for a few moments, I just froze. I racked my brain, trying to think of some plant that I could give her for her condition, but I could think of nothing. Then my nose gave me an idea. The sweet aroma of rotting muscadines led me to a vine, high up in a pine bough. I tried to shake the vine, but no luck. All I could come up with was a small handful of black, wrinkled fruit.
I gave her one to chew up and swallow, then another. Soon, she was able to stand, and with another in her cheek, she was able to slowly make the trek back to our car.
We learned a valuable lesson that day. We learned to never leave home without something to eat in an emergency, even if it's just a Snickers or granola bar. The other thing we learned was that sometimes the things we take for granted can save your life and help you make it back home.