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Table, Peekamoose, and Poison 4/22/17

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  • Table, Peekamoose, and Poison 4/22/17

    A friend and I set off from the Denning Road Trailhead at 10:30AM. The plan was to hit Table and Peekamoose, drop down to the area around the campsites, take the Phoenicia East Branch Trail up to the intersection with the Curtis-Ormsbee trail (just for the sake of seeing the trail), and then hook a u-turn and head back to the car, and maybe do Red Hill afterwards if we felt up to it. I was hiking with a full pack, probably around 30lbs, simply for the sake of training.

    There's not too much to say about the ascent up towards Table. It was cloudy and the ground was wet, but we only received a few scattered showers here and there, not even enough to make putting on the rain gear worthwhile. There was a ton of unblossomed Trout Lily on the trail, which made for some tasty snacks. At what's probably around 2800ft, there was evidence of someone who started a fire on the trail. Literally, on the trail.

    We saw a few other people on the trail, and the spring that sits just a bit below the leanto around the 3500ft mark was running well. There were no views from Table due to the clouds. There were some isolated patches of snow and ice, but for the most part the trail was just muddy, spikes were not needed. The summit of table itself has some snowy/icy areas, but again, no spikes needed. After a quick lunch on table, we went over to Peekamoose.

    The trail between Table and Peekamoose was extremely wet, the trail itself was often under a couple of inches of water. I imagine that this was quite icy a few weeks ago. By the time that we got to Peekamoose, there were some views as the clouds let up a little bit, and we even got to feel a little bit of sun poking through the clouds, but all in all not that much. There was also some evidence of illegal campsites right by the summit, at one of the viewpoints. One thing that was a mild concern - in between Peekamoose and Table, we crossed paths with a young couple heading in the opposite direction who asked us what mountain they were on, and what they were heading towards. They had seemingly just found the Peekamoose Rd. Trailhead and decided to hike up it without a map or any basic geographical awareness. We should have crossed paths with them again because we were both doing out and backs from the opposite directions, but we never saw them again. I hope that they made their way back safely.

    We headed back over towards Table, where we also got some limited westward facing views of Van Wyck Mountain while descending. A little bit before four, we hit the junction with the CO trail and headed towards Slide. This is where the trouble began.

    So the plan was, 1.75miles to the junction, 1.75miles back, and then 1.2 miles to the car. 4.7 miles total, relatively flat with about 750 feet of gain towards the junction, what could go wrong?

    Well, about half a mile up the trail, right around where the spring is marked on the map (tons of water flowing), we found a patch of what my friend thought were wild ramps, which are an edible leek-like plant. To make a long story short, they weren't. I only ate one (thank god), I'm not sure how many my friend ate. It left a bad taste in my mouth, which was the first indication that something was wrong. By the time that we hit the junction, I was feeling nauseated. Now, I knew that the nausea was connected to the plant consumption, but I also get acid reflux which makes the ingestion of many things hit or miss. I took a couple of tums, which temporarily made the feeling go away. My friend also started complaining of nausea, the next sign that something was wrong.

    We turned back, the nausea kept increasing. About half a mile from the car, it became somewhat debilitating. I'm usually faster than my friend, but I was slowed down to a crawl, while she seemed to be speeding up. She later told me that she knew that she was going to be sick, so she wanted to get towards the car ASAP.

    I puked for the first time about .25 miles from the car. Obviously at this point I realized that I'd probably been poisoned, and that the imperative was to get out of the woods as quickly as possible. I felt ok the remainder of the hike out to the car, at which point my friend informed me that she had been vomiting as well. At this point, we knew that we had to get to civilization ASAP. There are a few houses and the YMCA near the trailhead that had some lights on, I considered heading over there to call 911. Lots of vomiting later, we decided to try to drive out. During this time, my arms were spasming and I was getting dizzy (I was not driving) and my friend was complaining that she was getting spots in her vision. She drove slowly towards the town of Denning, where we hit the deli. I went inside and used their phone to call 911 and spoke to poison control. The woman on the poison control line suspected that we had eaten baby skunk cabbage and that everything would be subsiding shortly. We hung out there for a while, the symptoms did subside, and we took the long drive back without any concerns. I'd like to give a quick shoutout to the very friendly staff and owner of the Blue Hill Lodge and Cafe, who made us feel welcome as we used their space to recover. We also ran into the ranger from that region, who gave us some helpful tips.

    After doing some web searching the next day, I began to strongly suspect that what we had eaten was not skunk cabbage, but was in fact Veratrum viride, also known as false hellebore. I read a few reports online where people described very similar symptoms (limb spasms, interrupted vision), and the pictures that I found were very similar to what we ate. I consider us lucky, because this plant can be fatal if too much has been ingested. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of not taking pictures of or taking a sample of what we ate, that could have come in handy had things gone further south.

    All in all, lesson learned. Solid hike, and all that I can say about the other stuff is that it gave us valuable experience, which is all that I can hope to learn from every occasion in which I make mistakes. I'm sure that many of the hikers on this board have plenty to lecture us on, and I welcome every piece of it, I know how stupid this was and I know that we deserve it.

    My GPS recorded 12.6 miles (the mileage from the NYNJTC map is a bit over 13 miles) and 3,633 feet of elevation gain.

    Photos: http://imgur.com/a/P9uDk

  • #2
    HOLY ****!!! you guys are VERY-VERY lucky. what you ate is indeed a green false hellebore/Indian poke, which is extremely toxic! you got very lucky by sampling only a bit. they could be mistaken for the ramps when they are young, but they are a more lighter shade of green, the leafs a fuller and there are more leafs per stem in general, and grow to be much taller and the leafs have very prominent veins. and of course, they lack the distinct garlicky smell when freshly picked. also, they tend to grow in very wet areas. the ramps are out there in full force, but indian poke just started to come up... Indian poke gets mistaken for skunk cabbage, but you have to had eaten Indian poke... I saw a bunch of them this weekend and my friend also thought that these were the ramps. when we came across the ramps, she saw the difference right away. and of course, skunk cabbage gives off a very offensive odor once picked.

    I have pictures of both ramps and the indian poke, if you want to see.

    congratulations for making it out safely and thank you for sharing the story!

    ETA - we were on Table and Peek last Sunday and the trail between them was still full of snow and very wet in spots, so I am not surprised that a week later it was under a few inches of water.
    46/46 as of August 1st, 2014!

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    • #3
      Thank you YanaLG , I do indeed feel lucky to have made it out of there without any permanent damage, or worse. Feel free to share pictures, at this point I agree with a high level of confidence that what we ate was the false hellebore, it didn't have any of the odor or stinging sensation that usually comes with skunk cabbage, it also didn't really look like skunk cabbage.

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      • #4
        I hope this works and I don't think that I have posted any photos here before.

        here's a wild ramp (1st photo); followed by the Indian poke field; followed by a patch of ramps:

        46/46 as of August 1st, 2014!

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        • #5
          Originally posted by YanaLG View Post
          I hope this works and I don't think that I have posted any photos here before.

          here's a wild ramp (1st photo); followed by the Indian poke field; followed by a patch of ramps:

          Yes, it was definitely the plant in the second photo. Thanks for the pictures. I'll never touch that again!

          Comment


          • YanaLG
            YanaLG commented
            Editing a comment
            definitely stay away!

        • #6
          July 2015. Travis and Joel Muhlnickel were attempting a Great Range Traverse. They became separated near Marcy. Joel was given shelter by another hiker. Travis spent an unplanned night in the woods. He was hungry and ate something green and leafy. When found by DEC rangers, he was very ill and, after describing the plant, they concluded he ingested Indian Poke (False Hellebore). He survived (as did his brother) but not without additional suffering caused by his choice of food.

          ​Details can be found here on page 18 of this DEC publication: http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/administr...onsmag4web.pdf

          ​I first saw the stuff two years ago, pushing up through the snow, all bright and green and deceptively yummy looking. I didn't know what it was so I left it be. It was False Hellebore and definitely not for human consumption.
          https://1drv.ms/i/s!At2A5gDBcUN4kSVfNsyKXWJUKvbP
          Looking for Views!

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          • Kitsune_Soba
            Kitsune_Soba commented
            Editing a comment
            The somewhat funny thing is that, as soon as the symptoms started to hit, all that I could think about was Travis and the reports written by Travis/Joel/The DEC, perhaps that was a part of my brain remembering the pictures from the report and informing me that that's what I'd eaten. It's comforting to know that he managed to eat 10-12 stalks without dying while already in really bad shape, that means that our consumption was probably not close to a lethal dose.

          • YanaLG
            YanaLG commented
            Editing a comment
            I remember that story!!!

        • #7
          Good thing the mushrooms are not yet sprouted. Another leek look a like is some type of lily, I understand that is fatal in most cases.

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          • YanaLG
            YanaLG commented
            Editing a comment
            You are probably thinking of Lily of the Valley, which is poisonous and could be seen similar to ramps. I am not aware of it growing wildly in NY though! It actually looks very similar to ramps, now that I think of it; however, it comes out much later and certainly lacks the garlicky/onion smell. But it has about the same # of leafs growing out of each bulb and the leaf shape and color is kind of similar. In the sprint, the flower comes out almost at the same time as the leafs, but unlike the ramps, the green leafs do not die off as the summer goes on.

            and it's a good point about the mushrooms. there's always a story or two every year about people getting poisoned to death from eating the wrong variety.

        • #8
          Crazy story! Glad you're OK.

          I'm adventurous enough to sample blueberries and raspberries but that's about it.
          ADK 46/46W, Grid 227/552
          Photos & Stuff

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          • #9
            My wife and I just did some ramp (wild leek) hunting (tons of it on Kaaterskill HP) and false hellebore is all over the place in the same patches where tons of ramps. Love foraging, but I always keep a high level of paranoia and quadruple check prior to eating anything. Glad you are ok!

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