Musings of a thru-Hiker
By Gary Shealy
I hiked with the scouts through most of the day. During the course of the morning we discussed conditioning, preparing, and organizing group hikes, and they taught me the mechanics of the five mile step. Properly executed, it will allow a hiker to climb even the steepest hills without stopping or exhaustion. Quite simply, it involves taking small steps, and rocking forward on one leg keeping the leg straight so that the bones of the leg support the burden of the body's weight and the muscles may rest. Small steps keep the pace practical while ensuring continuous progress. After five miles of climbing the resourceful hiker might pause briefly and resume the step again. I practiced the step that day and used it repeatedly over the next several months. Priceless.
Several miles into the morning, we started to find discarded clothing. At first we found heavier items like thick sweaters and over coats. Later, we found a wool shirt, gloves, and a hat. On one of the steepest switch backs under an overhanging rock face, slightly off of the trail, the remains of a smoldering campfire were visible. This seemed a rather odd place for anyone to camp since the ground sloped so steeply. Almost immediately we came across a bag of personal gear beside the trail. It appeared that we had startled someone and that they had dropped everything to hide in the woods. It is hard to believe that a group of rambunctious, loud, and carefree scouts could sneak up on anything and startle it.
There was something wrong here, and from the expressions on the scout leaders' faces, it was clear that they shared my concern. My thoughts ran back to the misfit who started out before us this morning. He had been rather odd and alone. The clothes that were discarded on the trail could have been some of the laundry that he had stretched out to dry the night before at camp. Perhaps this was only my imagination(the imagination often races when the mind is left idle for long periods of time). The scouts carefully folded the clothes and stacked them neatly on a rock beside the trail. I am sure their mothers would have been stunned at seeing the care and enthusiasm they exercised in voluntarily handling this laundry.
The morning passed easily. Around midday we approached a stream. Nearby shrubs were neatly decorated with feminine undergarments. Not wanting to startle anyone, I continued with caution. Jim Covenington announced our presence to ensure that any bathers were not disturbed (a scout is courteous). They were not disturbed; as we crossed the stream, we found Huff and Puff finishing a snack and collecting their gear. They were surprised to see us since they had pushed on the night before and had started out fairly early this morning. We were the first people they had seen that day.
We decided to stop for lunch. I indulged in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, crackers, granola bars, and gorp. Several of the scouts prepared instant soups, and all enjoyed generous helpings of gummy bears. They had several pounds to consume, and the scout leaders were tired of carrying the extra weight.
The day ended at Gooch Gap, and I thought that this would be the last night that I would spend with the scouts. At times I found their pace frustrating. By now they had mastered hanging bear bags, and each scout was responsible for storing his own food. One of the leaders promised me a fifty mile patch, if I made the distance. By the end of the summer I would be routinely covering fifty or more miles in two days( an overnight ).
Copyright 1991-2006, all rights reserved
This is a fictional account of an actual Thru-Hike in 1990. Any resemblance to specific individuals or events is purely coincidental. By Gary Shealy