Musings of a thru-Hiker

By Gary Shealy

Gooch Gap


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