Musings of a Thru-Hiker

By Gary Shealy

Hikers at the Walasi-Yi


      The  Walasi-Yi  is  the  first  major milestone North of Springer Mountain on the  Appalachian  Trail.   It  is  a  hostel  with  bunks, showers, food, laundry machines, and a backpacking store.  Thru-hikers are encouraged to use the Walasi-Yi as the first supply point.  It was here  that  I first enjoyed the unique camaraderie that develops among those who share in the pursuit of a dream.  PT  and  Coleman,  Gadget, Huff  and  Puff,  Dick Cates, Bob and Scott, and the Honeymooners were already settled in when I arrived. 

      PT and Coleman spent the evening cleaning a stove  and  repairing gear.  PT's budget was tight, and he did not share supper with us.  He travelled  in  military surplus gear and army fatigues.  Coleman was a small and noisy pup of mixed breed.  The mutt had  short  stumpy  legs and cried when PT left him.  PT's feet were badly blistered.  He spent forty-five minutes applying dressings. 

      Gadget  had arrived earlier and spent most of the afternoon going over his gear.  He had a lot.   In  fact  he  shipped  nearly  fifteen pounds  home.   Still he was over equipped.  He conditioned by running and nautilus training,  but  somehow  he  still  had  shinsplints  and tendonitis.  Gadget had gone to a great deal of trouble to ensure that he  carried  the  best  gear.   He  approached  the  AT as a six month excursion.  Soon we all learned that it was  more  like  a  series  of three to five day hikes;  consequently one should only carry gear that will be used every day.  If it will not be used every day, leave it or ship it home. 

      Huff  and  Puff  were  most  helpful  sharing  tidbits  of  trail knowledge.  They stayed busy writing notes and letters, and getting to know everyone at the Walasi-Yi.  They were the most seasoned hikers of the group, and consequently were asked the most questions. 

      Dick Cates was on his first backpacking journey.  He  stood  over 6'4''  and  was  sturdy.  He decided that he wanted to try backpacking and that the AT was a good place to test his mettle.  He warned us  of his  "sleeping disorder" that might keep us awake.  From time to time, he felt necessary to test himself to  help  ensure  that  he  was  not becoming too pompous.  The AT was providing this test. 

      Bob  was  an urban forester from Florida.  He rented an apartment to Scott, a former restaurant manager.  They decided to hike the trail together.  Bob was over 6'3'',  and  Scott  stood  6'4''  and  weighed nearly  three hundred pounds.  Typically Bob would lead out, and Scott would catch up at the end of the  day.   Once  conditioned  Scott  was certain that he would lead. 

      The  newlywed  Honeymooners  were out to build a strong marriage. She was already pretty tough.  To prepare for the AT she broke in  her boots without wearing socks.  This caused her feet to blister and then callus.   Now,  she  had  tough feet.  Her husband was less fortunate. His feet were sore and badly blistered.  Together they were  going  to enjoy whatever the trail had to offer. 

      The  bunk  house  was  windowless and pitch black at night.  Dick Cates and Scott snored in  stereo  all  night.   Their  deep  guttural renditions  reverberated  off the cinder block walls and heating ducts throughout the night.  Coleman whined and finally found  a  corner  in which  to  relieve  himself.  Almost every night on the trail was more restful, but the company was good.




Copyright 1991-2000, 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.