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.