Musings of a Thru-Hiker

By Gary Shealy

Whitley Gap

      Whitley  Gap  Shelter  was a full mile off the trail.  The AT had been re-routed to protect the area from excessive wear and  no  longer went  through  the  Gap.   Staying there turned out to be a good idea. Ample water gushed from a capped spring, perhaps the best water source so far.  The shelter was roomy, and I decided to stay in it instead of pitching my tent.  Mice roamed about even before dark, and  I  managed to  convince  the  scouts  that they would be over run by mice if they stayed in the shelter.  After a few mouse stories they  pitched  their tents. 

      The  wind  started  that  night  and  continued the next day.  By morning I had experienced several mice crawling across my head.  I got up once during the night to secure additional clothing  to  help  ward off the cold wind.  Before sunrise, I finished a cold breakfast as the scouts  began  to fill the shelter.  Their leaders attempted to attach tarps over the front of the shelter, but the wind was too  strong.   I quickly dressed, layering my clothes, and donning my rainsuit to break the  wind.   Standing  still my fingers and ears numbed.  I was packed and ready to go before the scouts had started breakfast.  After  brief farewells, I started out determined to make this a big mile day. 

      I passed  PT  and  Coleman, and Gadget before 8:00 am.  They were still asleep, and I pushed on to Low Gap Shelter.  The Spenco  blister kits  were helping my feet.  I stopped for water, a snack, and to read the register at the shelter.  After filling my water bottles I skimmed through the register.  The  night  before  was  crowded  and  full  of commotion.   Most  of the people from the Walasis-Yi camped here along with a rather large group of scouts.  A bear cub had roared  into  the camp,  screaming, and climbed a tree next to the shelter.  I looked up and less than fifteen feet away, a small cub was  clutched  to  a  low branch.   Immediately  I repacked my gear and moved down the trail.  I needed the break, but the thought of a mother bear reclaiming her  cub was not appealing.  "Never come between a bear and her cubs." With the added  incentive  of  a  bear scare, and a strong tail wind, I managed four more miles before I finally got my morning break.   A  front  was coming  through  and  the  winds  would gust for a while, and then die down.  Each time that I would remove my rain  jacket,  a  few  minutes would  pass before I would put it back on again(this required removing a sixty pound pack, placing it on the ground, putting on  the  jacket, and  then  picking  the  pack  up  again).   Off  and  on, all day.  I traveled alone the entire day. 

      I crossed Blue Mountain, and reached the  next  shelter  at  3:00 pm.   with  fifteen  miles  on the day.  Twelve teenagers were already camped at the shelter, so I decided to continue  on  to  Indian  Grave Gap.   After  over  eighteen miles on the day, I was exhausted, out of  water, and had no place to camp.  Finally, as  it  began  to  rain,  I caught  up  with  the  Honeymooners.   They were kind and shared their water and campsite.  I ate and crawled into my tent exhausted.  A cold rain fell through the night.






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.