Musings of a Thru-Hiker
By Gary Shealy
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.