Musings of a Thru-Hiker
By Gary Shealy
The rain dampened my spirits; I was reluctant to leave my warm bag, but the night before I promised to replenish the water supply for the honeymooners. So finally, I pushed out into the cool damp morning air. Before I retrieved my food bags, I searched for water. Somehow it never occurred to me to go forward on the trail, so I retraced my steps for half a mile, turned up a logging road and eventually found a stream. By the time I finished breakfast and started packing my gear, the honeymooners were beginning to stir. They announced their reluctance to move on, and I did not want to overstay my welcome, so we parted.
Not more than a hundred yards down the trail, a camper was blocking the path. In front of the camper, in the middle of the trail, a man with a 45 automatic tended a fire. He jumped when he looked up, and apologized for blocking the trail. It was the only level place he could find for his camper. He indicated that two others, the Florida Flyers, were camped just ahead. I moved on without wasting any time, perhaps I could catch the Florida Flyers.
It cleared up late in the afternoon, I was still weary from the previous day's hike, and in addition I was carrying the extra weight of a wet tent. Water is heavy, especially so if it is not potable. Nothing is worse than carrying water that you can not drink. I found a camp site near a spring just below Hooper Gap and stopped after only eleven miles. I spread out my gear, hung my laundry, and prepared dinner. Dumplings with chicken: it was the best of all the freeze dried meals, but required slightly longer to prepare and to clean-up. As I was cleaning the dishes a group of high school students wandered by. They were part of an outdoor class and were spending the weekend in the woods. What a novel idea for a class! After encountering the students, it occurred to me that this was a Friday night, and that the site I picked was large and frequently used and probably close to a road. All this made me a little uneasy. When traveling alone, it behooves the hiker to carefully choose his campsite: avoid heavily used areas, roads, camp grounds, and other places frequented by locals. Partying teenagers could be a nuisance at night; a group of gun toting, beer chugging good ole boys in the woods for the weekend could be real trouble.
I collected my gear, hung my food, and wrote in my journal before retiring for the night. The last item of the day, after answering nature's call, and crawling into the bag, is to plan the next days hike. Pick an optimistic goal, a fall off spot, note the water sources, and pick a lunch spot. Throughout the day plans are revised according to progress. As darkness settled, the students were still collecting fire wood. The short day helped, and the next day was sure to be a good one.
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.