Musings of a Thru-Hiker

By Gary Shealy

Hooper Gap

            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.