Musings of a Thru-Hiker
By Gary Shealy
Hikers at the Walasi-Yi (continued)
After a restless night of tossing, turning, and dodging the air ducts as Dick Cates and Scott Richards snored, and Coleman whined, morning finally arrived. It rained most of the night, and the gear that was left out on the porch was soaked. I got up early in order to do laundry and repack my gear. After seeing the blisters of others and hearing their complaints, I became much more aware of my own feet. This was the first time that I had the chance to take a good look at them in the light. I knew that I had some blistering since I had been stopping regularly to add moleskin and reposition my socks. The push into the Neels Gap was just too much, and by now I was limping noticeably. I did not want to lace my boots up and strike out again. A day or two to lay over would give my feet time to heel and also give me time to prepare myself emotionally to deal with the trail. However the standing policy at the Yi is one night for hikers. I decided to delay as long as possible before attempting to convince the people at the Yi to let me stay another night. The warm dry bed, hot shower, and wholesome meals forced me to reassess my reasons for hiking the trail. The Yi was warm and comfortable. It is no wonder that fully a quarter of the would be thru-hikers end their attempts here.
I still needed to go through my gear and get advice on reducing my pack weight. In the meantime I called home, and picked out goodies from the camp store, and made an entry in my journal. The trail had been all I had hoped so far: My feet were blistered, my pack was heavy, I camped in rain, and I was falling further behind schedule each day. In fact I had not met any of my goals. It seemed that I was travelling much to slow and that I would never make it to the Smokies much less all the way to Maine.
Breakfast was served. It was great. An egg casserole, plenty of bread and jelly, fruit, and coffee and juice. A jar of peanut butter and a jar of honey were available to quench any undying appetites. Everyone ate heartily. The plates were cleaned down to the last crumbs almost instantly. Hiking certainly stimulates the appetite.
As we cleared the breakfast dishes and cleaned the living area, Huff and Puff prepared to start out. They were soon followed by the Florida Flyers and Dick Cates. The honeymooners were slower gathering their gear and did not head out for another hour or two. Finally, Gadget, PT and Coleman, and I were the only ones left. Gadget had already gone through his gear and was just lingering about nursing his tendonitis and sore heel. He did not want to leave either. PT and Coleman were looking about for scraps and discarded gear. They finally left and slowly headed down the trail. I found one of the people at the Yi, and together we went through my gear.
I decided that if he could save me enough weight that I would buy a water filter. Several others carried filters, and they recommended them over iodine treatments due to the potential ill effects of long term iodine usage. Of my base gear, only a few small items were removed. My repair kit was reduced to needle, dental floss, one mattress patch, one tent patch, and a small tube of glue. The following items were returned : a fifty foot section of light-weight nylon rope(for hanging bear bags), one pair of long kakki cotton pants( replaced with lighter nylon wind pants), two quart plastic bottles( used for liquid foods and as extra water bottle), one pair of long polypropylene underwear bottoms, a wool shirt, and two external side pockets for the pack. The entire weight returned was less than 20 ounces. In addition I picked up a long sleeve polypropylene shirt, several small blister kits and moleskin packs, a small bottle of hydrogen peroxide, and a few candy bars. I was able to ship the side pockets home since I had eaten several days worth of food leaving more room in my pack so that all the external gear now fit in the pack with a little pushing. The weight savings did not cover the weight of a water filter so I kept my iodine tablets. The biggest assistance I received was the expert re-fitting of my internal frame pack. Originally I was fitted with a fifty pound load fully dressed with a lightweight jacket. Unfortunately while on the trail, I wore considerably less clothing and carried a much heavier pack. Re-fitting the shoulder harness, removing the lateral tension straps, and re-adjusting the hipbelt vastly improved the pack weight distribution. In addition removing the external side pockets moved the pack weight more directly over my center of gravity. It has been said that one wears a gregory pack, and now with proper fitting I could already feel the difference. This greatly helped my disposition, but it did not change the way my feet felt.
After dragging around until after lunch time I finally accepted the fact that I must move on down the trail. I was determined to take it easy and reduce the wear on my feet. It was difficult watching the other thru-hikers leave before me.
The scout troop passed through around ten o'clock. They cleaned out the store's ice cream and made a considerable dent in the supply of candy bars. I was disappointed to hear the proprietor run them out of the store. Evidently he had been the victim of numerous pilferings by small kids before, and he did not want to suffer that again. That incident was the only down spot of my entire stay at the Walasi-Yi.
I started out with my re-fitted pack, new attitude, bandaged feet, and clean body intent on catching the scout troop one last time. I met them heading south back toward Whitley Gap. We camped there for 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.