— Ssssssshhh BEWARE OF GHOST —
As the sun was setting, I Hiked up to a Log lean-to on the Tennessee North Carolina border some 300 miles from where I had started, I'd sweated holes through my shirt, had left behind trail friends with names like itchy, frogger, crash, and was glad to see that i would be alone tonight. I'd been hiking for weeks and weeks, every single day covered 20+ miles, because the world was a mess, I didn't want to think about it any more, I just wanted to be alone, to be in silence,
I did Not want to think about the Vietnam war, my war draft number, my Dad's "get a hair cut" hippie comments, (it was now down to my shoulders. and now I was taking this semester away from college and with the Draft Looming it may not be a good idea. Strange, there was a note on the front of the shelter fencing, I read the note that hung there on the chain link fence, torn from a page of the Appalachian trail log book, it read
"Shhhhh, Beware of Ghost",
But nothing scared me anymore, I was numb to the world around me!! Well stretching out in the quiet was nice and just what I needed. Listening to the birds and watching the forest’s slow movements.
Then, AND THEN a huge ruckus could be heard, laughter, pots and pans banging, breaking sticks,
out of the woods erupted a long line of kids followed by a few adults herding one short kid. I wished and wished that they'd just be going by, but no, they piled in, dropping packs and bags every where, pushing my stuff to the side, I gave them the silent evil eye and pulled myself into a corner.
Soon I over heard a conversation between a group of the kids, probably the cool ones, there wasn't enough room for them all on the top bunk shelf, some one would have to sleep down with the stinky grumpy old guy, and I looked at the counselors wondering who they were talking about, who was old, stinky and grumpy, then thought,
"Wonder what Counselor it is,
I mean, it can’t be me, but .. well I don't have mosquito problems, and I haven't shampooed in 300 miles, but I'm only 20 years old" !!! it can't be me can it!!
Well they stuck what I guess was the under dog next to me on the bottom shelf, he seemed bright enough, but talked a lot, and he lit into asking all sorts of questions,
"Hey mister where you from" ...
“from the South”, (all Appalachian hikers are from the south)
"Hey mister where you going" ...
"Hey mister what are the rocks around the shelter", well that was a pretty good question so I said
"keep critters out"
"Hey mister whats the fence at the front of the shelter there for"
“To KEEP the beers out that eat annoying kids!!!!!”
After that he was a little quieter and left me alone, and I just went on reading my book. But the other kids on the top bunk where all up and laughing and I kinda felt sorry for him down here with the leaders and me. After a while we heard some scratching on one side of the shelter, it kind of scared the Kid, so I told him not to worry, its probably just a raccoon, which scared him more, so I said, “or a chip monk”, .. the scratching went to the back then seemed to stop and go away.
Then the kid pointed out the front and yelled,
"LOOK ITS the Ghost" ...
Out at the far edge of the clearing in front of the shelter there was a white animal in the trees, it grew closer, darting from tree to to tree. It wasn't Huge, not as big as a bear, but it was much bigger that a cat or a coon. it was darting in the near darkness, a white streak getting closer and closer to the left side of the clearing, my side of the lean-too. Now I was wishing I was on the top bunk. Then we were all quiet, silent for one second, then two, and a really loud scratch could be heard. Then we heard one of the rocks tumble off the pile, then another, then the kids started into whimpering. Then something small and black ran across the floor, then two things, then we saw them, there were 6, 6 BABY SKUNKS where running around inside the shelter and sniffing at the packs and the things left on the floor, Trapped with us inside the shelter and the front fence!!!
Then the kids whimpering stopped again because we heard a really big rock roll off the pile outside, and my back pack inside the shelter was pushed out of the way. Something huge and white and furry was squeezing between the dirt floor and the log wall. it got bigger and bigger, and bigger, It crawled into the center of the shelter, IT WAS THE GHOST, it was the BIGGEST MOTHER ALL WHITE SKUNK THAT I'VE EVER SEEN!!!
Now I was afraid, afraid of the smell, the blinding burning of the spray if any of the scared kids cried out, I was closest to the floor, to the skunk. Then worst of all, I saw the kids EYEs, they got really REALLY big, AND HE WAS POINTING AT MY HEAD. I felt something pulling on my HAIR, pulling, chewing at my long hair hanging over the edge of the bunk.
THE SKUNK was standing on its hid legs and pawing at my HAIR,
I was frozen, I dare not move,
THEN I heard a little "achoo", a cute little sneeze,
And the kid had the nerve to giggle, and to say
"I guess even skunks think you stink too"
It startled all the little skunks and they all ran out the hole in the wall followed by the mother skunk. Well all slept quietly after that excitement. The next morning I packed up early, wanting to leave before all got up. But The kid rolled over and had one question
"so even Appalachian trail hikers get scared too"?
"Yes, I guess even I am afraid of things in life",
...” And " I continued ...
" And even you, … Steven, … will someday be a great hiker and have great big adventures", ...