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Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 13-May-1993

Date May 13, 2008

This is a 5-month long series of blog posts that are the entries in my journals written on most evenings as I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1993. The journal entry appears first — indented — and then any additional commentary from my 15-years-removed perspective follows.

5/13/93 — Thu.

What a miserable day. It started out almost clear, then began to drizzle, then almost cleared, then began to rain. We made it to the Tray Mountain shelter by 3:00 PM, and have holed up for the evening after traveling a wopping 8.2 miles. So far, two other guys are here. Dan had crawled back into his tent when we left, so he might not have gone anywhere today.

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My hands were too cold to write. Another guy has now shown up. He is heading south — in his sixties and walked all the way from Plum Orchard Gap shelter today!

There was supposedly an excellent view from the top of Tray Mtn., but we missed it, as we could only see about 30 feet into the milky-white fog/rain. We didn’t stick around long to stare into the nothingness, because we were on one of the taller mountains in the area, its top was rocky and treeless, and lightning had been flashing within a mile of us for the last half hour. Dad was probably glad, for the first time ever, that I was a little taller than he was.

I really felt like it was a Man against Nature battle today, rather than a mere coexistence. We were caught in the woods, and the elements of nature — the wind, the rain, and the cold — were our enemies. Our goal was to make it to the shelter (man-made) and safety. Although the actual danger was not all that great, the absence of a shelter would have left us cold and miserable — and possibly brought on illness. This all seems a bit melodramatic now (dry, in my sleeping bag in the shelter, watching the sky clear), but those were the thoughts that ran through my head in all seriousness just a few hours ago.

Today I did ask myself why I am doing this, and, although I still do not have an answer that I can put into words, I came to a conclusion: I will keep going until I feel like there is no way I can go on for another week. This trail is the elephant, and it can only be eaten one bite at a time.

Dad has pretty much decided he is going to bail out at the next mail drop — Rainbow Springs Campground. his knees are still stiff, and he says he hates to slow me down so much. although this had not been the case for the first several days, it unfortunately has become so in the past couple. His pace on uphill sections is tediously slower than what mine would be alone, and I have to constantly remind myself not to tailgate. He has a tendency to stop suddenly and hitch up his pack, swinging his stick up behind him, and I have had several near misses. i don’t think he does it on purpose, but it does keep me on my toes.

My right hip seems to have some sort of deep bruise that has really started bothering me for the last couple of days. I think this short day will do it good. A combination of Advil and molefoam with a hole in it alleviated most of the pain, but I suspect it really just needs time to heal.

As much as I enjoy Dad’s company, I am looking forward to doing some hiking alone. I’ve read (and practiced), that hiking can be a lot more enjoyable if you are distracted — if you let your mind wander away from the task at hand. Dad is more of a silent plodder, and, although we have had some good discussions while walking, by and large we don’t do much talking. At the same time, it is difficult to get lost in oneself while staring at the back of someone else’s pack. The other young fellow in the shelter (another thru-hiker — "Troll") mentioned that he burst into song briefly today. i often sing aloud when driving long distances, and have a feeling I’ll try it out once I’m alone. The tent will also be much roomier with only one person. Finally, I feel like such the kid when I am camping with Dad. Even though he defers to me as much as I defer to him when it comes to decisions, I fell like there is no risk — Daddy won’t let me do anything really wrong.

A journal entry about my day would really not be complete without some mention of Julie. This is my journal, and I am entitled to write whatever I want no matter how mushy or sappy it might seem to others. I thought about Julie a lot today, probably because the warmth of one of her hugs was about the farthest thing from the discomfort of today’s weather. I do miss her. For the first time in a very long time, I do not know where she is or what she is probably doing. It is Thursday, and she had said she would probably leave Boston today. But did she? Is the going to drive to Texas with Mom? I hope she is enjoying herself wherever she is, because I am doing a good job of depressing myself.

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Wow! Talk about a mood-changer. I just got up and went and looked out to the south. The storm is clearing, and you can see for miles, but clouds are rolling in down lower, like someone turned on a great big smoke machine.

A Poem to End the Day

The day is ending.
I watch it from my haven.
Nestled in my bag
I am safe.

Darkness will come soon.
Not creeping in on feline’s paws,
But settling with a whisper.
I will sleep.

I will not venture out.
Tonight, the dark will cover all
And I will not complain.
Time to rest.

Goodbye, today.
You will live in my memory
Your time in the present gone.
Good-bye.

And…a career as a poet was clearly not in the cards!

I think this journal entry was long enough that further commentary is not warranted. Although, I do distinctly remember this day.

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