May 19, 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.
5/19/1993 – Wed.
Alone at last! I only covered about 7.2 miles today, but that is as I had planned, as I am taking an easy three days to Wesser and Julie (!). Dad and Dan left around 8:00 this morning to go to Asheville. I was up and about and had planned on waiting for the other guys to head back to the trail, but around 8:45 I caught myself reading menu suggestions for a final episode of Cheers party in the newspaper, so I went ahead and headed out. It was raining steadily, so I only took one break, and I made it to the Siler Bald Shelter by noon. I spread out my stuff, ate lunch, read a January, 1993, issue of Time that was in the shelter, and napped. Around 2:30 the rain stopped and the sky semi-cleared, so I got up and walked around a bit. Bearanoid (Mark) showed up around 3:00 PM, Bush-wack (Victor) showed up around 3:15, and Troll (Jay) showed up around 4:00. I decided that, rather than stay with three guys whose snoring had driven two people out of the bunkhouse the night before, I would hike the .7 miles to the top of Siler Bald, camp there, and hope to catch a good sunset.
It’s windy as all get out up here, but I feel like I am on top of the world. The sun has been drifting in and out from behind some ominous looking clouds, but it has not started raining (pardon me while I wander down the hill and knock on a tree).
The bald is covered with grass, and a granite stone declares that the elevation here is 5,216 ft. All of the descent[sic]-sized stones have been gathered up and arranged in two fire rings that are all of 20 feet apart (there’s got to be a story in that somewhere). Off the south side of the bald are a bunch of small, hardy-looking trees — some are leaning downhill and some are toppled over. I see several sawed down trunks, so the wind is not solely responsible for the downed trees. To both the east and west of the peak, groves of hardy-looking trees stand, although only the ones to the west are tall enough (or not far enough down the slope) to block the view. Only one tree stands near the summit (I wish I knew my trees, but all I can say is that it looks like a tree that would grow in the desert. It’s only about twenty-five feet tall, and one of its four major limbs has been broken partway up, and now hangs on, it’s “top” touching the ground, as though a giant child broke it off while playing and then leaned it up against the tree — hoping that his mother would not guess that he was responsible when she found it.
It is amazing what a difference the sun can make in comfort. When it is not blocked by a cloud, the fact that it is shining makes me feel warm despite the wind. When it is covered by clouds, I feel like I am in the domain of the Wicked Witch of the East. Looking out over nearby hills and valleys where the sun still shines can bring a certain amount of “warmth.”
One thing that makes this place special is that the view is in many different directions. Perched on my rock, I can face in several different directions and still be looking out over an attractive vista. At teh same time, there is always space at my back. This view I could not capture with a wide-angle lens, as it is a 360-degree view.
This is a good place to spend my first night alone, even if I do not get my sunset. This place is a place for one. Two fire rings is ironic.
Bush-wack said that out here, every day is Sunday. I have an intuitive feeling that he is right, but I am not at all sure what that means. Being Bush-wack, he probably meant that you can sleep late and you don’t have to go to work (Bush-wack is not a very profound kind of guy). I think there might be something deeper to his statement, but I have not yet figured out what. He made the statement last Sunday, and I have mulled it over periodically since then without reaching a definitive conclusion, but I thought I ought to record the statement in writing lest I forget it altogether.
My tent is staked down but quivering in the wind like a tightly restrained wild animal.
Tonight I will sleep in my wool cap. It is cold.
Clearly, I wrote longer entries when I knocked off earlier in the day! I actually have very distinct memories of camping on Siler Bald. It was cold and windy, but pretty!