Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 25-May-1993

Date May 25, 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.

5/25/93 – Tue.

It was another long day, and again I make my entry by candlelight. I keep thinking about Abraham Lincoln. I think about the purist image more than of the real man — of eyes gone bad due to excessive reading by the light of candles, of honesty, and of deep concern for his fellow man.

It started raining about 6:00 this morning and has not really stopped since. Ron & John go up at the first sound of sprinkles, but Dave and I both decided to try to wait it out. had we stuck our heads out of the tents, we would have realized that this was an overcast drizzle-all-day rain rather than a simple spring shower. At about 7:15 I went ahead and got up and broke camp. I was on the trail by 8:00 (Dave was still in his tent), and caught up with Ron & John by 10:00. I can really see that I have been conditioned by the weeks on the trail.

We all stopped at Cold Gap Shelter to fill up our water bottles and to try to dry out a bit. I was much more successful with the former than the latter.

One of the hooks on my (Dad’s) boots broke, and trying to lace around it has not been successful. I am going to try just punching a hole in the boot and lacing through it.

I made it into Fontana Village by 3:00, and had completed all my business (picked up maildrop, mailed a package home, bought butter, talked to Mom, and tried to talk to Julie) and made it out to the Fontana Dam Shelter (the “Fontana Hilton”) by 5:30. Bearanoid, Christy, and Justin are all here, so it was easier to catch them than I had thought. Troll and Bushwack have not shown up yet, so it looks like I will be in the company of familiar faces for the next few days regardless of my pace.

“Strider” is also here. He is a legend of sorts on the trail, as he is mentioned several times in every trail journal, and has taken over a month to get this far. He was a Sig Ep Class of ’72 (’71?) at Ohio State and, oddly enough, looks like Chuck Hafemann, the Mass Delta (MIT) Sig Ep Alumni Board president. He says he has had four major careers (medicine, restaurants, sales, & construction) and has held over 300 jobs. Bushwack’s got nothing on him for free-spiritedness!

I had a long and interesting talk with Ron (and periodic input by Justin, Christy, and John). It started on the subject of relationships, including marriage, living together, divorce, and pre-marital sex. It wound up on religion, and Ron said that Jesus is like the groom and his followers are like his brides. He said the key to religion is to see it as a relationship. Somewhere, he kind of lost me, but he is more than willing to talk about it without preaching. I am planning on an easy day tomorrow (my left ankle has started bothering me a bit), so I will probably share a shelter with him tomorrow night and do some follow-up. It’s like talking to Bill Golightly.

I had planned on writing some postcards tonight, but it is really too late.

I am pretty sure that the Fontana Hilton was where Julie left me a note that, 15 years later, I still carry around in my wallet (I had it laminated a decade ago). Sticking to my promise not to embarrass others as I put in these entries (although Julie has already told me that she is getting a little embarrassed), I won’t publish that note here!

I was struck by the Bill Golightly reference in this entry. Bill is a certifiable “hoot” (you’ll have to track him down in the Grand Canyon to get a definition of what that is) who we met through my parents. We met him one night, and, the very next night, camped on a riverbank with he, his son Jeff, and Jeff’s girlfriend, while my parents drive around all night thinking that Jeff might be an axe murderer and that we had been abducted. That’s, obviously, the highly abridged version. Bill’s a hoot. Jeff, his son, is a great guy. It was all one big, fat communication mix-up that got straightened out the following morning. And Bill wound up presiding over Julie’s and my wedding.

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