Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 29-May-1993

Date May 29, 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.

5/29/93 – Sat

It was an easy day today. We only walked about 12 1/2 miles and were here at the Tri-Corner Knob shelter at 2:30 PM. There are 19 people here tonight due to a Park Service screw-up (the shelter is listed to hold 12). There are eight seventh graders and 4 chaperones — they’re looking for a DC-4 that supposedly crashed on its way to Oak Ridge, Tennessee with a load of scientists in 1945. There are three hikers who are out for a week (2 of them) and two weeks. Bearanoid and I are here, and Just-In-Time and Entropy put in a 20-mile day and showed up, too. I went ahead and set up my tent, as thru-hikers are allowed to do when shelters are full, and the four of us kind of hung out around it to avoid the pandemonium of the shelter.

I have realized that thru-hikers are quasi-anti-social while on the trail. I will speak for myself, but I think I share the thoughts of others. I would go crazy if I did not meet other people on the trail and periodically camp with other people. However, there is a limit, both to the number of people and the kind of people. i like to camp with no more than 6 or 8 people. Otherwise, conversations get animated, people stumble over each other, and the noise of a gurgling spring in the background cannot be heard. I also only like to camp with other hikers and campers. By this, I mean people who frequently seek the company of the wilderness rather than those who, once a year, venture into the outdoors. The former group are my kind of people, and I find that they are the ones I can relate to. Bearanoid and I (as well as Justin & Christy, I believe) are anxious to leave the Smokies and the Memorial Day Weekend crowd.

Today should have offered some of the best views to be had along the A.T. However, it was foggy until about the time we reached camp, so most of the “views” were of a white nothingness. I was struck, though, by the effect they still had on me. A typical view lets the observer see out 20-30 miles and down something less than a mile. A view in a fog is into an infinite nothingness, and can be just as breathtaking. And fog does other things. To motorists, it is a hazard, but to a hiker it is an enhancer of an experience. In the morning of a white mist, the world is muted, and isolated sounds are brought to the fore: a calling bird, water dripping from trees, a hiker’s footsteps, the rustle of fleeing wild hogs (I saw two today). The air is thicker — weighty but not oppressive. The fog brings a whole new element to the outdoors.

I contemplated drafting a first pass at a rough idea for an essay titled “The Art of the Yogi,” but I procrastinated on my journal entry and will therefore simply try to jot down the basic ideas for the piece:

  • Wingfoot’s definition of a yogi
  • Reason for yogiing — to get good food on the trail
  • Keys to good yogiing:
    • Appearance — scruffy, but not to dirty & ragged (Bearanoid had a guy on a Harley-Davidson in Newfound Gap tell him he looked intimidating)
    • Eating least appetizing food in pack in plain view (e.g., sardines, dried fruit, etc.)
  • People not to try to yogi from:
    • People at roadside lookouts (often don’t have any food & have no idea that hikers would want it if they did)
    • Other thru-hikers (often don’t have anything to offer and will see yogi coming anyway)
  • People to try to yogi from:
    • Everybody else, including:
      • Day-hikers
      • Picnicers [sic]
      • Weekend hikers
  • A southern drawl often helps the cause
  • Finally, yogiing is not dishonorable — both sides benefit. Thru-hiker gets food, and donater learns about thru-hiking and experiences the joy of giving
  • A good yogi always expresses his gratitude

Okay, enough about that. It might be the beginnings of a humorous piece, although I don’t know who would buy it.

With luck, we will be in Hot Springs in three more days. If not, we will probably get there the morning of the fourth. After that, I will have to decide between taking an easy few days to Erwin, TN, or a hard few days to Elk Park. There is really no point in worrying about it now, as plans out here seem to change daily.

I always like to end my entries with some mention of Julie, as that plants her firmly in the front of my mind just before I go to bed. I wish that instead of just mentioning her that she could be whisked here at the end of each day. I love her and miss her…

To extend the final sentiment in this entry… Although I didn’t know it at the time, this was our “-1″ anniversary.

If I have my shelter sequence and dates right, I covered the same stretch of trail on this day where my good friend Gregg Sales, and a couple of his friends had a rather harrowing encounter with a bear 15 years later.

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