June 23, 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.
6/23/93 – Wed.
19.8 miles today and we’re staying at Jenkins Shelter with Gandalf, listening to war stories about his one year of teaching in an inner-city school in Birmingham, Alabama (taking a gun from a student, restraining a girl so she doesn’t beat up a guy, watching a fight break out following an assembly about Martin Luther King, Jr., having a girl ask, in front of the class, “Mr. Sturgeon, my throat’s a little dry. Do you have something I can suck on?” etc., etc.). He’s a pretty good guy who could talk the ear off a statue, but he does have a number of good stories.
This is Ron’s last night on the trail. We talked today about how his expectations of the trail differed from reality, and concluded nothing, but he is now talking about section hiking the whole trail over a period of time. We met a guy today who has been hiking different sections of the A.T. since 1957, and had about 15 miles to go before he would be done. Wow!
It took us just under four hours to walk the first 9 miles today, which included the one semi-major climb up Chestnut Know. When we stopped for lunch at 1:00, we had a bit under six miles to go to the Jenkins Shelter, yet we still did not get here until a little after 5:00. Reason? First, we took about 45 minutes for lunch. Second, we stopped to look at a view about 1 1/2 miles later, & met a guy who runs a B & B in Burke’s Garden, which is a small community (partly Amish), that we had been looking down at all day from varioius points along the trail. He gave us each a cold beer and told us all about the history of the town. When James Burke first found the valley in which the town is located, it is rumored that he though he had found the Garden of Eden (it is very fertile, apparently). Anyway, we talked to the innkeeper for a while, and it sounds like his B. & B. is really nice. He charges $75-90 a night, and I am kicking around the idea of taking Julie there tomorrow night if things work out (hopefully, I can just pay Mom & Dad the difference for what a normal hotel would cost). I have one of the brochures for the inn, and the whole thing looks like it would be both quaint and romantic. A lot depends on when Ron takes off & when Julie arrives, so we will see.
I am no longer all that worried about trying to catch up with Buck and Ramble-on-Rich. After 10 days with Ron, I am ready to be back on my own again for a bit. There is a tremendous difference between “hiking with” someone where you each carry of of your own equipment (e.g., Bearanoid & me), and hiking with someone where you share equipment (e.g., Dad & me, Ron & me). Although the latter is fine (and even enjoyable) in small quantities, I would not want to do it for the entire trail.
Tomorrow ought to be a fast day with few stops to smell the flowers or take pictures.
So…is that bed and breakfast still around? I was able to track down a mention of it: “In 1992, Pauletta and Joe Van Dyke opened the James Burke Inn Bed and Breakfast.”
Unfortunately, I also found a note from 1998:
“Not enough, however, to sustain the garden’s only bed and breakfast. Joe and Pauletta VanDyke had high hopes for the James Burke Inn back in 1993: a mini-resort-restaurant-health spa that would have live music and serve alcohol. Today, the inn stands empty along Route 625, with a ‘For Sale’ sign in its front yard.”
That’s a shame, as Joe was a nice fellow…and you’ll see in a bit that Julie and I did stay at the inn. I’m 100% sure I never paid my parents the difference between a night there and a night in a “normal” hotel. I realize two things that have not come up yet — and one sorta’ looks like it was not captured in the journal:
- I allude to the fact here and there that my parents funded the trip. As this entry shows, I was fairly frugally minded, but, even on the trail, I was aware of how lucky I was. Most of the people I met were self-funding their hikes, and they really had to watch their expenses when they hit a town. I generally stayed in hostels when they were available — many of them were “free but take donations,” while others were ridiculously cheap (but also generally took donations). If there wasn’t a hostel in the town that was convenient for a stop, I would get a hotel, and I always got a hotel when Julie met up with me. I have wondered over the years what my total outlay was (um…Mom? Do you have that?). I’ve always looked back on the experience as being a relatively inexpensive way to spend 5 months, but I have no idea what the total I spent was.
- I’ve never explained my “Gilligan” moniker. I picked that up within a week or two of my dad heading out. Most of the people I was hiking with already had trail names, and I did not. It was one of the evenings when I was in a shelter with a number of hikers who have been mentioned already — I particularly remember that Just-in-Time and Entropy were there. We fairly quickly settled on “Gilligan” due to the Tilley Hat (T3) I wore (I still have it to this day…and it is still in great shape — if you don’t know the story of Tilley Endurables, just do a Google search for “tilley endurables elephant”), combined with my propensity to whack my head on the ceilings of shelters.
I’m sure other such tidbits will occur to me as being “missed” in the journal as we go along.