Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 01-Jul-1993

Date July 1, 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.

7/1/93 – Thu.

Staying at Campbell Shelter tonight with Gandalf — 16.1 miles on A.T., plus 0.5 mile “courtesy climb” to get to the trail from the shelter this morning, plus 2.0 miles round trip to Catawba, VA, for a maildrop.

It rained last night, poured about 5:30 this morning, and had dwindled to a drizzle by the time I got on the trail at 6:45, but the trees and grass were wet, and it was not long before my boots, my pack, my clothes, and my feet were wet, too. None of them really dried out all day, although the sun did eventually appear, so I had the “immersion foot” look by the time I got to the shelter tonight.

Dad sent me new shoulder straps and a new, more padded hip belt, which is pretty nice and will be even nicer when I get it adjusted properly. I am starting to dread maildrops because they add so much weight to my pack, but it only takes a couple of days to lighten that load to a more acceptable level. And I am eating well. Gandalf says I eat as well or better than anyone he has seen on the trail, and I have to agree that this is the case since Dad started making up the meals (no real surprise).

I found a patch of blueberries that were ripe today, which bodes well for the upcoming week or two.

I forgot to mention that yesterday we went by an Audie Murphy monument — apparently near to where he died in a plane crash in 1971. It was only really accessible by foot, and I liked the touch of Americana along the trail — I couldn’t help but think patriotic thoughts for a while after I passed the monument.

Gandalf and I were talking about the whole “Virginia Blues” phenomenon, and he came up with a term worth noting: “Vista Burnout.” It’s what happens when you’ve been on the trail for a while and begin to have a “ho-hum” reaction to all of the spectacular views. I have it to a degree, although Mcafee Knob, which I crossed towards the end of the day today, was quite impressive despite the heavy haze that obscured the view. I also think back to my experience in Newfound Gap in the Great Smokies. There was a whole parking log as well as a ranger on duty in the gap, primarily because it was such a magnificent overlook, and, to me, it was unquestionably “ho-hum.” If I lived in a house that was perched on top of McAfee Knob, would even that view become old and tired? Probably so. It’s really too bad that that’s a part of human nature.

I missed Julie by about 40 minutes today when I tried to call her from Catawba. The bad part is that I’d been in town for 2 hours trying to get my maildrop sorted out before I tried to call her. I’m getting a room with Gandalf tomorrow afternoon at a Best Western ($18 apiece), so I’m sure I’ll get through to her then.

By the way, a hiker named “Water Witch,” who is now only about a day ahead of me, has been making register entries that indicate she is fighting the “Virginia Blues,” too.

Bushwack (!) left a couple of register entries 3 days ago. he got off the trail in Gatlinburg, TN, and had come up to visit his sister and take his nephew on a two-day hike up McAfee Knob. he’s apparently headed back to California now.

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