Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 04-Jul-1993

Date July 4, 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.

7/4/93 – Sun.

21.9 miles today from Bobblet’s Gap Shelter to Thunder Hill Shelter.

I parted way with Gandalf today, and though I would be alone tonight, but, after I’d been here for about half an hour, a group of about ten kids (aged 15-18) and three fairly young adults. They’re all guys, and they’re from a place called “New Dominion” in Cumberland, Maryland. It sounds a lot like the place Uncle Steve used to work in Austin. They’re all troubled in some way or other, and teh program is meant to give them self-esteem, teach them how to express their feelings, and teach them how to cope with life. It’s really pretty fascinating. They have assigned duties and a lot of rules and rituals. They all have to to tuck their shirts in before they eat, for instance. Any one of the kids can call a “group meeting,” where they bring up whatever issue is bothering them, and they all discuss it. They’re having one right now, and it’s centered around one kid who apparently tends to be a quitter and who hurts a lot of people. The supervisor, who is probably in his late 20s, from Louisiana, who has a law degree and has been at New Dominion for three years (Al is his name) is really lighting into the kid (Ryan). It sounds pretty harsh, actually. I talked to Al earlier, and when I told him the A.T. is sort of my own visionquest, he said that this is the the third year of his visionquest, and he’s loving it. He plans to go into psychology, probably school, in another year or so. The kids seem pretty cool, overall. They all have input in these group meetings, and it all seems pretty valid. They talked earlier about everything from books they had read, to different “privileges” each of them had/didn’t have, to various runaway attempts that people had made. Oh, by the way, they do some sort of long distance backpacking each year somewhere (they’re going all the way from Waynesboro to Cloverdale this time). They also do a canoe trip each year. Enough on the New Dominion. Ryan is now in tears.

My left boot is continuing to give me trouble. The glue didn’t hold the sole on for more than about five steps this morning, so then I tried a heavy-duty thread/duct tape contraption that only lasted about a half a mile. So, then I broke down and hacked the toe off of one of my socks and slipped it over the toe, which lasted okay for the rest of teh day, but which won’t make it all the way to Waynesboro. I spent a good while tonight trying to bind it pretty well with string and wire. Whenever I find something that seems to work (if I can), I’ll take a picture of it. Which brings up a deeper point. Out here, a problem arises, there is the assumption, which is a reality, that it can be deal with, if not totally solved.

I learned from some southbounders that there were 4 beers in the spring here left by a weekender, which did a lot to hurry me on here. I had one when I arrived, and then the group showed up, which I mistook for a Boy Scout troop, at first. Well, Crazy Hawk and Mr. Wendal had told them about the beers, and the advisors were in a real hurry to find them and hide them (some of the kids had alcohol problems), so that was the big “Oops!” on my part. The one beer was good, though.

I miss Julie.

I actually remember that evening fairly well. The leaders had assured me that I was fine to stay in the shelter / write in my journal while they had their group meeting. Not knowing what to expect, I stayed. And, once things got kind of tense…it would have been more awkward for me to get up and leave.

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