Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 11-Jul-1993

Date July 11, 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.

7/11/93 – Sun.

21.4 miles to Hightop Hut. So far it’s just me, Cloud, & Scout. I finally met Roadrunner today — he was at the shelter when I got here, but he pressed on and is going to camp somewhere. I thought Crazy Hawk would be here, too, but he has yet to arrive, so who knows?

I saw a black bear cut today, as well as a 10 point buck. The bear was actually on the trail about 20 yards ahead of me, and the deer was only about 20 feet off the trail. I also saw a doe, but next to the other sightings, that was pretty much a non-event.

I stopped at a store that was a couple of hundred feet off the trail and splurged and bought two ice cream bars & a bottle of Gatorade. I tried calling Julie, as I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, but she wasn’t home.

I have fairly vivid memories of the Shenandoahs — partly that they were very easy walking (flat and well-maintained/wide trails), and partly that the trail was never more than a hundred yards from a road, a campground, or even a general store like the one I stopped at.

If I have my facts right, this stretch of trail was a major bone of contention between Benton MacKaye — the original conceiver of the trail — and Myron Avery — the man whose determination really made it a reality. As Skyline Drive was being planned (by the government — I can’t remember exactly which departments were involved at the time), MacKaye vehemently opposed having its route be so close to the A.T. Or where the A.T. was planned to run. Avery, however, was much more pragmatic and realized that digging in their heels on that issue would not be likely to change the final outcome and it would likely foster some ill will with government officials whose support they needed. Obviously, Avery’s position won out. The two men were barely on speaking terms for decades. Even now, I can look back and remember how much I wished MacKaye’s vision had been realized. But, I can also look back and realize that his vision was sufficiently quixotic that Avery as a counterbalance was necessary.

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