Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 21-Jul-1993

Date July 21, 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.

7/21/93 – Wed.

I am starting this entry earlier than I normally do (4:45), but I made it the 15.5 miles from Harper’s Ferry to here (Rocky Run Shelter) by 3:30, and I have already pumped water and laid out my pad and sleeping bag. It’s too early to start dinner, and Cloud & Scout will probably be showing up later, so it seemed like a good time to write.

A quick recap of the past few days: Julie and I made it to Harper’s Ferry around 1:15 on Sunday, and killed time at the ATC H.Q. and hanging out with Roadrunner at the Hilltop Inn until 3:00, when gommie came to pick us up. We just hung around the farm that evening.

On Monday, I got a haircut in the morning, went and saw Dee in the afternoon, and then Julie and I went to see the movie In the Line of Fire .

Yesterday, I cleaned gear in the morning, and then we went to Harper’s Ferry and picked up Scout, Cloud, and a lady named Laura Lee (Lorely) (GA –> Harper’s Ferry) and brought them back to the farm where we ate Little Caesar’s pizza, peach cobbler, brownies, and ice cream. After we dropped them back in Harper’s Ferry, we went out to see Dee, and then, yesterday evening, Julie’s mom came out to the farm for dinner and to spend the night.

Did I say a quick recap?

The hiking today was pretty easy and uneventful. I got on the trail about 8:30, took well over an hour for lunch (I met a day hiker who plays duplicate bridge with Gommie), and still got here by 3:30, as I have already said.

I will say now that I will almost definitely not make an entry tomorrow night — Julie is going to meet up with me for the evening, and it will be my last time with her for several weeks. I am planning to hike 19.9 miles to Devil’s Racecourse Shelter.

And now, on to deeper things.

These Thoughts of Mine

As I walked away
And left you behind,
You really came with me
In these thoughts of mine.

And you sit with me now
With two glasses of wine –
A romantic encounter
In these thoughts of mine

And when I lay down in bed
At a half past nine,
You’ll be there beside me
In these thoughts of mine.

So worry not, my dear,
And our love will shine.
We are always together
In these thoughts of mine.

Farewell and Rememberance

I saw you yesterday, Dee, and I fear it may have been for the last time. Your time in this life is drawing to a close, and I feel that I need to tell you good-bye before it does. It was awkward in the nursing home yesterday — awkward for both of us, so I am turning to the written word to say my last farewell.

We’ve known each other for just over two decades now, Dee. For you, that has been two decades at the end of a long and active life, but for me it has been a lifetime.

I think of you most often now in snapshots — some pictures that actually exist, and some photographs that will forever be frozen in my mind.

You see, Dee, you’re a very photogenic person — your true character is never hidden, so that even the candid shot catches you in some position or act that is undeniably you.

I think of a picture taken after you had some cancerous tissue removed from your nose. You are seated on the porch at the farm with a wide, warm smile on your face, wholly un-self-conscious about the bandage across your nose. But you have never been self-conscious about anything, so the picture is fitting.

I see a picture of the two of us posing together for a picture — a young boy and his grandfather each wielding a rake. That picture sparks other memories, like the times you used to take me out for a golf lesson and lecture me on how important it was to have some sort of target for every practice swing, be it a dead leaf, a broken tee, or a weed growing out of the ground nearby. After a half hour or so lesson, you would point to a corner of the pasture that was covered in milkweeds and tell me to go over and take practice swings until that section of the pasture had been cleared. As blisters formed on my hands from hacking at weeds, I always wondered if I had been duped, but my golf game always did improve.

And then there are the audio snapshots. How many times did you interrupt me in mid-sentence to solemnly expound, “Young man, if you ever want to be successful in life, you’ve got to learn to articulate and enunciate .” Of course, you were right.

And do you remember how you would take your grandsons out into the pasture in the evening to count the cattle and look out at the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance as the sun set? You would always say that you liked to come out there in the evening and ask yourself, “What nice thing have I done for someone today that I didn’t have to do?”

“Ask yourself that,” you would say, “Don’t tell me what you come up with — just ask yourself.”

Oh, Dee, your wit and wisdom were unmatched by anyone in so many ways. You were a leader who led by showing respect for those you led — even if they were a bunch of young grandchildren piled into the back of your truck for a ride through the fields.

You were a charmer — always ready with a quick and witty reply for any situation.

And you were a gentleman. One of my favorite pictures of you was taken only a few months before you entered into the nursing home. It is a candid shot and one you have probably never seen, but you are kissing Julie on the hand as a farewell, and in that picture you are every bit the handsome, classy gentleman that I have known for all my life.

So, good-bye Dee. Your life on this earth will soon end, but i will spend the rest of mine missing you.

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