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Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 07-Sep-1993

Date September 7, 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.

9/7/93 – Tue.

We were planning on going 13.8 miles to a shelter today, but we found out that there was not room for all three of us in “The Dungeon” at Lake of the Crowds Hut tomorrow night, so we stopped early at Zealand Falls Hut and worked for dinner, lodging and breakfast (two hours of hauling wood). There’s a good chance that the Mt. Washington P.O. closed as of Labor Day, and my maildrop & boots are either on their way home or are being sent to Gorham. Glen & Buck both have maildrops in Gorham, anyway, so we can’t really get there before Sunday afternoon, so this unscheduled short day doesn’t really throw us off.

The mountains and scenery out here are indeed spectacular, but the number of people out here trying to enjoy it detracts from the beauty. Although the White Mountains are not a national park, the AMC has done a good job of making it seem like one, what with the hut system, the large shelters, and all the campsites that have caretakers & a fee.

I’ve quizzed Glen a lot about what was different about the A.T. when he hiked in 1973. He stayed in one motel room during his entire hike, had less than 10 showers during the whole trip, and saw a lot fewer people on the trail — not that many more people total had hiked the whole A.T. up to 1973 than will hike it this year alone.

The natural jump in the discussion was to what would the A.T. be like in 20 more years: virtually all hikers wearing spandex?, a hut system along the whole trail?, up to 2,000 people completing the trail each year? Is the current high number of thru-hikers a cyclic phenomenon that is peaking, or will the numbers just keep getting higher? We agreed that the trail is already too crowded, but how can it be regulated fairly? A permit system for the whole trail, perhaps, that would limit the number of hikers on the trail each year? All questions and no answers.

At least I have company on the trail, and we are having fun, which is not to say that I am not still very much looking forward to being done. I miss Julie.

Heh-heh. Well…15 years isn’t 20, but this was an interesting entry to stumble across? Having recently spent a few hours on the A.T. and talked to a multiple thru-hikes hiker, I gleaned:

  • Spandex – no (thank goodness!)
  • Sleeping pad of choice — still Therm-a-Rest (I hiked with a RidgeRest out of obstinancy — Therm-a-Rest was already the preferred pad in ’93)
  • Total shift in stove technology from white gas (Coleman fuel) to isopropyl alcohol stoves
  • Internet access in many hostels (and largely expected as an amenity)

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, approximately 9,000 people have reported that they have hiked the entire length of the trail. The ATC makes a semi-big deal about not aggressively tracking that sort of statistic. But, if 9,000 is anywhere in the ballpark of being close, then there still aren’t 2,000 people thru-hiking each year.

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