Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 17-Sep-1993

Date September 17, 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.

9/17/93 – Fri.

Well, we have now finally made it through that infamous obstacle, Mahoosuc Notch, “The Toughest Miles on the A.T.” It took us 3 hours, which is pushing the long end of average time. Buck has a really tough time on big boulders, what with her short legs and trashed boots. Buck, at separate times, dropper her hiking stick and her fanny pack (water bottle, iodine tablets, and mace) down rock holes, which I wound up retrieving. At one point, I found myself literally doing a handstand in a cave — all Buck could see were the lower half of my legs kicking in the air, the rest of my body submerged in a hole. It was fairly comical.

We only did 4.8 miles total today, though, so it now looks like Buck will have to yellow-blaze to make her October 3rd deadline, which, again, saddens me. I feel like I learn more & think more when I hike with her than I have at any other time on the A.T. We seem to have a really “deep” discussion every other day. She is infinitely will to listen to me talk about Julie, which is good therapy for me.

My deep thought for the day: the earth may be like a person’s first new car. He tends to not maintain it all that well because he thinks it shouldn’t really need it. When the car does start to wear, he may start maintaining it, but it is often too late. The next car, though, is often not the same case, because the person has learned his lesson. The analogy gets continued, though, in a sci-fi kind of dream for the future, in which man manages to colonize another planet, yet doesn’t screw it up like he has screwed up earth. All this stemmed from a rather depressing list of how many different ways mankind has screwed up the earth — so many that it hardly seems possible that they could all be reversed.

A flip-flopper named Morgan is here tonight. She and Buck hiked together back before Buck got off for the wedding in Hot Springs, so it’s been a big gossipfest/reunion. One’s on one side of me, the other on the other side, so I’m pretty much right smack dab in the middle of it.

Still missing Julie — actually feeling kind of heartsick. The days drag on interminably and the miles get longer and longer.

Mahoosuc Notch is memorable, and I wasn’t making up the “toughest mile” label — that was and still is the general consensus (although it is sometimes referred to as the toughest horizontal mile). Keeping in mind that, by this point, I was conditioned to the point that I could cover 20-25 miles in a day over any sort of terrain that allowed me to just hike, regardless of whether that was up and down hills and mountains. I covered 4.8 miles that day. Mahoosuc Notch is a mile-long section of the trail that is, literally, just a huge ravine filled with massive boulders. It was sort of fun, as it was as much rock climbing as it was hiking, so it definitely added some variety. There’s a nice Flash presentation with pictures that gives a pretty good sense of that section of the trail on the site.

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