May 30, 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.
5/30/93 – Sun.
I am breaking with my habit and not putting in a full entry tonight. We arrived at Deep Gap/Groundhog Creek shelter at 8:45 PM. I am too exhausted and delirious to make a full entry, but I will copy the entry that Bearanoid and I made in the trail register verbatim tomorrow morning, with additional comments afterwards. But, for now, goodnight.
Okay, here it is:
We have no idea where to start with this entry, but we’re a little slap-happy, so it will probably be long and random due to an overdose of endorphines.
It all started this morning at Tri-Corner Knob shelter, just over 25 miles along the A.T. from here, with 19 people, including eight seventh graders, rising at dawn to a beautiful sky, and the prospect of many downhill miles to come. The plan: to walk an easy, relaxing, blissful, laid-back, enjoyable 14.8 miles to Davenport Gap shelter. But, the walk was easier than we had expected, and by 1:00 we were almost there. We decided to change our plans, succumb to the desire for a Mountain Mama Cheeseburger (and a move away from starch for a meal), and head on to Davenport Gap. When thunder rolled and raindrops fell, we read it as a sign (little did we know that we had misread it) that we were doing the right thing. 1 1/2 hours later, with full stomachs, a sunny sky, and the prospect of a shitty bunkhouse, we gleefully returned to the trail, intending to camp at the first campsite, a mere 1.1 miles down the trail. We opted not to fill our canteens at M.M.’s, for the spring was 1.1 downhill miles down the trail.
Upon arrival at the campsite, we decided that it was too early to stop, and we would rather press on to the next campsite. After all, what are 3 miles uphill to two guys who have walked all the way from Springer Mtn.?
2 1/2 miles later, we passed “Smokey,” happily camped at a site not marked in the guidebook, although it did have a nice gurgling stream. No! We wanted the blue blaze that heralded a trail to a campsite deemed “excellent” by the ATC guidebook. We knew it was only halfway up that 7-mile climb. Hours later, after cresting Snowbird Mtn., we began to suspect something was amiss. After consulting the guidebook and the data book, we confirmed our stupidity. Out of water, darkness looming, and storm clouds threatening, as we desperately tried to pump water from a puddle fit for neither man nor beast, we realized something: when the pump clogs after two strokes, pressing on is the only option. So, with aching, wet feet, that is what we did. With immersion foot (and immersion other-body-parts) setting in, and toenails falling off, we set off for the final three miles, flashlights at the ready, hoping not to overshoot the shelter like we had the campsites.
We arrived weary and miserable at 8:45 PM, glad to see an empty shelter after a crowded Memorial Day Weekend in the Smokies, and just plain damn glad to see a shelter. Several mice were spotted fleeing, to brave the rain over the maniacal hysterics of the two late arrivals.
Tomorrow, we sleep long and late, as we are much closer to Hot Springs than we had ever imagined we would be.
Entropy and Just-in-Tim, never again will we not heed your wisdom. Our emotional and psychological state is still unstable, so if you find us naked and hugging trees or staring catatonically into space, rest assured that it was our own stupidity that drove us to mental collapse. But, I (Gilligan) did my first 20+ (nay, 25+) miler before it happened. Words of wisdom: if you travel seven miles to reach a point four miles in, chances are you’ve overshot your target. Holy shit! What a day! Oh my god!
Trail names for the day:
Blunder Twins Deactivated
(“Form of: a shelter!” “Shape of: a full canteen!”)
Trail names any other day:
Bearanoid and Gilligan
(end of entry)
[Before I forget, I need to make a note to hunt down Amy Gardner and ask her what to do about hunting down information for the 7th grade science teacher we stayed with at Tri-Corner Knob. His name is Mr. Robinson and he teaches in Toledo, Ohio. The plane crash they were looking for was a DC-4 that crashed in 1945 with a load of scientists en route to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It was a govt. flight, and supposedly crashed in the vicinity of Sequotah (sp?) Mtn., the wreckage being at an elevation of 5,400 ft.]
Yesterday, I was glad that I was not hiking alone. Had I been, I would have been scared shitless and ready to get off the trail in Hot Springs. I was also glad that Bearanoid and I had known each other only a couple of weeks. If we had known each other longer, we probably would have been snapping and yelling at each other. As it was, we joked around the whole time, evan as our discomfort and apprehensions grew. This must be some sort of psychological defense mechanism that I do not wholly understand.
It’s hard to say if we were in any real danger. had the temperature dropped 5 degrees or 10 degrees, or had the rain started back up, we might have been, but it did not, and the worst thing we faced was stumbling along in semi-darkness. We were in a much safer position than we would have been had we been alone. I can make it out here.