Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 22-Jun-1993

Date June 22, 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.

6/22/93 – Tue.

18.8 miles today by 4:00 — we’re staying at Knot Maul Shelter with Don Jordan (older fellow from Florida northbound to Katahdin), “Gandalf” (history teacher from Birmingham, Alabama — northbound this year from Erwin, TN, to Harper’s Ferry, WV — hiked with Buck & Bearanoid & says Buck says Hi), and “Beans” (southbound — from Tulsa, OK, but living in and about to start grad school in Austin, TX). We’ve spent the evening trading trail stories, mostly — some necessary F.Y.I. and some just interesting tales. It’s been enjoyable over all.

By the way, a guy came into the Mt. Rogers NRA H.Q. yesterday trying to unload a bunch of bananas (several bunches, actually — a big box) that were left over from something or other, so Ron & I took about eight, ate a couple apiece, and carried the rest up to the shelter. We sliced two of them into our strawberry pudding dessert and ate two this morning as a pre-breakfast to get us the 4.6 miles to the D.G. and the phones. We left camp about 6:30 and got to the phones around 8:00 — 7:00 St. Louis time & plenty of time for him to call Andrea before she left for work.

Once again, I am within shot of seeing Julie, and my mind spends more time two days ahead of me than in the present. Ron seems to be doing the same. Is this bad? I don’t think so. I’m still enjoying the trail, the views, and my other surroundings, and the thoughts do not make me wish I were off the trail, so I will not let it bother me.

Walking Eagle, who I met briefly on Roan Mountain, is temporarily of the trail and in the hospital with cellulitis (?) in his ankle. I had thought I was about to caatch him, and it’s too bad that it happened. He’s still planning to continue the trip, so I will try to leave him encouragement in shelter registers.


“What day is it?” I ask one morning as we break camp.

“Sunday,” replies another hiker.

“Out here, every day is Sunday,” adds Victor, a backpacker known as “Bushwack” to other hikers on the 2,144 mile Appalachian Trail.

As I set out down the trail, Bushwack’s comment keeps returning to my thoughts. Sunday? I agree that after walking north from Georgia for a couple of weeks, the days do begin to take on a certain similarity that makes such terms as “weekend” relatively meaningless, but why Sunday?

The longer I ponder the question, the more sense it makes. Sunday is one of the two days of the weekend, and thus one of the two days when most people are freed from the structure and stricture (?) of the working world. On a long distance hike, that freedom is maximized, so, at the least, every day out here is a weekend day.

A little more thought yields the answer to the question of why Sunday over Saturday. American society has long been based on a Christian calendar and a Christian way of life. Predominantly, this means that Sunday mornings are left open for church attendance. Meetings, trips, retreats, and other leisure group activities are traditionally scheduled for Saturdays so as to avoid church conflicts. Even as more and more people drift away from church attendance, this practice is upheld, leaving many people with Sundays to themselves.

Sunday becomes a day free of commitments, when the most important task is to make sure that there is a clean pair of underwear to be worn to work on Monday. Sleeping late, reading all of the newspaper, and writing letters or talking to friends and family are all popular Sunday activities, but the key is that they are activities that are not directed by outside forces. Even church attendance is an activity that is ultimately driven by the individual’s own inner being.

Which brings me back tot he here and now of this trek from Georgia to Maine. Every day I am out here because it is where I want to be, and every day I have the option to sleep late or dawdle around camp or take a two-hour lunch break. Every day is a day I have to myself, and every day is Sunday.

That article was motivated by a suggestion that Mom had made and is really just an elaboration on some stuff I had written earlier in my journal. I would like to get one or two more written as well as re-famp the letter I drafted last week, before I leave Bastian. That way, Julie can type it up and send it off to the Beaumont Enterprise for me. I need to get their outdoor editor’s name.

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