Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 10-Jul-1993

Date July 10, 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.

7/10/93 – Sat.

20.1 miles today to Blackrock Hut (shelters are called “huts” in Shenandoah National Park) and staying with Crazy Hawk.

Some thoughts from today: all of those people in New York City are having to deal with smog that won’t move out to sea, and everybody’s complaining about the weather (i.e. lack of air movement) is causing it. Wrong! The people are causing it; the weather is just rubbing it in their faces. You don’t potty-train a child by making him sit in his own feces, and you don’t house-break a puppy by shoving its face in its urine, so you probably can’t change society’s ways by making it breathe its own waste, but I do admit to getting a kind of twisted satisfaction out of the whole deal.

Now, back to what I’ve been up to. I made it the 18 miles to Waynesboro by 2:30 in the afternoon on Thursday, so I had plenty of time to get to the cobbler, check in at a Comfort Inn, shower, and get to the post office before it closed. My maildrop had not arrived yet, but it showed up the next day, so it wasn’t a problem. Food consumption while in Waynesboro for approximatly 40 hours: ice cream – 3 pints; pizza – 1 medium deep dish; salad – 1 half-gallon tub; Chinese food – 1 order sweet & sour pork and 1 egg roll; breakfasts (2) – 4 eggs, 3 pancakes, 1 bagel, 2 biscuits w/ jelly, 2 biscuits w/ gravy, 3 slices of bacon, 1 order of hash browns; beer – 1 six pack Budweiser. My stomach was happy.

Julie’s grandfather dies on Tuesday, the same day I was thinking about Dee, which is either just coincidence or is faulty E.S.P. on my part. I suspect the former. Julie was having a rough time with the whole thing — more due to the strain of dealing with all of her family and with some of their mourning practices than with his death itself. It was another one of those cases where he had been ill for so long that in many ways his death was a relief, but there is still the pain & grief of the realization that he is now gone forever. As Gommie said (I’ll paraphrase) when someone is terminal but given medical treatment to prolong life, often the treatment and care is really just prolonging death.

I’m going to take a shot at a piece I was writing in my head at Maupin Field Shelter.


I lie on my back on a picnic table in a Virginia wilderness and watch and hear man. I stare up at the heavens and at the stars so far away that distance becomes meaningless.

An airplane crosses the sky, the lights on its wings advertising its direct path from one point to another. I try to follow its journey, but the task is so simple and dull that my mind soon wanders…to the fireflies, which mock the plane as they beeline about. Their tails glow with a certain regularity, but now with any given pattern of length or interval. I spend some time playing with the fireflies, picking one and trying to guess where it will appear next after its light goes out. I am only moderately successful, but I am entertained.

I begin to listen, and hear the “whoosh” of a car passing in the distance. Almost as if answering, a breeze picks up and whispers through the trees, making a similar, but more delicate and pleasant, sound. I prefer the natural wind to the man-made one that I hear from the road.

Nature has an inherent beauty that man so often misses. But, without the airplane and the car, would I, a man, even notice the fireflies or the wind?


I think those sentiments could probably be done better as poetry. Oh, well.

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