Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 12-Jul-1993

Date July 12, 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.

7/12/93 – Mon.

20.5 miles today & I’m staying at The Big Meadows Campground, surrounded by asphalt, RVs, screaming children, and people with so much gear I have to wonder how big their houses are to store it all. I had originally planned to go another 3 1/2 miles to Rock Spring Hut, but that would have made 24 miles today and only 14 tomorrow. Besides, this place has a lodge with a taproom, which intend to check out later this evening.

Cloud & Scout had talked about staying here tonight, too, and I left them a note on the trail as to where I was, but 20 miles is a really long day for them, so I’m not sure if they’ll make it or not.

I feel a bit foolish about the $12 I paid for a campsite. The way it is supposed to work is you pick a spot to camp, camp there, and then go pay round 9:00 in the morning. Rather than just camping and leaving around 7:00 and foregoing payment, I had this lady screw up her normal routine and let me pay tonight. Now, as much as I would like to think I did the morally upright thing and did the campground a favor, I do not think this is the case. $12 is awfully steep for the rental of a 4′ x 8′ plot of ground for an evening. I am not renting camping space and a parking space and use of all the trails in the area for a whole family for an entire day, like most of the people here are.

I think hikers are probably sort of expected to breeze through for free, as finding legitimate camping spots along the A.T. anywhere within this park is next to impossible, and the shelters are not very conveniently spaced. Anyway, it’s H20 under the bridge, so no sense in wasting more paper and ink on it.

Wildlife-wise, today was pretty good. Well, at least deer-wise, that is. This morning I saw a 6-point buck with a doe, and this afternoon I saw a spike buck. During the whole day, I probably saw 8 does. The does are ludicrously tame — I’m often tempted to swat them on the rump to try and teach them that man is not their friend, but of course I don’t.

I have an observation for the day, although that just means it is being recorded today — I’ve noticed during the last week as the A.T. has been more or less following the routes of two major roads and crossing back and forth over them (first, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and now Skyline Drive). It is this: people in cars really do not see much. If I am more than five feet into the woods on the trail, 100% of the occupants of the cars that whiz by have no idea that I am there. As obvious a statement as this seems to be, I was still surprised when, again and again, I would be just about to cross the road and would hear a car approaching. I would look up, somehow expecting that same momentary eye contact that occurs between pedestrians on a busy sidewalk, only to watch the car fly by, its passengers totally oblivious to my existence. What other sights and sounds do they miss out on as they speed along the highways and byways of the world?

This is turning into one of my more prolific evenings — partly because I have the time and light, and partly because I’m getting a new journal in Harper’s Ferry and don’t want to have too many blank pages. Again I will state that I am surprised (pleasantly) that I am able to come up with something to write every day.

I met a guy today who was a southbound thru-hiker of sorts. He hiked from Springer to Pearisburg last year and then began a flip-flop by heading up to Maine and starting back south. He took off for the winter and then started out again this spring to finish up, so he’s relatively close to being done. Next to him, I feel like I will be on the trail forever, which would be forever without Julie, which would be unacceptable. At the same time, though, in many ways the 2+ months I have already spent on the trail have gone by quickly. When I think of all the people I’ve met, of all the places I’ve been, and of all the experiences I have had since waking up in that hotel room in Gainesville, GA, on May 8, I am surprised that it has only been two months; yet, I don’t feel at all like I have been hiking for an unbearably long time.

(Note: I have now officially completely exhausted one ink pen on the trail — note the difference between “don’t” and “feel” in the preceding paragraph)

I just went up to the restroom, and on the way back had a doe sort of bluff-charge me, like it thought it was a black bear sow and the other doe with it was a cub. It proceeded to follow me all the way back to my campsite, charging me twice more in the process. As far as I could tell, I wasn’t invading its space or anything, so I have no idea what that was all about.

I do believe I am starting to ramble, so I am going to stop for the evening and go try and call Julie. She is not expecting to hear from me until tomorrow afternoon, but I am learning that I am incapable of walking by a phone without trying to reach her, even if I know the chances of my success are small. The phone bill be damned, Julie’s absence remains the low point of life on the trail, and I will do anything in my power to raise that point any little bit that I can.

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