Gilligan on the AT Revisited: 17-Aug-1993

Date August 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.

8/17/93 – Tue.

And the rain continues…

The rain abated sometime last night, although the sky was still heavily overcast this morning. I got a late start (7:45), mostly due to my late arrival the night before — my gear was not as straightened out as it usually is when I go to bed, thus making for a longer pack-up time in the A.M. About a mile down the trail, a light mist began to fall. Within an hour it had become a light rain. None of my gear had really dried out during the night, so nothing really got much wetter, but nothing got drier, either. I ate lunch at a shelter a bit over 12 miles down the trail, and debated whether or not I should stay there. I was already wet, though, and the next shelter was only 5 1/2 miles down the trail, so I decided to press on. I arrived at the shelter at 4:30 — still plenty of time to spread out gear, do some maintenance work, and relax — only to find a Boy Scout troop doing their impression of a can of sardines. So…I pressed on yet again. 1.8 miles (+ .3 miles down a side trail) to get to the next shelter, which is big and a bit run-down, but of which I am the sole occupant this evening. I was still here by 6:00 (I pumped 5 qts. of H20 at the last shelter and carried it here, as the water here was listed as unreliable).

The Scouts said they’d heard on the radio that the rain is supposed to end sometime tomorrow, and I certainly hope they are right. My pack rain cover continues to repel water like a sponge, so my pack, as well as a lot of the stuff in it, is quite damp. Fortunately, I put the camera in a new ziploc bag in Salisbury.

Buck is two days, or a little less, ahead of me now, so it’s still possible I will catch her before I take off for Rush. I think finding a hiking partner might help me level out on the emotional rollercoaster I have been riding of late. I go from being excited about “how little” of the trail is left to being depressed about how much is left. In so many ways I continue to appreciate & enjoy the A.T. experience, but in another way I am so ready to return to a life that has Julie in it every day.

There’s been no sign of Roadrunner or Antaeus, so I have no idea how far back they are.

Both the Buck and the Roadrunner/Antaeus mentions illustrate an interesting phenomenon on the trail. Communication flowed one way through the shelter registers. The registers were notebooks that people would leave in a shelter — typically with their address in the back of it. Whether they were locals or thru-hikers who were carrying a blank notebook, the protocol was that you waited until you found a full register and then swapped it out with a blank notebook and sent the full one to the person who had left it there. Hikers made entries of all sorts in the registers. I wrote a couple of humor pieces along the way — one about my imagined etymology for “gnat” — “goddamn nat” to “g’damn nat” to “g’nat” to “gnat” (they were pretty bad at that shelter). Another was about how scientists had estimated that, by the year 2010, the entire AT would be paved with the rubber slowly shed by hikers’ boots over the years.

Thru-hikers also used the registers to send greetings to the hikers they knew were behind them. And, at the same time, hikers could predict when/where they might reconnect with hikers in front of them. As I think will become apparent over the coming entries, I “chased” Buck (and Roadrunner) for quite a while — I knew I was within a day of catching them, while they had no idea and would choose the next day to “yellow blaze” (hitchhike) farther up the trail. By the time of this entry, this had already been going on for a while. I think I caught up with her shortly hereafter.

As for the mention of Rush, I was close enough to Boston that I’d planned to get off the trail for a long weekend back at my fraternity house as the new freshmen arrived on campus.

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