EXCERPTS FROM MY JOURNAL
|Keeping a thoroughly written and photographic record of my hike was as important to me as doing the hike itself. Writing in my journal each day helped me to further process the experience for a much more meaningful journey. And so, at the end of a days hike, no matter how tired, how sore, how wet, how cold, or how frustrated I was... I managed to keep an extremely thorough journal for all 152 days of my walk, and it means everything to me today.
The following entries are just a few short excerpts that I hope you will enjoy reading!
April 1, 1994...(Day-7)
The icy cold weather had to be dealt with during those first few weeks on the trail... "Last night was extremely cold on top of Blue Mountain. My 20 degree bag just wasn't enough to hold out those frigid winds. Throughout the night I fought the cold, and lost miserably. Rest was poor at best. I put on all of my polar-tec but it could do only so much in that kind of wind!"
April 15, 1994...(Day-21)
The section of the trail through the Great Smokey Mountains was interesting to say the least. Complain as we did, everyone is required by park regulation to stay inside the "bear-proof" shelters. Although tempers flared at times due to the sardine-like conditions, most of the time it actually was a catalyst for some of my most memorable moments on the trail...
"Got off to a semi-early start this morning. The shelter was really packed last night with the welcomed and late arrival of THUNDER CHICKEN and MARMOT. Somehow most of us managed to get some sleep between all the rhythmic snoring and the gate door opening and closing with folks finding a path to relieve their bladders.
"The stretch between Icebox Shelter and here (Tri-Knob Shelter) is probably the most beautiful and dramatic in the park, which mostly follows the top of a ridge up to 6,000 feet in elevation. After the first 6 to 7 miles on the trail the inevitable rain began to fall, just as POGO, TROLL, and myself were finishing a quick calorie booster called lunch. It was now another 6 miles to the shelter, but we trudged on through the hard rain which soaked to our toes. The scariest part was being on that ridge while the lightning popped and cracked all around.
"After two and a half more hours of ice cold hiking we arrived. My fingers were so cold that they became stiff in moving. Once in the protection of the shelter we first got all of the wet clothing off and put on all dry. When folks first arrive at a shelter it is most times very humorous to watch how we always seem to just stand there for a few minutes as though vegetating and wondering what to do next. Although this stance also occured at this shelter, it did make sense to most folks to get dry quick.
"Whithin half an hour there were little gas stoves burning on both levels of the bunks. The top level is within a short hopping distance of the floor so I set up my area there tonight alongside four other thru-hikers. Someone was kind enough to build a fire in the fireplace so it is begining to become a warm and snug place. For most of the afternoon and evening we all sat and lay around sharing stories and laughing a lot.
"More than anything else we cooked and ate. It still amazes me on how much I'm eating. Upon arriving at around 1:30p.m. I've cooked 2 bags of grits loaded with margarine, a very full bag of granola, and a lipton rice dinner with, tuna loaded with margarine, then two snickers bars! Although I'm only about 3 days from Hot Springs (next trail town) it appears that my food supply is most definitely going to run short so I'll probably have to hitch a ride to a store at Davenport Gap tomorrow. Good night!"
May 22, 1994...(Day-58)
There were also many encounters with animals along the trail. The following account is from one such encounter where at first I thought that I was in the process of dying, but later nearly laughed myself to death about it!
"While climbing Floyd Mountain (central Virginia) I was suddenly confronted by a small grouse-like bird. At the time my head was mostly glued to the trail when out of no where it pounced from my left, just ahead and onto the trail coming at me full steam!
"It's tail feathers were fanned out like a peacock and it's owl-like face made a terrifying hissing noise. More than anything I was shocked by it's sudden appearance and stampede towards me. I must have ran backwards for 15 feet while still facing the attacking hen bird while letting out a shreeking yell of surprise.
"I suddenly realized that I wasn't gonna get to Maine running backwards toward Georgia and that it was just a 20 ounce feathered foe causing it all. At this moment of realization I stopped dead in the trail and placed my foot in a cocked position with a dead lock-on glare into the birds eyes.
"Here the bird decided to take a detour off the trail to avoid certain catastrophe. Perhaps she was only trying to protect some nearby eggs and instinctively realied that she couldn't warm them if she became a sudden explosion of Appalachian trail feathers. In respect to the bird I began to hike north again quickly out of her territory. At a safe distance I couldn't help but to look back at her staggering near a dead log and feeling sorry for her. I then proceeded to hike and didn't look back again as other thoughts gradually began to enter my mind."
June 6, 1994...(Day-73)
This entry came from the day we arrived in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and at the headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conference. Although the actual half way point of the trail is a few more days of hiking into southern Pennsylvania, this small historic town has traditionally served as the psychological half way point for thru-hikers for many years...
"This had been a fantastic stay at the Blackburn Center (hikers hostel). To begin the day, Hal and Ruth (hosts) joined us for last farewells as they served us coffee and Ruth insisted that I let her heat my pop tarts. Hal & Ruth were certainly very special people and very much in love with life, each other, and the Trail.
"Coming down the hill into Harpers Ferry Ron (the LONE BUCKEYE) and I talked almost non-stop from so much excitement. We stopped briefly to admire the huge battle trenches left from the Revolutionary War and pondered the fate of the men who had once been here. At this moment I mentioned to Ron that today was the 50th anniversary of World War II's "D" Day invasion... the decisive battle that ultimately led to the fall of Nazi Germany. This would be a great day to arrive in Harpers Ferry and the Appalachian Trail Conference, which gave me even more determination to complete the Trail!
"This thought remained heavy upon my mind all day and I can't express the overflowing excitement as I entered this historic town... a goal finally met and I knew that I would certainly continue my journey to Katahdin! The BUCKEYE DUO, WILD BILL, and myself celebrated the occasion by having a feast of pizza!
June 15, 1994...(Day-82)
Hiking for 5 months on the Trail is very tough business. This entry is from one such day, extremely hot and humid... a day where the mere thought of friends up ahead somehow kept my injured feet moving for 21.6 grueling miles until I had caught them...
"This was another dramatically hot and muggy day to be on the trail- a day when I seem to be only looking for the next stream so that I could splash myself and wring out my sweaty shirt. That cold spring water against the skin is so life saving on a day like this. At the first spring coming off the ridge JEDI catches up to me just as I've completed drinking my second quart of water.
"This ended up being a tough struggle after passing by the Rausch Gap Shelter. Perhaps it was caused by the intense heat, the lack of a sound sleep, or just long mileage, but whatever it was, it hit me hard. Somehow I continued to pump out the miles. Several times I couldn't even believe that I'd continued on.
"Finally there was a spring where I decided to fill up all of my water bottles and to begin looking for a suitable campsite. After 31 miles in this kind of weather I was well past my sane limit. On and on I continued to struggle and as usual at this point in the miles, my toes had already begun to go numb for the day. Just upon reaching the point of making a camp absolutely anywhere, I catch a glimpse of roofing which soon comes out on a small gravel road where I follow the blue blazes a couple of hundred yards to the hostel.
"WILD BILL and the JEDI had already arrived and showed me around as I staggered in a post-hike daze. Good shower, good friends, a cold coke, ice cream sandwich, plus a queen sized bed all to myself! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..."
June 25, 1994...(Day-92)
A 19.4 mile day from Brink Road Shelter to Highpoint Shelter in New Jersey...
"This would prove to be a very wet day and at no time during my hike so far can I recall being so totally wet for so long. There were rarely any long, hard downpours but just enough constant rain to keep all the leaves soaking and dripping which of course, fed a continious stream of water flowing down my legs.
"Every couple of hours I had to stop to wring out my socks and to air my pruned feet for 20 to 30 minutes... plus my darned water-logged boots weighed a ton and I now felt it with every step. Just another pain that I would face and somehow overcome.
"Also there were millions of rocks on the trail that must be so carefully negotiated during such dismal conditions. Just yesterday I had fallen very hard on the wrist that I had broken back in '92. Fortunately nothing was broken and only a few minor cuts, but the quick and sudden slip did shake me up quite a bit."
June 21, 1994...(Day-88)
Falling down got to be the 'norm' after a while but it was never fun as this entry describes as I hiked 19.7 miles into Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania...
"Today the sky would finally be overcast and even a light drizzle occured with just enough wetness to 'slosh' my socks for the rest of the day. I also had to cross one of the worst sections of Pennsylvania trail rock thus far, which ordinarily would have just been normal torture, but the rock today was wet. Coming down off Wolf Rocks I slipped and fell down hard. It was quite painful and I let out a yell that could probably be heard for miles, but fortunately nothing was broken."
July 2, 1994...(Day-88)
There were so many hundreds and hundreds of difficult hours hiking on the trail and I had to constantly evaluate whether I should take a layover day, slow down, or to just quit. Everyone that I met had experienced some kind of a low point during their thru-hike and had to be dealt with on a regular basis. One such low point occurred on July 2nd while hiking through the heat and humidity of New York...
"ANNIE of ANNIE & THE SALESMAN was feeling down and out missing her children back home when I found them at a small store near the trail. Well, I helped to cheer her up while sitting on the curb out front eating chips and drinking cola.
"I had also hit a lonely point hiking in the dreaded humidity and what a great surprise it was when I walked into the shelter later that evening to be greeted by six hikers singing 'Happy Birthday'. ANNIE had sneaked a honeybun birthday cake back to the shelter and it ended up being one of my most memorable birthdays ever. If we didn't constantly work at cheering up one another, none of us would have ever made it to Maine and that's a fact!"
This entry from June 24th was another very tough day...
"Rain had fallen during the night and I was so happy about how well that my tarp held up. Everything was bone dry. My feet were so sore and especially my left heel, that I must admit my mind began having terrible thoughts related to the possibility of having to end my walk. I haven't had thoughts like this since completing my first 100 miles, at which time I felt like anything was possible.
"But to be faced with such a devastating thought now was not a good thing. I just continued to take it one step at a time and bared with the awful pain from every step which seemed to be compounded by the streams of water soaking my socks and feet from my legs brushing the wet vegetation.
"Sometime after lunch the pain somehow became more bearable, probably due to pumping in a lot of calories coupled with my determination to concentrate on positive thoughts. The whole walk today was under dense overcast skies of fog and a constant drizzle of rain.
"At Brink Road Shelter I knew long before that I would stay here tonight as I dropped the pack off my back and limped around.It was such a good feeling however to hear a familiar voice from the distance welcoming me saying "LIGHTNING BOLT"! We had a great evening of endless conversation, cooking our meals, writing, and thoughts about our hikes and the future... then retired to the sound of a consistent rain all night long."
July 29, 1994...(Day-126)
Now an entry from one of my best days on the trail in the gorgeous White Mountains of New Hampshire...
"Quite unexpectantly this would be the most beautiful day of hiking on the entire trail so far... no question about it! Like so many other mornings I started by first enjoying a nice little breakfast under my tarp wondering if the sky was cloudy or clear. The thick canopy of trees were somewhat deceptive so I'd just have to figure it out as I began to hike. And also, like so many other mornings before I had to begin by putting on my soaking wet boots, as I had no choice.
"Upon popping out of the "green tunnel" on little Haystack mountain I was wonderfully surprised by a beautiful alpine walk above treeline all the way past Mt. Lafayette over two miles away. For the most part the clouds gave way to a great sunny day while on this section and the views were absolutely incredible! I stopped for a good lunch break on the north side of Lafayette, just before descending back into the protection of the trees.
"Something unexplained occurred to me during this section whereby my pace was greatly increased. My spirits were also higher than usual and it felt so good to be where I was today.
"Then came Mt. Garfield which I feel produced the greatest view and overlook of my entire 4-month walk... totally incredible is all that I can say. Todays walk has somehow made my entire journey worthwhile and to have done the same trek as a day walk would somehow not had the same meaning, but to have walked over 1,700 miles, then to see and to feel the beauty of today was certainly unique! From Garfield I decided to keep on going for Galehead Hut and what a great decision that ended up becoming!..."
August 16, 1994...(Day-144)
With just a bit over 100 miles left to completing the Trail, the reality of the end is begining to sink in as seen from this entry near Monson, Maine...
"Never before, until today has the reality that my five month walk on the AT is about to end. Perhaps seeing Katahdin for the first time today from the summit of Moxie Bald Mountain had something to do with it. I just laid inside my tarp this afternoon as though in a trance reflecting how great that it felt to be on the Trail, then it all suddenly being gone after five unforgettable months.
"Walking, thinking, checking my feet, the tiredness, finding water, checking my map, the sounds, the sun, the moonlight, the smells, the animals, maildrops, planning, packing, unpacking, setting up the tarp, shelters, meeting so many new friends, hiker hostels, ICE CREAM, being wet, cooking a meal... Never before have I undertaken such a long wilderness trip and become so accustomed and intimately attached to every aspect of being on the Trail. In a way that I can not fully understand, the Trail has changed me for the better."