A Note on the Text
During my hike I would spend some part of the evening writing entries in a small journal that I carried with me. However, after a few weeks I tired of doing this and simply recording starting and stopping places. This is very unusual for me, but this was an unusual hike. I simply could not lose myself along the Appalachian Trail and spend my time in contemplation, like I have on other long hikes. The later entries from the Mid-Atlantic north are based on some of this information and memories, some of which are rather strong. This gives a different feeling to "journal" entries than those from other trips. Readers of my previous journals will see this quite clearly. For this I apologize, but that is how things turned out during the first half of my summer in 2004.
Making public what I write in private is always a little difficult to do. In general, I tend not to change or significantly modify my entries in the hopes that they will more accurately reflect what my hike was like, rather than what I hoped it might be or wish it was. As a result, frequently I will appear to be somewhat shallow, mean spirited, elitist, unfriendly, taciturn, moody, unfair and possessing a host of other negative traits. Rather than changing this, I want to keep it in, even though it might not give a good impression of me. My interactions with other hikers on the AT were not the best, and mostly this was due to myself and how I like to hike and spend my time in the outdoors. I have tried to keep negative portrayals of other hikers to a minimum and have tried to use trail names whenever possible. For those of you who appear in the journals and are given a less than flattering image, I am sorry. I have wanted to keep my impressions as they were when they were imprinted on me and any bad qualities that I attribute to you should be regarded more as a reflection of my state of mind at the moment and not an accurate representation of you.
Finally, the reader of one or two days of the trip may come across with the impression that I have a lot of hostility toward the AT, its builders, and its hikers. The reader of one or two entries will not see the overflow of the hike. This is how a long distance hike really is: It much more than a sequence of day hikes. You must try to read as much as you can. Otherwise, it is better to skim through the pictures and leave the text for another time. Some days on the AT were truly awful experiences. Others were sublime. Even though it reflects poorly on me, the deciding factor seemed to be the weather: When it was good, the day was more or less good. When foul, the day was not good. More objectively, I still do not understand the design philosophy behind much of the trail. How it is routed and built is a mysteryto me, unless one simply accepts that the people behind it wanted to build a trail that was intentionally more annoying than it had to be. If this is the case, from my perspective, they have done hikers a disservice in the end. Some hikers have offered the opinion to me that the builders intentionally designed what they thought would be a challenging physical trail, and I suppose it is, to some extent; that they believe that the AT should be a metaphor for overcoming difficult obstacles. But, usually hard work should be rewarded with great gains, and this isn't the case on the AT. Instead, it seems that one labors and doesn't get much out of it. This is not a metaphor for the good life, I believe.
The AT is what you make of it. It offers a structured, organized way for people to spend several months in the out-of-doors, in a generally caring and supportive community. It is a way to experience nature directly, even if it is of the tame variety. It is not a wilderness experience, nor even a backcountry experience, at least for the first 1,600 miles. I met many people, including very experienced hikers, who absolutely love the AT and find hiking it year after year to be a rewarding experience. I am not one of them, and that is because of who I am, rather than what the AT is. This is one of the lessons learned from the first part of the summer: Do not force things, only flow. My experience will not be your experience. You are an individual. Go out and see for yourself what the AT is like. Work out your own hike.