SOBO vs. NOBO

Chief and I are continuing our Appalachian Trail hike in Maine, heading SOBO (southbound) back to Pennsylvania.  The first three months of the hike, we walked NOBO from Georgia to central Pennsylvania, and then flipped up to Maine. So far we have completed 1,385 miles and have 804 miles yet to hike. God willing we should complete this adventure by mid-October, a total of six months.

The splendor of Maine’s landscape has helped to alleviate the intense misery of the trail in this state.  Often described as the toughest portion of the Appalachian Trail, we have scaled large boulders, slid down wet rocks, forded rocky rivers, sunk in muddy bogs, and battled gusty mountain-top winds and cool temperatures.  Last night we got caught in a rain storm on top of Bigelow Mountain. As the wind and rain ripped through the trees we cleared a spot to pitch the tent and escape the chilly elements. Flipping was the best decision we have made, in lieu of continuing NOBO and getting to Maine in October to deal with frigid temps, ice, and possibly snow.  We can’t wait to get Maine under our belts and move on.

Another advantage to flipping our hike and now heading SOBO has been the opportunity to meet NOBOs as they get close to finishing their hike. The first NOBO we met was a hiker named Slammer.  He had just reached the summit of Mount Katahdin, successfully completing a 2,189 mile thru-hike.  Not far into the 100-Mile Wilderness, we met Werewolf and (yes, another) Toad. These gentlemen only had ten miles to complete their thru-hike.  On average we pass about five or six thru-hikers per day and speak briefly to each. These hikers began their trek in Georgia in February or March (way before our April 13th start).  The men are usually heavily bearded and the women are thin yet muscular.  Many say their bodies are beaten down, but all are extremely excited about finishing!

We have also met many section hikers. These are folks who hike sections of the A.T. over a period of years. One of the most interesting was a 77-year old woman who has been hiking the trail for over 20 years. I will call her Granny because she reminds me of the Granny in the Bugs Bunny cartoons. Granny is a tiny soft-spoken lady with a thick southern accent. Her husband passed away a couple of years ago and encouraged her to finish the trail.  Granny is hiking portions of Maine and has a couple of sections left to complete this fall.  We also met a trio of ladies from Pennsylvania – Linda, 8-mile Ma and Trail Dancer – who have section-hiked together for ten years.   We received helpful hiking advice from 11-year old Baby Blue, a precocious young lady who was hiking with her father.  The most interesting trail names came from a middle-aged couple from Massachusetts. Her name was Frito and his name was Beyoncé.  He was tall but there were no similarities to the pop singer beyond that.

Tomorrow marks Day 123 and we head out re-supplied from the tiny town of Stratton, Maine to climb Crocker Mountain, and continue this trek…

SOBO, Chief and Toad

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