Changing Directions

So I was all geared up (pun intended) to start at Springer in early April.  However, flexibility is an important character trait both on and off trail, and when a string of work-related complications delayed me, I was quick to tick the SOBO box instead.  After all, it wasn’t a matter of if I was going.  It was only a matter of when.  

2018 was a pretty tough year for me:  I lost my father, my 14-year marriage ended, I moved, I sold a long-standing family business. Amidst all this, the AT experience emerged as this shiny thing I had to pursue.  The planning and the pre-trail education has kept me going and given me purpose.  I don’t know when it will feel real. Probably when I’m waist deep in mud in Vermont.

And perhaps I should’ve read this little tip from the ATC prior to my SOBO commitment: “A southbound thru-hike is extremely difficult unless you are in superior shape and health and have backpacking experience.”

Sure, I have almost zero backpacking experience.  But I got the health thing going for me and I read all the books you’re supposed to read and acquired all the gear one might need.  Seriously, though, I don’t pretend these preparations will be the things to propel me down the trail when the going gets tough.  It is far more likely my brain will be pleading with my body to push forward when I’d rather be watching Netflix with my feet up.

But it seems to me (and maybe this is just confirmation bias) that the best place to receive a barefisted introduction to the Appalachian Trail is in Maine.  If the weather cooperates and Baxter opens the trail, I’ll be summiting Katahdin on June 15.  Then I begin the long march south—which was the direction I was meant to go all along.

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Comments 6

  • Nicholas : Jun 4th

    Southbound Travis! Can’t wait to hear your perspective as you overcome the daily obstacles of a SB route.

    • Rich : Jun 5th

      Here’s hoping all goes well and you top off your trip by writing something like my favorite AT book “The Barefoot Sisters, Southbound” ya never know..

      • Travis Smith : Jun 6th

        Rich that sounds like a great idea! Hopefully I’ll have lots of stories worth reading about.

    • Travis Smith : Jun 6th

      Thanks Nicholas. I’ll do my very best to share the experience.

  • Payson Welch : Jun 5th

    I’m from Maine and I foolishly started hiking on the Hunt trail as my first hiking experience. It took me three tries to complete on good weather days. Fast forward it’s not so difficult now that I have learned the ropes, however that particular mountain shreds those who underestimate it.

    I will be hiking Katahdin on the 15th and you are welcome to hike with me if you would like a companion that knows the trail well.

    • Travis Smith : Jun 6th

      Payson- thank you for the measured warning. I’ll admit to some trepidation about summiting Kathadin on day 0, but the thing must be done. I hope to meet you on trail next week!


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