Harpers Ferry or Bust: It’s Not All About Katahdin

There are a few picturesque images that flash through one’s head when mentioning the Appalachian Trail.  For me, it’s the ponies.  For Instagram, McAfee Knob.  Successful thru-hikers: the sign at the peak of Mount Katahdin.  You know the one.  THE sign thousands of hikers get on trail to climb atop and get their picture taken with.  It signals: YOU HAVE MADE IT!  You have successfully completed an Appalachian Trail thru-hike.  That’s not the case for all.  NOBOs only.  SOBOs get the pleasure of awkwardly posing next to a lil cute baby plaque affixed to a rock on top of Springer Mountain.  Me? I’m gonna dance, boogie, and slip-n-slide into the Harpers Ferry ATC at the end of my thru-hike.

Flippity Floppity

The flip-flop way of the trail is the much less popular journey.  In fact, when I tell people how I plan to hike the trail they usually respond with:

Nah, that’s cheating 

I react with a quick

Not uh

That’s not a thru-hike Yuh huh

Why would you do it like that? lotsa reasons

First the basics,

  • less impact on the trail
  • less people and crowding
  • weather

The Impact

I’m embarking on Earth Day.  I love Earth Day. It’s my second favorite holiday, because let’s be real, nothing beats the extra hour on fall back daylight saving.  In fact, even when I worked night shift, and one o’clock round two would creep around, I wouldn’t get too upset.  Instead, my coworker Shamanda and I dubbed it guacamole hour and celebrated with some homemade avocado deliciousness.

I am a self-proclaimed modern hippie.  I typically have bags of recycling in my trunk that I dig out of garbage cans or pick up off the street.  I am super conscious of water and electricity waste. I give the evil eye to Styrofoam users. I rarely take a plastic bag and will drop ALL my items, one by one, on the way to the car in order to punish myself for not bringing my reusable bag. If I know you well enough, and it is warranted, I will gladly lecture on my soapbox about how your individual decisions affect the environment.

When I discovered the negative impact of the increase of hikers on the AT, then subsequently learned there was a way to limit my own, choo choo I’m all aboard!

Get Away from Me

Sigh, I hear time and time again that the Appalachian Trail is about the people you meet.  And don’t get me wrong.  I’m giddy with excitement to experience some super cool folk and even some hikers I’ve already connected with on the interwebs. BUT, in all forgive-me-ness, I just sort of want to connect with myself and nature.  I want to discover who I am without the influence of others. And the influence of their norovirus.
I’m also watching the glorious love and grace of trail angels.  The current NOBOs are embracing an abundance of food, transportation, and socialization. I’m super excited to get some surprises on trail. It’s such a special experience.  I want to hear their stories and meet these cool chaps that offer up these services. In moderation, though.  I can’t appreciate something that I find so often available.

Snow Kidding

I am letting the weather work in my favor. The rain will come. I’m cool with that.  But the snow.  That dreaded snow is not my friend.  I know my role and I know my comfort zone.  My original plan was to be a SOBO hiker. However, watching numerous hikers in previous years have to get off trail after being snowed out in the Smokies, well, I changed my plan.

Back Where We Started

It’s time to step foot on trail.  Although I’ll start and finish at the exact same spot, I most certainly won’t be the same person. There won’t be a point A to B straight line that I follow. My path will be fragmented but my journey will be continuous. I won’t have that Katahdin sign to pose in front of or on top of at the end. But my feet will travel the same path, and it certainly still counts.  Catch you on the flippity flip!

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Comments 2

  • Bruce Hall : Apr 21st

    I too will be a flip-flopper. In 2020, I am starting at HF and going south to Springer. Will then flop back to HF and finish at Katahdin. My reasons are the same as yours, but I am selfish enough to want the traditional finish. While I enjoy meeting people, I prefer one-on-one meetings. Crowds make me cranky and anti-social. About the Trail Angels – I guess I am a contrarian – there is such a thing as too much of a good thing and I think it is getting near that point. It is not magic when it is commonplace.
    Thanks for posting.

    • Alexia : May 1st

      Good luck on your future thru hike! Beware of the bubble you will probably be passing through going south first. It gets crowded out here (for me) even with just the flip floppers, section hikers, weekenders and group camping programs for kids. The trail keeps things spread out but camping at night, not so much.


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