Trek the AT Southbound and Reap These Benefits
Most people head SOBO on the AT only when thier schedule mandates it. That’s the reason why I started SOBO. Since completing my trek I’ve realized there are so many other benefits besides the super cool badass hiker rep you get. (Fun fact: More people have successfully summited Mount Everest than have southbound thru-hiked the AT. Can’t say that if you’re a NOBO, ? )
Free Ice Crean
Amicalola Falls Visitor Center gives SOBO hikers a free ice cream or soda pop upon completion of hiking. I think it’s safe to say Katahdin is a more eventful place to end, but personally I’d choose ice cream and the arch over Katahdin’s sign.
Start with the Hardest Part
Southern Maine and the White Mountains are continually referred to as the hardest part of the AT. There are copious amounts of rocks, the trails are super steep, and there is a ton of elevation gain and loss. So, what feels better than finishing those areas first? Probably nothing. I didn’t even know I had trail legs because the terrain was so hard. Besides, once you hike Southern Maine and the Whites, there shouldn’t be anything else on the AT you can’t do. That thought makes for a great mental boost any day.
I had the privilege to celebrate Thanksgiving on trail in Hot Springs, NC. A few trail angels put on this great celebration and feed all the hungry hikers they can get together. The angels organize carpools to pick up hikers from surrounding trailheads and cook a huge meal. This year there were seven turkeys among all the normal sides. Overall it’s just a wonderful time full of friends, food, and activities.
Successfully Leave No Trace
When there are only a handful of people at a campsite or shelter area it is easy to participate in LNT. There isn’t a line for the privy so you’re able to easily and correctly dispose of poop. With just a few tents, it’s also quite easy to camp on mountaintops or in stealth locations without making too much of an impact.
Experience the Wilderness Actually Alone
Disclaimer: I hiked with my husband so I was never really alone for more than a few hours. There were ample nights and opportunities for us to be alone, though. With the smaller group of people heading south, once we spread out we really spread out. It was nice knowing that shelters wouldn’t be full and the campsite you wanted to stay at would be open. Although I’ve never gone NOBO, I’d imagine it to be a little stressful to start with 90 people on your Springer day, and then have to figure out where to sleep for the night. More than just ease of camping, it’s nice to have viewpoints to yourself and hear the leaves crunching under your feet.
SOBO Specials – Discounted Hostels, Meals, Etc.
On top of never having to worry if hostels are full, you get discounts. Some places will bundle bunks with free food or let you do laundry for free. Since it’s the slow season, places are just wanting to get you in their doors and will entice you to make it happen. I saw this more frequently the closer I got to Springer Mountain.
The Green Tunnel Isn’t so Green
Surprise, surprise! When the leaves fall off the trees you’re no longer in the green tunnel. Viewpoints are still the best place to see what you’re hiking around, but on a clear day there isn’t a point where you can’t see the ridges all around you. It makes the mundane points of the trail much more interesting. (See the ridge behind us as we cross into Georgia!)
As always, follow along and see all the pictures from our adventures on Instagram here.
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