AT SOBO 2019: What’s the BIG Deal?
The Appalachian Trail is huge.
I could throw enough facts and figures around to razzle-dazzle you into believing me, but that would be too easy. At a certain point, numbers go beyond comprehension and become meaningless. So, I will try to explain perspective coming from a basis of smaller, more comfortable concepts.
Yesterday, I crossed my first state line from Maine into New Hampshire.
So, one state down! 298 miles under my belt. With every single step, I grow both in strength and humility. We are so, so, so small. The soaring summits and peaks reinforce this idea constantly.
One of my favorite things is certain sections where you are able to see where you are going, and then be able to look back and see where you came from.
While these are more obvious, it’s in the smaller things that you truly realize what you are doing. Back home, the weather may seem like a big deal, but when it comes down to it most of us get up and go to work or whatever it is we do regardless. Just grab an umbrella on your way out the door and grumble about your hair. Out here, it’s another matter entirely. With big skies and big mountains come big storms, and fast winds. Lack of preparation can lead a hiker to be miserable at best, or in true danger under worse circumstances.
A stubbed toe, while always annoying, can completely change your plans for the day. Hiking 15+ miles on even the smallest of injuries makes a tiny inconvenience into a seriously painful deal. In the dead of night, when you are asleep in a three-walled lean to and hear a pitter-patter, it HAS to be a demon rat here to eat my face (The reality is that it is an incredibly acrobatic and brave chipmunk 9/10 times). Additionally, the sounds behind the shelter or your tent are even bigger and scarier. Every snapped twig becomes a hungry bear.
On the Appalachian Trail, perception is everything.
Conversely, lots of my long-standing perceptions have changed for the better. Out here when I meet new people, it’s a totally different experience. What you did or where you come from matters less than our common shared experience. The chitchat is not forced, or awkward. I’ve only known these people for a short while, but in many ways I am trusting them more than I trust anyone in “real life.”
Another great example is the infamous Mahoosuc Notch. This is considered to be the most difficult mile on the entire Appalachian Trail. It’s described as a “deranged pile of boulders one must cross,” which is honestly a spot-on description. Now, most of the NOBOs described it more as a giant jungle gym. I was honestly excited, then the day before my planned day to do the Notch, it started to rain. Then, I received some bad information that it was going to continue raining for the next several days. Like I mentioned earlier, weather is more than a mild inconvenience here. So I made a snap decision to go down the Mahoosuc Arm, one of the steepest and most dangerous descents for a SOBO, in the rain. It was a bit harrowing, not going to lie, but in the end everything was OK. I camped right before the notch with new friend Joey Dabs and some NOBOs, then tackled the Notch itself the next day.
All in all, I will say that Southern Maine was definitely a much more difficult section than I anticipated it being. Thankfully, I’m not alone in that. People were running out of food, their expectations of doing 15 or more mile days shot down. Don’t get me wrong; it was still a blast, but definitely a challenge thanks to a combination of terrain and weather.
I am sad to see the end of Maine. It was beautiful, but now I’m looking forward to the Whites and New Hampshire.
For now, I’m taking the rest of today as a nero, and a full zero tomorrow. Miy, and my tramily’s, feet and bodies need a rest before we tackle these 4K-6k footers. 🙂
If anyone has any questions, or is simply curious about any aspect of this, please ask! Either comments, or message me through the social media links above.
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