10 Myths for SOBO Thru-Hikers
July 6th marked the beginning of my SOBO journey to Georgia, with the summit of Katahdin. I hit the mountain full of excitement and wonder, not only for the summit, but for what lay ahead. I had done about as much internet scouring as one might dub borderline obsessive on the AT, and I was so anxious to see how it all played out. I quickly realized that almost everything I had read about hiking SOBO was wrong, so here are my tramily’s top 10 myth busters for you other aspiring SOBOs:
1. Myth: Hike southbound if you prefer solitude, there are less people that travel that way.
Fact: This is totally wrong. I very much enjoy solitude, and I’m not getting any of it (solitude that is). There were 2 shuttles of almost 20 people the two days I stayed in Millinocket. You will be hard pressed to not find lots of people on this trail going South.
2. Myth: Not only are there a lot less people, there are very few females going SOBO.
Fact: This one I read everywhere, and you know what? We pretty much outnumbered the guys at every lean to. The group I started with had eight ladies. All of us met planning this trip solo. It’s empowering and surprising, and I’ll take it. Insert Spice Girls shouting ‘Girl Power!’ gif here.
3. Myth: NOBOs and SOBOs get along.
Fact: Found this one out the hard way. Apparently some NOBOs hate SOBOs, and there’s a lot of graffiti on lean-to’s in case you forget. No idea why, and yes I have experienced it first hand. The older mature crowd coming north have been nice, but the younger ones have consistently given false info, from water sources to trail magic. At first I thought they were all just zombies trying to get to Katahdin ( I get it, you’re ready for it to be over, it’s been rough! ) but then the bad advice started adding up along with the comments. I preferred to walk to warmer weather instead of a time crunch to a mountain, what’s wrong with that?
4. Myth: Gear lists and advice from peers will help you through the 100-Mile Wilderness.
Fact: Nope, not even your boyfriend who did it twice can help you. What worked for them will not work for you. You need to trust your gut and try it out, that’s all you can do. I read every article, practiced in the woods, you name it. By the time you get out of these woods is the only time you’ll know what you need. A girl on our group had a friend tell her she could do it in six days easy. She’s done 88 miles so far with nothing more than Vans high tops, Eno hammock, and zero rain gear. “I get it, I would never,” says you. I’m just proving a point on listening to anyone. Take advice in stride, because everyone has it.
5. Myth: You won’t get cell service.
Fact: I braced myself for the worst, no way to reach out if need be with my beloved iPhone. I put it on airplane mode and tried to take myself back to the days of dial up and no YouTube. But upon hiking up few thousand feet and resting at a viewpoint, Magnet declared, “I have 3 bars!” And lo and behold, service was attainable. We got it at lean-to’s, viewpoints, almost one spot per day. Social media embracers rejoice!
6. Myth: You’re going to get hiker hunger, aka be starving all the time.
Fact: Erm not so much. Your body is doing a lot of adjusting to your new routine. You are working super hard, but you don’t get the hunger quite until the end of 100 miles. So don’t overpack food. Your body will thank you for those 5 less pound you don’t have to rock hop for the next week.
7. Myth: 100-Miles Wilderness is very remote.
Fact: All the signs even say it “Warning, you are entering the 100-Mile Wilderness… etc etc, pretty much elevates your fear of being so isolated. But come to find out you will cross paths with many day hikers, parking lots, and cell phone service spots. Basically it’s 100 miles without a store, which is only rough because of all the big spray you will go through. Which takes us to number 8…
8. Myth: Permethrin and 100% deet aid in all bug prevention.
Fact: Nope and nope. NOTHING will prevent bugs short of the full body suit of netting (available at Abol bridge). We had 99% deet & Permethrin treated clothes and still got eaten alive. The thing is, those lovely little blood suckers just prefer some people over others. May the odds be ever in your favor.
9. Myth: You will need to beware of bears in the 100MW.
Fact: It’s rare to see any wildlife, let alone worry about a bear wanting your food. Leave the bear canister and mace at home. Believe me when I say you’ll be way too busy staring at wet roots, rocks, and where the next blaze is, to even notice a bear running away from you…. which is all that they do.
10. Myth: Plan your hike on an elevation map
Fact: Those little lines that go up and down and hover around 1k-2k feet, yes they are a helpful reference. But absolutely do not trust them. Especially in the state of Maine where switch backs are non-existent. A 15-mile day will seem totally doable, until you stumble into the lean to after 14 hours of walking up and down 100 times, experiencing a mix of emotions including tears and panic for a possible solo night hike. 10 mile days are more than enough with these elevations, trust me.
Hope these myth busting tips help! Just remember to try your best, and know there is always someone nearby to help!
Lastly, be sure to stay at Shaw’s and take a zero. Poet’s homefries are no myth ✔️
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