Why I’m Hiking SOBO

“You’re going to live in your tent for 5+ months?”

“There’s bears in the woods… aren’t you scared?”

“You do know people have been killed on the trail…”

“You’re going to go a week or more without a shower?”

“You’re hiking SOUTHBOUND??”

These are only only a handful of shocked questions I get when I tell someone that I am planning to thru hike the AT SOBO. So here’s a few reasons as to why I’m a) hiking and b) hiking southbound. Oh! And yes, I know there are bears in the woods.. I fully intend to be prepared for bear encounters. And yes, people have died on the trail, but statistics prove that I am more likely to die while driving to work tomorrow than I am to hike on the AT.

  1. My love for hiking and backpacking drive me more than anything. This may seem like a simple statement, but I feel if you don’t have a deep appreciation for hiking, then you truly do not understand. There is nothing more peaceful and spirit cleansing than taking a walk in the woods. Taking a walk for 2,189 miles across 14 states is something I want to do for my own soul and self love.
  2. To push myself more than ever. I like a challenge. I like to plan. I like going into REI and nerding out with the employees over gear. I like the meals I make in my JetBoil stove. I like sleeping under the stars. I like to tell myself to do another mile on the trail because I know I can do it. Basically, I enjoy pushing myself more and more mentally and physically to become a more efficient backpacker. I think I will learn more than ever while thru hiking the AT.
  3. SOBO means I am “walking home”. I currently reside in North Georgia about an hour and a half from the Southern Terminus of the AT, Springer Mountain. What an awesome way to look at the trail as a footpath leading me home.
  4. SOBO means a later departure date. I am currently in college part-time and already have classes lined up for the 2016 spring semester. This allows me to finish up some school and then take the fall semester off in order to hike.
  5. SOBO means more time to save money. I am having to save quite a bit of money for the gear I still need, expenses on the trail, and the bills that will need to be paid while I’m gone. I’m estimating to save around $6,000. This amount is not set in stone, but the point is that I need ample amount of time to save as much as possible.
  6. The fist 400 miles of a SOBO hiker. These miles will take a Southbound hiker through the Whites. I’ve talked to a few Southbounders and they said that it was pretty much “smooth sailing” after that point. Now obviously that does NOT mean that the trail is easy from there, but they did say that it was nice to knock out harder sections in the beginning of their thru hike.
  7. Smaller crowds. I’m not going to lie, this isn’t my favorite aspect of going SOBO because I do want to meet as many people as possible. But after talking to people and reading many blogs, most SOBO hikers say that they rarely/never spent time alone on the trail. They met other SOBO hikers, a section hiker, a multi-day backpacker, or a day hiker pretty much throughout their entire thru hike. I think it will be nice to not have to worry as much about making it to a shelter early to ensure a spot. Now, I have heard that there is less trail magic, but on the other hand, I feel it will make what trail magic I do receive much sweeter.
  8. The North Carolina and Georgia colder months. Being from North Georgia, I have a good grip on how our weather acts during the colder months. I think it will be comforting to know that I will experience the colder end of my hike in the two states that I am most familiar hiking in.
  9. Telling myself to finish my thru hike by my 23rd birthday. I turn 23 on December 2nd of 2016. I plan to begin my hike mid June. So this gives me just under 6 months to hike. I definitely think this goal is do-able. Now obviously this idea could change as I continue planning, but I definitely want to be considered an AT Thru Hiker before I turn 23.
  10. I am able to have my mom hike a good bit of the way with me by going SOBO. I’m excited about this idea. I think it would be incredibly special to have my mom by my side for a good chunk of my hike.

Well, there’s 10 reasons why I have decided to thru hike the AT and also why I’ll be headed Southbound. If you have any pointers for a SOBO hiker, please do tell! Obviously I’ve never done this before so I don’t 100% know what I’m doing, but I do know that I am overly ecstatic to continue planning my hike. Thanks for reading! Cheers to life and happy trails!


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Comments 3

  • Brian (The Chief) : Oct 30th

    Get a group of SOBOs together and hit Max Patch about the same time and if the weather cooperates, (i.e. – I can get up the mountain in my truck….and it’s the weekend…) perhaps I can arrange some Trail Magic for you 🙂

    Look forward to hearing your tales! I am an old man (well not really) aspiring to hike NOBO for my 50th B-day…..in 2022 😮

    Take care and enjoy the planning!

    • Ashley Schellhase : Nov 1st

      Ahhh sorry I just saw your comment! This is amazing! I would love to get a group together and do that. Your offer is greatly appreciated!
      And on your 50th, I’ll look forward to hearing your tales! Thanks a bunch for the comment

  • Chance : Jul 7th

    Hi Pringles,

    Sorry to hear you got hurt. How far did you make it before the knee issue? You on track to heal and get back out there?

    Hike slow, hike long, hike one more,



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