Our SOBO Hike Starts in a Place We Love
In three weeks from yesterday we will be packing up our truck, Jose, and driving the road back to New Hampshire. We have been burning the candle at both ends for months in preparation for this trip between fixing up our house, selling our stuff, acquiring new gear, and spending way too much time on WhiteBlaze. We have finally quit our jobs and are looking for someone to rent our home. Shit is getting real.
Why We Are Hiking
We both grew up in New England valuing the outdoors and hiking, so naturally we both have had aspirations of hiking the AT since childhood. When we sat down a few years ago to compile a bucket list, hiking the trail was the third item on it. There are currently 141 items on said list. As we reviewed the list a couple of summers ago we came to the realization that if we want to accomplish the trail before we have kids, we needed to get on it, We made the decision then and there that the summer of 2018 was AT or bust.
We have decided to attempt the trail SOBO for a few reasons. First, during a wilderness ethics class Angie took at the local community college she wrote her final paper about conversation on the AT. In her research she found that the popularity of the trail has been exploding in recent years. While awareness and excitement for the trail is fantastic, the increased usage is taking a serious toll on it. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) suggests that hiking SOBO or as a flip flop is one of the easiest ways to lessen your impact. By doing a better job of dispersing hikers along the trail we can prevent larger groups from all reaching the same stretches of trail and campsites at the same time, which gives the areas around the trail time to recover. Additionally, we figure going in the opposite direction will afford us some extra alone time and allow us to avoid the party scene a bit. It is kind of cool to think that we will encounter the vast majority of this year’s NOBO hikers too. While taking the 100-Mile Wilderness and the Whites first will be a huge challenge we feel confident as this is our home turf. Living and playing in the heart of the Rocky Mountains also gives us the opportunity to go on longer and more challenging hikes with relative frequency. Choosing to hike SOBO does mean that we will be finishing our hike at a less dramatic terminus, but as with any adventure it is the journey, not destination, that matters most. Plus, we are hoping to catch a Widespread Panic show somewhere in Georgia when we finish.
Concerns and Anxieties
There is something about quitting our jobs to sleep in a tent that has us wondering if we have made the right decision. Of course we have. Naturally, though, there are plenty of concerns and anxieties that we are faced with and trying to deal with and mitigate as best we can. There are the obvious hardships that everyone encounters. Being away from home, family and friends, ticks, and a lack of income. But we also have some unique hurdles to worry about as well. Angie has Celiac disease, so we have to take access to gluten free food into account as we plan our mail drops. To minimize Angie’s risk of being glutened we are doing a lot more meal planning and prep than your average hiker. Angie has also recently been working through some Achilles tendinitis that we need to watch. Out of everything, though, our biggest concern is the humidity. During our typical summer we see average temps in the mid 70s with 10 to 20 percent humidity, tops. We’re now talking 90s with 90 percent humidity. Are you kidding me? We might as well be at the gates of hell. JD sweats just from breathing when we visit family in New Hampshire in the summer. He is going to have the backne of a 17 year old. And poor Angie. Poor, poor Angie has to share a tent with that. There are definitely going to be days so muggy that JD will make it rain inside the tent. Trench foot is a real concern.
All of this, though, is not enough to detour us from accomplishing our goal of thru-hiking the AT. There are still countless reasons that keep us moving forward everyday. For starters, we said we were going to do it. Anyone who knows us will tell you that when we commit to something we attack it full send. This is seriously the opportunity of a lifetime. This is going to be six months of daily physical and mental challenges. Six months of no housework!
We typically judge the success of a summer by whether or not we can get 30 nights in a tent. That number is going to be blown out of the water, so by that measure we are already winning. In addition to that we are going to get to spend a significant amount of time in the Whites, one of our favorite places. We get to start in Maine. Maine is the shit! We are going to meet up with family and old friends we don’t get to see much and we are going to make hundreds of new friends. To be quite frank, we think this is an extremely good use of time.
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