August 27, 2017
Jay and I have felt uniquely blessed to see hiker beginnings at both ends of the Appalachian Trail. In February, we were NOBOs (North Bound), with approximately 80 other eager hikers. (3,112 NOBOs participated in the voluntary registration with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. About 80 of them began hiking during the week that we started.) Then in July, we became Flipflop SOBOs (South Bound), climbing Katahdin and heading south with roughly 55 hikers that week. (A total of 387 registered with the ATC.)
Hiking south, the difficult terrain of Maine and New Hampshire presents south bound hikers with unique challenges, beginning with the arduous climb of Katahdin, then immediately slogging through bogs and rocks in the 100 Mile Wilderness, followed by vertical trails through mountains of granite! It has been a pleasure to share these challenges with some engaging personalities and exceptional hikers.
We have also enjoyed re-meeting north bound hikers that we had last seen in southern Appalachia. What a treat, to suddenly see a familiar face approaching through the woods! Henry, a fast-hiking engineer, was the first NOBO re-acquaintance. After almost 2,000 miles, he still reveled in every day of his hike. In mid-July, we met two hikers who recognized us, though the last 1,000 miles had changed them beyond recognition. Dakota had lost weight, slimming down to a trim hiker shape, while Cruise Control had gained muscle, bulking up from a slender weed to a sleek physique! After that, it seemed we recognized hikers nearly every day until mid-August before the stream of familiar faces slowed to a trickle.
Today, at a trail angel’s house, we met Mowgli, last seen in Shenandoah National Park. His companion back then, Dante, was no longer with him. “Dante had things happen,” Mowgli informed us. “Like, one time I told him the plant was poison nettles. He said it was just poison ivy, and he wasn’t allergic. Then he grabbed a bunch and rubbed it all over his hands. … It was nettles all right. Anyway, he finally had to get off trail when he got drunk one night and ate a rock. That sent him to the hospital.”
(For more about this trail angel house, see our page of Trail Angels on our menu.)
Yesterday, entering the trees after resupplying in Norwich, VT, we were delighted to see Specs, a young man with whom we spent a zero day at Doe River Hostel, near Roan Mountain, TN. We stopped to talk for a good while, catching up on each other’s lives. Specs has lost 65 pounds while hiking, and is looking great! We shared jokes and stories, including Specs telling us about getting bluff charged by a bear in Shenandoah National Park. He has enjoyed support from his parents and sister while on the trail, feeling that his adventure has been part of a family affair. What fun!
Meeting all these NOBOs, while still hiking south with SOBOs, has reminded me that a large part of the AT experience revolves around each person’s unique hike. One never knows what or who is around the next bend in the trail!