It Must Be the Beginning of the Opposite Sketches!

Over the last week or so I’ve been seeing an increasing number of hikers going the opposite direction than me. And by the looks of things they’re not weekenders or sectioners – their gear is way too expensive. And they certainly aren’t day hikers – no cotton clothing or scent of shampoo. By all appearances they look (and smell) like thru-hikers. But they act so, I don’t know, strange and different from us. They even use skewed and opposite trail terminology. Ah-ha! It must be the beginning of southbound thru-hiker season!

Long Time and I are just north of Killington, Vermont. We’ve come 1703.1 miles northbound on the Appalachian Trail. We’re 78% done and it feels so surreal. Suddenly the end is in sight. In 2 or 3 days we’ll cross over the New Hampshire border, and after that we’ll just have Maine to go. (But of course, as you faithful blog followers know, I’ll still have 83.3 miles in CT and southern Mass to make up). But what I really think is nuts is the amount of southbounders we see every day now. They’ve been where we’re going. They’re going where we’ve been. And they’re doing it all backwards!

For the most part they’re helpful in letting us know about places to stay and to eat in the upcoming towns, what to expect when going over the White Mountains in NH or how best to go about fording the streams in Maine. And it’s nice that we can share info that’s helpful to them.

But what baffles me is how some of them think they know so much already about the trail after having only been walking for a month. Ha! A month. Try living outside for four! Its as if some of them have a chip on their shoulder for going against the grain, or for already having completed “the toughest part of the trail.” I look back to my early days in North Carolina or Tenessee and think, “I hope to God I didn’t act like them!”

Sometimes, especially in the beginning, I’ve equated this whole thru-hiking thing to my freshman year in college. (Well…sorta…) It’s a slew of like minded individuals who have the same end goal in sight and they’re all trying to figure out how best to go about it, to find out what works for them. There’s comraderie in that, there’s excitement in it, there’s even sometimes a rewarding beer at the end of the day. It’s also a lot of hard work and occasionally you want to just sleep in and skip class. All of those things have remained consistent throughout the trip. But now we’re approaching the end of the semester. It’s time to put our heads down and push to the end. Us NOBOs are the senior class now. We’ll soon be on our own, back in the “real world.”

Last week when my friend Diana, (trail name “Whim”), was hiking with me, she asked me how I think this trip will affect me when I get back home. What are my goals for my career, for my upcoming marriage, for life? Have they changed and how?

I couldn’t really quantify them with any answers because I really don’t know yet. There hasn’t been a lot of time to reflect on the experience as a whole. Or maybe I should say there’s been plenty of time, but it hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind. I’ve been too busy watching my feet, trying to avoid the mud, the roots and the rocks to think about what’s next. But now that we’re seeing so many SOBOs on the trail it emphasizes the reality that there really is an end to this thing, and it’s just about a month away.

So I may not know where I’m going after “graduation,” but I know I’m ready to finish this thing!

On a side note – we met the oldest thru-hiker on the trail yesterday, “Cimarron,” who is 88 years old. About to turn 89. He’s hiked he trail before, but this year he’s out to grab the title for oldest hiker ever. Lesson? Keep on movin’ and shakin’ and your body will be strong enough to hike 2,181 miles when you’re almost 90!

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8 Responses to It Must Be the Beginning of the Opposite Sketches!

  1. Darren says:

    I will be near Manchester new hampshire this Friday night and on Saturday will be driving to the coast and hanging out there Saturday night. My friend Peter’s bachelor party. I have a feeling that you’ll be past me when I’m there but just for the hell of it, where do you think you’ll be this weekend?

  2. Pay no attention to those “newbies”, you’ve done it! While we’ve been living “normal” lives you’re creating history by hiking the Adirondack Trail!
    Bravo!! Not many do it. but you are.
    88 years old, huh. Geez, I’m only 80——-nah.

  3. I am happy to see that you are in good spirits,and are going to meet your goal,as I know you would have been so disappointed if you had thrown in the towel,when you had hit your breaking point.

    As you share with all of us about the south bound hikers,the thought came to me,would any of them be doing a round trip?
    However you write that most seem to be somewhat arrogant,and with an attitude like that,they must just be starting out on their long adventure.
    From all of your posts of your own highs,and lows these past months.
    Those south bounders will be more mellow at the end of the line,if they make it that far.

    I have been thinking about the 2 of you the last few days and was hoping to see another chapter in your long journey to complete the Appy.

    Take care,and I must wish you two God’s speed and safety to the end of the line and beyond.

    • Mike says:

      Perry, as always, thanks for staying tuned in to the Mel and Mike Hike show! Your positive comments always brighten things for us! Tomorrow, we’ll have use of real computers, so expect more updates (with photos)!

  4. Kathy says:

    Good gravy! You guys are doing great, and your commentaries certainly bring us along w/ you on the trail (vicarious vacation!). Keep those toes going north, now that you’ve had your time to recoup — and if you need a quick break tomorrow, check out Woodstock — very cool little town/village. My husband and I stayed at our first bed & breakfast there two years ago (Woodstocker Boutique Inn) and enjoyed visiting the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park house/farm. Hope your weather is not too hot/humid!

  5. June and Scott says:

    Hi Mel and Mike,
    I am sending this message in hopes that you do remember staying in the same shelter with Scott and me in NC/TN in April. It was the Curly Maple Shelter. Scott loved Mels camera.
    Scott and I hiked the Mahoosic Trail/AT June 20th to 22nd . This trail starts in NH and goes in to ME. The Mahoosic Notch was unbelievable, that all I am going to say. I do hope that you both will contact Scott and me when you get to the Franconia Notch. We are just a hop, skip and a jump from the area.

    While hiking the Mahoosic Trail, we game across two South Bounders, we also came across a North Bounder, can’t remember his trail name. We met him on 6/21 and he would be done in 11 days!

    Waiting to hear from you, having met you both back in April and now you are here in our state, it is amazing!!!


    June and Scott

  6. Beth Paulson says:

    When I saw your title, I thought it was going to be “It Must Be the Beginning of the End” which it really is in a way for you two hikers. It’s hard to believe you’re in Vermont, but the miles don’t lie. You have sure met a lot of people on this trek–wonder if you’ll meet up with any of them again…I’m sure what you and your dad have done, Melissa, will be life-changing. It’s okay not to know just how yet. Enjoy being a college freshman or do you feel a little like high school senior when you meet those SOBOs?

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