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  1. #1
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    Default Northbound or Southbound

    Discuss the advantages and dis-advantages of hiking northbound or southbound, which way is better for you and why?

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    Addicted Hiker and Donating Member Hammock Hanger's Avatar
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    Question NOBO - SOBO...

    There is no right or wrong way, even if the ATC did print all of it's book wrong!

    For me, there is no other way then north. It is the draw of the Big K that keeps me inspired. (I have already climbed it on a b-day hike but it is what will make my thru hike complete.)

    I did do a few miles sobo on slackpack days, but for me north is the way.

    Hammock Hanger
    Hammock Hanger -- Life is my journey and I'm surely not rushing to the "summit"...:D

    http://www.gcast.com/u/hammockhanger/main

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    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Default Northbound

    I have backpacked for decades, mostly 3 to 5 days at a time, doing sections here and there. Until I did a long section hike last summer, I never made the tremendous people connection with my fellow thru-hikers. The whole people experience was the best part of my adventure. Anyone who goes southbound or way out of season just wouldn't get it, and that's a shame.

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    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    I'd probably go northbound, assuming a continuous thru-hike. Having Katahdin as an inspirational goal would be attractive, whereas Springer would be somewhat anti-climactic I would think.
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

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    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Default Katahdin

    Katahdin is much more than an inspiration. It's a goal that every one works together on all the way through Maine. The closer you get, the more the entusiasm grows.

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    Section Hiker 180 AT miles
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    im not sure wheather i would hike north or south, but i think id do my first thru-hike northbound just for the goal of Katahdin. but i would certainly be back again to go south too (despite black flys). ofcourse the people are a big part of the trail, but the trail is a wonderful experiance by itself so just because your going against the flow southwards, dosnt mean its still not a great experiance, and this way eventualy youll pass at one point or another, ever single NOBO anyway, though you wont hike for any distance with them.

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    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    The connection with other thru-hikers doesn't come from spending one night at a shelter with them. It comes more from spending a few nights with them. Then, a town comes along, and people split up because say some take a day off, and others do not. But, maybe a few hundred miles down the trail, and a few weeks later, you catch up with these same hikers, or they catch up with you. Then there's a reunion.
    By then, you feel like old friends, and share your trail experiences. This process continues all the way to Katahdin.

    Trust me on this.

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    Just bringing this topic out of the 30 days in the hole

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    Obviously northbound is the way you're "supposed" to hike the AT, and I do agree that there is something special about being in that cluster of people all trying to attain that goal. But I admire southbound thru-hikers very much. I have never done a southbound hike so I wouldn't know very much about their experiences first hand. But I believe there was this guy named Thoreau...who said something about taking the path less traveled...Just something to think about.

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    Section Hiker 350 miles DebW's Avatar
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    When I've done sections in one direction and then gone back and hiked them in the other, I've always discovered things I've missed. Viewpoints or signs or interesting sights that you miss while hiking in one direction but which stare you in the face while hiking in the other. Maybe we should all hike it in both directions.

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    Spirit in search of experience. wacocelt's Avatar
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    My initial Thru attept was southbound. I wasn't able to start until July so had no laternative. There were alot less hikers going my direction, but many of the folks I hiked with I'm still in contact with now.
    One of my hiking companions had coined the phrase 'southbounders get no love' because everyone seemed to look at us like the bastard children of the Thru-hikers, doing things backwards and all.
    I do however think that SOBO's play and important part on the northern end of the trail, in helping allay some of the fears and legends that NOBO's have been dreading since they set foot on springer on day one. Obviously if a beginning Thru-hiker could make it through such monsters as the 100 mile wilderness and Mahoosuc Notch then folks who have made it all the way from Georgia will find them a walk in the park.
    Everything is exactly as it should be. This too shall pass.

  12. #12

    Default Southbound Rocks!!!! (for us)

    First of all, where one ends up, Springer or Katahdin, is not what the hike should be about. It's everyday on the journey that truly matters. For my wife and myself there's only one direction for OUR thru-hike, SOUTHBOUND. There are many reasons why; the way less traveled by those who know "whats what", no crowds, starting off in pristine Maine, more appealing weather overall, we love bugs, and mostly because it makes reading the DATA book so much easier.
    Any way is the right way, but we like this way.
    "Have fun and be real!!"

  13. #13
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    I can't speak with any authority about what it is like to hike southbound these days, but I do think there is more of a pack going south than some might think. Enough to establish good relationships, anyway. I am basing that primarily on seeing many SOBOs in Gorham on summer weekends over the past few years. I also just checked the www.riversandtrails.com web 2002 site and saw that there were reports of 79 Me=>GA SOBO hikers crossing the Kennebeck in June and 68 crossing in July (and 22 in August).

    When I hiked the AT SOBO in 1983, I got a late (7/13) start and felt a rather desperate need to catch up to someone going my way. I finally did just north of Perisburg, VA. We shared shelters for about a week. In truth, I would have enjoyed my trip more had I the chance to share it with others going the same way, but even in 1983 I could have had much of that by starting earlier. If one wants to maximize thier interaction with other sobos, picking your start date is probabaly more important.

    The main reason for this post is suggest that the draw of Springer can be every bit as powerful as Katahdin. As a southbounder you get to feel a series of accomplishments right off the bat that can help give you the confidence to make it all the way. First you get to climb the badest mountain on the whole AT and report on your triumph to the hardened northbounders you meet up with. Then, you get to do the 100 mile wilderness. After that you will know that the Trail is something that you REALLY can do. (SOBOs might consider blowing off the Whitehouse Landing).

    Wow. You get to follow this up with moose and spruce grouse and the Bigalows. When you get to Gorham, you will KNOW what you are capable of and that the AT is amazing in so many dimensions. But you also have the Whites to look forward to in a matter of days. Its really cool not only to hike them, but put them behind you knowing you have met yet another challenge.

    But it gets better. Walking through pastures and up fire towers and wonderful places that just keep on coming. By this time you have probably been asked about bears 20 times and have been forced to say, no I haven't seen one. You can't wait, but are confident that your day will come in NJ or VA. You wonder if you really want to see a rattlesnake, and if the Smokies are everything that the NOBOs said they were (they are). As you move on, you walk along ridges that commond a view not of an endless sea of trees but of farms that are every bit as beautiful. Perhaps more so. The better-known hostels and AYCE places become something to look forward to in a way that is hard to understand, and are a motivation in themselves.

    Along the way you wonder about how beautiful the trees must have been in the spring, expecially the rhodadendron, but console yourself with the knowledge that only a SOBO can stop and check out Hawk Mountain during fall raptor migration, and are pleased that you started a conversation with the quiet birders because they were able to point out a couple bald eagles among scores and scores of hawks. You get to enjoy a mid-week Fall quiet along the trail that is magic, and realize how crowded the Whites and Maine really were.

    And Springer calls as to you as loudly as Katahdin ever could. When you reach your first 4000 footer down south (is it the Priest?) you laugh at how easy hiking it was. In fact, you can't help but wonder if the Northbounders hiked a different trail than you find yourself walking every day. Tough mountains down south? Yea, right ;-). The only thing that takes you by surprise is the fact that days are becoming so dang short, at a time your body has never been stronger.

    When you get to Springer you may be alone and the sky may be gray. Its hardly a spectacular place, but you walk over to the plaque and know how special it was getting there. No champagne and hoots, but a quiet satisfaction that will stay with you for a long time.

    A fine place to end a hike.

    Rick Boudrie
    ME=>GA 19AT3

  14. #14
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    Default moresky

    The quibble I have about your post is the comment "more appealing weather overall" which I would have to disagree with. An early to mid-April start NOBO will allow you to hike north with Spring AND allow you to finish in New England in the Fall.

    Max

  15. #15

    Default max patch

    Thank you for your quibble and disagreement. We are totally aware of the weather dynamics for both directions. But for us, the weather is more appealing going Southbound.
    "Have fun and be real!!"

  16. #16
    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Default Northbound

    Somewhere there was a thread asking what was the "coolest" thing about a thru-hike. Most of the replies were the people met along the way. Now, unless you do a northbound hike and start in early spring, you will miss out on much of the comradery with you fellow thru-hikers. There just isn't enough of a critical mass going southbound, or northbound out of season to have this critical mass.

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    What's a "thru-hike" about? Enjoying the woods and solitude or being in a mob and having "comraderie" all the way to Maine? Cuz NOBO hikes starting from mid March to mid April are mob scenes. SOBO hikes and the hikers that do them are different than NOBO hikers. For the most part. More laid back, less in a rush to get to a "Big K", not so type A. I much prefer SOBO.

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    After my section hike in 01 through the mid-atlantic and dealing with the mass of hikers along the trail, I don't know if I would leave Springer anytime after March 1st. It just gets too over-crowded for me.

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    Hey Peaks...why was your southbound hike such a let down, did you ever do a southbound thru-hike? Then please leave comments up to the people who actually hike south...not Northbounders opinions!

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    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Ok Stranger,

    While it's totally true that I haven't done a southbound thru-hike, I think that I can have something to say here.

    First, as previously stated, I have been doing section hikes for decades. Some of them were south, and some were north. But that's not the point. The point is that until I did a 1000 mile section hike, I never made the tremendous people connection that exists along the trail when you go with the flow. And certainly, everytime I think back on my experience, the people were the best part. The bond to my fellow hikers is hard to describe.

    This thread isn't just for the southbounders. It opened with discuss both directions, and why. So, I'm voicing my opinion.

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