“I was wondering if you’d been to the Mountain, to look at the valley below?
Did you see all the roads tangled down in the valley?
Did you know which way to go?
The mountain stream runs pure and clear, and I wish to my soul I could always be here.
But there’s a reason to live way down in the valley that only the Mountain knows. “
– Noel Paul Stookey
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I’ve been preparing for this moment, in my mind at least, since I last left Maine. I’m about to begin a southbound hike on the Appalachian Trail.
I’ve been organizing, packing and making lists for weeks. For months. This routine is familiar to me. But instead of preparing to live in Japan for several months, this time I’m getting ready for another hike on the AT. Soon, I’ll be in Baxter State Park, at the base of Mt. Katahdin in Maine. 5.2 miles up the Hunt Trail, at the top of Katahdin is the simple wooden sign designating the northern terminus of the AT. I know this sign. I’ve been there three different times: at the end of my northbound 1998 thru-hike; five years later with friends for a “trailversary” hike; and in 2011, at the end of my two-part section hike.
This week, I plan to once again touch that weathered, simple, beautiful sign, only this time it will be the beginning of a different kind of trek. This time I will be walking south.
* * *
I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of going southbound. Northbound is the more popular direction to walk. Most hikers start in March or April and “walk with spring,” usually finishing on Mt. Katahdin in the fall. Baxter State Park closes in mid-October, so thru-hikers need to time their summit accordingly. Southbound hikers can start as early as mid-May (when the trails in BSP open), although black flies and high-water fords can be challenging. I will be starting the third week in July. There is no time limit for finishing at Springer Mountain, the southern end of the trail. This year the length of the trail is 2,189 miles.
My schedule has more to do with my teaching commitments. I just finished a 10-week, e-learning tutoring program for Westgate, and I’m also taking a break from tutoring for the Russian company I’ve been working with. I plan to hike for two weeks in order to get through the most remote part of Maine. After that, I’ll resume tutoring online on a weekly basis when I’m in town to resupply.
I was so fortunate to spend the last few months with my parents at their house. I taught online, spent time with my grandma and explored permanent work options. As I fine-tuned my online routine, I realized that with creative planning, everything I was doing at home I could do while hiking, and in a place that is incredibly meaningful to me. I’m attempting to do it all: backpack the AT, continue to work online and prepare for a full-time job.
My pictures will now be posted on Instagram, instead of embedded in the blog posts. (See the widget on the right side of the page).
I will be journaling as I hike, and will update the blog when I’m in town. I’m so excited to begin this southbound walk and to share it with you! Let’s hike!