Highlight's SOBO Starter Guide
How am I getting to Maine, let alone Mt Katahdin?
How do I coordinate a flight, a bus, AND a camping reservation??
The 100-Mile Wilderness sounds intimidating…what’s it like?
Will I need a GPS device?
Will I meet people?
What about cell service?
No, really. How do you start a southbound thru-hike?
These were my initial thoughts when I started to plan my southbound hike. It took a few calls, hours of research, breaking down the first few pages of the southbound AWOL guide and I still found myself confused. I ended up flying from Newark, NJ to Bangor, ME, taking a bus, then a shuttle to the hostel, and then a day later, a shuttle into Baxter State Park. However you get there, know that this is all part of a thru-hike. Planning, preparation, and the doing.
Here is a culmination of my research and personal experience blended into Highlight’s SOBO Starter Guide. Before we jump in, make sure to read AWOL vs Guthook and start with some idea of your guidebook preference.
This guide will streamline the beginning of your hike and leave room for spontaneity. While I had a rough idea, I winged some parts which made for a better experience. HINT HINT: this is your new SOBO mantra - go with the flow.
Please feel free to share this guide with any concerned parents, friends, and anyone that gave you a crooked face when you told them your plan to thru-hike southbound. It will help them to know you’re safely on your way to the best experience of your life.
The journey to Day 1 is an adventure in itself. Get excited.
You decided to thru-hike the AT southbound! Now what? First of all, you’re already off to a great start. We SOBOs are unique. We have our honeymoon phase in the best terrain of the whole Appalachian Trail (Maine and New Hampshire). We make close bonds with our fellow SOBOs. We’re in it for the journey, not the destination. We have the BEST FIRST DAY OF ANY THRU-HIKE EVER - hello, Mt Katahdin! We’re not afraid of getting out of our comfort zone and we generally walk the path less traveled. But how do we get to the path?
I’ll divide this guide into three parts:
Getting to Baxter
Summit Day: Mt Katahdin
The 100-Mile Wilderness
But first, Let’s take a look at this handy map
Take a good look at this topographic map and find Mt Katahdin, Bangor International Airport, the hostels in Millinocket and Monson, and get a feel for the beautiful line of the Appalachian Trail.
Save these way points in Google maps. Compare with Guthook. Make highlights in your AWOL guidebook. Try to grasp the idea that you will walk a continuous footpath from Maine to Georgia. All 2,190 miles of it.
Yes, I know it’s terrifying, stomach-curdling exciting, and all-around tingly feeling. Hold on to this feeling for as long as you can and store it in your mental bank. Withdraw these feelings as fuel when you have a rough trail day and you’ll be reminded what a privilege and serious undertaking a thru-hike is.
Most importantly, recall these initial feelings to remind yourself that you can totally do this.