Most of the time, the Appalachian Trail doesn’t feel clique-ish. Most of the time. Unfortunately, thru-hikers and section-hikers tend to walk with “their own kind,” in the words of Cera from The Land Before Time, and NOBOs (northbounders) and SOBOs (southbounders) tend not to think highly of each other.
Doctor Seuss wrote of the north- and south-going Zax and their inability to get along:
“Look here, now!” the North-Going Zax said, “I say!
You are blocking my path. You are right in my way.
I’m a North-Going Zax and I always go north.
Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!”
“Who’s in whose way?” snapped the South-Going Zax.
“I always go south, making south-going tracks.
So you’re in MY way! And I ask you to move
And let me go south in my south-going groove.”*
All too often, we NOBOs and SOBOs are much like the Zax, thinking our own directions and experiences to be superior. I think this has much to do with the attitudes of the first SOBOs and the first NOBOs, who, as fast-hiking leaders of their respective packs, might not spend time making friends with the hikers going in the opposite direction. In my mind, this is a travesty: When a NOBO and a SOBO meet, between them, they’ve seen the entire length of the AT, and there’s so much information to be gained from those hiking the opposite direction on the trail. As a caveat, I must say that two of my top-ten favorite hikers were SOBOs, including someone I’m hoping to hike the PCT with next year.
Anyway, one place where NOBOs and SOBOs come together in peace and harmony, holding hands and singing Kumbaya, is at Upper Goose Pond. Located 0.5-miles off the trail in Massachusetts, Upper Goose Pond might be easily missed by those hikers focused on getting to Northern New England; however, the beautiful setting of the lodge there makes the side trip worth considering. The pancakes served by the caretaker in the morning make it a mandatory stop.
You see, there is a pick-your-own blueberry stand not far north of Upper Goose Pond, and SOBOs often arrive at the lodge bearing gifts of juicy, field-grown blueberries. Because the trail is all about reciprocity and sharing, NOBOs arrive at the lodge bearing gifts of…hmmm…of our awesome and awesomely stinky selves?
In the morning, the caretaker of the Upper Goose Pond takes the blueberries, adds them to the pancake batter, and produces a delicious breakfast for hungry hikers. It’s a great time of camaraderie and community before we all go our separate ways on the narrow but very long trail.
*The tale of the Zax is reprinted in its entirety inside a privy in Vermont, but you can also look it up online or at your local library.