Here We Go Again!

Shift, Pivot, and Reshape are words that I’ve used before to describe how flexible we must be in this ever-changing world.  Most believe that our world is beyond our control, nor should we even try to control it.  Yes, we can influence change and make decisions for ourselves to improve our lives. However, to try and control the things that we cannot change is just preposterous, but yet I tried.  This life lesson hasn’t been an easy one for me to learn. Once I determined a path, deviating from that path was not an option, regardless of the circumstances, even in a worldwide pandemic. Learning still, I am, oh master Universe.

Flexibility is defined as a personality trait that describes the extent to which a person can cope with changes in circumstances and think about problems and tasks in novel, creative ways. This trait is used when stressors or unexpected events occur, requiring a person to change their stance, outlook, or commitment. – Wikipedia

If you’ve been following my blog, here’s my Appalachian Trail story timeline, in short. Flexible? Indeed!

  1. May 2016: My dream to Thru-hike the AT was born.
  2. July 2017: My initial date was set to Thru-hike the AT in 2019.
  3. April 2018: Changed my plan to Thru-hike the AT in 2021.
  4. August 2018: Decided to move up the plan to retire and Thru-hike in 2019
  5. September 2018: Announced my 2019 retirement plan and my 2019 Nobo Thru-hike publicly.
  6. December 2018: Unforeseen family needs delayed my retirement and thru-hike. The announced new AT date, March 2020.
  7. All of 2019: Lots of hiking and hike preparation and taking care of my family of course.
  8. February 2020: Bittersweet retirement.
  9. March 2020: Postponed my start until June(Switch to a traditional Flip/Flop) due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ATC “closes” the AT.
  10. April 2020: Decided to postpone my start date until 2021 and back to a Nobo due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and increasing trail-related complications.
  11. June 2020: Trail logistics related to COVID-19 are improving. The ATC will “reopen” the AT shelters, their offices, and volunteer trail maintenance and services will start in July.

On June 16th the Appalachian Trail Conservancy changed their position on thru-hiking for 2020. In a statement released on their website, the trail will open in early July; “Thru-hikers who left the Trail in March and stayed off to reduce the spread of the virus will have an additional 12 months to complete their thru-hikes once they resume their hikes after we’ve given the okay to return. If you’ve not started your thru-hike, then you have 12 months from your start date to complete your thru-hike.” Interesting…

With the news of the ATC’s changing its stance on thru-hikes, it got me thinking, what if I could get the best of both worlds?  Could I get on the trail, preserve my mental health, and just hike. Could I also get the trail community experience that I’ve heard so much about? Is there still a way under the new ATC guidelines to pull this off?  Maybe I need to Shift, Pivot, and Reshape…again. To unlearn what I learn takes constant practice, right?  

There were many reasons why, in April, I decided to just postpone until 2021. For me, the biggest concern, aside from the obvious COVID safety precautions, was that the trail community experience would simply not have been the same. “Same”, what does that even mean? I mean I’ve personally never thru-hiked the AT before so how can I even know what “Same” really is?  What about my mental health now, I mean who in the hell knows what will even happen next year either? Asteroids, aliens, zombies, murder butterflies?…LOL. 

I pondered over the thought and the answer was “YES”! Why wait for 2021? Introducing, which could quite possibly be the first of its kind, recognized by the ATC as a thru-hike: The Sobo2020/Nobo2021 Flip Flop Thru-hike. Hiker Trash, say what? Say, Be_again!

My Sobo 2020/Nobo2021 Thru-hike Itinerary:

1. August 2020: I will start southbound from Harpers Ferry, WV to Springer Mountain, GA (Southern Terminus). Harpers Ferry is kinda in the middle of the whole AT journey and is where the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters is located. At the ATC office, I will be able to register my attempt, get my thru-hiker number, thru-hiker identification tag, and I will get my picture taken on the porch of the office for the 2020 ATC registry book.  While the number of hikers on the trail will be reduced this year, starting this time of the year there is a chance that I’ll be able to meet up with hikers who have started their Sobo trips in June from Maine. The bonus in this plan is that I’ll get to hike into the fall colors through the glorious Smoky Mountains. There will also be milder weather patterns, and I’ll get to summit Springer Mountain in the end.

2. April 2021: I will start northbound from Harpers Ferry, WV to Mount Katahdin, ME (Northern Terminus).  With most thru-hikers starting in March/April, I’ll be ahead of what is called the bubble, which basically is a large group of hikers. While I’ll kind of miss that experience, I won’t have to worry about overcrowding on the trail, shelters, and at hostels when in town.  However, some folks do start in February, and also the faster March hikers could catch up to me around May. So, hopefully, I’ll be back in good enough hiking shape by then to be able to keep up with them.  I really want to get the social experience of this journey that the trail magically provides. So for me, the best part of this itinerary is that I get to finish in the traditional AT fashion by summiting Mt. Katahdin in 2021. 

WV-GA WV-ME 2020 slash 21:) 


  1. Congratulations Mark – We will be following you. Living vicariously I guess.

    Stay safe and may god continue to bless you and your family.


  2. This sounds awesome Mark! I pray that nothing more rears it’s ugly head and throws anymore hurdles your way. We wish you the best of luck and you having the time of your life living the magical dream you envisioned when the idea was in its infancy four years ago… Go get em brother!!!!!!


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