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Kentucky by Heart: Bob Snow’s Appalachian Trail adventure comes to an emotional September end

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part story account of a Kentuckian’s successful hiking of the Appalachian Trail.

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

And, oh yes, how must one deal with the call of nature on the Appalachian Trail? The protocol for using the natural facilities of the hiking terrain, according to Bob, is to “dig a hole six inches deep, 200 yards off the Trail, and cover up when you are done.”

Bob Snow at the beautiful McAfee Knob, Daleville, VA (Photo provided)

That said, there may be a little more dignity while doing one’s business at one of the shelters along the way, where most have a “privy” to use.

“Some are four-sided with a door, some are three-sided with a view,” he explained, chuckling. “A handful have no doors whatsoever. The best privy (on the A.T.) is one called ‘Your Move” and you go inside and there actually are two toilet seats and it has a cribbage board in the middle.”

And speaking of items that may cause you to hold your nose, hikers having strong body odors is a fact of life, if you believe Bob. Shower facilities along the A.T. simply are not common. “I would have the opportunity to take a shower about every week to ten days,” he said. “You can wash yourself a little on the hike… but you stink, just stink, and you learn to embrace it.

“Generally, you don’t smell yourself and you don’t smell other hikers. Everybody stinks the same. The only thing thru hikers will ever smell are day hikers because they smell so good.”

Perhaps it is time to move to another subject about the Appalachian Trail. What kind of financial cost was it for Bob’s A.T. expedition?

Bob (standing/green cap) with other hikers at the summit of Katahdin Mountain, in Maine (Photo provided)

“I spent about six to seven thousand dollars on the hike, but that included gear, hotels and hostels, as well as two bus tickets and two AMTRAK fares to get back to Harper’s Ferry from Maine,” he said. “Resupply costs for food were about 65 to 75 dollars to get me three or four more days down the Trail. Protein bars are expensive, and I ate five or six of them per day.” And as one might imagine, good shoes are needed to traverse those long miles, and they wear out. “I changed shoes every four to five hundred miles,” Bob said. “I finished the Trail on my fifth pair.”

He wore the shoe brands Altra and Topo, both having “ridiculously wide” toe space, he said, which “kept me from having blisters. He added that from start to finish, “My feet grew, going from size nine and a half to ten and a half.” With his shoes, he wore merino wool socks, which, along with his other clothes, often were wet in mornings and dried by afternoon.

What doth a man gain if he loses his sole? A lot, Bob will tell you. But I digress.

Bob and I spent about ninety minutes discussing his A.T. hike. Here are some “truisms” gleaned from him, along with his comments:

• How old is too young or old? “There’s no age limit.” That includes ones such as the 77-year-old woman he saw on the Trail with only ninety miles left for her to finish. He also noted a mother and fifteen children hiking the Trail that he read about on Facebook.

• Politics a no-no. “Rarely did anyone bring politics up. It wasn’t the reason people were out there. So refreshing.”

• Watch water crossings. “Always wait and cross with someone… recently, I heard about a man who didn’t and died when caught up in the moving water. And always unsnap the pack’s hip belt and chest strap before crossing water so you can easily free yourself from the pack if you fall.”

• Allow early time on the Trail to get into a rhythm. “The first three weeks are the toughest. Use it to train your body, but don’t overdo it.”

• Use a good A.T. travel app on your phone and carry a battery charger.

• Slow down and take in the beauty.

• Make noise to deter a bear. “I’ve heard it suggested to yell, ‘I’m a bear, too.’”

• Don’t panic if you see a rattler or copperhead.

• Poison ivy is not usually a problem… that is, “if you carry toilet paper.”

• The A.T. treats all people alike. “There are no socioeconomic statuses on the Trail, as everyone is equal carrying necessities on their back for four to six months, all with a common purpose to hike 2,198 miles.”

• An occasional day off might be necessary. “Taking a ‘zero,’ which means a day with no miles hiked, during rainy days is the best… but as a popular Trail saying goes, ‘No rain, no Maine.’”

• The Trail draws international interest. “The A.T. is a melting pot of hikers from around the world. I met hikers from Bolivia, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Ireland, England, Denmark, New Zealand, and Australia.”

• When a MYTH is not a myth. “A MYTH is the name given to a ‘multi-year thru hiker, which is a section hiker who hikes the Trail over a number of years with the intent to cover every mile between Georgia and Maine. Some just don’t have the time or ability to do the Trail within a year.”

• In addition to the A.T., the two other most popular long distance trails in the U.S. are the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Both run from Mexico to Canada. While Bob currently has no plans to hike either of these two trails, he did admit the PCT sure is calling, and at a minimum, he plans to hike the 211 mile John Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada range in California that flows part of the PCT.

Bob touches his last “white blaze” at Springer Mt., GA, concluding his 2198-mile A.T. hike (Photo provided)

So, what kind of person would be a match for an Appalachian Trail hike? Bob said it this way: “One who enjoys meeting new people from around the world, who enjoys the unknown of what’s around each bend or on the other side of each mountain, and who feels at home being outdoors day to day. Everybody is doing it for a different reason.”

It was an emotional time for Bob as he came to the successful end of his long walk on the A.T. He posted this on his Facebook blog on his 144th day, on September 13:

“This morning I walked the last couple miles from the shelter to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail located at the summit of Springer Mountain where I touched my final white blaze. The 2198.4 miles of my Appalachian Trail journey are now all behind me. I had so many emotions running through me as I approached the summit, and many tears were shed. Generally, everyone who thru hikes is looking for something, whether they know it or not. I wasn’t sure what I was searching for, but I know I found it.”

Bob recommends the following two sites to help you get ready for your hike on the Appalachian Trail: appalachiantrail.org and thetrek.co/appalachian-trail.

Read Part one of one of Bob Snow’s Appalachian Trail adventure

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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