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559 Southbound
a Review

Southbound book

As summer of 2011 approached I was looking for an entertaining book to read on our trip to Colorado. In the Campmor catalog, one of the few books they sold was "Southbound"- a story about two sisters walking the Appalachian Trail. I had never read a book on the AT or any other long distant hike. Long distance hiking is not a really glamorous topic; but from Campmor's glowing recommendation, I decided to give it a try.

The book captivated me immediately. Every day I would announce, 'well, I need to turn in and see what my girls are up to." The only problem was, on some days I was going to the tent to read and it would be no where near bed time!

The story line is: Two Maine sisters in their early twenties decided to hike the AT southbound (from Maine to Georgia). They left Mount Katahdin in June heading toward Springer Mountain. To add a little spice to their efforts, the sisters started walking the trail barefooted. They became known as the Barefoot Sisters. Southbound is a narrative of their life on the trail. The sisters hiked through the fall and into the winter before they finished in Georgia.

The story is told as a tag team. The sisters took turns telling their views of the life on the trail. Often times the views were different.

They told of the hardships and joys of the trail: personal problems such as injuries, illnesses, and recoveries; their physical needs of thirst and hunger, and satisfying the needs with overindulging; and the weather including being wet, cold, and living in the harsh environment. They told how their struggles effected each other and shared their love for the simple trail life.

Adding spice to the book were the characters they met along the trail. The cast of hikers was always changing. The sisters were moving along the linear trail. They made friends and then said goodbye. At first the sisters did not like losing their friends after such a short acquaintance; but soon they accepted the brief encounters as life on the trail. All of the hikers were hiking their own hike. They were aiming at a goal of completing the trail in a set amount of time. Some of the hikers, they would meet again, and others they would never see.

The caretakers of the hostels and the trail angels also played huge roles in the story. The caretakers, some who were also angels perhaps, helped nurse and nurture the hikers along. The trail angels performed random acts of kindness for the sisters (and other hikers) from bringing pizza to a shelter to rescuing them from a massive winter storm. Both the caretakers and the angels gave endlessly to the needy hikers, including the sisters. The sisters were very appreciative.

Southbound would be a great book for anyone wanting to hike the trail or that just love being outdoors. The sisters engage the reader almost every step of the way. Who knows after you read the book, maybe the sisters would inspire you to hike a long distance trail. Maybe even barefoot???

Happy Southbound trails

Note: the Barefoot Sisters, once at Springer Mountain turned around and walked back to Maine! The return trip is "Walking Home".


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