If you ever wondered what it is like to walk 500 miles, or 1500 or 2000, I guess I can give you an idea. You might think it gets exponentially cooler as you walk further and get those benchmarks. Or at least increase in coolness in a linear fashion. Maybe for some people it does, but for me…not so much.
500 miles: This is in Vermont for SOBOs. There was a little piece of wood with 500 burnt into it to let NOBOs know that they have only 500 miles until the end. SOBOs have appropriated this sign as their “I’ve gone 500 fucking miles!” mark. The sign isn’t official or anything, it was just put there by some local trail angel. This trail angel was also kind enough to leave a cooler with a bunch of soda and ice every day. When we passed through, it was late morning and the sodas had just been refilled. It was suh-weeeet. I remember feeling so incredible for walking 500 miles. I mean, 500 miles…that’s soooo long! This was by far the most exciting mile mark for me. It took us about a month and a half to go that first 500. The other ones went much faster.
1000 miles: This was somewhere in Pennsylvania, a little before the half way point (which had a gigantic, new, official sign). There was no sign. There was no soda. [Interestingly enough there is a 1000 mile marker for NOBOs that some nice individual put on a piece of wood on a tree. When we passed that it was further along the trail in PA and it meant we had 1000 miles left.] When you walk 1000 miles, it’s only natural to start thinking “What the hell am I doing?” I mean, you just walked 1000 miles. And you’re planning to continue another 1,182 miles? It’s the first time that the whole endeavour seemed ridiculous. I think it hit us then because we had gone far enough for the entire thing to seem possible, but we also hit the amount of mileage that is just too long to even fathom. 1000, 2000, 3000, it’s all just so high. We had walked longer than you can drive in a day.
Sol with the 1000 mile sign left for NOBOs.
1500 miles: This occurs in Virginia. The trail is in Virginia for over 500 miles, so it’s hard to feel a strong sense of progress until you pass through it. We were hiking with two other SOBOs at that point (young men, of course). We hit the 1500 miles point right after a town visit so everyone got some variation of fermented sugars to celebrate. We had a great fire that night and finished off a couple bottles, and everyone got decently buzzed, if not drunk. It was more of a reason to celebrate than an actual feeling. 500 miles had a feeling of greatness, 1000 miles had a feeling of ridiculousness and 1500 didn’t have a strong feeling that I remember. There were no signs, but our guidebooks let us know which landmarks are at which mileages, so we knew.
2000 miles: This was at a gap in the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. Again, no sign. For NOBOs that particular spot isn’t anything special, just 182 miles from the start. As you may gather, all the signage is NOBO biased. I hope to someday go back and put up signs of everything special from a SOBO perspective. We were hiking with our friend Sam, and we all stopped, took swigs of tequila and some photos to commemorate. The feeling of 2000 was pretty mighty, but more ridiculous and unfathomable, as you might imagine.
Sol agrees and adds: When he got to 2000 it was like “Eh, it’s like twice as much as 1000.” But he is proud that we made our own celebration for 2000.