About the Author: Candace AKA “Socks” is on a 7-year quest to complete the Appalachian Trail. She doesn’t care if she travels north, south, or plays hopscotch among 14 states. Not a goal-setter by nature, she’s latched on to one that has brought purpose to her wanderlust.

Section hiking the Appalachian Trail means you don’t have to scrunch your journey to fit.

Mount Katahdin’s whims. This Maine terminus holds a key that can make or break the thru-hike. SOBOs wait to begin their trek until winter eases sometime in June; NOBOs push to end before mid-October when winter sets in.

But section hikers avoid this crush because we are, by definition, open-ended. I live in a college town in western North Carolina where I love the seasons of – not only the weather – but also of the university whose calendar brings a surprising rush of students when semesters begin and then a welcome ebbing on the roads and at restaurants during breaks and holidays. 
I delight in similar seasons on the trail. The springtime bursts with the energy of fresh hikers treading north. I track the hiker bubble and then go out and experience it for myself, knowing that if I plan to hike in Georgia, March is going to be very busy.
As the NOBOS move up, there is a lull in the South. By June and July, the trail here is inhabited mostly by section hikers and day hikers, less fiercely driven than the thru-hikers. In August, things pick up a bit when the SOBOS begin to arrive. Like the proverbial first robin of spring, these hikers bring a thrill. Meeting them, you get a whiff of the adventures they tow, like the dust dragged by a truck on a dirt road.
I record my encounters with some of these hikers I want to remember in a small journal. My trail journal has a textured cover I can find by feel when reaching over in the dark to my book-strewn bedside table. 
It is often in the pre-dawn hours that a dream triggers thoughts I want to scribble about my trail. I say “my trail” since we each experience the AT uniquely. Besides a brief record of the starting, endpoints and mileage of each section hike, I always include some highlights because, well because there always are some. 
Now moving towards my third year of hiking, I like to look back and look ahead to each month spent on the trail. I enjoy winter hiking for the wide open views and the lessened concern for snakes and ticks. I look forward to the return of the amazing wildflower show in the Spring, as well as longer daylight hours for hiking. 
When the summer lull came last year, I planned a trip to Connecticut for two reasons. I wanted to complete a state with just 52 miles of trail – check that one off – but also to feel anew the energy of the thru-hikers as the traffic in the South had died down. 
Here in February on a cold, gray day I can almost feel the anticipation of the bubble of thru-hikers soon to start their journey north from Georgia. For the determined-crazy-lucky ones who finish, many speak of the let-down at the end of their hike. Their focus has been so intense, that after its completion, there is naturally a feeling of “what now?”
That’s one worry I don’t have. As a section hiker, my trips on the trail are just part of all the other sweet rhythms of life.