“Hike your own hike.” I stumbled upon Southbounders purely by accident during a futile search for Appalachian Trail documentaries a couple of years ago (I had delusions of hiking the Appalachian Trail through the Smokies at the time). Anyway, Southbounders turned out to be a welcome surprise – a true hidden treasure, an honest, refreshing and laid-back independent film that I thoroughly enjoyed. Written and directed by Ben Wagner, the flick follows three thru-hikers as they attempt a six-month journey South approximately 2,180 miles from Mount Katahdin in Maine all the way to Springer Mountain in Georgia. The main character, Olivia (Amy Cale Peterson), is a medical school student from a wealthy (and uptight) family who decides to postpone school and hit the trail – much to her parents’ chagrin. Olivia soon befriends a couple of other thru-hikers, including the pleasantly obnoxious Slackpack (Christopher McCutchen) and the more disciplined but intensely private, Rollin (Scott Speiser). Each of the characters has his or her own reason for being on the trail as they discover plenty of life lessons along the way. However, the Appalachian Trail – with all its simple, rugged American beauty – is ultimately the main character in this fascinating tale. Southbounders boasts solid acting, excellent cinematography and a superb soundtrack that seamlessly complements the plot. If you’ve never even considered hiking in your life, you just might be searching for the nearest woods to take a stroll after watching Southbounders. And who knows, maybe one day you will find yourself at the base of Mount Katahdin or Springer Mountain – ready to take the plunge! As Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step …” By the way, when are they going to make the film version of Bill Bryson’s hilarious 1998 book A Walk in the Woods anyway?
Useless Trivia: The brainchild of forester Benton MacKaye, the Appalachian Trail was completed in 1937. Earl Shaffer was the first person to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 1948. Administered by the National Park Service, the Appalachian Trail in the longest marked footpath in the United States.