View Full Version : Standing room only...
I angel'd this weekend at Shot Pouch, which is about 2 weeks north of Springer. I got 13 folks on Saturday and 5 on Sunday. They said 90 started the previous Saturday and absolutely every camp site has been taken for miles north of Springer. One guy said people are sleeping standing up but I think this was an exaggeration. 8-)
Shot Pouch is about 1 mile north of Wayah Gap, near Franklin, North Carolina.
NINETY people started on an early March Saturday? Wow.
This is an example where the growing popularity of something will eventually begin to impact the desired experience. I wouldn't be surprised if the government eventually decided to go with some form of permit system to control overcrowding, at least at shelter sites.
Lesson to be learned? If you don't want to hike on a crowded trail, don't hike the AT in GA & NC in March & April.
The next time I thru-hike a long distance trail - it will almost definitely not be the AT. If it is, it'll be SOBO. The PCT is a more likely candidate, but from what I can tell, that's getting pretty popular as well. There's always the CDT, the Florida Trail, or the Mountains to Sea Trail. The Cumberland Trail starts only 5 minutes from my house.
Hmmmmmmmmmm... So many trails, so little time.
Looks like the idea of starting early to escape crowds is a bad one. Maybe more people will start in May to avoid crowds. I left on May 1 from Springer last spring and it felt like I had the AT to myself most days. Weather is better as well, and you still have 5+ months to make it to Katahdin.
For reference, only a few hundred people start the PCT each year with the intention of finishing. The Sierras are empty, as is northern California. I am told more crowds are seen in Washington. A higher percentage finish than on the AT, but I don't think any one views the PCT as crowded, at least after the first 2-300 miles of it (2 weeks or so). Without shelters there is, I am told, more dispersion of hikers, at least after the first two weeks or so.
90 starting on a single day ... that doesn't jive with what the ATC has. I suspect the actual number to be somewhere between the two estimates. Still, I'll find it interesting to see how many start on the same day as I.
In '96 we counted 42 people at Springer Shelter on the 1st of April (the ATC estimated 100 or so hikers started that day) so I'm accustomed to the crowds that gather at the start. I've noticed in recent years the average start date seems to be earlier than was once the case; used to be April 1, now it's around the 15-21. Perhaps this is an indication that the average start date is getting earlier yet.
I wonder if by starting later in March one might not be in the "big" crowd anymore.
The numbers of thru-hikers each year have remained relatively consistent for the past few years; while this March seems particularly crowded, it's not because there are significantly more folks thru-hiking each year; it merely means that more folks are starting early in an attempt to beat the crowds that traditionally started between 15 March and 1 April. All that's happened is that the really "busy" season has been bumped ahead a few weeks to early/mid March from its usual mid-to-late March.
Also, and this has been said before: If you don't want to deal with crowded shelters or campsites, there's a very simple solution: Don't stay at them. True, you will see lots of folks on the Trail during the day, at least til most of them quit, but there's no reason you have to camp with a crowd. Instead of worrying about, or complaining about crowded shelters, it's much easier to simply avoid them altogether.
Anyone that camps or spends the night with a crowd has made the decision to do so. This is easily remedied.
TJ aka Teej
Alternative thru-hiking itineraries from the ATC.
I am looking forward to the many folks I'll bump into along the trail. And I truly enjoy the "crowds" at the beginning of the hike. Some of my favorite trail memories concern these periods of my hikes. Can't wait to meet you all!
Teej, those are really interesting itineraries you highlighted! I especially like the Head-Start ones. In fact, I might consider them for a future hike - If I'm fortunate enough to do one. Good find!
But this year I think I'll do it the old fashioned way - start at Springer and walk north. Just typing this I remember some of the tent cities that cropped up from time to time - especially early on. Quite the social events! Nothing like cramped quarters to get to know your fellow hikers.
Last year a tax snafu kept me from starting
on the weekend of March 8. I wound up
taking a train to GA on Monday night
and arrived at Amicalola on Tuesday
It wasn't crowded at all. Only three of
us in the shelter atop Springer that night.
You might want to start mid-week to
avoid some of the crowd.
Worked well for me!-)
There's a sure fire cure for crowds - SOBO. When I do the AT I'll probably start at Katahdin in July.
I read a post from a CDT thru-hiker that he met only 16 or 17 other thrus the whole trip. That's a real escape from the crowds.
When asked, most former thruhikers I talk with tell me that the best part of the trail for them was the people they met along the way. Even in the old videos ("5 Million Steps" and "North to Katahdin") you hear similar sentiments. When I'm asked, I give the same answer.
Conversely, most thruhikers will often speak of "overcrowding" along the trail - especially in the early going. Ok, I admit, sometimes I feel like some solitude and am disappointed when I see an entirely full shelter area. Usually, I'll hike on a little to find a quiet spot.
I suppose what I'm asking is this: how many of you think the trail is too crowded? What's your squeal point, so to speak? Is it a full shelter/campsite at night? Is it running into a lot of people all day long? Both? Just curious.
There were some SoBo'ers this weekend in Southern North Carolina. OK, if there are 90 folks a day leaving Springer, 90 folks will go by me if I stand still. If I walk south 180 folks go by me. If I walk 10 hours a day, 18 folks go by me every hour, or about 1 person every 3.5 minutes. Of course, they will all ask me about conditions further up the trail. Arrrgggghhhh....
The Trail is too crowded, what a laugh. I just walked past 3 shelters in Mass. and there were not even any tracks. The last post in the journals was New Years Eve. In '01' I hiked from Springer NOBO in June, through the most spectacular flower show in the universe Azalias, Rhodadendron, Mountain Laural. I did not share a shelter with anyone till the Smokies. 90% of the time, on 80% of the Trail, there is no one.
BJ makes a really good point. Want crowds? You can seek 'em out at shelters. I stayed at Shelters for the first few weeks of my hike, and they were bustin' at the seams right on up into NC. I sat quietly and hidden for an hour in a dense grove of ancient Hemlocks & Rhododendren in Mid-March up in the Nantahalas. In that hour, about a dozen people hiked past me. I guess each person's definition of crowded depends on what your idea of solitude is.
As I've posted here before, I hiked the Pisgah near Shining Rock & Black Balsam Knob and the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness last March and saw only a handful of hikers in a week. Try that on the AT in NC or GA in March and compare the experiences. Its totally different.
Of course, if you want solitude, a SOBO thru-hike where you choose to not stay at shelters would offer you all the solitude you could handle. Just my opinion..
I think that the only time I have felt crowded is when a group descends on a shelter area in the evening. So, if it bothered me that much, then just move away.
Conversely, I know that when I have stealth camped away from shelters, I do feel lonely.
So, what's too many? I'd say anytime the shelter is crowded during good weather.
I think alot of hikers aim for the shelters
because water is generally available at them.
The farther I hiked last year, the less I
stayed IN the shelters, but I often tent-
ed NEAR them. Some of the best camps
are when you're packing enough water
and don't need the shelter. ':cool:'
Too right, Scamp!
*remembering Cheaoh Bald*
I'm going back to NOC and going north to Harper's Ferry this year.
Cheoah is the first stop!-)
Last year we had a hellacious t-storm
Lucky for me I got out of NOC late and
only made it to the shelter.
I thought someone MUST have been struck
by lightning up top, but everyone there
was fine, the next morning.
I was scared for them!
'Runaway' told me someone was hanging
between two trees just a few feet from
the USGS marker atop Cheoah. No
hammocks for me! Runaway's tent was right ON the USGS marker. Ah, to
be young and dumb again!
That sounds like a good trip, Scamp. I don't think you'll need to worry about being crowded on the Bald. Most people hiking through there don't look to stop on the Bald.
Haven't had any lightning up there myself. Only spent one night and it was pure peace - black velvet sky, spider web of stars.
Hmm, maybe I'll stay up there this year as well. When are you starting your trip, Scamp?
I need to finish my taxes, and a few
other things, before I can hike.
Probably will start between 4/6-4/12.
I'm a slow hiker, so you'll probably catch me.
Then there's Trail Days, too.