View Full Version : Late May thru-hike start in GA
How many thru-hikers will I run into if I leave late May from Springer? I want to start that late due to some obligations but also, I really would like to have some solitude at shelters/on the trail. Been there, done that April Springer start years ago. My hike lasted about 4.5 months then. I am anticipating doing it in same or less time as I have some 20/20 hindsight of what NOT to do now vs. when I was a newbie (-ie- no heavy pack, carry less food, bring better gear, etc.). The weather in late September/early October in Maine should be OK, so here I go.
Based on my experience from the last few years (Section hiking and dayhiking) you will be one of the last thru hikers going northbound. The trail will be quiet during the week as you head thru GA, but busy on the weekends. Smokies will be packed with people out on late spring/early summer trips. Pretty crowded north of the Smokies to Damascus with section hikers. You will most likely run into some large scout groups who will completely take over shelter areas. Trees will be leafed out, so you will be in the "green tunnel" for much of the hike.
You will have mucho daylight, so you can cover many miles by hiking steady.
Have fun! Widh I was going.
That should be "wish I was going"
I'm lost w/o spell check.
Good Choice, I did that in 2001. All three flowering shrubs, Azalias, Rhodadendron and Mountain Laurel, will be in bloom. You'll be walking in glory.
Based on a survey by Roland Mueser, and published in his book "Long Distance Hiking,", the first week of May is about the latest start for a thru-hike. In fact, 95% of the thru-hikers have started before April 27.
If you are getting a late May start, I might suggest starting at Harper's Ferry and be ahead of the pack. That should get you to Katahdin by early to mid August. then, you can flip back and enjoy the south in the late summer and fall.
Last May (1-28), I hiked form Springer to Fontana. There were enough people of all kinds (thruhikers, section hikers, day hikers, etc) to give me some company when I wanted it, but never too many to feel crowded. I spent every night on the trail in a shelter and only twice were we at capacity. Five nights I was the only person in the shelter. Most nights there were one to three others. If you leave in late May, you'll still have close to 5 months to make it to Maine.
Peaks, your advice is almost always good, very factual and sensible. It is also gastly boring.
Boring? Flip-Flop is boring?
After reading a few of the "Alternate Itineraries" on the ATC's (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hike/thru_hike/itin.html) site, I really think doing this option is the way to go. Good weather, avoid crowds, easy start. If/when (probably not for 20+ years) I get to do a thru, this is the route I'll probably do. This has to be the "best" way to do a thru for older folks (which I'll be in 20+ years) as you hike the easy parts first which allows you more time to break in.
Hike the Trail in three equidistant pieces, all southbound. Start with the middle third of Trail, followed by the northern third, ending with the southern third.
Sample itinerary: Start in southern Connecticut late April, hike south, reaching Troutville, Virginia (Roanoke area) late June. Hike from Katahdin south, reaching southern Connecticut end of August/ early September. Hike from Troutville south, ending at Springer early November.
Case study: After completing the Trail twice, "Cool Breeze" designed his third hike to put him in each part of the Trail during optimal weather conditions. "I hit many places in their most clement and beautiful seasons (Pennsylvania in moist May, Maine and Whites in balmy July and August, Smokies in late October peak colors) and finished at Springer before snow fell in early November. It required 2 flips, Virginia to Katahdin, and Connecticut to Virginia, but it allowed me the best weather of any of my A.T. trips."
Hike in mid-Atlantic during spring, before it gets hot and dry.
Hike first two months in moderate or easy terrain.
Hike in New England after bug season, in temperate weather before it gets cold.
Expect few other long-distance hikers traveling in the same direction, especially on first leg.
Additional logistics required.
No worries about Katahdin closure.
Avoid extremes of both heat and cold.
One thing to think about, though, is that by flipflopping or doing some variant of it you will break your hike. One of the best parts of my hike last spring was building a trail family. I began to feel like part of some roving gang, moving north together. When I finished in Damascus, I was unhappy, to say the least, to see my friends moving out of town for adventures that would be unknown to me. I had other things to do during the summer.
Flip flopping will cause a definite break. Doing it twice will as well. Starting in the south with the knowlege that a flip flop may be necessary is good. It gives you options. But, I wouldn't fix on it in adavance.
I've often wondered about the effects a trail family has on your hike.
Do you see the same folks every day, or just sort of bump into them once a week, or so? Do people actually plan to meet up at shelter Z later that day? Do folks actually hike as a group? Do people wait for members that have dropped behind? Do trailing member put in long days to catch up?
Somehow I think all of the answers is going to be "Yes. But it depends".
The best part is not planning, letting trail majic work. You hike with someone for weeks, then not see them for a state or two then they show up when you least expect it. One guy I hiked with in the Smokies then lost him. I asked to work the Greenleaf Hut in the Whites months later and they told me there was one guy already so I had to work with him. I turned around and there was my long lost friend. Two girls cut my hair in the Hostel in Manchester VT. My foot hit the road at Crawford Notch, dead tired in a freezing rain, I hear a voice "Hey, Dirtbag, need a ride?" The same girls with a friend and a car.
From your message I the impression that "Trail Families" happen on/off through out the trip. But I suppose if you were to flip-flop a bit you will need to "reset" your families during each leg.
Not sure that is really a bad thing.
"Reset your family"?? Ok, take what I think is the most common flipflop. You hike north from Springer to Harpers Ferry. You hike with 20 or 30 thrus on and off. You flip to the Big K and start south. You have just ended any chance for any social contact with them except one more time if you are lucky. I'm not arguing against flipflopping, that's all I do anymore. 1000 miles one year, the other thousand the next. You just lose the social aspect.
"Reset your family", meaning you build another one on each leg. There has to be at least a few folks going the same direction as you on each leg.
Good thread. I'm planning to start late May '04 and go as far as I make it by early August and was thinking about how crowded (or empty) the trail would be if I started at Springer. I'd like to avoid heavy crowds, but seeing a few people occassionally would be nice.
We were out today hiking out of Woody Gap up to Preacher Rock and ran into 2 thru hikers. Last weekend we ran into two others around Cowrock Mtn too. Both said their are a few folks in "the area" but not many thu hikers left. I think you'll have a quiet hike except for a lot of section hikers and scouts.
The worst thing for me would be the thought of all that HOT weather from Georgia to new england! I like leaving early and at least getting through PA before the heat hits.
Starting from Springer is May will be good and bad...Good in the sense that the cold weather is basically gone, granted it still might snow, doubtful but possible. The trail will be much less crowded and you can go lighter from the start.
Bad in the sense that you will probably have 3 long months of mosquitos and heat, and going through the Mid-Atlantic in July will be tough.
Saying that I think starting the very end of April or first week of May would be nice...decent weather and less crowds, flowers in bloom etc.
I kind of hope to get mosquitoes, at least when the wind is not blowing and I am in a valley. They were never too much of a problem except at camp, but I use a tent, so restful sleeping is assured. I do know what you mean though. I have experienced the heat of summer on the trail for weeks on end. I should be so lucky. Mixture of rain and heat is a good balance. Enough rain for the springs to flow. Each day I'll take at a time.