View Full Version : Newbie, planning 2010 thru. Need lots of advice.
hello everyone. i'm new here (first post!). I've been reading every night for weeks and finally decided to register. My boyfriend and I are thinking about doing a 2010 thru-hike together, possibly with another friend as well. I used to camp and do a little bit of hiking when i was younger, but haven't climbed much since. My friend and I are planning on doing some hiking here in the Adirondacks of NY to get me acclimated (starting with small mtns then working up). This idea came to my boyfriend and I from out of the blue, and it seems like the sooner we do this, the better (we're both on the verge of "careers"). I want to be able to have this experience, and if I don't go next year, I fear I won't have another chance for many years to come. And I know I'll always wonder "what if?"
A few questions/requests:
1. If I dont have the "trail leg" muscles yet, what's the best weight to start out with to get used to carrying a pack? I was thinking 15 lbs to start (my first mtn. hike is only gonna be 2-5 miles) but is that too much? I wanna be an UltraLight hiker (I'm only 5'2", 123 lbs.) so I'm thinking 20-30lbs at the most for the thru. I have tendency to build great leg muscles when I do exercise, so I don't think that's going to be a problem once I get the trail legs (but I do have a history of tender knees until I get really fit). And I am starting core/back/shoulder work to help with stability and posture while carrying. I'm also doing sprints to help with endurance.
2. I need a good forum/website/book, what-have-you, on Ultralight packing and what I would need for a thru.
3. I think we're going NOBO, and I'm wondering what's the best time to start to at least attempt to avoid huge crowds (I'm sure we'll end up in a tent for the first 70 miles or so b/c I know shelters will be crowded down there, regardless) and the earliest best time to head north as to not hit terribly cold weather.
4. I'm also thinking of getting a dog, and if any of you have taken one with you on a thru, I'd like to know of any happenings that occured with the dog. I'm almost a certified dog trainer, so my dog will be well-behaved and well-socialized, and i know all the gripes many people have about them (so negativity is not necessary on this subject). I've done a decent amount of research on hiking with dogs; I'm just wondering if there's anything out of the ordinary I should be prepared for that isn't so common.
I'd like to thank you all ahead of time... i'm sure as this forum continues, I'll have plenty more questions for you. ;)
Glad to be a part of this grand adventure!
mamm, i will now quote,in order, bits from your post.
great leg muscles
i get really fit
i need a good fourum
im sure we'll end up in a tent for the first 70 mi or so.
getting a dog
ill have plenty.
as my work with governments around the world in the feild of code forces me to wonder in a polite yet baltimore jack tarlin way, you gotta be kidding right? if not, read books ask questions and most importantly, mind your neighbor.this is billville one, out.
April Fools was jesterday, play nice matty.:D
:welcome to WB Ginger.
Many how-to-prepare articles to search through at WB. Those most likely will lead to other websites to cyber-search. "The Complete Walker" and "Beyond Backpacking" are two good starting books IMHO.
Enjoy the journey. Just remember, one might have to "duck" every-now-and-then.:sun
Don't mind Matty. You'll end up liking him if you meet him. And Matty -- why do you get to be Billville One?
Anyway, I'll give you my opinions on a few of your issues, but I want you to keep this in mind: you will get a lot of great advice on this site from people who have an incredible amount of experience and expertise, but none of us is an expert on you. Be aware that just because someone may tell you you don't need something, or absolutely have to have something, or should do something a particular way, it doesn't mean you should ignore your own good judgement. Plenty of people have hiked the trail successfully without getting any advice from anyone.
Training: Whatever you thinks works best for your body. If you know your knees are weak, get in a weight regimen to strengthen the muscles around them. Consider using hiking poles if you don't already. Strengthening your back is fine, but a properly fitted pack shouldn't put too much strain on your back. Working on your stomach muscles will also take strain off of your back. As for how much weight to carry while training, don't stress out too much about it. If your pack only weighs 30 lb., it won't take your body long to adjust. Personally, I kind of consider Georgia to be the training for the other 13 states.
I second reading Beyond Backpacking. At the very least it will get you into the proper mindframe regarding weight, and you'll pick up a few good ideas along the way. There is a lightweight gear forum here, which is good, but for more go to www.closertonature.com/outdoors/ultralight-backpacking.htm
Avoiding crowds: Hike Southbound. Just kidding. Definitely avoid the last two weeks in March and the first two weeks of April. People do seem to be starting earlier and earlier, though, so there's no guarantee. I know a lot of people who thought they'd be annoyed by everyone out there who later said that the people were their favorite part of the trail.
As far as dogs go, I'd post questions on the dog forum in whiteblaze. Anywhere else and your innocent question is the beginning of an 800 post debate about whether dogs should be on the trail at all.
Hmmm. I suppose links aren't allowed in posts. My apologies to whomever I need to apologize to.
Thanks for the initial info. I've been searching forums around here, like i said, for a few weeks. I know there are forums for everything; I was mainly looking to be directed toward "the best" ones that pertain to my questions; there are a lot of forums and subforums to search through.
The books will be most helpful though, i'm sure. So thank you.
I too have been planning on thru hike in 2010 and can't wait! Figured I should post and say hi because I too am from the ADK's and would be nice to start meeting people before I take off......so Hi!
Other good reads:
AWOL On The Appalacian Trail
A Walk In The Woods
A Walk For Sunshine
All give good, but varying reports on what the experience is like. I hail Ray Jardine and his book, Beyond Backpacking. Read as much of it as you can - it's full of useful information. In addition, he has a website where he sells ultralight backpack kits - I bought one and the directions/supplies are awesome.
A friend is hiking with her dog right now. Dogs get tired out, sore, and hungry like we do, so consider that it's like a third person to watch over. You'll be caring for the dog as well as their behavior with other animals and people (some times these are the same).
Good luck with your trip!
I wouldn't really say A Walk In The Woods is something to look for in regards to academic information, but it's definitely a fun read and will make you laugh your ass off.
Here are a few books I've read so far and highly recommend:
Long Distance Hiking- Lessons from the Appalachian Trail by Roland Mueser. 10 years old, but it offers great information and gives actual statistics from a core group of 200 or so thruhikers. But remember, it's 10 years old. But it's a great and easy read to learn valuable information.
The Appalachian Trail Hiker by Victoria and Frank Logue- another great read with chapters breaking down pretty much everything you need to know about every aspect of the trail.
Also, (sorry, don't know how to edit posts), in regards to bringing a dog:
Dogs may be fun but they also take a lot to take care of while on the trail- remember, you have to carry their food and extra water for them (unless you can create a mini pack for them to carry their own food), as well as burying their waste and making sure that they themselves don't get sick or hurt. A lot of people have said that their dog's footpads have been completely scrapped raw from walking all that way without some sort of protection.
Also, dogs tend to scare away wildlife and a few National Parks on the AT don't allow dogs inside.
I would say if you don't already have a dog, wait until after the trail to get one. I personally have nothing against dogs on the AT with all the caveats already mentioned- I met several cool dogs on my previous hike and as long as the owners took good care of them and knew if and when the dog needed to get off and stop hiking it was fine. Do you have a back up person at home that can take care of the dog if it gets injured or would it end your hike?
I'm planning to hike in 2010 too. If you don't already have a pack check out Aarn packs from New Zealand. I love mine -you literally do not feel like you are carrying a pack.
I also recommend Blind Courage by Bill Irwin, the first and only blind person to hike the AT, and On the Beaten Path.
Can you please provide a link to the Aarns pack? I've looked and I can't find anything about them :( I'm in the market for a newer, lighter pack. Thanks!
Nevermind, found it! I had spelled it wrong, haha. Wish I could edit posts :(
Wish I could edit posts :(
Become a donating member - that's how you can edit.
In terms of going ultralight, don't worry too much about that especially if you lack experience, you don't need dive too much into ounce counting in order to go relatively light. Going too light, without the experience, can be dangerous (tarps look great until you set one up for the first time in 30mph driving rain with soaking wet ground next to a full shelter). I would not consider myself ultralight by any means and still carry loads that rarely exceed 25-27lbs including food and water, it's pretty easy to keep your pack weight to that amount without too much "ultralight" gear.
In terms of best time to start to avoid crowds, starting in March or early April means alot of traffic along the trail, especially at shelters and hostels. I left April 9th last year and it was quite busy, I left March 2nd years ago and it was quite busy as well, though not as bad in early March but that was over 10 years ago. Late April will mean better weather but also means a quicker hike.
In terms of shelters, personally, I wouldn't plan on sleeping in them unless you leave very early or late in the year. Even if there is "space", you will be sleeping with 10 other hikers, and probably even more mice, it doesn't make for the best sleeping environment, and that's not even factoring in the snoring. Plus, tents are warmer, especially with two people.
If you bring a dog then shelters are not an option anyway, as many hikers won't want your dog around, regardless of how well trained, although I'm not one of them! You will also have to kennel your dog as you go through the Smokies, and Baxter in Maine. You will also be very limited in terms of town stops, last year I hiked on and off with a couple with a dog and they found it very challenging when in town, as most hostels and motels don't allow dogs.
Good luck and will see you out there next year.
I haven't thru-hiked yet, but I have read a few different books on it and one that I thought was good was called "The AT-How to Prepare for and Hike It" by Jan D. Curran, who hiked the AT over the course of two seasons. It has a lot of good information about the planning stages of a thru-hike, gear, food and water, personal safety, etc... and also has maps and a list of post offices close to the trail.
ok im going north next year as well, Im leaving first of FEB because I want to see some snow and I am planning on Yo-yo the trail (go north then come back south) my bag will weigh about 40 - 45 total and I carry two sleeping bags!! A zero degree and an 11 degree fleece liner. total weight about 5 pounds but it can be configured a million diffrent ways for total warmth. I use no bounce boxes, drop boxes etc, Im a purist in a way but if you slack pack im not gonna have a stroke. I will be 30 next year and have been hiking since i was 15 and 4 years in the service gave it a nice boost!! any questions I can answer a few.
A few questions/requests:
1. When I did my hiking this past spring, I hadn't done much to prepare. I ran alot and did some incline training about 2 weeks before, but that was all. I had never carried a loaded pack or even hiked overnight. The first week is tough but the trail gets you in shape. For not really preparing, I was putting out 12 mile days to start. Ofcourse I was beat by the end, but its doable. Obviously if you work out prior to your trip, you'll have an easier time though. It sounds like you have the right idea, 15lbs should be a good start without throwing you off. When you do so, get a backpack and pack it with really gear or something close to it. When you carry gear, it settles in your pack differently than just dead weight.
2. No idea here, Ultralite is awesome if you can do it, but you tend to lose alot of comforts
3. I started March 28th, which is about in the middle of the season. Its a great time to start weather wise, we only had 2 days of snow. The crowds weren't terrible either. We only got a chance to stay in a shelter 4 times in 3 weeks though....but thats not a bad thing. Tents give you more privacy, you don't need to worry about snoring or mice, and they're warmer too, less wind.
4. Alot of people say they don't like hiking dogs....but when you're on the trail and you see a cute, friendly, well behaved dog coming up the trail...it tends to boost your moral. When I was at the Fontana Hilton, a stray followed one of the guys back from the restrooms (freaked him out I'm sure) he was a nice dog, listened to you and what not...he had no collar or anything so we all assumed he had been abandoned when someone found out you couldn't have dogs in the smokies. He followed us on the trail for a few miles...we weren't going to stop him ;) until some rangers had to take him back. Nice dog, made us all alot happier while he was there. As long as you can control it and make sure that the DOG is having a good time too, they're great! If you don't already have one though, I would wait til you get back. It takes a while to gain the amount of trust and control that you need to make sure things go smoothly. Not to mention the dog won't have a say in how many miles you want to do that day, and yet they can have just as difficult a time getting used to trail life as people can.
Once you read a few trail books, you'll have a basic idea of what goes on. The only suggestion I can make is to not be too uptight or nervous. HIKE YOUR OWN HIKE!!! soooo important. You can get caught up with the pace everyone else is going and it can really hurt your body if its not ready for that. Whatever you do, just remain independent on the trail!
Work your way from 15 up to 30 pounds of weight in your pack and you'll be fine.
A few questions/requests:
1. Training: I wouldn't worry TOO much about this. Like what alot of other people have said, the trail is really the only way to prepare for the trail, haha! What I found helpful was what you're suggesting, hiking with a pack, hiking is so different then running or weight lifting so you've hit the nail on the head with this one. Your first hike sounds great with 15lbs and 2-5 miles, just make sure you pay attention to your body as you go!
2. I'm not so good with the "ultralite" stuff, I went to do a shakedown at one of the trail outfitters and they said you'll spend about $100 for every pound you try to cut just because the lighter gear is that much more expensive. I decided against spending the money and instead just went through my pack and sent stuff home that I honestly didn't need. If you don't use it on a daily basis...you don't need it aka the heavy hunting knife, 2lb journal, extra pots etc. you learn quickly. Take a few weekend trips and you'll figure out stuff you need and stuff you don't.
3. I started around March 28th last season, and I had no idea how many people would be there. I read somewhere that around 30 start their hike everyday! and I wouldn't doubt it. It wasn't until the Smokies that the number started going down. I think I stayed in a shelter...2 times in a month? But thats not always as bad as you might think! Shelters are nice 'cause you don't have to set your stuff up, but you have to deal with the mice, other people's sleeping habits (snoring) and the floors are pretty hard. I def. prefred sleeping in my tent, on a nice patch of soft ground, near the shelter but far enough away that I could sleep while others were still awake.
4. I think dogs on the trail are great!!! Alot of people are quick to judge, but my spirits always lifted immediatly when I saw a dog coming up the trail that would stop beside me for a few minutes. The fact that your a trainer would be a BIG plus! But not everyone is certified and you'll have to deal with other people's dogs as well as your own. It might be a little late to start training a dog for a thru-hike. Especially if you get a dog that you think would like hiking but ends up not doing the miles that you want. They don't really have any choice in the matter so I feel like a good year or so should be put in to learning how your dog reacts to the trail.
One other thing I wanted to make VERY clear to you as well that I'm not sure if anyone has brought up. Be extremely cautious of taking on a 6 month, trying endeavor with your significant other. I went with a friend and we split up alot due to how much we pulled at eachother. If you're set into doing the trip together, make sure you do alot of hiking with one another so you can find your hiking styles and some coping mechanisms for when things get rough. I can't stress this enough, the trail and easily make or break a relationship.
haha!! I didn't realize that I had already replied to this....wow.......I feel awfully silly.