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Wandering Deer
08-01-2014, 12:07
Seriously considering a NOBO thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, but not quite sure as to when I should start.

I'd prefer to avoid snow (mass accumulations). If I have to hike through a few inches, though, I really won't complain.

Putting this here as well, as I'm looking for folks interested in doing the trail with me. I'm a pretty relaxed hiker, toward the side of "hippie". I build up momentum, and tend to hike farther distances once I've "found my legs". I tend to be more focused on the journey, not the destination.

Cheers!

Elder
08-01-2014, 12:21
April 1st. It is after all April Fools!
Seriously, It is the #1 target date, Hike North with the Spring, etc.
You should be clear of major snow events, except for the Smoky's.
There will be lots of fellow hikers beginning their journeys, no lack of company.
Plan to carry your own shelter as the shelters will be jammed.
Get AWOL's book. Resupply is easy, do not overload yourself with food.
Relax, have fun, enjoy the crowd

Wandering Deer
08-01-2014, 12:29
You should be clear of major snow events, except for the Smoky's.

How much snow would typically be expected in the Smoky's hiking from April 1st?

I was contemplating an earlier start date than April 1st, but snow seems much more likely before April.

double d
08-01-2014, 12:38
I'm not a thru hiker, but I do get to hike on the AT almost each summer and from the information I've gained, it seems that early April is best for starting your thru hike. Although you might have time issues (getting back to work/school in August-Sept.), but overall, it seems for NOBO it is early April. Good luck!

Wandering Deer
08-01-2014, 12:50
I don't have a time frame, but finishing it by September would be extremely ideal (life, etc)

sympathetic joy
08-01-2014, 13:35
http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hiking/thru-section-hiking/when-where-to-start

Good advice at that page.

HooKooDooKu
08-01-2014, 13:43
How much snow would typically be expected in the Smoky's hiking from April 1st?
Typically, there won't be any snow because the climate averages a high in the upper 40s and lows in the mid 30s at the high elevations of GSMNP in April.
When it does snow, its typically several inches that melts away in a couple of days.

Wandering Deer
08-01-2014, 16:04
Typically, there won't be any snow because the climate averages a high in the upper 40s and lows in the mid 30s at the high elevations of GSMNP in April.
When it does snow, its typically several inches that melts away in a couple of days.

Were I to start before April, I would expect near freezing temperatures, and snow in GSMNP? Sweet.

bamboo bob
08-01-2014, 16:22
April 4. I started then because it is the date when the average temperature remains above 40 degrees. I finished 9/7 and I'm old and slow.

HooKooDooKu
08-01-2014, 17:18
Were I to start before April, I would expect near freezing temperatures, and snow in GSMNP? Sweet.
The GSMNP Web Page (http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/weather.htm#CP_JUMP_47810) shows that seasonal average hi/lo temperatures at Clingman's Dome are 39/24 for March and 49/34 for April.
Average the two, and you get 44/29 for the end of March begin of April. But that's at 6,600'. The bulk of AT shelters in GSMNP are closer to 5,000' where temperatures should be about 2 to 5 degrees warmer.
But actual temperatures can easily be as much as +/-15 from these averages. (So you could experience temperatures as cold as 15 or as warm as 60 at Clingman's Dome).


March averages 26" of snow for the month at Clingman's Dome, April averages 5" of snow for the month.

Look at the archive pages of the GSMNP web cams( Look Rock (http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/WebCams/parks/grsmcam/grsm_arc.cfm), Purchase Knob (http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/WebCams/parks/grsmpkcam/grsmpk_arc.cfm) ) and you can see what the weather has been like the 1st of April. For about the last decade, the weather has been clear with no snow on the ground come the 1st of April. But if you look back in 2001, 2003, 2004, & 2005, you can see snow on the ground at high elevations.

RockDoc
08-01-2014, 17:51
When we did it the snow came through on April 6-7. A lot of hikers stayed in Hiawasee to avoid it but we carried on and it was OK, sort of fun really. Also had violent thunder storms later during the same week, again we hiked out into it while our friends stayed in town. The weather forecasts seem to be pretty accurate so these things are usually not a surprise and you can add another town day if you just don't want to deal with the weather. But it seems to often be unsettled and wet in April in GA/NC.

swonut
08-01-2014, 18:05
Start about 14-20 March and realize that there are about 5 weather days built into that plan. Watch the weather and don't be afraid to take a few zeros, either in town or in a shelter/tent, to sit out the weather.

Venchka
08-01-2014, 18:34
The weather is whatever the weather chooses to be. Outfit for low 20, hope for low of 40, be happy if the low stays at or above 30.
The mountains that form the TN-NC border make their own weather. Case in point: NW NC, Boone NC, elev. 3,200'-3,500' Since Tuesday of this week it has been Cloudy, Raining, Wet, Cool. Temps from mid 40s to mid 60s. It is so soggy that shoes that were used in the creek on Tuesday are still soggy today. We turned the heater on this afternoon to dry out the cabin. August 1. Feels like Spring/Fall. Your rain gear needs rain gear.
Have fun.

Wayne

Slo-go'en
08-01-2014, 22:34
An April 1st start (+/- a few days) sets you up to hit all the major trail events along the way in the south.

Lone Wolf
08-01-2014, 23:11
Seriously considering a NOBO thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, but not quite sure as to when I should start.

I'd prefer to avoid snow (mass accumulations). If I have to hike through a few inches, though, I really won't complain.

Putting this here as well, as I'm looking for folks interested in doing the trail with me. I'm a pretty relaxed hiker, toward the side of "hippie". I build up momentum, and tend to hike farther distances once I've "found my legs". I tend to be more focused on the journey, not the destination.

Cheers!
april 15th....

magneto
08-02-2014, 09:59
Nothing wrong with hiking in a bit of snow. Chilly air in the morning helps you wake up. I'm going March 5, 2015 - hopefully a bit ahead of the crowds.

Wandering Deer
08-02-2014, 11:30
Nothing wrong with hiking in a bit of snow. Chilly air in the morning helps you wake up. I'm going March 5, 2015 - hopefully a bit ahead of the crowds.

And you're from Boston! Good man!

magneto
08-02-2014, 11:32
I do my hiking in New Hampshire, so I'm used to cold weather - even in July!

Hoofit
08-02-2014, 11:45
i started the second week of March in 2010 and there were still large numbers on the trail, all the way until Harper's Ferry by which time many people had dropped out...especially if you're a slow starter needing to find your legs as many others will be passing you bye..
True enough, on the rainy days and evenings, when you might want to use the shelters and keep your tent gear dry, you may find yourself out of luck as many shelters only hold about six or eight people.
So my advice would be to start in early March, not April 1st with the major crowds, and enjoy the trail in the days and less stress in the evenings ...ypu may luck out and get no rain but don't count on it!
That should give you plenty of time to wrap it up in September.
Good luck!

Hoofit
08-02-2014, 11:50
Having said that, Mother Nature Rules!
So be prepared to go early but until the week or two before, you won't know if there are two or twelve inches of snow up in the hills!
You may also want to avoid the Black Fly season up north.Just something to consider.....

Wandering Deer
08-02-2014, 13:04
I do my hiking in New Hampshire, so I'm used to cold weather - even in July!

I just went up Jefferson in June, and it was freezing even with the sun pouring down upon us.

Wandering Deer
08-02-2014, 13:07
i started the second week of March in 2010 and there were still large numbers on the trail, all the way until Harper's Ferry by which time many people had dropped out...especially if you're a slow starter needing to find your legs as many others will be passing you bye..
True enough, on the rainy days and evenings, when you might want to use the shelters and keep your tent gear dry, you may find yourself out of luck as many shelters only hold about six or eight people.
So my advice would be to start in early March, not April 1st with the major crowds, and enjoy the trail in the days and less stress in the evenings ...ypu may luck out and get no rain but don't count on it!
That should give you plenty of time to wrap it up in September.
Good luck!

Early March seems more sensible to me because it would give me a better time frame to finish before it gets quite cold in New England, but I'm just paranoid because when I did a section hike (MA - NY) last year, I met someone near the border of New York, and Connecticut who said he had been hiking in near knee deep snow throughout much of his time spent in the Smoky's.

magneto
08-02-2014, 13:59
I think we have to wait and see how this winter develops. It's just guessing until a few weeks before the actual date.

dangerdave
08-02-2014, 14:12
Exactly.

I'm planning for a first week of March departure---with a slow and easy start. But like magneto said, I'll keep an eye on next winter's weather trend in the few weeks prior. I can adjust my departure date by several weeks, and still jump off before most of the crowds. The rest of you will have to read all my goofy shelter log entries. I'm spammin' the lot of you!

"DANGER WAS HERE!" :dance:dance:dance:dance:dance:dance:dance

Scaper
08-02-2014, 21:30
April 15 - May 10

doug105
08-03-2014, 20:21
You may also want to avoid the Black Fly season up north.Just something to consider.....


When is black fly season?

DougN

Wandering Deer
08-03-2014, 20:38
When is black fly season?

I believe it's June/July.

sympathetic joy
08-03-2014, 21:35
I've been playing with NOBO starting dates using Map Man's average time to hike data. I'm wondering about a May 1st starting time.



05/01/14
05/09/14
8.0
days
8.0

Springer
Georgia Border


05/09/14
05/16/14
7.9
days
15.9

Georgia Border
Fontana


05/16/14
06/10/14
24.4
days
40.3

Fontana
Damascus


06/10/14
07/09/14
28.7
days
69.0

Damascus
Waynesboro


07/09/14
07/20/14
11.2
days
80.2

Waynesboro
Harpers Ferry


07/20/14
08/08/14
19.2
days
99.4

Harpers Ferry
DWG


08/08/14
08/20/14
12.6
days
112.0

DWG
Kent


08/20/14
09/13/14
23.5
days
135.5

Kent
Glencliff


09/13/14
09/23/14
9.7
days
145.2

Glencliff
Gorham


09/23/14
10/03/14
9.9
days
155.1

Gorham
Stratton


10/03/14
10/16/14
13.7
days
168.8

Stratton
Katahdin



Aside from facing the deadline of Baxter State Park closing, are there any serious issues with this schedule? Granted its based on 'average' days to complete various sections and mileage may vary based on individual variances.

DavidNH
08-03-2014, 22:30
aim for mid to late March. Leave much later and you'll find crowds.

CarlZ993
08-03-2014, 22:35
I started my hike on 3/21/13. I wished I had started later. Snow & icy conditions at times. Some very cold nights. Tested my 15 deg bag's limits. Saw some people get hurt in the Smokies (bobsled run coming down from Clingman's Dome on 4/6/13). I met a hiker that started 9-10 days after me. He missed all that bad stuff that I hit. Each year can be different.

RED-DOG
08-04-2014, 11:29
For me i find starting early is better ( Mid FEB ) but i also like hiking in winter, if you really don't like the cold and snow i would recomend you start some time from the end of march to the first of may, but if you start that time of year prepare yourself to hike with and around HORDS of people.

dangerdave
08-04-2014, 13:16
I keep waffling over my start date mainly because I want to enjoy this journey as much as I can. I'm good in crowds---people don't bother me---or all by my lonesome. I'm going to hike from Georgia to Maine, alone or with others, regardless.

Given the right equipment, enough food and water, and keeping myself safe, all I have to decide how much personal interaction I want with others along the way. I may only get one chance at this in my lifetime. I don't want to come to Katahdin and think I missed out on a lot of the experience. Maybe I want to much from this: the events, the hostels, the hikers, the locals, the woods, the wildlife, the weather, the comradery, the solitude, the trail magic, and the triumphant finish!

Is that too much to ask?

Wandering Deer
08-04-2014, 20:42
For me i find starting early is better ( Mid FEB ) but i also like hiking in winter, if you really don't like the cold and snow i would recomend you start some time from the end of march to the first of may, but if you start that time of year prepare yourself to hike with and around HORDS of people.

How MUCH snow would I reasonably expect, though, starting in February? That's my main concern. I'm very schizophrenic when it comes to winter. I love winter, and love the cold, but you know what? I hate winter, and I hate the cold. If I was prepared for it, I wouldn't care much, because winter is outrageously gorgeous, but if I'm hiking in waist deep snow for an entire state, I would be absolutely miserable, and that's not what I want out of a thru-hike.

HooKooDooKu
08-05-2014, 00:06
How MUCH snow would I reasonably expect, though, starting in February? ...
Well, the GSMNP is where you encounter the start of the high mountains. A February start puts you in the Smokies early March. If you check the GSMNP web cam (http://www.nature.nps.gov/air/WebCams/parks/grsmpkcam/grsmpk_arc.cfm) for the 1st day of March, you can see that half the time, there is light snow on the ground, half the time there is no snow to be seen. 2010 was the only year that it looks at all like the snow was deep.

Hill Ape
08-05-2014, 01:44
on a tuesday

lemon b
08-09-2014, 07:35
2nd week in April. Just keep the 0's down.

permagrin
08-10-2014, 22:48
Hi there Joy. If you start on May 1, 2015, I will see ya at the first blaze, as that is my starting time. Plus, its pretty cool that May 1 (....51515...) is also a numeric palindrome :)

Speakeasy TN
08-17-2014, 10:02
I started my hike on 3/21/13. I wished I had started later. Snow & icy conditions at times. Some very cold nights. Tested my 15 deg bag's limits. Saw some people get hurt in the Smokies (bobsled run coming down from Clingman's Dome on 4/6/13). I met a hiker that started 9-10 days after me. He missed all that bad stuff that I hit. Each year can be different.

Just to emphasize this point..... in '11 I started on 3/17 and I got dusted once in NC.

inky
09-08-2014, 05:33
Hi there Joy. If you start on May 1, 2015, I will see ya at the first blaze, as that is my starting time. Plus, its pretty cool that May 1 (....51515...) is also a numeric palindrome :)

hey jimdean, I'm planning on starting May 1st also! :)

10-K
09-08-2014, 05:47
First week of May.

1. Gives you 5 months with a ~2 week buffer
2. Less rain - miss rains-every-day April
3. Don't have to carry winter gear.
4. Miss mud season in New England
5. More daylight from day 1
6. Don't have to deal with a thru-bubble. Shelters won't look like Woodstock in the evening.

Lambarrassment
09-08-2014, 11:23
I started May 1 and finished a few days ago. If I did it again and wanted to avoid the snow, there is no question that I would start the same day. I still saw snow in the Smokies, but only a dusting.

I frankly don't understand why so many people start in March, unless they are enamored with the idea of watching the spring arrive (which is of course a great reason). But a five month thru hike means averaging 14.5 miles a day. This is not terribly difficult for a determined individual with modern equipment in good health. That works out to hiking 8 hours a day at a casual pace, which I saw plenty of grandfathers doing. Add in two full weeks of zeros and a May 1 starter still makes it to Katahdin before it closes.

I feel like everyone trying to beat the bubble this year ended up becoming the bubble, and they also ended up colder and wetter at the start. A lot of people called me crazy or ignorant for choosing to start in May, but perhaps if they had tried it they would have realized it makes a lot of sense.

10-K
09-08-2014, 12:04
I started May 1 and finished a few days ago. If I did it again and wanted to avoid the snow, there is no question that I would start the same day. I still saw snow in the Smokies, but only a dusting.

I frankly don't understand why so many people start in March, unless they are enamored with the idea of watching the spring arrive (which is of course a great reason). But a five month thru hike means averaging 14.5 miles a day. This is not terribly difficult for a determined individual with modern equipment in good health. That works out to hiking 8 hours a day at a casual pace, which I saw plenty of grandfathers doing. Add in two full weeks of zeros and a May 1 starter still makes it to Katahdin before it closes.

I feel like everyone trying to beat the bubble this year ended up becoming the bubble, and they also ended up colder and wetter at the start. A lot of people called me crazy or ignorant for choosing to start in May, but perhaps if they had tried it they would have realized it makes a lot of sense.

A voice of reason. :)

I think the reason a lot of people start early is just plain old impatience.

map man
09-08-2014, 12:04
I've been playing with NOBO starting dates using Map Man's average time to hike data. I'm wondering about a May 1st starting time.



05/01/14
05/09/14
8.0
days
8.0

Springer
Georgia Border


05/09/14
05/16/14
7.9
days
15.9

Georgia Border
Fontana


05/16/14
06/10/14
24.4
days
40.3

Fontana
Damascus


06/10/14
07/09/14
28.7
days
69.0

Damascus
Waynesboro


07/09/14
07/20/14
11.2
days
80.2

Waynesboro
Harpers Ferry


07/20/14
08/08/14
19.2
days
99.4

Harpers Ferry
DWG


08/08/14
08/20/14
12.6
days
112.0

DWG
Kent


08/20/14
09/13/14
23.5
days
135.5

Kent
Glencliff


09/13/14
09/23/14
9.7
days
145.2

Glencliff
Gorham


09/23/14
10/03/14
9.9
days
155.1

Gorham
Stratton


10/03/14
10/16/14
13.7
days
168.8

Stratton
Katahdin



Aside from facing the deadline of Baxter State Park closing, are there any serious issues with this schedule? Granted its based on 'average' days to complete various sections and mileage may vary based on individual variances.

If you have a lot of previous hiking experience or a handy crystal ball and have a good idea of how long a through-hike would likely take for you, then I would time my start to put me at Katahdin around the third week of September (before the weather up there tends to get more dicey). So a five month hiker might start the third week of April, a six month hiker the third week of March, etcetera. If you really did know that you would be "avarage" and take 168.8 days, I would leave at least a couple of weeks before the first of May to get finished before October. Maybe that's just me.

ChinMusic, a prominent poster here at WB, thru-hiked in 2013, starting the first week of March and finishing the third week of September. He was glad he left as early as he did because he felt it afforded him the ability to take as many zero days as he needed, or slow down significantly when his body was telling him to, without feeling like he was under great time pressure. So the advice to leave on May 1 is good advice for some, but since around half of all completing thru-hikers take MORE than 5.5 months to finish each year, it is not advice suited for all.

I do agree, though, that every year some hikers who start in March and quit because they get discouraged by cold, wet spells in the early going, would have stood a better chance if they had waited until a little later to start.

10-K
09-08-2014, 12:17
So the advice to leave on May 1 is good advice for some, but since around half of all completing thru-hikers take MORE than 5.5 months to finish each year, it is not advice suited for all.

Fair enough... I think it's safe to say the question is not one that can be answered definitively.

I do wish you had a different dataset to work with besides trail journals. I'm wondering if faster hikers are less likely to keep journals which would skew the numbers in favor of slower hikers.

RED-DOG
09-08-2014, 12:32
How MUCH snow would I reasonably expect, though, starting in February? That's my main concern. I'm very schizophrenic when it comes to winter. I love winter, and love the cold, but you know what? I hate winter, and I hate the cold. If I was prepared for it, I wouldn't care much, because winter is outrageously gorgeous, but if I'm hiking in waist deep snow for an entire state, I would be absolutely miserable, and that's not what I want out of a thru-hike.
you will see a few inches south of the smokies, most of the snow will be in the GSMNP ( 2ft-4ft ), but once you get through the park the weather improves considerably, but it will be brutally cold for the first month and a half, so if you are not preparred to hike in such conditions, i would suggest you start the first week of April that way you can start with a summer set up and don't have to worry about sending stuff home like most people do ( I kept all my gear the whole trip without sending stuff home on all three of my thru's ) and another reason to start in april is you will basically hike to trail days and don't have to worry about hitching a ride to and from thats if you planned to go to trail days ( I never did )

RED-DOG
09-08-2014, 12:39
A voice of reason. :)

I think the reason a lot of people start early is just plain old impatience.
Actually the reason's i started in mid Feb ( on my thru's ) is i love hiking in wintery conditions and i don't like a bunch of people and the only people out that time is the more dedicated hikers and you don't have to deal with the BS that comes with hiking with a Bubble. Like the old saying goes different strokes for different folks. HYOH.

10-K
09-08-2014, 12:44
Actually the reason's i started in mid Feb ( on my thru's ) is i love hiking in wintery conditions and i don't like a bunch of people and the only people out that time is the more dedicated hikers and you don't have to deal with the BS that comes with hiking with a Bubble. Like the old saying goes different strokes for different folks. HYOH.

Yeah, I get it - that's why I said "a lot of people" instead of "everybody". Definitely some people start early because they're antsy to get on the trail. It's easy to start in March, but the reality is that it's a lot easier to hike from the keyboard in a warm house than actually being on the trail when the temps are in the single digits and you're freezing.

denefi
09-08-2014, 12:44
I was planning on 4/27 or 4/28 but would consider holding out a few days if there are a few people starting on 5/1 (who are interesting in starting day 1 together, of course).

This thread has made me feel a lot better about leaving later. I'm doing so as a result of timing at work, but what folks have said here makes it sound like a good approach. I've been assuming that, leaving this late, I'll eventually just catch up to some of the bubble.

rafe
09-08-2014, 17:30
I started early April. Never got hit with deep snow, but a dusting near Jarard Gap (it was melted within a few hours.) Several sub-freezing nights in those first couple of weeks. Wild temperature variations -- near seventy degrees by day, then a frozen water bottle the next night! A month or so later, some hikers just behind me got caught in a whiteout just north of Roan Mtn.

CrumbSnatcher
09-08-2014, 17:57
i,ve started twice in February, once in March, once in April
i'd probably chose April if i was to go Nobo again. unless i was yo-yoing :-)
or Sobo

CrumbSnatcher
09-08-2014, 17:58
I,d leave in May, if i was trying to do a faster hike