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BonBon
01-02-2015, 20:15
At the risk of sounding like a square... I have watched a few videos lately that portray the trail in a way that seems like a Cheech and a Chong movie. A traveling group of party animals (I'm not saying that's a bad thing) that create noise late at night at shelters etc. I get that is what some people are after, and that might have been me if I could have hiked the trail in my twenties when I first had the idea. But I'm not after that now, I want an experience with nature, with a little solitude-Is that still possible? Do I need to leave early? No judgement here- just an honest desire to hike in a way that does not harsh MY mellow, and to coexist with what I believe will be a crowded trail this year. I'm not the church lady- I promise.


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Lone Wolf
01-02-2015, 20:19
go SOBO. seriously

Lone Wolf
01-02-2015, 20:20
if you go NOBO don't go between march 1st and may 1st

shelterbuilder
01-02-2015, 20:36
Or...start somewhere in the middle (say, Harper's Ferry), and hike north, then after you hit the northern end, go back to Harper's Ferry and hike south (or go all the way to Springer and hike north to Harper's Ferry). The idea here is to start ANYWHERE except Springer when "the bubble" is starting. If you have enough money to "throw" at transportation, then "the bubble" isn't really a problem. Be creative about it.

BonBon
01-02-2015, 20:37
What is the earliest realistic departure time for a SOBO? ice mostly melted, streams fordable kind of time?


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Slo-go'en
01-02-2015, 20:45
It's not that bad. It's unusual anyone stays up much past dark on the trail. The parties are off trail at hiker feeds and town sponsored events like Trail Days where large numbers gather. On trail it's generally low key and discreet. Locals coming out for a weekend of fun is often a bigger problem.

MuddyWaters
01-02-2015, 20:46
Or, just avoid the shelters for the most part and you really wont have many issues. Of course you cannot do that in the GSMNP.

Its really kind of humorous to see some people RACE to the shelters to get there first trying to get a spot. I think this is part of the reason mileage is so low for people at first, they are competing for shelter space and are afraid to hike past 2pm lest they have to tent.

Lone Wolf
01-02-2015, 20:52
What is the earliest realistic departure time for a SOBO? ice mostly melted, streams fordable kind of time?


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i started june 29 one year. the only problem was mosquitos

July
01-02-2015, 20:59
It's not that bad. It's unusual anyone stays up much past dark on the trail. The parties are off trail at hiker feeds and town sponsored events like Trail Days where large numbers gather. On trail it's generally low key and discreet. Locals coming out for a weekend of fun is often a bigger problem.

Very true post, hits the nail on the head as to my experience also. Only "infringement" I can recall is sheltering in the smokies next to a roaring snorer...:) But hey, you can't exactly carry the CPAP right?

July
01-02-2015, 21:06
Forgot to mention, earplugs do come in handy...

cwinkle
01-02-2015, 21:19
I experienced this in 2011. A group of like-minded party folk start within a week of each other at Springer in March and over the course of a month group together. The numbers go from 5 to 30 depending on weather and people taking zeros, but towns like Franklin and Hot Springs give them all an opportunity to herd together again.

You can have your solace if you avoid staying in the shelters and have the funds to purchase cabins or motel rooms for yourself.

If you limit your own zeros you will out distance them, but they also tend to skip ahead with the idea of making trail days. I remember not having seen a certain group for a few weeks only to come upon 20 or more of them sitting by the highway before that apple orchard campsite a few miles before Clyde Smith shelter. They were waiting for their Marijuana and beer shipment.

If you can make Damascus 50% of them will suddenly disappear. By Daleville the group is gone with pockets of 3-5 hiking together.

Shelters are built around the water and that's a big reason to stop. If you throw up a tent or hammock 500 yards away you will have peace and quiet. If you want a roof over your head during an overnight downpour it comes with the price of

cwinkle
01-02-2015, 22:24
Sorry somehow got cutoff. Last sentence should read it comes at the price of companionship.

Dogwood
01-03-2015, 00:56
SOBO BonBon kinda has a ring to it?

Northern Lights
01-03-2015, 00:57
If you have watched the same videos I have recently, don't worry about it. It's not as bad as it seems. I only do sections but from what I have seen on the trail, everyone is usually respectful of others. I usually get to a shelter later in the day and if I find it is a packed house I continue on and find a nice quiet place to set up camp. You don't have to stay at the shelters and are probably better to find your own piece of peace :)

squeezebox
01-03-2015, 05:19
The flip flop may 1 from Harpers Ferry is gaining interest, mainly from older quiter folks.

wornoutboots
01-03-2015, 11:11
It's only a problem if you involve yourself in the bubble. Like others have said, if this is a serious concern & you want more a wilderness experience & time allows, go sobo. If not, it's as easy as not sleeping anywhere near shelters, taking your breaks a little farther off the trail, camping a little farther off trail, hiking early in the am & interacting where you choose. Enjoy!

RED-DOG
01-03-2015, 12:03
if going NOBO stay out of the BUBBLE'S if the party scene isn't your thing, I always stayed between the bubbles with just 2 or 3 other hikers, I like hanging out with Anti-Bubble personality type folks.
Or go SOBO.

BonBon
01-03-2015, 20:01
I have to be back by Aug 25, so I guess NOBO is my only option. Thanks for all of your feedback. I'm looking forward to starting early March. Hope we all get what we hope for from the trail!


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PennyPincher
01-03-2015, 21:54
What is the earliest realistic departure time for a SOBO? ice mostly melted, streams fordable kind of time?


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I would say it depends on the year. I line in NH and we are just now seeing our 2nd snow of the year in my area. Further north they have had more snow but not much. My family lives in Maine, same there for snow but not sure whats happening at Katahdin or in between here and there. Maybe watch the weather for key areas like Katahdin and Washington and check the ski reports in the area. They make lots of snow and that all has to melt too.

evyck da fleet
01-03-2015, 23:17
While there are a few groups that like to party, like locals out for the weekend, they tend to stay at shelters or sites near roads either to meet there supply or to avoid carrying beer and alcohol too far into the woods. The ones that don't go home for lack of funds usually take six months to do their hike which often includes skipping sections. If you come across one during the day you can always ask them politely where they are headed to at the end of the day. If you avoid that site or hike past it, you'll likely not see them again.

If you're rea;;y into solitude, you'll find small previously used campsites that aren't marked or near shelters.

Dogwood
01-03-2015, 23:25
It's only a problem if you involve yourself in the bubble. Like others have said, if this is a serious concern & you want more a wilderness experience & time allows, go sobo. If not, it's as easy as not sleeping anywhere near shelters, taking your breaks a little farther off the trail, camping a little farther off trail, hiking early in the am & interacting where you choose. Enjoy!


if going NOBO stay out of the BUBBLE'S if the party scene isn't your thing, I always stayed between the bubbles with just 2 or 3 other hikers, I like hanging out with Anti-Bubble personality type folks.
Or go SOBO.

There you go. Don't always be part of the bubble, don't always camp where the masses camp, and don't hike like the masses hike and a world of AT solitude appears on the horizon.

You have to realize when one solicits the advice of the entrenched masses one tends to get entrenched experiences. Do your own hike. There is no one way to thru-hike the AT. Stop seeking that as if it exists and options suddenly appear for you to enjoy the AT thru-hike of your desires.

Consider doing one more thing. Expand on your goal, broaden your vision from, "Hope we all get what we hope for from the trail!", to meditating on and contributing to the betterment of others on your thru-hike. I know when I change the goal to "What can you do for the trail and for all", I get more from the trail, from the hike. Think of others not just as human others too. Have a great hike, and hopefully others will too as result of your hike.

Malto
01-04-2015, 09:01
I suspect the situation with the parties are both less and more of an issue than you may think. Case in point, stayed near the Fontana Hilton in 2011. A group was staying there for a second night. The previous night someone had puked all over the shelter and someone's bag. That is not my idea of a walk with nature. How to avoid this and go NOBO?

1) Avoid the shelters. There are plenty of camp sites and the shelter areas will be packed with hordes of people.
2) Start early. Get up with the sun and the trail will be your to yourself. Since you are going the same direction as the hordes you won't actually see them as much as it may seem. If you go the opposite direction you will see them very frequently.
3) Combine 1 and 2 AND stay half a mile AFTER the shelter.
4) Minimize zeros especially early. Not only will you avoid the in town crowds overnight you will also put distance between you and the hordes. A Nero instead of a zero puts you half a day down the trail.
5) Hike late. Again you will have the trail to yourself. You will be surprised how early people stop. Hike till sunset and it's your trail. Also, being free from a set shelter distances allows you to stop closer to sunset.
6) hike higher miles to start. Because most stay near the shelters they are metered up the trail hiking distances set by shelter locations. Being free of shelters allow you to set the mileage not the shelters. Do a couple extra miles a day and you will stay ahead especially starting March 1st.
7) as others have said, this issue will be reduced as you head north.

having said all of this, I would not set up your hike by hiking in fear. Everything I listed above is my normal hiking style so I would be very comfortable with an early March start and my ability to avoid the mass of humanity.

Slo-go'en
01-04-2015, 13:34
I suspect the situation with the parties are both less and more of an issue than you may think. Case in point, stayed near the Fontana Hilton in 2011. A group was staying there for a second night. The previous night someone had puked all over the shelter and someone's bag. That is not my idea of a walk with nature. How to avoid this and go NOBO?

The Fontana Hilton is a unique situation since it has road access to alcohol (although in theory it's not allowed at the shelter). Last time I was there it was packed solid and overflowing due to bad weather. I hiked out in the rain with another guy while 20-30 others stayed at the shelter and we pretty much had the park to ourselves for the next few days.

From Springer to the Smokies you have to be lucky to find shelter space when you get there. Therefore the majority of hikers are tenting anyway. So now the question is do you want to camp in tent city near the shelter or hope to find a spot farther on?

Trying to find a spot farther on has it's own risks since no doubt your not the only one trying do so. There will be people camping at every gap and road crossing in Georgia and the later you get there the better the chance those spots will be full up too.

So, it's a real toss up. I think for most people, especially those will little or no prior camping experience should stick to the shelter areas. Accept the fact your part of the problem and live with it.

During the peak bubble season there will be as many people leaving town as showing up everyday so avoiding town doesn't help any.

Praha4
01-04-2015, 13:46
if you go NoBo, besides the partying, avoiding the bubble may also help keep you from the annual noravirus "epidemic" that seems to hit the NoBo class each year, especially in vicinity of Hot Springs and Erwin. Still be aware of this issue and be prepared for it.

dudeijuststarted
01-04-2015, 18:23
At the risk of sounding like a square... I have watched a few videos lately that portray the trail in a way that seems like a Cheech and a Chong movie. A traveling group of party animals (I'm not saying that's a bad thing) that create noise late at night at shelters etc. I get that is what some people are after, and that might have been me if I could have hiked the trail in my twenties when I first had the idea. But I'm not after that now, I want an experience with nature, with a little solitude-Is that still possible? Do I need to leave early? No judgement here- just an honest desire to hike in a way that does not harsh MY mellow, and to coexist with what I believe will be a crowded trail this year. I'm not the church lady- I promise.


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I started as a NOBO and my hike became a crazy-super flip flop. I chose going NOBO based on hikes I took when I was a 28 year old partier. I attempted my thru as a 35-year old in recovery, so the hostels drove me crazy and after NOC I wanted nothing to do with Hot Springs/Damascus in the NOBO bubble. I jumped north to Duncannon from the Smokies and voila, I had my solitude and everything to myself. Some very early (and fast) NOBOs caught up with me in Mass, but they started the first week of February. If you NOBO and want solitude, start in early February. Otherwise SOBO, or if you want to get the best weather patterns, concoct your own flip-flop. The travel options between trail towns are actually quite affordable.

English Stu
01-05-2015, 12:00
Would I be in the bubble in May starting in Daleville going north? I tent near shelters or stealth to avoid any parties.

Hangfire
01-05-2015, 16:14
You are correct on the getting stuck in party bubbles heading northbound, sometimes there is just nothing you can do. I experienced this pretty much the entire trail, you outrun one group then run into another, and sometimes it's just bad luck. When departing hotspots like Hot Springs, Damascus or Harpers Ferry you just have to try to pick and choose when you leave and where you set up camp. But I will warn you be prepared for late night wake ups at both shelters and campsites, probably the most disappointing experiences I had on the trail.

Sandy of PA
01-05-2015, 20:23
Night hikers caused the most lost sleep for me, I learned to stealth tent above the treadway real quick. I got caught in the bubble for 4 weeks in 2012 and never stayed near a shelter to solve it.

squeezebox
01-05-2015, 20:44
I'm hoping that starting from Harpers Ferry May 1 with a bunch of older non-party folks will be better than Springer Apr 1. Yea we will be a bit of a bubble but we will spread out quickly I think.

Hangfire
01-05-2015, 21:05
Believe it or not the party bubbles (at least in my experience) didn't start to form up until a few weeks in. Departing from Springer you get the most genuine mixed up groups of hikers, young and old, loud and quiet everyone is kind of nervous so most people are extremely friendly, no one really wants to rock the boat. But as you get moving along then the party minded people slowly start to find one another and the party bubbles are born. Most if not all of these people are usually really cool people as individuals but the rowdy group mentality slowly rears it's head at which point you either join them or make a run for it!

Lone Wolf
01-05-2015, 21:09
Believe it or not the party bubbles (at least in my experience) didn't start to form up until a few weeks in. Departing from Springer you get the most genuine mixed up groups of hikers, young and old, loud and quiet everyone is kind of nervous so most people are extremely friendly, no one really wants to rock the boat. But as you get moving along then the party minded people slowly start to find one another and the party bubbles are born. Most if not all of these people are usually really cool people as individuals but the rowdy group mentality slowly rears it's head at which point you either join them or make a run for it!

lotta truth here

evyck da fleet
01-06-2015, 00:21
Believe it or not the party bubbles (at least in my experience) didn't start to form up until a few weeks in. Departing from Springer you get the most genuine mixed up groups of hikers, young and old, loud and quiet everyone is kind of nervous so most people are extremely friendly, no one really wants to rock the boat. But as you get moving along then the party minded people slowly start to find one another and the party bubbles are born. Most if not all of these people are usually really cool people as individuals but the rowdy group mentality slowly rears it's head at which point you either join them or make a run for it!

Yep. I went in to Neel's Gap and then Hiawassee with a couple guys. When I got to NOC a faster hiker who started behind me had been told to tell me that they'd be there the next day if I was taking a zero. In the days before Gatlinburg we had about a dozen guys going into town to hang out. Now we weren't a party group and broke into smaller groups but that's what happens. It usually starts around town and then the next shelter or campsite from any road is a possible destination with Fontana and then Partnership in Virginia areas to avoid due to easy road access.

Nooga
01-06-2015, 12:18
It's not that bad. It's unusual anyone stays up much past dark on the trail. The parties are off trail at hiker feeds and town sponsored events like Trail Days where large numbers gather. On trail it's generally low key and discreet. Locals coming out for a weekend of fun is often a bigger problem.

Agree. I have hiked Springer to Damascus the last three years and started between March 27 and April 7.

JessetheViking
01-06-2015, 13:04
I was always between bubbles and never experienced the hords of hiker i hear about. Reading about the trail on the internet is only going make you worry. The AT is an amazing experience and therer hasnt been a day since sept. 12th that i havent wished i was back on the trail. The trail healed and ruined me in a way.

I thru hiked in 2014; if i were to do it again I would not stay at any shelters and stealth camp the entire way. For some reason by the time i hit new hampshire/Maine i was so tired of seeing people. It is hard to explain the feeling; i dont know if i was due to being worn down by the trail or what. Going thru the whites really put a bad taste in my mouth and i had a hard time recovering from that section. I hiked alone 99% of the time, it just happened that way and didnt seek it out.

Go out there and expierence the AT, it has alot of lessons to teach and you wont regret it.

cbg
01-06-2015, 13:33
Or, just avoid the shelters for the most part and you really wont have many issues. Of course you cannot do that in the GSMNP.

Its really kind of humorous to see some people RACE to the shelters to get there first trying to get a spot. I think this is part of the reason mileage is so low for people at first, they are competing for shelter space and are afraid to hike past 2pm lest they have to tent.
As an "OLD FART" I would much rather stay in my tent than in a shelter.

bsteinberg
01-06-2015, 14:13
March 15 seems like a popular launch date. I can't imagine hiking out with 50-150(or more) other hikers at a shelter. But has the bubble been a problem? This has been the reality for years. If it really was an issue, I figure folks would be required to make a reservation for an available launch date.

As for age groups, the real question is who's got 6 months to take off and hike? Recent college grads and recent retired folk seem to fit the bill, so that is usually who we see thru hiking with a handful of folks in their 30-40-50's like me thrown in.

But bubble or not, I haven't seen a loud party scene on the trail, at least not from thru hikers.