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brgator
01-11-2015, 23:28
I'm planning a hike on the AT in May of 2016 with a group of four 14 year old boys and their dads. Most have very limited hiking experience but are in reasonable shape. We have plenty of time to plan and teach on proper gear etc. Ideally, assuming reasonable conditioning and gear, what do you think is an advisable distance to hike. I'm looking to do a section in the north Georgia/North Carolina region. I've been considering Dick's Creek Gap to Wesser (Nantahala River). That's about 70 miles over 7 or 8 days. Too much? Too little? About right? Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

Feral Bill
01-11-2015, 23:36
Groups move much slower than individuals. Not knowing the boys or dads, I'd plan for shorter mileage (8 mpd?) with opportunities for side trips or other activities to burn off any excess energy and pursue interests. Do have fun and share your adventure with us.

PennyPincher
01-12-2015, 00:06
depends on the boys. Are they hikers? Is this their first hike? Are they in generally good health? Do they WANT to do this hike? Have you included them in the planning? Daily distance, meals, gear lists, etc? You may want to plan some longer/shorter days. If there is a lake on the trip and the weather would encourage a swim, spending time there will break up their day. Remember teen boys eat a lot, even when they only sit and play video games, so plan accordingly fro their appetites. Also make sure you have some fun stuff for them to do during down time in camp. Last time I hiked with teens Hacky sacks were still the rage, frisbee, golf disc??, some thing light to play with - because they are boys. If it is okay to have a campfire where you are camping - do it for them, learn some ghost stories (or good off colored jokes) or even just come up with some good topics to get the boys thinking about stuff. Have FUN!

Alligator
01-12-2015, 00:12
I'd be more concerned about the Dads.

10 miles a day is kind of a psychological limit for inexperienced hikers. Seven days at 10 mpd might be more than they are used to. Somebody is likely to get blisters and there will be strains on muscles that they don't use regularly. Build a slow day or two in there, maybe with a water feature if the temperature is warm enough locally, may still be too cool though. You do have until 2016 though, and you mention conditioning, so get some weekend hikes in there and that 10 mpd mental barrier will be gone. 10 mpd is an average distance for a hiker with some experience on the AT.

MuddyWaters
01-12-2015, 00:12
Id do Winding Stair gap to Fontana dam.

This is the best of the AT south of the smokies. Right at 60 miles. Wesser bald, wayah bald cheoah bald, the jump off, and the jump up, and fontana lake at the base of the smokies. And hitting NOC for a meal midway is just ....great. There is a shelter area 1 mile from NOC i like to camp at, then eat breakfast at noc. You can pick up resupply at noc as well. Fontana dam is possibly best place on AT to leave a vehicle as well. Take a shower when you get there, go into the village and eat before hitting road home. Or better yet, stop for pizza 30 min away toward home.


Pace, no way to tell. My son had no problem with 18 mile days at 14. But we keep packs under 25 lb total with food and water.

Also, detour from fontana to the joyce kilmer forest and hike the upper loop to to see the big trees. Some are 450 years old, 6 ft diameter.

HooKooDooKu
01-12-2015, 00:13
Until the kids get some experience under their belt, I would plan on 5 to 8 miles per day.

I've got an 8yo that has no trouble doing 10 miles per day with some steep hills thrown in. But when we had a friend join us for what was his 9yo's 1st trip, we had difficulty doing just 7 miles (and the last couple were done at a pace of 1mph).

BTW, I would suggest the same thing for any age group... limit days to 5 to 8 miles for beginners.

brgator
01-12-2015, 00:37
I should have joined up here long ago. Thanks for the feedback. Apart from myself and my own son the rest of the boys have no experience with backpacking. Muddywaters. Love the idea of winding stair gap to Fontana. Will have to think about it. Hiked it about 20 years ago.

shelb
01-12-2015, 03:01
Until the kids get some experience under their belt, I would plan on 5 to 8 miles per day.

BTW, I would suggest the same thing for any age group... limit days to 5 to 8 miles for beginners.

I agree. I took my sons on the AT for the first time when they were 10 and 12. Five to eight miles was perfect. Yes, they could have done more, but this allowed them, and me, time to chill out at the campsite at the end of the day. Plus, I never felt rushed during the hike. If the boys wanted to stop to check out a bug or plant, we had plenty of time to do it!

We really enjoyed getting to the night's stop by around 3:30-4! The boys then had time to burn off energy.

Just Tom
01-12-2015, 09:46
+1 on the 5 to 8 miles based on some hiking with younger youth in scouts. The first trip with a loaded pack can be a real eye-opener. Until they do it, over-packing is common which leads to a slower pace. Once they have to carry that weight, they learn to drop extraneous stuff and can go farther.

SteelCut
01-12-2015, 10:35
You might want to consider bail-out points for those that are having issues and possible resupply points. Last summer my wife and I came across some Scouts in Georgia north of Low Gap shelter. It was a mixed group of experience with some kids/dads were obviously first timers as they were over packed and hand carrying lawn chairs, etc. Some of the kids were definitely hating life when we saw them. We talked to some of the Scout leaders and they were out for about 7 days doing 5-8 miles per day and had a pre-planned resupply / shuttle setup at Unicoi Gap. Those that were more experienced and continuing on were re-supplying at Unicoi and those that were less experience or had blisters or other issues had a chance to leave the trail. It did complicate their logistics but cut down on the amount of food, trash, etc. that needed to be carried for each section.

I personally think that being self-contained with 7-8 days of food for a 14-yo or even the adult leaders is a bit much. I know that when I was in Scouts our packs were extremely overloaded even for a simple overnighter.

RED-DOG
01-12-2015, 10:41
I wouldn't expect more than about 8 to 10 MPD, my experience with hiking with teenagers is when they get tired they stop.

Dicks Creek Gap to the N.O.C about 8 days, yeah thats about right but i would allow for an extra day, just in case.

booney_1
01-12-2015, 11:02
ditto 5 to 8. Groups with kids do everything slooow. waking up, cooking meals, packing up camp. kids want time to just mess around in camp.
Don't make it a forced March... A group like this will average 1 to 1.5 mph (including rest breaks). So an 8 mile day includes 5 to 8 miles of hiking.

This number is based on numerous scout trips...

TomN
01-12-2015, 15:16
Gear seems to be a big problem on the trips I have done with Boy Scouts. Very often if the parents don't hike the kids have no idea what to bring. Maybe your group is more experienced.

Havana
01-12-2015, 15:54
+1 to what Alligator said re: the Dad's also being an issue (perhaps a bigger one). So, as others have said, shoot for "low" mileage days, no more than 10 and lower than that. When my 15 year old and I started backpacking last summer (my first trip in two decades) we did 23 miles in two days and while he was "game" for the miles, he collapsed for two days after that and my right knee reminded me of an old injury.

Also, be rabid on pack weight. Get the kids pack weight to 20-25 lbs and the Dad's south of 30 if possible. Shared equipment, tents & stoves come to mind, could help shave the weight and factor in a resupply or two so that consumables can be kept low.

Final point, perhaps get everyone together for an eight mile day hike with full loads before the hike. Sort out gear issues, give the kids & adults a real taste for what it means to carry the weight (makes those "leave some of this crap at home" discussion a little easier) and also sorts out foot issues -- being aware of hotspots, boots too small, etc. My son's pack lost five pounds after he carried it six miles in our "shake down" hike. I also realized my hiking boots were fine for short hikes but about 1/2 a size too small for carrying a serious load over rough terrain.

Nodust
01-12-2015, 16:59
My 14 year old son can do 10-15 MPD with ease. But he has lots of hiking experience and loves seeing new trails. I think it may be more of keeping them interested in hiking than the physical strain if they are in decent shape. My 11 year old son gets tired hiking 8 or so miles even though he is in better shape than me or older son. Keep it interesting, don't push for miles, and let them play in the woods will keep them fresh.

Just Bill
01-12-2015, 17:15
Second, third, fourth the others... Especially Dad problems, lol.

Some planning rules of thumb from my experience with scouts-
For "new folks" (Dad's too) our rule was half your age is a good starting point for daily mileage with a max of 10- even for day hikes.
A tune up meeting is helpful- pack up as if you plan to go and go through packs. It's good to "be prepared" but prepare as a group to eliminate extra "back ups".
Anyone can do decent enough on the first day, it's day two and three that matter. Make sure your tune-up trips reflect this and try to go for at least two full days.
Don't plan any mileage on evening arrivals, it never works out right.
Figure a lost hour each leaving and making camp, never plan more than 8 hours of actual hiking. If you plan a lunch, it will take an hour.

Once you get going a bit, unless your group is exceptional, a 16 mile day seemed to be the max (8hours, 2MPH).
That said, I very much agree- 5-8 miles in an eight hour day seems to be the norm.
Another fairly reliable rule- 2/3rds your day hike mileages is about right- most groups have more day hike experience and practice.

Connie
01-12-2015, 18:32
In scouts, we had a list.

In addition, you might have a note on the list there will be a weigh scale at the parking lot, for a bus, or, at the trailhead: boys x lbs, dads x lbs.

At least, there will be no lawn chairs.

I wish we'd had a tune up meeting before our 18-day hike. :)

fiddlehead
01-12-2015, 20:56
In scouts, we had a list.

In addition, you might have a note on the list there will be a weigh scale at the parking lot, for a bus, or, at the trailhead: boys x lbs, dads x lbs.

At least, there will be no lawn chairs.

I wish we'd had a tune up meeting before our 18-day hike. :)

Yeah, I remember we had a kid who insisted on bringing a bible, and it was the hugest bible I've ever seen (you know one of those family heirloom ones), and a pillow.
We ended up carrying his pack.
It's the only way he was going to finish that 2 day 8 mile hike.
There's always going to be one or two problem kids (or adults) with a group like that.

Best of luck to you and your group. (most likely you're going to need it)

MuddyWaters
01-12-2015, 21:23
I would try for about 8 mpd, and do more if people feel like it.

I would absolutely draw the line at total pack wt , with food and 1.5 L water, of 35 lbs. Preferably 30 and under is best. Applies to everyone. Dads are more likely problem than boys.

Footwear fit is critical too.


5 lb water and 7 lb food leaves 23 lb total other gear and pack. Easily doable, and critical not to be carrying more. Learn to leave whats not needed. You dont need much.

I would do a couple 10+ mile shakedown hikes with 35 lbs or so close to home.

Cedar1974
01-13-2015, 19:19
Also, how will you all be sleeping? I would guess tents, and if so will there be sharing? I'd suggest a two man system dad/son. Then divide up the weight of the tent as best you can. Stay as far from large camping houses (as I like to call them) that hold more than two or three people. Those are only good for car camping. For a cheap and easy solution, I recommend army surplus pup tents. They are already designed to be split between two people, and are rather light as well.

bobp
01-13-2015, 21:04
Also, how will you all be sleeping? I would guess tents, and if so will there be sharing? I'd suggest a two man system dad/son. Then divide up the weight of the tent as best you can. Stay as far from large camping houses (as I like to call them) that hold more than two or three people. Those are only good for car camping. For a cheap and easy solution, I recommend army surplus pup tents. They are already designed to be split between two people, and are rather light as well.

Just an FYI -- most Scout troops discourage father/son tent sharing, as it can hinder the desired youth leadership. Most youths prefer not to tent with snoring old geezers who have to get out of the tent to pee 3 or 4'times each night :^). I would discourage the military surplus gear, as it has never been particularly light (very durable, though. It is like that stuff is made to go through a war or something). Instead, I would suggest hitting the websites for the various BSA national attractions (Philmont, Boundary Waters, Bechtel, etc.) and checking out their used tents (and other gear). The selection isn't as light as what you will find on the Whiteblaze for-sale forum, but the stuff is demonstrably Scout-proof, and you can buy in quantity.

Just Tom
01-13-2015, 22:50
OP never said it was scouts...that was just the basis of experience most of us were drawing from.

booney_1
01-13-2015, 23:11
Of course you need the weight of the packs to be as light as possible. For longer hikes this is especially important because even the food weight adds up for a longer hike.

A suggestion which I've used with groups of kids (in this area), is to use tarps to sleep under. At the higher elevations bugs won't be a problem at all. You don't need to be closed in. A couple large tarps could easily work for a group of 4 boys and their Dads.

The rain fly of a larger tent works as well as a tarp. A rain fly or tarp can be setup without poles (plenty of trees on the AT). There are tons of ways using paracord or masons cord.

Eliminating the need for tents really helps with the weight, and space in the packs.

Along the AT in NC I've never had a problem with bugs, even in the middle of summer.

Shutterbug
01-14-2015, 11:45
I'm planning a hike on the AT in May of 2016 with a group of four 14 year old boys and their dads. Most have very limited hiking experience but are in reasonable shape. We have plenty of time to plan and teach on proper gear etc. Ideally, assuming reasonable conditioning and gear, what do you think is an advisable distance to hike. I'm looking to do a section in the north Georgia/North Carolina region. I've been considering Dick's Creek Gap to Wesser (Nantahala River). That's about 70 miles over 7 or 8 days. Too much? Too little? About right? Any feedback is greatly appreciated.

I see that you are from Louisiana. I grew up in Louisiana, so I know that it is hard to find hills for training. In considering the mileage, take into consideration the elevation gain and loss. Based on my own experience, 8 miles a day in the mountains is a good plan.