View Full Version : planning 1st hike- advice for section HIKING with minimal CAMPING?

05-25-2015, 11:48
When I finish posting this I am driving to the local REI store and buying a backpack. I have a weeks vacation in July, I am looking for a 5-6-7 day hike on the lower half of the AT. I read back through the posts here( through December of last year), but ( I think) my request is a little different...

I am looking for a section to hike where I do minimal camping. I would prefer a hostel or hotel when ever possible. I work long hours outside; the heat and lab does not scare/ intimidate me. But I have never slept well on the ground ( I am planning to attend REI seminar on hammocks ). And I would be quite content to snack during day and eat at restaurant or evening meal. This is my vacation...

I think Shenandoah Park would work. My first preference would be to either start or end at Damascus Va, and have family meet me and bike ride the Va. Creeper trail. That would eliminate shuttle.

I have looked the mile by mile descriptions of trail, but cannot tell for sure what areas would work best. So I decided to ask here. My goal is to say I hiked 50 miles of the trail on vacation. I may have a chance in June to do a 3 day hike; I am considering driving to Springer (beginning of trail) or Franklin NC, hiring a shuttle to take me 20-30 miles out, then hiking back to the car.

So that is my plan so far- can anyone give me some ideas? THANKS!

PS - 1st post! Thank you Rick for help registering!

05-25-2015, 12:09

You can walk between the southern tip and Thorton Gap, and sleep on a mattress every night.

05-25-2015, 12:24
We met an extremely nice older couple last week on the AT in NJ, Four Finger and Screw Loose, and what they do is use two cars. They park one car at each of the two ends of the section they picked to do and then they have the freedom to stay in a hotel or motel and eat out every night. Of course this idea will require your finding a partner who also wants to do what you want to do, but it sounds like a great and comfortable way to do the trail!


05-25-2015, 20:12
Thanks for the replies. I went to REI; I spent about $200 there. I bought a Deuter ACT LITE 65+10 backpack. I tried 4, and this seemed most comfortable. What really made the decision though was how it adjusts for torso size. I am 6'1" tall, but evidently ( supposedly?) have short torso. And my daughter has friend that camps, so I could adjust it for her if she ever wants to try it. I also bought a membership and a few small things.

I think 65+10 is more than I SHOULD need but if any family members want to try coming along I think I will end up with extra stuff. Which brings me back to WHERE to hike...

I would prefer NOT going to SNP first time out. I any family member decides to try I would like to go there. Either direction from Damascus- is I possible to find hostel or motel every other night? Ballpark it 25 miles /2days (could hike little longer if I do not have to set up camp/ cook)...

Thanks for helping!

05-26-2015, 01:12
If you start at Springer Mt., you could use the Hiker Hostel as your "base" and get them to shuttle you so you could do "slack packing" (day hiking with your lunch, then they pick you up for the night). That seems to work well for some. Check in to the hikerhostel.com for details. The hikes in that area are certainly doable as day hikes for those in shape.

05-26-2015, 04:01
First - welcome to WhiteBlaze! This place is an excellent resource for a new (assumed) hiker.

Second - You will probably get varying opinions, including "buy your gear before you buy your pack," but I think that is an excellent choice for a first pack. Myself and two of my brothers have all owned that same pack throughout the years. In fact, my brother (Hercules) is thru-hiking the AT right now (in MD/PA area right now) and just had Deuter replace his pack under warranty due to a busted zipper (the sleeping bag area external zipper). Can't say enough good things about that company and their packs. Though I do question the need for a 65+10 pack if you are not planning on ever sleeping out. I'd probably grab a Jan Sport and throw a couple emergency items in it and call it a day.

Third - Having said that, I'd encourage you to jump right in and plan on staying out on your trip. Somewhere like SNP will allow you to eat a good meal each day due to the Waysides, etc. and plenty of places to jump off the trail if you really decide that you need to have a bed. Even starting at Springer Mountain you could plan to camp 2 nights, spend a night at Neels Gap (hostel or cabins), and then do another couple of nights.

05-26-2015, 05:33
White Blaze is populated mostly by people who camp from backpacks, especially thru hikers and others who enjoy walking long distances. I personally love to do back country camping, but am more of a slow poke than a long distance hiker. I have, of course, obtained some useful ideas from more experienced folks here on WB. So, pardon me, palma308, for questioning your assumption that the vacation you are planning should necessarily be focused exclusively or primarily on "completing" a section of the AT.

Much emphasis is placed here on WB on completing particular trails, either in a single hike or in sections. Doing so can be commendable. But, in my experience, out-and-back hikes, whether done as day walks or with back country camping, are also very enjoyable. When I section hiked/backpacked all of Kentucky's Sheltowee Trace Trail during the 1990s I did most of it on weekends, usually on an out-and-back basis. I became aware that scenery can be a bit different returning to my car than it has been walking in on the same trail. Seeing and hearing small things outdoors can be rewarding.

What matters at this point is not how much of a particular trail, such as the AT, you "cover" this coming July, but instead how much you'll enjoy walking in the woods. If the experiences you'll have are positive, and if your subsequent hammock experiments are later successful, you may then gradually become a long distance hiking aficionado. (Side comment--The quality of one's air mattress or sleeping pad matters a lot to many of us 'ground sleepers'.)

Consider basing yourself for a week in a single hiker friendly town, ideally at an establishment that hosts both long distance hikers and also day ramblers. Obviously, this should be somewhere close to numerous attractive hiking trails, including but not necessarily limited to portions of the AT. I describe below one way that you could do this.

Damascus can be a great base from which to do day hikes. Two years ago I spent a week backpacking to Damascus from Grayson Highlands State Park before spending another week walking back to the State Park. Yes, folks my elderly version of "hiking my own hike" is truly slow. While resupplying in Damascus I had a great stay at the Hiker's Inn. You could stay there, or somewhere similar in Damascus and, without needing to drive for more than an hour in any direction, keeping busy doing day hikes for a week or more. And, if you have "long green tunnel vision" and are thus determined to log as much AT mileage as possible without doing any backtracking, there are people in Damascus who will happily accept your money in exchange for doing daily shuttles for you. Personally, as an introduction to that area via day hikes, I'd instead devote some time to walking non-AT trails (possibly including some scenic horse trails) in both the State Park and the adjacent 'Crest Zone' of Mount Rogers National Rogers National Recreation area.

05-26-2015, 07:15
The Hiker Hostel in Georgia, as mentioned above, may be your best bet. They have a plan whereby they will drop you off and pick you up each day as you walk the AT in Georgia. It's not really all that expensive, either.

Shenandoah is the other obvious choice, but there's not a place to stay each night. The only hotels really are Skyland and Big Meadows, which are a convenient ten miles apart, but that's it. You could start ten miles north of Skyland, hike south, stay the night, hike south, stay at Big Meadows, hike south another ten miles and then get a ride back to your car, but that's only three days of hiking. Other places to stay are car campgrounds, and they are not available every night.

Finally, yeah, go figure out the hammock thing. I found a hammock to be far more comfortable than even my bed at home (and we have a great mattress). When I solo hike I use the hammock.

Then you can hike Shenandoah and sleep in the hammock when you can't stay at a lodge.

05-26-2015, 21:55
Thanks for all the help! I am new with all this, but it looks like it might help to give a little more info about myself. Major reason I don't like sleeping on the ground is that I was in a car accident MANY years ago ( 1989- other driver fell asleep and rear-ended me going about 45-50 miles an hour. Both vehicles totaled). Since then I have had neck problems if I sleep on it wrong. And if I am sleeping someplace different ( camping REALLY different) every night it is like trying to hit a moving target. And it is a lot harder to enjoy the views ( and watch where you are going!) when you have to turn your whole upper body to look. That doesn't happen too often anymore, but I would MUCH prefer not dealing with that problem while I am stating this! Firefighter 503, I might fill that pack with 2-3 pillows- really! I would rather have it and not need it than vice-versa.

I do expect to sleep out at least a night or 2 - we will see. Trailweaver, the more I look at springer, the more inclined I am to start there.... but it is a long drive for a week of hiking. Siestita - I Hear you. But first,I am by nature a goal oriented person. Just as important , I am trying to come up with a way to teach my ( college freshman) daughter about setting and achieving goals. I won't go into details, but it is part of my plan. My (college senior ) son learned fairly well- partly from sporting competitions with me and partly boy scouts.

I think will stop here and post this- THANKS AGAIN!