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View Full Version : A Dad (41) and Son (12) start NOBO section hike late October....need advice please



sideshow11
10-04-2015, 21:12
Great information on this thread, but need some specific help that I have not found yet so starting this post.....we are in good shape, hike often and scout camp, but not a lot of multi-night backpacking experience....we want to make this something we can do for years to come together.....we are going to start at the Approach Trail and hike for 4 days ....we will need to shuttle since we won't have a second car....



What advice would you have for how far to hike with our ages / abilities? I was thinking of Day-1 hiking approach trail to Springer Mtn Shelter, Day-2 hiking to Hawk Mtn Shelter, Day-3 hiking to Gooch Mtn Shelter, and Day-4 hiking to Woody Gap and the drive home......is this a good/advisable itinerary, or is it too long or too short?




How long would you guess it will take us to complete each of these sections?




My thought was to park at Woody Gap and catch a shuttle (recomendations?) around 4:30pm on Wed to Amicalola Falls State Park and camp at the shelter area......alternatively, thinking of staying at Hiker Hostel Wed night, and then dropping off car at Woody and having them take us to Amicalola......thoughts?




We are planning on tent camping and assuming that we can pitch in areas around the shelters....is there anything specific we should be aware of / plan for when doing so?




Is is better / safer (i.e. animals & people) to camp at shelters vs other areas off trail away from shelters?


Thank you very much for reading this and for any input you are able to provide - Cheers!

MuddyWaters
10-05-2015, 07:44
How good shape are you in?
What will your packs weigh?
How many hrs per day do you want to hike? Ie what style?
Are you camping, or hiking?

No one can tell you how far you will go each day.

Id guess you easily make neel gap. 39 miles with the approach in 4 full days. Its always best to plan to end, preferably. Near your vehicle.

I would park down road from neel gap at goose creek cabins and spend night before there. Owner will let you park there if you stay there. Get shuttled next morniing to amicalola and start walking.

Keep packs light, 20 lb for your son. 25-30 for you. And enjoy. You will fly.

The lowest miles my son ever did in a reasonably full day with me is 13, and those were hard miles

His first AT trip was 43 miles in 3 days at 11 yr old .

Seriously, its ALL about the weight. I cant repeat that enough.

Gambit McCrae
10-05-2015, 08:09
Call Ron Brown, great reliable shuttle driver and if you give him a window time frame he can work around your trail schedule. I would park at Amililola and spend the day on the approach trail as it is a tough one. From there spend say 8 hours a day hiking and taking breaks and just play it by ear. Get as far as you want to hike and the day before you want to go home, call ron and setup a meeting place and time.

Bronk
10-05-2015, 10:35
Out of shape with a pack that was too heavy, it took me 6 days to get to Neels gap, and I didn't hike the approach trail. I'm saying that just to give you the flip side of what MuddyWaters is saying. Your pack weight will determine how far you go. Your itinerary seems reasonable provided you have light packs.

Just Bill
10-05-2015, 10:38
If you're asking the question...

A good rule we used in scouts... Take the kid's age and divide it by two to get daily miles.

Worst case you get bored because you finish early and you're hungry for the next hike.

If you don't know, play it safe (fun).

bigcranky
10-05-2015, 10:39
Your initial plan sounds good. I would park at the state park and start hiking, with pre-arranged plans for a shuttle driver to pick you up when you are done. That way if you go farther you are fine, and if you don't go as far, you are also fine.

Stubby
10-05-2015, 15:37
I think you have it about right. I hiked that same first section with my son when he was 13. I should have posted here back then, I waaaay overestimated the miles we should do. I planned that same hike as a 1-night, and got a late morning start. We were new at it, and our packs were kind of heavy, I was probably about 40lbs, my son probably about 20 lbs.
We did a little over 11 miles the first day, which was a little tough, mainly because of the stairs and our heavy packs. that left well over 17 for the next day, and that was a very long very hard day. 2 nights would have been a tough hike for both of us. 3 nights would have been pleasant.

yes, I definitely recommend pitching a tent near a shelter. Most shelters have good tent sites, and water nearby. Some have bear cables, saving you the hassle of doing your one bear-bag hanging. And, if the weather decides to drop a deluge on you like it did us, you can retreat to the shelter. We did it early August, and had the shelter (Stover Creek) to ourselves.

I don't know about the relative safety of shelters vs away-from-shelters. People or animal. Trade-offs both ways. I do know that almost everybody I've met on the trail is a good neighbor. As a father I understand your concern. For animal safety, bears are the only thing I worry about (but keep an eye open for snakes). For bears, be careful not to get food smells onto your bedding/pajamas/etc. And hang all the smelly stuff - including things a lot of people overlook like mint chapstick or deodorant or coffee - in a bear bag. The shelters that have the cables are awesome. Finding a suitable high-enough limb on a tree can be a challenge - especially in those poplar groves where the stupid tree just don't have branches low enough. A bear canister or odor-proof bag (bear certified) is another option, I've done the bear canister thing, and just make sure I put the canister well away from where I'm sleeping.

If you do pitch your tent away from a shelter, please use one of the existing tent sites - its part of "Leave No Trace", minimize your impact on the environment.

Stubby
10-05-2015, 15:45
As for the shuttle... I'd probably arrange the shuttle on the front end... leave my car at the end, get shuttled, then hike to the car. If I get there early, its easy.

ElCid94
10-09-2015, 23:44
I am 42. My son is 13. Our first hike ever was from Springer to Woody Gap in April. We got a late start (6 p.m.) and didn't make it to Hawk Mountain (intended target for day 1) before dark. We camped somewhere between Three Forks and Hawk Mountain leaving about 15 miles for day 2--way too much for a couple of newbies. We had a late lunch at Gooch Mountain Shelter and then dropped our packs at USFS 42 in Gooch Gap to walk the last 3.6 miles to the car. We would not have made it with packs. I have no experience with the Approach Trail, but I have heard that it is challenging. I think your planned itinerary is sound. As I recall, Springer to Three Forks is incredibly easy, and you will make good time. Hawk Mountain should be easily attainable on day 2. Most of the hikers that we encountered at the Gooch Mountain Shelter had spent the previous night at Hawk Mountain. That only leaves you 5 miles for your final day. You could probably do more, but Woody Gap is a convenient place to exit the trail and offers some of the best views south of Blood Mountain. You could push for Neels, but, if you thrash yourselves to cover the miles, you won't enjoy it, and your son may decide that hiking isn't for him.

saltysack
10-10-2015, 08:50
Not to change your plans but I'd strongly recommend a loop such as the standing Indian loop for a newbie as logistics are sooo much simpler and it is mostly AT miles...much prettier than Ga section. Very easy drive and access out of Franklin, NC..22 or 24 mile loop


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Whack-a-mole
10-11-2015, 23:05
What if you cut the mileage down a little by dropping the approach trail. Park at Neels Gap, get a shuttle to Springer. Leave your packs in the woods near the trail head, walk up to the top of Springer, and back down, pick up your packs and start cruising. Take time to see the falls about 4 miles in. It's been a couple years, so I forget the name. Your stress will be so much lower, your hike will be nice, the views should be nice. Neels is a great place to stop, you can grab a drink and snack. 12 year olds are hard for others to judge on a forum post. Some have grown, and some have not. Some are more athletic. Only you can know best what you guys are capable of. I just think it would be better to finish a day earlier than planned if you are bored. It's always harder to try to finish when you have bitten off more than you can chew. To put it bluntly, it hurts, and it sucks. Keep the mileage doable, and you will have a hiking partner for life.

The Doctor :)
10-12-2015, 03:23
Just remember that life's a journey, not a destination. Just prepare as much as possible... then throw your plans (and an extra 5 lbs worth of stuff) out and have fun, your plans may change significantly. I would definitely just stay focused on him having a good time and let him set the pace. If its torture then he will dread going. Don't be focused on getting a certain number of miles or to the next shelter (I hiked with someone like that and it was terrible).

My husband and I are section hiking NOBO starting at Springer at the same time. Hope to see you out there!

The Doctor :)
10-12-2015, 03:35
Oh, and it's hunting season in GA at the end of October! Don't forget to pick up some blaze orange!

MuddyWaters
10-12-2015, 07:52
You can also have the hiker hostel @dahlonega slackpack you, or any combination thereof. Do a couple slack days , and a couple overnights.

Stay with them, and they will come pick you up at any rd crossing if you get behind as well, just have verizon phone .

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 09:36
Hello everybody - thanks for all the replies - wonderful suggestions here - 2 of the last four weekends we hiked out in the Table Rock / Hawks Bill / Linville Gorge area as practice (just daypacks with full water) - my son is really excited for this trip - we have been walking 3 nights a weeks with our packs on - going about 3 miles at a clip after work/school - we started out on flat ground and have moved to a neighborhood that has some of ups and downs (~750 feet of elevation gain) - my pack was underweight at about 24 lbs and my son's was at full weight at 22 lbs - we both did fine and we didn't have any real soreness and our feet felt OK - probably would feel better on ground and not concrete/asphalt....

Assuming I can figure it out, I am going to try to respond to each thread separately....if I can't figure it out, I will do another large post.....cheers all!

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 09:58
How good shape are you in?
What will your packs weigh?
How many hrs per day do you want to hike? Ie what style?
Are you camping, or hiking?

No one can tell you how far you will go each day.

Id guess you easily make neel gap. 39 miles with the approach in 4 full days. Its always best to plan to end, preferably. Near your vehicle.

I would park down road from neel gap at goose creek cabins and spend night before there. Owner will let you park there if you stay there. Get shuttled next morniing to amicalola and start walking.

Keep packs light, 20 lb for your son. 25-30 for you. And enjoy. You will fly.

The lowest miles my son ever did in a reasonably full day with me is 13, and those were hard miles

His first AT trip was 43 miles in 3 days at 11 yr old .

Seriously, its ALL about the weight. I cant repeat that enough.

-I am a few lbs more then I would like to be, but I run frequently and am built pretty strong....my son is like a stick with hiking boots on....totally opposite body types....

- I am targeting 35 lbs for me (I am ~205lbs) and my son ~20lbs (he is 75lbs)...the hard part is that I have to cover a lot of the gear myself due to the disparity between us - I can't split the load much

- Actually, not sure, he is an early riser...I will probably not sleep great ....I would think we would want to hike all day - stopping for lunch and any breaks we felt we needed....thought of taking my ENO so that we can chill feet up if we need a break....the extra weight stinks, but seems like a legit luxury item to take along...

-I think you are asking if we are looking to see more and do more miles, or do we want to chill in camp for a while....I would say a couple ours of hanging out in camp each night, but mostly moving while our legs feel good

- I agree about ending at the car the more I read here an think about it...my thought was that even if we get to woody early and we want to go further, we could drop the bags in the car, and either do an out/back section or go to another road crossing and call for a shuttle back....

-glad to hear about the miles you and your son were able to do....knowing all of what I said above, so you think getting all the way to Neel from the Approach is doable? Thanks for the info Muddy!

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:03
Call Ron Brown, great reliable shuttle driver and if you give him a window time frame he can work around your trail schedule. I would park at Amililola and spend the day on the approach trail as it is a tough one. From there spend say 8 hours a day hiking and taking breaks and just play it by ear. Get as far as you want to hike and the day before you want to go home, call ron and setup a meeting place and time.

-parking and setting off from AFSP would be SOOOOO much easier from a logistial perspective in one way, but we live in Charlotte, NC and I am figuring that at the end of all those nights on the trail, waiting for a shuttle and then backtracking an hour to AFSP and then doubling back east would be a mental hurdle.....I think I am leaning towards leaving my car at a site and hiking to it.....however, is Ron Brown a good option for a last minute shuttle assuming we can drop our bags at the car slack pack on additional section and he could be called at the end of our day for a ride back to the car?

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:05
Out of shape with a pack that was too heavy, it took me 6 days to get to Neels gap, and I didn't hike the approach trail. I'm saying that just to give you the flip side of what MuddyWaters is saying. Your pack weight will determine how far you go. Your itinerary seems reasonable provided you have light packs.

-Thanks for the perspective - how heavy was your pack? You mentioned being out of shape - can you compare what that means relative to us? (((I am a few lbs more then I would like to be, but I run frequently and am built pretty strong....my son is like a stick with hiking boots on....totally opposite body types....for packs, I am targeting 35 lbs for me (I am ~205lbs) and my son ~20lbs (he is 75lbs)...the hard part is that I have to cover a lot of the gear myself due to the disparity between us - I can't split the load much)))

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:10
If you're asking the question...

A good rule we used in scouts... Take the kid's age and divide it by two to get daily miles.

Worst case you get bored because you finish early and you're hungry for the next hike.


If you don't know, play it safe (fun).


-I am definitely conscience of trying to do too much and I seek to avoid that....pushing too hard leads to an unhappy experience and maybe even injury....shoot, I slipped on some moss on a large angled boulder yesterday at the top of Hawksbill Mtn with no pack on and slammed my shoulder/butt/back onto a rock with zero time to brace myself it happended so fast....I understand things can happen out there so i don't want us to be on such a tight timeframe that we can't enjoy things or have the latitude to adjust our plans due to injury/illness/soreness/etc.......thanks for the reply Just Bill!

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:11
Your initial plan sounds good. I would park at the state park and start hiking, with pre-arranged plans for a shuttle driver to pick you up when you are done. That way if you go farther you are fine, and if you don't go as far, you are also fine.

-Thanks for he reply bigcranky....please see my reply above regarding the AFSP parking situation....I guess I am trying to have the best of all worlds, LOL.....

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:13
I think you have it about right. I hiked that same first section with my son when he was 13. I should have posted here back then, I waaaay overestimated the miles we should do. I planned that same hike as a 1-night, and got a late morning start. We were new at it, and our packs were kind of heavy, I was probably about 40lbs, my son probably about 20 lbs.
We did a little over 11 miles the first day, which was a little tough, mainly because of the stairs and our heavy packs. that left well over 17 for the next day, and that was a very long very hard day. 2 nights would have been a tough hike for both of us. 3 nights would have been pleasant.

yes, I definitely recommend pitching a tent near a shelter. Most shelters have good tent sites, and water nearby. Some have bear cables, saving you the hassle of doing your one bear-bag hanging. And, if the weather decides to drop a deluge on you like it did us, you can retreat to the shelter. We did it early August, and had the shelter (Stover Creek) to ourselves.

I don't know about the relative safety of shelters vs away-from-shelters. People or animal. Trade-offs both ways. I do know that almost everybody I've met on the trail is a good neighbor. As a father I understand your concern. For animal safety, bears are the only thing I worry about (but keep an eye open for snakes). For bears, be careful not to get food smells onto your bedding/pajamas/etc. And hang all the smelly stuff - including things a lot of people overlook like mint chapstick or deodorant or coffee - in a bear bag. The shelters that have the cables are awesome. Finding a suitable high-enough limb on a tree can be a challenge - especially in those poplar groves where the stupid tree just don't have branches low enough. A bear canister or odor-proof bag (bear certified) is another option, I've done the bear canister thing, and just make sure I put the canister well away from where I'm sleeping.

If you do pitch your tent away from a shelter, please use one of the existing tent sites - its part of "Leave No Trace", minimize your impact on the environment.

-Stubby, this was a super helpful post for me....you certainly were ambitious to do that as an overnighter....based on the info I have posted in my replies herein, do you think we would be OK doing the Approach to Woody? Thanks!

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:14
As for the shuttle... I'd probably arrange the shuttle on the front end... leave my car at the end, get shuttled, then hike to the car. If I get there early, its easy.

-I think we are leaning towards that...plus I stress about logistical things and this may be one less think to worry about once we are on the trail....thanks!

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:23
I am 42. My son is 13. Our first hike ever was from Springer to Woody Gap in April. We got a late start (6 p.m.) and didn't make it to Hawk Mountain (intended target for day 1) before dark. We camped somewhere between Three Forks and Hawk Mountain leaving about 15 miles for day 2--way too much for a couple of newbies. We had a late lunch at Gooch Mountain Shelter and then dropped our packs at USFS 42 in Gooch Gap to walk the last 3.6 miles to the car. We would not have made it with packs. I have no experience with the Approach Trail, but I have heard that it is challenging. I think your planned itinerary is sound. As I recall, Springer to Three Forks is incredibly easy, and you will make good time. Hawk Mountain should be easily attainable on day 2. Most of the hikers that we encountered at the Gooch Mountain Shelter had spent the previous night at Hawk Mountain. That only leaves you 5 miles for your final day. You could probably do more, but Woody Gap is a convenient place to exit the trail and offers some of the best views south of Blood Mountain. You could push for Neels, but, if you thrash yourselves to cover the miles, you won't enjoy it, and your son may decide that hiking isn't for him.

-Very helpful ElCid94.....curious- why did you decide not to do the Approcach? Are you still glad you skipped it?

-agree with your last comment, my thought was that if we are making really good time (and we didn't rush it) then we could drop our packs at Woody at our car, and then day pack the 11 miles to Neel and catch a shuttle back....what do you think about that option?

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:25
Not to change your plans but I'd strongly recommend a loop such as the standing Indian loop for a newbie as logistics are sooo much simpler and it is mostly AT miles...much prettier than Ga section. Very easy drive and access out of Franklin, NC..22 or 24 mile loop


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

-Thanks Saltysack (ha, great name)....but part of our hike has to do with having a goal that we can continue to work on over a period of time ....we get to do other trips together and with the Scouts where we can do some pretty nice hikes/camps....

rafe
10-12-2015, 10:26
Just my pref, but given a choice I prefer to do the shuttle before the hike rather than after. Get the uncertainty (and waiting) out of the way first, so I don't have to dwell on it while hiking.

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:33
What if you cut the mileage down a little by dropping the approach trail. Park at Neels Gap, get a shuttle to Springer. Leave your packs in the woods near the trail head, walk up to the top of Springer, and back down, pick up your packs and start cruising. Take time to see the falls about 4 miles in. It's been a couple years, so I forget the name. Your stress will be so much lower, your hike will be nice, the views should be nice. Neels is a great place to stop, you can grab a drink and snack. 12 year olds are hard for others to judge on a forum post. Some have grown, and some have not. Some are more athletic. Only you can know best what you guys are capable of. I just think it would be better to finish a day earlier than planned if you are bored. It's always harder to try to finish when you have bitten off more than you can chew. To put it bluntly, it hurts, and it sucks. Keep the mileage doable, and you will have a hiking partner for life.

-Thanks Whack---you know, I am thinking of doing that....logistically it sounds a bit easier...may be three nicer nights on the trail....could also make my next section a bit easier from a logistical standpoint also.....on the flip side my son thinks the falls/stairs sounds cool and to him it is "all the AT" even it it technically isn't....but, I also don't want to "over do it" on the first night and have him struggle too much.....I posted above that he is 75lbs and skinny but he has good endurance and is a good hiker....but that is different then a taxing uphill grind....thoughts?

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:34
Just remember that life's a journey, not a destination. Just prepare as much as possible... then throw your plans (and an extra 5 lbs worth of stuff) out and have fun, your plans may change significantly. I would definitely just stay focused on him having a good time and let him set the pace. If its torture then he will dread going. Don't be focused on getting a certain number of miles or to the next shelter (I hiked with someone like that and it was terrible).

My husband and I are section hiking NOBO starting at Springer at the same time. Hope to see you out there!

-Totally agree - thanks for the reply - hope to see you out there....you should be able to figure out who we are!

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:35
Oh, and it's hunting season in GA at the end of October! Don't forget to pick up some blaze orange!

-Already?? I thought deer season always started around Thanksgiving....thanks for the heads up...I will look into that....

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 10:36
You can also have the hiker hostel @dahlonega slackpack you, or any combination thereof. Do a couple slack days , and a couple overnights.

Stay with them, and they will come pick you up at any rd crossing if you get behind as well, just have verizon phone .

-thinking of doing that to make it a bit easier....does Verizon have decent coverage in the section from AFSP and Neels? My wife would like to have us periodically check in via text....would also make me feel better in case of an emergency....

Dan Roper
10-12-2015, 11:55
Slideshow, I began section hiking in 2007 with my oldest son, who was then 12, and who was also a string bean. A few comments:

1. We did 39 miles (Amicalola to Neels Gap) in three full days in August (more daylight each day but very hot too). I think you and your son can comfortably manage 10 miles a day to perhaps as much as 15. The limiting factor probably will be the amount of daylight and the need to allow time to set up camp, cook, clean, etc. before dark.

2. The Approach Trail is tough, but memorable. It wanted to do it really badly. Do what means alot to you.

3. I weigh more than you. My pack in summer usually starts at 30-32 pounds. Your son at 75 pounds is pretty slender. I think you might shoot for 18 pounds if possible. If you can time your hike so that there's no chance of rain (that's common in Georgia in October after a cold front passes through), you can pack pretty light.

4. One post said that the Standing Indian loop is prettier than Georgia. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The Georgia section is remote and lush and gorgeous. My younger son (now 18) prefers Georgia. Me and my older son (now 21) prefer NC and Tenn. But it's all been great.

Have fun!

Dan Roper
Rome, GA

MuddyWaters
10-12-2015, 12:31
-thinking of doing that to make it a bit easier....does Verizon have decent coverage in the section from AFSP and Neels? My wife would like to have us periodically check in via text....would also make me feel better in case of an emergency....

I always had service when turned phone on. I keep it off so cant say its unbroken, but its pretty good throughout ga with.verizon.

sideshow11
10-12-2015, 13:26
I always had service when turned phone on. I keep it off so cant say its unbroken, but its pretty good throughout ga with.verizon.

-Great - thanks for the info

Stubby
10-13-2015, 10:22
-Stubby, this was a super helpful post for me....you certainly were ambitious to do that as an overnighter....based on the info I have posted in my replies herein, do you think we would be OK doing the Approach to Woody? Thanks!

Glad I could help!
It wasn't so much ambitious as poorly planned. :confused:

Yes, you should be great doing the Approach to Woody in that time. I wish we had spread it out better, we would have been able to see the sights and enjoy it more, the 2nd day would have been less like the Bataan death march... ok, it wasn't that bad but it could have been a lot better.

Luckily, it didn't turn my son off of hiking. We go 2 or 3 times each year since then, he's almost 20 now.

I wish for you two many years of memory-making, and that you will find the AT to be as awesome as we have.