View Full Version : Help for a beginner

11-02-2017, 14:01
Hey Whiteblaze,
My son is planning on going SOBO after he graduates high school. We've done some section hikes and he's really excited about doing it in one fell swoop. While he has lots of questions, the most burning is the start and the first couple of weeks. I'm poking around looking for some info on food planning, permits, accessibility and I'm wondering if we could get some pointers. Appreciate the help.



11-02-2017, 15:00
Mid-June, right? Great time for a long hike. We know a couple of high school grads who did this and were successful -- and it turned out to be a terrific opportunity and growth experience.

Would he consider starting in, say Massachusetts, and heading north to Katahdin, then flipping south to his starting point and heading to Springer? These "flip flop" hikes are becoming more popular. In this case he gets an easier start to the trail in several ways: it's physically easier, so he can get his trail legs before having to hike the hardest 1/4 of the trail through Maine and the Whites; and it's logistically easier, so he can figure out food and resupply and life on the trail before he tackles the Hundred Mile Wilderness. One final advantage is weather and bugs, which tend to be better in July and August in New England, rather than June. The downside of course is that one needs to be able to get from middle-of-nowhere Maine back to the starting point. It's doable, of course.

Other than that, one place to start would be with one of the two main guidebooks, the AT Guide or the Thru-Hiker's Companion. Those will give info on getting to the trailheads, resupply locations, detailed trail info, etc. One thing to keep in mind is that if he starts at Katahdin, he'll need a camping reservation at Baxter State Park for the night before and the night after his first day on the trail/summit of Katahdin. You'll need to make these reservations long in advance, as soon as the window opens.

What sort of food planning are you thinking about? Other than the HMW resupply is fairly easy every 3-6 days on the trail. Getting to town is usually pretty simple (walk or hitch, depending on distance, and hitching is often safer given the narrow mountain roads one has to walk on), and most towns have a small grocery store, or a nearby Walmart, or even a dollar store. (Yes, one can do a complete resupply in Dollar General. I didn't love it, but I got enough food. :) )

Have fun with the planning.

11-02-2017, 15:42

11-02-2017, 16:23
You can also find out more about Katahdin Here (http://www.matc.org/assets/BaxterStateParkPermitFAQsforALDHA-FINAL-2017-03-29.pdf). If you haven't already purchased any of the following books, you should check them out and choose one as people all have their opinion as to which one is "The Best". I won't tell you mine just for that reason.
The A.T. Guide by David "AWOL" Miller (http://www.shop.theatguide.com/). Keep checking back until the 2018 edition comes out sometime in January. I think he offers a discount if you preorder but I can not say for sure.
The Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers Companion by Robert "Sly" Sylvester. Again keep check back for the latest edition.
WhiteBlaze Pages by Rick "Attroll" Towle (https://www.whiteblazepages.com/store/). Again check back.

All three offer updates and changes due to having to go to the printers early. I hope this helps. Good luck to you and you and your son.

Tennessee Viking
11-02-2017, 16:25
Check with the Hiking the AT classes at REI stores.
The ATC website has sources and classes.
Also check with the AT clubs near your area. They may have some thru-hiker veterans to help answer all your questions.
The AT Guide.
The Thru-Hiker's Companion.

11-02-2017, 16:26
Sorry, here is the link for The Thru -Hikers Companion (http://atctrailstore.org/planning/official-a-t-guide-sets/appalachian-trail-thru-hikers-companion-2017/).

11-02-2017, 17:55
I agree with Bigcranky, start in southern New England, or even NJ and work into it. The fact your son has some section hiking experience is a big plus, but Maine is a tough state and a lot to take in right off the bat.

11-02-2017, 18:32
I think the HMW is better done sobo, unless one plans on resupplying in the middle. After Monson, its fairly easy until the Bigelows, then its tough as hell until Vermont. I’m not sure if its any better starting in Mass, then going North. 6 of one, half a dozen of another. New England isn’t going to be easy, regardless.

map man
11-02-2017, 18:39
Here is a link to a very useful resource for anyone planning a SOBO thru hike:


One of the resources linked to in this post is the Appalachian Trail Lodge. Your son can arrange with them to do a food drop in the middle of the Hundred Mile Wilderness. Since the average SOBO takes eight to ten days to get to Monson, but carrying that much food is problematic, using a food drop means carrying no more than four or five days worth of food. The early days of a thru hike are challenging enough without also carrying a crazy amount of food weight in his first week on the trail.