View Full Version : How about a Feb/March start SB from Harpers Ferry?

02-16-2018, 22:33
I'm planning a 2020 AT thru hike and am considering alternatives to a traditional NOBO hike. I'm thinking starting at Harpers Ferry SOBO in early March and then flipping NOBO from HF to ME after I reach Springer. Looks like temps in WV are similar to GA in March (54 F to 29 F and 8 days of rain). I should meet the bubble somewhere north of Damascas and be thru it in a week or so.

I think I like this approach for a couple of reasons
1. Avoid the bubble. reduce the impact on the trail.
2. I still get to meet all the NOBO's on my way to Springer
3. By the time I get back to HF, the crowd will have thin'd
4. Travel logistics are pretty good. Amtrak from home to HF and from Gainesville GA back to HF.

The only downside I can think of is that many places wont be open in Virginia as I head south, at least until I hit the bubble.

I welcome thoughts and comments.

02-16-2018, 22:37
You won't know until you do it. It snows in March. Be dry. Be warm. Be safe.
Good luck.

02-16-2018, 22:58
Less crowds in Shenandoah is a big plus. Less crowds for at least the first month is a plus. I don't know that you will be thru the NOBO bubble in a week or so, I think it will be more like waves than one bubble, or one bubble with lots of waves? Anyway, sounds like a good plan. If I had to start a thru in late Feb/March I would strongly consider it.

02-17-2018, 02:40
I think you'll find the bubble a bit more stretched out than your thinking. I'd say it'll probably take you three weeks + to get through it hiking against it these days.

Also a heavy surge leaving Damascus after Trail Days. Since that tends to stack people up.

Weather does the same thing especially in the Smokies in early season. Which will result in the wavelets.

Still sounds like a good plan as long as you're prepared for the chilly weather early on.

02-17-2018, 12:08
I lived about 1/2 mile from the AT in far northern VA for a couple of decades and hiked in the winter on the AT all the time in that area.

Absent a big show storm it is really easy hiking that time of year. Cool to cold temps, no bugs, no people, completely empty shelters (if you want to go there), etc.

There are some downsides. Some of the resupply locations are not there (the places in SNP are not open for one) and some of the hostels are not open either. There are going to be LOTS of blowdowns as the trail crews do not clear until later in the spring. You can go south from Harpers all the way to the Sisters without any big climbs and if it has not snowed more than a foot or so progress is pretty easy even then.

It is a very workable idea.

02-17-2018, 12:40
It's an ok plan, and the benefits listed are true. One consideration:
It can be nice to run into the same hikers over and over, even for just a 2 minute chat. If you go the opposite direction, you will just pass a ton of people that you see once, and if you stay in shelters, you'll never know who anyone is (not a problem for some people!)
I like running into people I've met, even if I end up not staying near shelters or mostly doing my own thing

02-17-2018, 13:48
I think leaving HF in mid Feb or early March is bit too early. The weather is still just too volatile. The lack of services will be a hindrance too.

You do meet a lot of hikers going SOBO, but you don't make any friends. I went SOBO from HF a couple of years ago starting May 1st. I had the trail pretty much to myself for the first 2 weeks, then Trail Days let out. All of a sudden there were hikers everywhere. It seems they get dropped off in bunches of 20 at a time all up and down VA. Many of them were skipping ahead a little (or a lot) since that's where the ride was going.

02-19-2018, 20:31
Thanks for the feedback. I've been bouncing some other options as well. My goal is to Not spend the entire summer on the trail. If I can complete by Mid July, that would be ideal.

NOBO in late Feb, I think I can finish by Mid July.
SOBO flipflop starting at HF mid March would complete the southern end about the end of May, then hi-tail it to Katahdin to start south again. Finish by end of July.
NOBO split spring/fall thru-hike NOBO from Springer and hike until the end of June, then come back in September to finish up.
And of course from the title of this thread, SOBO/NOBO flipflop from HF which should finish by mid July.

I'm leaning to a continuous hike rather than taking a break in the middle of the hike. life is short and uncertain so stopping in the middle of this adventure may be required anyway, don't want to make it part of the plan.

02-20-2018, 00:50
Well, there are many good reasons why an early March send off from Springer is so popular, especially if you want to finish early. The only down side is that it is such a popular time to start. It all boils down to weather.

Here's an interesting exercise since you got 2 years to prepare. Get the AT weather app and then do a virtual hike. Start a NOBO hike from Springer and a SOBO hike from HF at the same time, say March 1st which is coming up soon.

Plot how far you think you'd go in a day and record the weather for those locations. This will give you an idea of what kind of weather to expect and decide where a good place to start is based on that.

02-20-2018, 17:25
Just downloaded the App, Thanks for the tip!

TX Aggie
02-20-2018, 20:24
The only downside might be the weather when you get into Georgia, might already be getting a bit on the hot and sticky side. Which will mean you will rather need to switch out your winter for summer Gear sooner than normal, or you’ll be on the extreme end of either the cold side or warm side of your sleep system.

Otherwise, why not? Sounds like a good plan.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

02-21-2018, 11:01
Northern Virginia in late February and through March is still very much winter. No facilities will be open in Shenandoah National Park and it almost certainly will be very cold. If prepared for winter hiking, it could work out OK. The second coldest night I've ever spent outdoors was in SNP in late March several years ago.

Then again, I've read that Georgia AT is also winter conditions in Feb/March but I've never hiked that part of the AT.