View Full Version : NOBO vs. Flip flop

07-27-2018, 13:21
I searched the topics, didn’t see a “flip flop vs. Thru,” so I have a question. In asking this question, I fully expect “HYOH,” “no one cares,” “ worry about the trail, not others.”
For a year, I had been preparing to begin a NOBO thru March 2019, travelling from pretty far away - Northern Ontario, Canada. Unfortunately, as we live off grid, my hubby wouldn’t been able to drive me, so only way would be flying. There are no trains or buses for hours anywhere near me.

Then one day, reading an article on the ATC site, I saw the advantages and disadvantages of a flip flop. What appealed to me most, is my hubby can drive me to HF (only 15 hours), begin my NOBO first week of May. Then he’d meet me in Maine, drive me back to HF, and I’d continue my SOBO.

So here’s my question: going from a thru to a flip flop, assuming I finish, is the hike diminished by the hiking community? I really did foresee myself standing atop Katahdin, but now with the flip flop, will it be less exciting finishing at the arches at Amicalola?

07-27-2018, 13:26
I should have added, what appeals to me as I tend to hike alone, is missing the bubble, overcrowded shelters and hostels.

Captain Panda
07-27-2018, 14:00
BowGal consider the following:
1. Your accomplishment won't be diminished but the VAST majority; those who feel otherwise don't matter.
3. If you can get to a Canadian airport; fly into DC where you can get Amtrak service to HF.
4. Start the FF a little earlier, and attend the Flip Flop festival (mid April) in HF. It will eliminate your concerns.

07-27-2018, 14:12
Double post

07-27-2018, 14:15
Hiking with 70 others every day is a lot more diminishing of the experience , imo.

But, theres obviously many that like that.
No matter what, flying will be cheaper. Why is transportation even in your decision?

Climactic finishes are nice. But, honestly, as you get close you will be ready to be done, and that will be climactic enough.

Best...go sobo.

Just Bill
07-27-2018, 14:30
Perhaps being off the grid and Canadian... you're overthinking the difficulty of travel in the USA. One reason the AT remains so popular is ease of access.
Northern Ontario is a big place to guess where you're starting from... but get down to Detroit MI or Syracuse NY and you can use the train or bus to get anywhere from there.
There are several drop points a mile or less from public transportation once you are on the American grid.

The point also being- don't plan any of your hike around coordinating a car ride from your husband unless it's simply a matter of seeing him in person for a time.

Washington DC to Harper's ferry is an excellent example. And you're not the first hiker to wonder how to get to/from either terminus. As a result both areas have hostels, shuttle services, or other options to help you reach the trail.

As far as a finish on Big K....

I still think one of the best compromises is to go Southbound from the center to Springer... then flip flop back to the center and head north.

You will pass through the bubble... but the 'bubble' is less of a concern once the first 500 miles and trail days pass by.
Realistically if you start at Harpers and head south... 500 miles or so for each of you puts you meeting in the middle around trail days/Damascus.

You skip the money and time burning experience of slogging through the smokies if the snow is bad as you spend your early spring in the milder elevations and easier walking of Northern Virginia.
The other advantage is you get to enjoy both southern VA and the smokies in nicer weather in late spring when many agree they are quite stunning.
On the flipside... you get to hike into fall in the northwoods when it is at it's most stunning.

Nothing against the middle of the trail, as it has it's beauty as well... but seasonally speaking you'll get to see it 'twice' if you do that SOBO/NOBO combination regardless.

Springer back up to Harpers Ferry is the easier 'commute' as well as there are many options to negotiate that trip.

Don't discount the value of meeting folks on the AT, or hitting town from time to time.
If you already live deep off the grid in Ontario... you got that at home.
A large part of the appeal of the AT is it's very unique position as a trail that weaves in and out of dozens of cultures and slices of Americana.
Even if that doesn't have a ton of value to you... meeting good people during open and honest moments in their life is it's own experience as well.
Those left by the time you rejoin the north bound hikers are going to be good folks... and even if not... they will be spread out regardless.

There are plenty of good places to be alone. There are places with more stunning beauty per mile to see, or deep nature to explore. Better trails really if all you want is a good backpacking trip.
There is only one Appalachian Trail, be open and willing to accept all that comes with it and don't worry too much about what you read online.

07-27-2018, 15:24
Yes, it will feel less exciting finishing at the arches at Amicalola. Lets face it, Springer does not offer that "Rocky Balboa" moment like Baxter Peak. This poem calls for an early Spring departure in Georgia with some snow in the Smokey's then chasing Spring and Summer up the backbone of the Appalachians. The excitement builds as you enter Fall in New England then the White's followed by the hundred mile wilderness ending at Baxter Peak. It would be like having the death of soprano in the first act of the opera.

07-27-2018, 17:17
My comment about being off grid probably doesn’t mean much without some context.
To start a thru NOBO, I had originally planned for mid March. Hubby and I had thought about driving to Georgia. For him, it’d be a dream because he’d tour a few states watching nascar. He’s into that.
But, being off grid, we’d have to drink all our lines, and somehow dispose of 300 jars of canned food ie, the kind in mason jars. March sees -30 to -40..all the food would go to waste.

Doing a FF, he’d be able to drive me, no worry about stuff freezing late April...and he’d still the car watching thing.

I guess my real question, because for me, this is my first major hike, will I feel a letdown doing a FF vs. A thru? I really don’t want to be stuck in the bubble. Watched and read many hikers attempts this year...overcrowded shelters, hostels etc.

I hadn’t considered HF SOBO, then HF NOBO. Hmmmm,. Awaiting the 2018 AWOL flip flop set.

07-27-2018, 18:04
I'm planning a flipflop starting north in midVirginia in 2020, and have been practicing with overnights. From discussions with a number of thru hikers I've met on the trail over a number of years, and with my son who did SOBO, the main negative may be not meeting as many thru hikers on the way and sharing stories/hiking with them, or this can be viewed as a bonus if you consider 'the bubble' and prefer more solitude. It reduces trail stress by distributing hikers more evenly, and you define your own goals. There's a really creative recent thread from someone who graphically mapped hiker density over time from trail journals, take a look at that and see how you might fit in. For those who view every step in a long hike as important as the 'end', the idea of getting overly concerned about where you finish is probably not an issue.

The Kisco Kid
07-27-2018, 19:29
Why don't you just start from Springer in late April? That way your husband can drive you down and do his thing. That gives you 5 1/2 months to finish (with a May 1st start date.) And if you can't finish by October 15th. You can...wait for it...flip flop to Katahdin and hike back.

07-28-2018, 08:43
BowGal - have you read the Mona Lisa Flip Flop blog (http://www.atctrailstore.org/blog/mona-lisa-flip-flop/)?

Another factor to consider starting late April / early May is the worry about reaching Katahdin on time -- and whether you are making fast enough time -- can weigh on you practically from the beginning. The median time for a woman in her 50s to complete a thru-hike is about 182 days.

Of course, if you keep your approach flexible at the outset and know that you may need to flip that you can eliminate that.

Another approach to gain more time and have a more relaxed pace to reach Katahdin is doing a "leapfrog." Skip over the hot, humid mid-Atlantic in summer and jump 425 miles north up to Pawling, NY (easy public transportation by train between Harpers Ferry and there) and continue northbound to Katahdin.

Captain Panda
07-28-2018, 11:43
I ditto the weather advantages of a Flip Flop; especially missing the brutal summer heat and humidity in the Mid Atlantic, and the unpredictable fall cold of the Whites, Maine, and particularly Katadin.
Although you will be somewhat ahead of the largest bubbles, there will be many hikers you that will encounter. For me, the people that you meet on the trail is what makes the AT special. Hiking by oneself is empowering and most of the days you will walk alone; but sharing the experience and making friends with other like minded individuals at campsites and trail towns shouldn't be discounted. Doing a Flip Flop from HF will then give you the best of both worlds; because if you then do the Flop SOBO from HF to Springer, you won't encounter many hikers at all; which should satisfy your desire for solitude. Just be aware that you will be walking through the Southern Appalachians during hunting season.

07-29-2018, 06:53
Thank you so much everyone for the thoughtful suggestions. I appreciate all the suggestions. Lots to think about.


07-29-2018, 09:49
Think about just hiking from HF to Katahdin. For many, that's more then enough of a hike. You can get to HF easy enough by train or bus and your hubby could drive out to get you in Maine, since that's not too bad a drive from Ontario. Of course, at that point you can decide if you really want to flip south and keep going.