View Full Version : Trail logistics

01-23-2019, 19:31
I am planning on meeting up with a friend in Harper's Ferry to attend the Flip Flop Festival April 27-28th, and then start our hike North on the AT. My friend is planning to hike on thru to Maine (jealous!), but I only have 3 weeks that I can commit to this adventure. That means I need to try to get a general idea of where on the trail I might be at the end of a 3 week period so that I can figure out where to set up some sort of transportation from my ending point back to Austin, TX. I am 58 and in good shape, but this is my first serious backpacking hike hauling all my gear. Any suggestions on how to go about estimating a stopping point?

Appreciate your advice...

Gambit McCrae
01-23-2019, 20:13
Pa/jersey border is a good guess at delaware water gap. From there you can shuttle into newark and fly home.
Contact george lightcap for shuttle

01-23-2019, 20:22
Three weeks might be cutting it close to get to the water gap, but it's do-able if you don't dally. If you have to take a few days out for transportation back and forth, that cuts into the hikeing time making it even tighter. But you should be able to get close and use a shuttle if you have to.

Captain Panda
01-23-2019, 22:05
Being in good shape, and being in hiker shape are two entirely different things; especially if you have never backpacked with a full load. It takes most thru hikers awhile to build up to decent daily mileage. If you push yourself too hard out of HF; it's likely that you will sustain an injury, have a rotten experience, and may not make the entire 3 week journey. People frequently hurt themselves early in their hikes because of the 3 too's (too heavy, too fast, too long).The AT is no joke; and it's a lot more than a walk in the woods. My advise is to take it easy from the start, enjoy yourself, and walk at a reasonable pace until you have to return home. When you get close to the end of your allotted time; plan to exit the AT at a trail town, or shuttle to a nearby town. As crazy as it seems, if available, find an Enterprise location, rent a car, and drive to either Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Allentown, or NYC for your return to Austin. Even with the one way charge, it's probably cheaper than a long distance shuttle (you will probably get ripped off), they have a hiker rate, and it allows you to travel on your schedule. Good luck!!!

01-24-2019, 07:54
For planning purposes, I will share my experience...before my first time on the AT, i trained months in advance and was quite capable of doing 18 miles a day. When I started at Springer, I managed to do 10 mpd. I just wasn't prepared for the elevation changes. Meet a guy from Texas a few years back on a later section hike on the Ga. part of the trail. He was relatively near my age and from Texas. We were somewhere between Springer and Dick's Creek Gap. He was in apparent good shape, claimed to be a triathlete and planned to do 30 mpd (????). He was doing 8-10. I think 8-10 mpd is very common for people who are not accustomed to training in the mountains. Although the part you are doing is one of the "easier" sections of the AT, I think it is a good goal.

I regularly lead groups of teenagers on their first backpacking trips. I usually set up trips that go from 6 to 10 mpd, depending on location and elevation. Inevitably, someone in the group will ask 'why aren't we going further?". If you have never carried a pack on a trail. 8 miles sounds easy. But, I have never had a kid (many of them play varsity sports) on the way home complain that the trip was too short. I think backpacking just uses muscles that may not get trained doing other exercises or activities.

Good luck and enjoy your trip.

Gambit McCrae
01-24-2019, 09:22
All great advice. Take it easy thru the rocky stretches of MD, the state is short but MD was not easy.

01-24-2019, 11:04
Honestly, i doubt you will make it to DWG in three weeks. It is recommended, for the first 100 miles or so, to take it easy as to let your body adjust to the rigor of the trail. It is easy enough to get off the AT regardless of where you are, to any big or medium size town or city. My advice to you is (A) do your research and plan accordingly. The resources (guides, apps, web sites) are vast and excellent and, (B) take one day at a time and see how it goes once on the trail. good luck and enjoy.

01-24-2019, 11:16
Definitely don’t hurt yourself. A less popular tactic would be going with the flow once you are underway. Maybe have a few shuttle drivers on speed dial, allowing you to go your own pace and stop when you want to or have to, without a hard mileage you have to follow. Shoot, does that make any sense? I need more coffee

01-24-2019, 11:17
That would mean that you would need to find shuttle drivers ahead of time

01-24-2019, 11:22
Doing the math shows 270 miles between HF and DWG. Over 21 days that’d be just under 13 miles per day.

That seems too risky, or maybe you need that daily mileage to make you move. Sounds like a ton of fun any way you slice it!!!

01-24-2019, 12:02
Thanks for all your responses. This gives me something to chew on. I don't plan on pushing it and assumed I'd walk around 8 mpd starting out and if I make more than that - yae for me. I want it to be a good experience. If it takes a little longer to get to Delaware Water Gap, that's ok. I can add some time on to the 3 weeks if I need to. My husband is the one who put the time stamp on it (I think the thought of having to cook for himself for 3 weeks is giving him ulcers). I have this vision of missing my turn off and going all the way to Maine (hehe). A girl can dream. One step at a time, right?

Thanks for supplying the link for shuttles!! Very helpful. Any insight on weather conditions in the month of May in the Maryland and Pennsylvania area on the trail? Just trying to figure out my clothing needs. Can't decide if pants/leggings are worth packing, or just shorts. I've been reading the forums, but most of them are geared to longer hikes that will take people into harsher climates at some point. Not so sure about my 3 week stint.


Gambit McCrae
01-24-2019, 12:06
Doing the math shows 270 miles between HF and DWG. Over 21 days that’d be just under 13 miles per day.

That seems too risky, or maybe you need that daily mileage to make you move. Sounds like a ton of fun any way you slice it!!!

We can all agree everyone's daily mileage is different. No brainer there. For what its worth when I plan a trip I plan for 12-13 miles a day knowing that I will do a lot of 19's, 20's and a 25 or two. But I always try and leave a "Plan B" extra miles for the trip action.

Example: 2018 I planned for 207 miles or so from Salisbury, CT south to DWG. We got to water gap 3 days early and so we initiated plan B of continuing on to Palmerton, PA over the next 2 days. Worked out well but required good communication with shuttle driver who was just excited we were getting in extra miles.

With the southern 90 miles of PA being what I would consider to be the easiest walking on the AT, I think the 13 a day is manageable for someone that is physically fit. Even if they are not hiker fit.

01-24-2019, 12:56
Do you need to set up shuttles ahead of time, or can you contact them a day or so out?


01-24-2019, 12:59
Do you need to set up shuttles ahead of time, or can you contact them a day or so out?


set them up in advance....

with day of----you are chancing that they are not busy doing other shuttles or have other obligations.....

01-24-2019, 13:28
In 2017, I started at Harpers Ferry on September 15. I finished at Wind Gap on October 2. I had at least one zero day and one nero day in that time. Delaware Water Gap is only another 15 miles from Wind Gap. I'm not a particularly fast hiker, so you could probably equal my time if not beat it. I think DWG is definitely doable.

John “The Mechanical Man” Stempa does shuttles in that area. A shuttle from DWG to Allentown where Allegiant is might be pricey, but it's an option. John's cell phone and email are 610-428-1165 [email protected]

01-24-2019, 13:49
Harper's Ferry to DWG took exactly 21 hiking days for me, over several different section hikes and a couple day hikes. I'm not exactly at the peak of physical fitness. Don't think I ever had "trail legs" for any of it. And many of those days were half days due to transportation to or from the trail. I think three weeks is a reasonable estimate for someone who enjoys hiking and is in decent shape.

01-24-2019, 15:20
If your schedule is flexible, you should definitively try to push to DWG. From DWG, you have daily buses, a few times a day, to NYC. There, you have three airports to chose from, but I would advised you to avoid La Guardia, probably one of the worst airports in the country. As for shuttles, you still will be ahead of the big bubbles, so I don't think you will have a problem with availability. Best is to call them and make your arrangements.

01-24-2019, 15:39
Good planning is the key to a successful hiking. That's my motto. But don't over plan, leave place for serendipity. That's part of the magic.

01-24-2019, 16:27
At age 63 I did HF to DWG in 23 days, with one zero and two Nero's (short mile days). The first week the distances were 10 to 13 miles a day, basically the distance between shelters. There are a few places where you have little choice but to do 18 miles between shelters.

I lost 17 pounds by the time I got to DWG, so I started a little on the heavy side. The weather in NH wasn't great for getting into shape pre-hike, so I was a little on the soft side. OTOH, I have extensive experience and can transition from home to trail with little effort.

It can be quite chilly and rainy in May. The year I did it (2016) it rained/drizzled for a solid 2 weeks with little let up. It was also a very wet spring last year. Coming from Texas, your probably not used to being out in 50 degree rain for days.

Yes, you need long pants and some warm clothes, and a good rain jacket. You'll also need sun screen as the trees haven't quite leafed out yet so if the sun is out, you can get burnt. Wide brim hat for rain or sun is good to have.

01-24-2019, 17:46
Well, I can give you a benchmark based on a local trail comparison. Have you hiked Goodwater loop around Lake Georgetown? That's where I did most of my training prior to my 1st section hike and I was able to hike 12-14 miles a day on that fairly comfortably and maintained an average pace a bit over 2 mph. I had expected to move a bit slower on the AT but found I was overly optimistic: on the AT I found my average pace dropped down to more like a 1.25 mph average (including breaks.) I was able to do 11 - 13 miles per day but it was fairly long hiking days and I was pretty beat up at the end of the day. That seemed like a pretty typical pace to the other section hikers I was meeting. My next section hike was a lot better - there's a pretty steep learning curve to long distance hiking IMPO. Hopefully that helps a little.

02-02-2019, 13:52
...It is easy enough to get off the AT regardless of where you are, to any big or medium size town or city. My advice to you is (A) do your research and plan accordingly. The resources (guides, apps, web sites) are vast and excellent ...

Check this guide out. I have one and it is the best AT reference I have ever seen. All the hard work, (except the walking! :)), has been done for you: