View Full Version : Planning to section hike

SGT Rock
09-15-2002, 18:44
I'm planning a section hike of the AT next summer. I am planning to drop my car off at Hikers Welcome Hostle in Glencliff and get a shuttle to somewhere on the trail and walk back.

My vacation time next year should be about 21 June - 6 July. It will take me at least 2 days to drive there, and of couse two to drive back. So given a swing day and driving time, I should have about 10 real hiking days. Last summer I did the Nantahalas and could make 16 miles per day when needed.

So, my options it seems are these:
1. Sobo:
Go north to around Grafton Notch and walk south. Mileage would be about 14.8 miles per day with a high day of 17.4 miles.

a. Benifits:
I get to see the Whites and Mahoosuc Notch. Also given the time frame, I may get to travel with some of the Sobo thru-hikers.

b. Drawbacks:
Cost for all the tent sites and shelters. WF's book also says the terrain is rough, so adjust your mileage expectations.

c. Questions:
For those that have hiked the area, are you only limited to the listed shelters and camp sites in the Whites? If I can do 14-16 mile days before getting my trail legs in the Nantahalas, can I expect the same mileage?
2. Nobo:
Go south to Manchester Center and walk north. Mileage average would be about 15.0 with a high day of 17.0 miles.

a. Benifits:
I would get to see the Green Mountains and pat of the Long Trail.

b. Drawbacks:
I'm not sure.

c. Questions:
If I can do 14-16 mile days before getting my trail legs in the Nantahalas, can I expect the same mileage?
Honestly I prefer the Sobo, but the Nobo looks a little more realistic. Please help!

09-15-2002, 20:17
I have never hiked South of Gorham N.H. as of yet. But I have hiked from Gorham and just about all of Maine. I have been told by other hikers that Mahoosuc Range is one of the toughest parts of the AT. I will confess that I thought it was pretty tough. But the views were awesome. Mahoosuc Notch was not as tough as everyone says though. I thought it was more fun then tough. Personally I would leave my car in Glencliff and head to Grafton Notch and hike South. That way you will hit the Mahoosucs and the Presidentials. You will get some great views.

1. You will have to pay for your stays in the Presidentials at shelters so I have been told. You may even need reservations.
2. You might need to worry about where you can pitch your hammock in the Presidentials. You will have to be down below tree line before dark.
3. The black flies will be start coming out about the end of June. But seeing that you will be up in the altitudes 95% of the time you should not have a problem.

Let me know if you need any shuttle help getting to Grafton Notch if this all falls into play for you. I will see what I can do. Right now it is to far in advance.

09-15-2002, 22:10
Hi Sgt Rock,

Being from NH, I guesss I am a bit biased :) , but I think that 14 miles a day through the Whites will give you a pretty good beating. I think you will find it much more difficult than the hikking you did in the south. Just my opinion, defintley not impossible, but I would expect some rough going...

That said, there is something to say for getting to see the Prezzies, There are plenty of places to camp where the cost is not extensive, you certainly don't have to stay at the huts (but you can work-for-stay at most of them). You don't have to pay at the shelters listed below (going SOBO), according to Wingfoot and my exeprience:

Full Goose Shelter
Carlo Col Shelter
Gentian pond Campsite
Trident COl tentsite
Rattle River Shelter
Carter Notch Hut (you do have to pay here, but the fee is significantly reduced becuase it is a self-serve hut)
Osgood Tentsite
(there are two cheap RMC cabins that are run for $8 bucks a night about a mile from Thunderstorm Junction on Mt Adams, and are VERY highly reccommended (by me) )
Eliza Brook Shelter
Beaver brook Shelter
Jeffers Brook Shelter

granted, you will ahve to cough up a bit of cash at a few through the Presidentials, if you don't work-for stay, but you can take heart in knowing that it is going to pay for the big fancy AMC office down on Beacon Hill, in Boston ;)

It isn't accurate that you HAVE to be below treeline before dark (this being the Live-Free- or- Die state, they impose no such restrictions) but it is defintely a good idea. You will run into some big day-hiker type crowds at this time of year as well, and the bugs (black-flies) will be around their peak.

On the flipside, the hike from Manchester Center, NOBO is a beautful hike, you do get some decent climbs with good views, and you get to see a good section of the Long Trail (inspiring you, most likely, to add it to your list of "hikes to do"), and your mileage expectations are reasonable for that section.

Again, just my opinions, but I hope they help!:)

09-16-2002, 00:56
Maybe I worded it wrong in my reply. I did not mean to say you had to be below tree line by dark. I meant it to be interpited to say that if you want to pitch your hammock it would be a good idea to be below tree line by dark so you will not have to look for a place with a flashlight. But then again that is common sense.

Also a quick note. Last year I did 12 mile days from Gorham accross the Mahoosucs Range to Grafton Notch. But I was 42 years old and a little on the heavy side and not in the best of shape. I am sure you can do a lot better than I did. I can not speek for how tough the presidentials are though. I have heard from other thru-hikers that I ran into that they are easier than the Mahoosucs.

09-16-2002, 03:44
The Mahoosuc Notch is most definately easier than folks report it to be. If you're sure of foot and not over burdened it's merely a walk through a beautiful rock valley. I did it in a very heavy rain and still enjoyed it.
The stretch from there to Gorham is a roller coaster. I waited until noon to allow my clothes and gear to dry out before starting after the Notch. It was clear blue skies and birds singing until about 1:30pm when the thunder clouds rolled in. I ended up going all the way to Gorham, approximately 21 miles from noon to 6 pm, because the shelter 6 or 8 miles North of Gorham was already full. Still had enough energy to clean up, wash clothes and walk to the pizza joint for a pie and beer.
I didn't carry maps or a guide book so shelter names and exact distances escape me.
Good luck with your section Rock, that entire area is spectacular.

09-16-2002, 06:03
Sgt. Rock,

I would do the SOBO plan, and I do think you will be able to accomplish the mileages. As has been stated the stretch from Grafton Notch to Gorham is a roller coaster and is somewhat difficult and slower, however, I do not think you would have any trouble doing the mileage and possilby more once you are south of Gorham. The Presidentials are difficult at times but not nearly as bad as I expected. The Franconia Ridge is beautiful and at least to me was not difficult, of course with the views and sights I was not thinking too much about my legs and feet at the time.

At any rate, I think you will love the Southbound hike and I too plan on doing it in the near future with my son. I found it to be so much different than hiking in the south and also a different kind of beauty that I was not accustomed to seeing. I think you will like that particular section more than the northbound section.

As for the cost of camping and shelters, it is definately a sore spot for most thru-hikers and I will try to refrain from saying my true feelings about it and the AMC. If it were later in the year and you met the Northbound thru-hikers, they are very quick to express their thoughts and feelings since they have hiked 1700 miles without paying to camp or stay in a shelter. Many if not most of them do "stealth camp" along the way through most of this area and even though many people have an opinion about the pros and cons of doing this, it is very common with the thru-hikers. I only heard of one situation where it actually caused a problem and the hiker decided he wanted to camp outside the Lake of the Clouds Hut, and was detained and I think fined for his behavior.

I do think you would enjoy the SOBO hike and I also believe that even though it will be difficult, I believe you can do the necessary mileage.

Hope this helps.... Sincerely, Ed

PS. You may want to invest in the ATC maps for this area if you do not have them, since the AT is not marked well and the AMC uses the names of the Trails that were established. Several people I knew did some extra mileages through this area in 99. The AMC were installing new signpost with the AT logo on during this time, but many of the old ones did not have the white blaze or logo so at times it was difficult to determine which trail was the AT.

09-16-2002, 06:59
On my section hikes of CDT I found its much cheaper to fly and rent than to drive. Now with even lower fares its ridiculous. I can get round trip tickets to Albuquerque for as low as 148 dollars from Orlando, Fl. I cant drive there even one way for that. There are about six cheap ticket sites and one, if you join, bestfares.com is cheapest of all. Tell me the airport and I'll help find your cheapest ticket. If you want them all let me know. When you get to closest sizable airport,for wherever you are going, use APO shuttle to Greyhound and do that instead of rent to save even more money. Greyhound isn't much of an option in the smaller towns near trailheads where I have been in the west but they must be more available in the NE.

When you look at drive cost to compare, look at all costs, not just gas, oil, food. You have a per mile amount that we all pay, each mile we drive our car which reflects, cost of vehicle, insurance, maintenance, etc.

Anyway, if it will take you 4 days to drive, you can fly and greyhound in maybe 2, saving time as well as food, lodging, etc. if airport and Greyhound connection(or shuttle) can be made.

I still hope to fly to Atlanta in October, hook up with hacksaw and walk Springer, GA to NC for a couple of weeks and watch the seasons change-which we dont get here. I am not driving and its only about a 700 mile trip one way for me!

Pack your pack, secure it in your GI duffle bag and check it. If you fly, I'll tell you how to store the duffle bag and maybe travel clothes and shaving kit while you hike?

09-16-2002, 07:15
So many choices. All good.

First, least there is any misunderstanding. The USFS requlations clearly state: No camping in the Alpine Zone (where trees are 8 feet tall or less) expect on 2 or more feet of snow. Vegitation is very fragile. So, don't even think about camping above tree line.

Also, work for stay at the huts is available for thru-hikers. Clearly, you are planning a section hike, not a thru-hike.

Time wise, Glencliff to Gorham was 9 days for me. Granted, I dropped my pack frequently to bag many of the side peaks, so that mileage isn't reflected in my AT progress. Gorham to Grafton Notch was another 3 days. Point being, I think that 10 days from Glencliff to Grafton Notch is pushing it too much.

For what's it worth, I took 9 days to go from Manchester Center to Glencliff.

Mahoosic Notch is often called the toughest mile on the AT. I prefer to think of it as the slowest mile on the AT. The bouldering is rather fun, and a competely different from all the other 2,167 miles of the AT, so it's rather fun in a sadistic way. It's a challenge.

Now, many people think that you need to pay pay pay in order to do the White Mountains. Certainly, that is one option. And the huts are great, don't get me wrong. But, if you want to, and if you look carefully, there are several good places to stealth camp along the way. It may require going down off the ridge in once or twice, but I bet that I could get through the Whites without paying a dime. (I know of established stealth sites near Galehead Hut, Zealand Hut, and Carter Notch Hut for example.)

The USFS does restrict where you can camp. The big no no is camping and fires within 1/4 mile or any hut, shelter, tent platform, cabin, picnic area, and campgound. No camping and fires within 1/4 mile of any trailhead. No camping within 1/4 miles of the popular bodies of water. No camping within 1/4 mile of many roads.

Shuttlers for hikers include not only Hikers Welcome in Glencliff but also Bruce at Hikers Paradice in Gorham. PS, after 9 days in the Whites, I was ready for a low mileage day and some time in Gorham. If you do the Whites next summer, then suggest that you save the Mahoosics for anther trip.

Incidentally, another trip option would be to start in Gorham and go about 10 days into Maine, perhaps to Stratton.

All good hikes. However, the Whites are a very popular destination for a good reason. So, if you take a poll, I'd vote for the Whites, but the Long Trail would be a close second.

SGT Rock
09-16-2002, 09:32
So far what I got is this, correct me if I'm wrong.

It's cheaper to fly (although to Lebanon from Alexandria, LA was $450) and rent. I need to do some searching on that. I've come to thje conclusion that driving for 30 hours isn't worth it. If I have to end up driving, I'll go to NC instead.

Mahoosic Notch is nice but ain't as bad as advertised. Just slow.

The Whites are great. Just can't camp above tree line, within 1/4 mile of a shelter or hut, and stealth camping can be done as long as you abide by fire restrictions. I don't like paying extra just to hang a hammock. I'm already an ATC member, give an extra $120 a year, and pay my federal taxes.

I intend to go to Glencliff to meet Jonathan McCue face to face, to me this is the main reason to go north instead of south. I figured that Hiker's Welcom Hostel would make a good base for me while doing the section.

My mileage expectations may be over blown, but if I cut back or give myself more days (more days prefered) then I could be a little more realistic. I realy would like to at least hike part of Maine. The third option is to hike my tail off locally and be in shape. I did a 17 mile day just last week without any train up and didn't hurt or feel bad, granted it was a flat LA/TX trail, but I figured after a few 20 mile Louisiana Hiking days I could be ready. I intend to have a wet pack weight of 28.75 pounds.

I've also heard the Whites are cold in June, should I bring my winter stuff?

09-16-2002, 10:39
Hate to ask but what state is Lebanon in? $450 seems high in today's market, or even last years market. I can go round trip to madrid, Spain for less that that!
Training-do so with your pack but not with the 29 pounds you intend to carry. Fill it with 40 plus pounds-heavy- are so to train and when you start with just 29 it will be easier!

09-16-2002, 11:06
Rock, help me out.
Alexandria, La (AEX)
Alexandria, La (ESF)
Lebanon Hanover, NH (LEB)

From which and to LEB; is that correct.
Regardless, give me some alternative airports within 100 miles of Alexandria and Lebanon hanover, NH.

You couldnt come up with some reason to get someone to cut you some travel orders on MAC or MAT, I guess, around about that time?

09-16-2002, 13:45
Check these quick prices if you go within next few months. For Jun-Jul travel, we are shopping to soon; need to get them a little closer to date, or watch for the deals or airline pricing errors and jump on it. Anyway:

New Orleans to Manchester, NH for 258.00-332.00
with restrictions:
Baton Rouge to Boston 160.00
New Orleans to Hartford, CT for 156.00
New Orleans to Providence, RI 160.00
New Orleans to Boston 157.00

So, look to pay around $200 RT for your ticket when time comes. You could fly and rent a cheap unlim mi vehicle for cheaper than driving but I think you should explore Greyhound and shuttle-cheaper and more adventurous


From Alexandria, LA
LaFayette, LA - 84.0 miles
Baton Rouge, LA - 99.0 miles
New Orleans, LA - 165.0 miles
Houston, TX - 190.0 miles

To Manchester, NH
Boston, MA - 45.0 miles
Providence, RI - 82.0 miles
Hartford, CT - 92.0 miles
Albany, NY - 121.0 miles

To get the better tickets your bride is going to have to drive you one of the larger airports.

Good Luck!

SGT Rock
09-16-2002, 16:40
I was sort of thinking the same thing. The closest big city to here is actually Huston.Other places that might be possible are Lake Charles or Shreveport.

Hammock Hanger
09-16-2002, 17:34
The hike north thru the Green Mts is very pretty. Hike terrain is very similar to the Natahalas. Vermont was one of my favorite states. Maybe just a tad easier or was that I was in better shape??? HH

09-17-2002, 07:16
I have done many trips along the Long Trail over the years.

I definately think that the Natahalas was tougher than the southern section of the Long Trail.

09-25-2002, 09:11

Another consideration when doing the Prezzies is the possibility of needing an extra day or 2 to wait out bad weather before doing the ridge. You'll be above timberline for most of a day. Winds can be above 70 mph with visibility a few feet. That's no place to be then, no matter how good of a hiker you are. I've hiked the Whites for many years, and there are some days when one just shouldn't be above timberline. Any comments from thru-hikers? Is it common to have weather delays?

09-25-2002, 18:39
I concur that there are some days when it can be hazardous to your health to try to do the 2 main ridge walks in the Whites (The Franconia Ridge and the Presidential Ridge from Mizpah to past Mt. Madison). After all people die up there every month of the year.

However, I also suspect that during mid summer, those days are infrequent. There are more of a risk during the shoulder seasons. So, common sense should tell you when to hike and when not to hike. If the forecast calls for nasty weather, then believe it, and lay over for a day.

09-25-2002, 18:55

Weather in the Whites is serious. Last year in July, a hiker came into Galehead while I was there suffering from the early stages of hypothermia. And it really wasn't that cold out. It was a damp and misting day, and apparently he got chilled but good.

For another account, read the thead about Pete "Harley," a thru-hiker who recently died near Madison in the Whites. It's posted at www.trailforums.com.

SGT Rock
09-25-2002, 19:01
Actually I was just reading that. It brought up a thought about SOBO thru-hiking. I've been planning a NOBO starting March, and know I should hold on to winter gear until Pearisburg and get it back about Glencliff. But for a SOBO starting in June, where does he loose and pick up winter gear? Is is also Glencliff and Pearisburg?

09-26-2002, 07:59
Well, let's take a look at this. Let's assume that Glencliff is a good month, say 35 days from Katahdin. Now, the recommended start date at Katahdin is early July, because of the bugs and high water. So that puts you at Glencliff in early August. With a early June start, you will be at Glencliff in mid July. So, I'd say that Glencliff or Hanover is a good place to change out gear. Actually, with a June or early July start, you probably don't need winter gear for Maine. Pick it up in Gorham, return it in Glencliff.

On the southern end, assume that the average hiker has at least 6 weeks left. If the average thru-hike is 5 1/2 months, then he would have been out for 4 months. With a June start, it's now October. Probably a good time to get some warmer gear.