View Full Version : Early start vs. late finish

12-15-2003, 13:10
Just looking for some varied opinions...
What are some of the +'s and -'s of starting from Springer in early spring verses finishing at Katahdin late in the fall. How do the leafless views early on in the south compare to the fall colors of the north? I don't mind cold weather hiking so both an early start or a late finish work out for me...but I don't want to do a flip-flop.

Blue Jay
12-15-2003, 13:34
I like a late start. More flowers in the south, more leaf color in the north. Leave time at the end in case you have to wait out storms on the Big K (like this year).

12-15-2003, 13:47
Spring in southern Appalachia is a really special time. Late April and early May are prime time and early starters miss this. Early (or even mid) March is not so nice (of course, this depends on the year), with a lot of brown land and rain. The weather is pretty stable and pleasant during late April and May and the heat has not yet come to the land. Mountain laurel seems to peak in mid-late May and the rhododendron in late May and early June. Flame azalea is dense, fragrant, and spectacular in mid-late May. Southern Appalachia is heavy with these plants and early starters miss these things (although they may get some of it in Virginia). One last thing to think about is wild food: Mushrooms and
ramps can be found along the trail in late April and May in southern Appalachia and provide a nice boost to otherwise boring trailfood.

12-15-2003, 14:43
Do both!

I left on March 31 and finished Oct 31. A month longer than expected, but it gave me the time to do quite a few things around the trail that I am very glad I did. And October in Maine - at least this year, which is all I have to go on - was a sensational mix of colors that we would have missed in September. There are weather issues - a bit of snow and the fording waters were stupefyingly robust - but you will get weather somewhere anyway.

Take as much time as you can. You will be lucky indeed if you get to thru-hike more than once (Jack not withstanding), so squeeze all you can out of it. If you think you have five months, take six. If you have six, take seven. And don't open your bank statements until you get back. I doubt you will regret it at all.

max patch
12-15-2003, 15:05
Maine in the fall is beautiful.

I would shoot for a 10/1 or so finish.

12-15-2003, 17:22
Well, the one benefit of an early start is that there should be plenty of hiking season to reach Katahdin.

If you have been following the posts, you should realize that both ends of the trail are high and remote. So, be prepared for winter conditions if you get and early start and be prepared for winter conditions if you are going to finish late.

That being said, spring in the south, including Virginia, is a great time to be there. And fall in New England is also special.

Sleepy the Arab
12-16-2003, 00:09
I have my cake and eat it too. I did both starting 3/12 and finishing 10/14. I like the fact that I spent time with all four seasons, even if it was only a taste for two of them.