View Full Version : Mileage Planning and When to Start

The Weasel
09-04-2002, 14:11
Thoughts about how to plan daily mileages and the best time to start a thru hike are welcome...as are questions.

The Weasel
GA->ME '00-02-and-continuing!

"Well a promise made, is a debt unpaid, and the Trail has its own stern code." -- Robert Service

Hammock Hanger
09-04-2002, 17:45
Starting: One you need to plan on a 6 month trip. Yes it can be done in less but 6 gives you a little play time.

If you start in Jan-Mar you WILL have some very cold weather and a good chance for snow. There will be very few other hikers, therefore less company while on the trail. Lots of the hostels and other forms of trail support in towns do not open until April-May. So you won't get as much support there either.

If you leave in Apr-May you will be in prime hiking time. This means LOTS of other hikers, competition for shelter and campsites. Hostels, etc are normally open. Still will get some cold weather in the south with a possible snow.

If you start Jun or later it is less likely that you will make Maine before the closing date of Oct 15. You will encounter less thru-hikers, but lots of summer camps, weekenders, and sectioners.

When I set out on my thru hike I had 1000s of hiking miles behind me. In that was having hiked GA to Fontana 3 times. So I had a good idea of what to expect right out the gate. I planned on 8 mile days to start. Get my body into what my mind and heart had decided to do. By day 4 I already felt comfortable with 12 miles and was quickly up to 15. I pretty much stayed between 12-15 most of the way to Damascus. This was exactly what I had planned. You will find others who blow out of the gate and are off the trail by Neels Gap or Rainbow Springs with stress injuries. (If you are having a bad day,mentally or physically, slow down or stop. -- If you overdo too soon you will NEVER get to Katahdin!)

After Damascus I was in great shape and the terrain settles a little. Here is where I planned to strat putting in more miles. I began to average 17-25. Again this was the original plan.

I never hiked over 25 a day. I was on the trail to enjoy the trail more then I was to get to Maine. I didn't want to get to Maine and say now I have to re-do it because I missed so much. My plan was to stop and smell the roses. (For a while I seemed to forget that and was actually hiking by great spots all to get in more miles!!! -- I changed that real fast.)

In short: Plan the time of year that best suits your style or needs. Start with moderate milage and work up to more as the body and the terrain warrant it. MAINLY: Enjoy it. :D HH

SGT Rock
09-04-2002, 20:30
If you have read my plan at my site, don't take that as a solid plan, it is one of those fantasy exercises for a prospective thru-hiker that has nothing to do in reality. An exercise by a bored hiker with no time to get on the trail on weekend.

But that said, I want to start off with a 5 mile day from the FS 42 parking lot - actually 6 miles or so if you hike to Springer, then turn around and go north. I will stay the first night at Long Creek Falls.

After that, well it is more of a goal to Neels gap of 3 days, then a goal of 10 days to Fontanna, then 7 days across the Smokies, and so on, and so on...

I want to take 6 months, mileage as I feel like it, side trails as I want. I plan to decide as I go, using days until the next re-supply point, then figuring miles per day to make it. I guess tha means i plan to make 10.5 miles per day AVERAGE, but it doesn't really mean anything. My only goal is to enjoy each day for what it offers and hike until my time is up, even if it means hitting more trails than the AT - isn't the Long Trail up there too?;)

Hammock Hanger
09-04-2002, 20:39
I think to do the AT slow over the course of a year, taking in all the side trips would be the ideal adventure. Unfortunately, money, weather and family obligations make that a bit impossible. However, it woud be interesting. :rolleyes: HH

09-05-2002, 09:33
Having never made it to Katahdin, take this with a grain of salt. This is also my first post to the forum, having been away all summer. On May 1 of this year I set off from Springer with the goal of hiking to Damascus, which I did on May 28th, a few days earlier than I had planned. I met lots of thruhikers, section hikers, and weekend warriors and they all had lots of different goals and plans. The one thing that seemed consistent across the thruhikers was that they were confident in their abilities to do the physical part of the trip. I had planned to keep the mileage on the low side at the start, but the terrain was easier than I thought it would be and so I pushed a little faster. After Hot Springs I developed rather painful shin splints, but nothing so bad as to lower mileage each day. It just took a bit longer. By Fontana, 20+ mile days were the norm, which would get me into a shelter by 6 and
allow me time during the day to linger at various spots. It didn't allow me to take the 3 hour lunch break - nap on some rocky outcropping with a spectacular view.

It seems to me that a complete thruhike is more of a mental than a physical challenge. After all, we are just talking about walking here. Sometimes you have to walk uphill, but even that isn't so bad. You just take your time; no races, afterall. Spending five months away from ones family and normal life is a more significant strain. Being cold, dirty, and bruised isn't so much of a physical problem as it is a mental one. Being dirty or cold doesn't hurt you much in the body (unless, of course, it is of the extreme variety). It does wear you down mentally.

Next summer I am seriously thinking about going from Damascus to Katahdin. The earliest I can leave is May 12, I think, and I can hike until late August. My main worry is in losing interest. After a while, it is easy for me to become so familiar with something that it ceases to hold my interest. If such a thing happens, I'll be off the trail by Harper's Ferry. But, I'll be back the year after that.