View Full Version : my first AT extended hike

04-24-2009, 07:04
Im curious if this seems like a feasible itinerary. Im 22 years old, in good shape, and reasonably determined, however I do like to walk slow and smell the roses on occasion. I have it starting off a little slower so i can get used to being on the trail and then it ramps up from there. Am i moving too fast, should i start farther up?

day 0 - Spring mt - Starting beginning of May
day 3 - Neels Gap - 30 Miles
day 6 - Dick's Creek - 37 Miles - stay in town
day 11 - NOC - 68 Miles
day 13 - Fontana dam - 28 Miles
day 19 - enter Pisgah forest - 31 Miles
day 21 - Hot Springs - 30 Miles - end

04-24-2009, 07:49
270 miles in 21 days is almost 13 miles a day. That is not slow, about average for a long distance hike. Certainly doable. Some days you can do more other days less depending not only on the terrain, but also your spirits, and the weather. One factor is your schedule of re-supply places. Try to keep them short, usually 5 days, and as close to the trail as possible. Mailing to post offices will be expensive for a thru-hike, but more feasible for section hiking. Several hostels, sometimes motels will accept packages. Check the Handbooks. If no places are close (Northern GA), carry ten days worth to avoid detours to towns.
On a long hike, your body will let you know how you are doing, but your mind can be a factor, too. When you start to tire or slow down at the end of the day. Try to pick up the pace, hike faster! Other days, you might just pack it in before your original goal. That is why it is important to carry a lightweight shelter, and you will not be dependent on always "getting to the next shelter". Avoid thinking about the total miles you have to go. Think of your hike as a series of five day hikes, for example.

In short my advice is this: Be aware that there will be days that you will wonder what the heck you are doing hiking. That is normal. Let the moments pass. Several days in a row without the sun can do it for me, but just remember, the sun will shine someday. But, often it is not the weather that gets you down. Just life.

One thru-hiker stopped in her tracks, before the halfway point. Said she could not hike any more. She sat down and wept. 15 minutes later she was back on her feet, and eventually made it to Maine. Another guy thought he was through, but after he realized he had just hiked seven miles to get off the trail, he hiked back. Hikers leave the trail for all variety of reasons. Have they failed? Of course not. The trail will still be there for other days.

"Hike your own hike" is over used, trite, but it really is true!

It is great you have the time. Go for it!

04-24-2009, 08:10
Just keep in mind that being fit and trail fit are two very different things.

There isn't much that can prepare you physically for hiking with a pack on other than hiking with a pack on.

The best substitute I have found is stairs, working a 120 step staircase for an hour, 4 days per week, can help quite a bit.

04-24-2009, 13:16
Oh this i do realize. My last solo hike started with 2 miles strait up a mountain, that night i was questioning what i was doing there. The next couple day i took it easy, but i soon built up to making it 18 miles in one day by the end of the week. When i took my pack off twards the end i felt like i had super powers (due to the obscene weight of the pack i guess). My only issue was that my back hurt from the over weight pack that wasnt designed to carry that much. Thus ive been doing exercises to strengthen my back and sholders (back raises, shrugs, ect) and ive significantly lightened my load.

04-24-2009, 14:48
I have seen hikers start on the AT with 60 lbs., 40 lbs, 14 lbs. packs. The heavier your pack the more strain you will put on your body. It is easy to put things in your pack that you "think you might use" or fit into the "just in case" category. Be very aware of the weight of every item in your pack. Omit useless or extra gear. A few days north of Springer (30 mi.)you will pass only a few feet from Mountain Crossings Outfitters at Walasi-Y Center, in Neels Gap. They have a large scale to weigh your pack and you can arrange to have any gear you no longer want to carry mailed home.

04-24-2009, 15:02
I would add on day of contigency time if you are on a schedule. Hopefully your end date is not fixed. I would try not to plan on sticking tightly to a schedule, but rather play it by ear, and if you don't make a destination, don't stress about it.

Most people (including us) went in to Franklin between Dick's Creek and NOC. It's nice to not carry so much food if you resupply there. Just a thought. I also suggest trying out a Hostel for the experience.


04-24-2009, 19:47
Just take it easy in the Stecoahs north of NOC. My least fav section on my knees and psyche.

04-24-2009, 21:47
Most of my "extended hikes" I have averaged 13 miles a day (not planned but always seems to work out that way). That's a comfortable, non-life sucking pace. I remember the apprehension leading up to my first extended hike after doing a lot of 3-5 day stuff. My concern was nutrition. In those days ('70s) I didn't have the luxury of the Internet to gather info and advice. Browse the food forum and you'll get lots of good advice on sustainable nutrition-centric menus.

Looking at your itinerary, 2 days from NOC to Fontana is pretty aggressive. I just finished a AT-Bartram loop hike and most 'thru hikers' were stopping at Sassafras Gap, doing just 6.8 miles out of NOC. The Jump Up kicks butt! The entire 28 mile section is pretty tough. Might want to add a day there.

04-24-2009, 21:51
Very doable.

However, you should be aware that Fontana Dam to Pisqah NF is a little over 70 miles.

The estimate of an average of 13 miles a day is still accurate.

You can resupply once you leave the Smokies 3 miles north at Standing Bear Farm and Hostel.

Christus Cowboy
04-25-2009, 08:24
Just keep in mind that being fit and trail fit are two very different things.........

This is a good point here.... 13 miles a day is doable but don't underestimate the terrain in some parts of this itinerary. I just got back from a 54 miler and the run from the NOC to Sassafras Gap kicked my butt... Of course I'm twice your age but when we got to the Sassafras Gap shelter we ran into several thrus who started at the NOC like we did, already had their trail legs and still chose to stop after 7 miles of that stretch....

04-25-2009, 09:00
Since it is a section and not a thru, you don't have to worry about the trail legs thing as much. Most thru's start out slow, as I did, knowing we had 5-6 months in front of us and knew now was the time to adjust. 13 miles a day in the terrain between Springer and Hot Springs is quite feasible, as long as you're persistent. You won't have the luxury of sleeping in, which is the cost on most long distance hikes.

04-26-2009, 00:36
I was doing about 7 to 10 miles a day in the same area, not to mention it will be real hard not to spend a day at the Hostile on 40. Just the thought of hot pizza will get ya every time lol

04-26-2009, 03:34
It's been mentioned a few times already but I would add that the section of trail between the Nantahala River and Newfound Gap in the Smokies, a distance of about 70 miles, is in my opinion the hardest section south of New Hampshire.

04-26-2009, 23:40
Personally I would throw away the itinerary - it's a hassle and greatly detracts from the freedom and enjoyment of a distance hike. All the numbers on this thread make my head hurt. :-)

Why not just start at Springer, hike for two weeks, and then see where you're at and plan your escape back to civilization from there.

To answer your question - your plan surely looks doable, though a little on the fast side. It's always best to be conservative when plotting out your mileage.