View Full Version : New/old AT hiker seeks advice

08-28-2010, 03:40
I am American, age 59, living in Singapore with my family . I have read many books about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, but never had the time to pursue this dream. Thankfully, I am still employed - so I'll need to do it in pieces.

I have done a lot of day-hiking & walk 3-4 miles/day X 6 days/week albeit on easy terrain. Many years ago, I hiked with groups in New Hampshire & Nepal, but I was not the group leader, nor did I cook. So I cannot claim any camping “skills”. I have never used a camp stove.

My idea is to hike the AT for about a week starting around May 20, 2011. I would fly into a major US airport (maybe Boston or Atlanta) then fly or drive from there to a town near the trail. I will be solo as my wife/daughter are not in to camping.

Which area would you recommend in late May? The Smokies sound good and there appear to be lots of logistical services available from airports etc.. What about New England? The hike up thru Maine looks exciting, but surely too much for a a novice with one week.

In the books & blogs I have read, it seems that most people sleep in the shelters. Doe s that mean you don't carry tents?

In some forums people talk about crowded conditions on the trail & at shelters. However, I did a day hike on the AT in June 2009 near Manchester VT and saw no one for an hour or two. So, please give me your advice. Thanks!

08-28-2010, 12:43
There are so many options along the entire length of the AT that meet your desires. I'm still working my way north from Springer so my knowledge is limited. You can fly into Atlanta and have Josh or Leigh from the Hiker Hostel (www.hikerhostel.com (http://www.hikerhostel.com)) meet you. Stay with them first night and they will shuttle you to FS 42 just north of Springer or where ever you want in GA. You could walk to Neels Gap or Unicoi Gap or up to Dick's Gap...they can meet you and get you back to Atlanta. Just a thought...have fun and cheers.

08-28-2010, 19:29
Thanks for your reply.

08-28-2010, 19:42
Agree with Cowpoke's comments.

In regards your question regarding shelters vs. needing to carry a tent - yes you do need to carry a tent. Shelters may be full when you arrive to camp or you may be ready to stop for the day prior to reaching a shelter.

08-28-2010, 21:16
I would strongly NOT recommend that you hike in New England in May. The blackflies will eat you alive. If you would like to see what it's like to thruhike you might want to hike with some thruhikers who will probably be passing through Damascus, Va. (trail town supreme) at that time. Though I haven't hiked in that area I have visited during Trail Days (check for the time of this festival for next year) and found it a wonderful social, cultural, and equipment information event. I have seen photos of Greyson Highlands, which is north of Damascus and can hardly wait to hike through there on my section hikes (I have completed from Katahdin to the Delaware Water Gap so far, as well as the AT in Georgia and a bit in Penn. and northern Va.). It's pretty much wonderful hiking wherever you choose to go (besides the aforementioned New England Blackfly season).
Happy trails. :)

Rain Man
08-28-2010, 21:30
Soooo many possibilities. I agree that one good one might be to start in Damascus and hike north for a week.

Another would be to start in Tennessee, maybe Carver's Gap, and hike north.

I've hiked from Amicalola to Bland, VA and from Daleville, VA to Front Royal, VA. I'm not sure you can go wrong anywhere I've hiked, and I'm guessing much of the trail is like that. A week anywhere on the AT in May would be nice (except in black fly domain).

You can usually find room in shelters, but definitely carry a tarp, tent, or hammock. No guarantee there will be room in shelters when you arrive, nor that you will even arrive at a shelter by dark (though it'd be rare not to). Better safe than sorry.

I have hiked an entire day on the AT without seeing anyone, but that was off-season. I've stayed alone in shelters and at campsites, too.



08-28-2010, 21:37
Consider the AT segment through Shenandoah NP. For a solo, first timer hike it offers;

Available shuttles at Charlottesville/Waynesboro (south) and Front Royal (north end)
Moderate grades with proximity to roads if you need to bail
Camp stores, lodges, wayside eateries, and developed camp grounds every so often
105 mile mol route that is doable in 10 days or so
Trail traffic with lots of day hikers and in May, some through hikers

1. fly to C'ville , VA or bus there from wash, DC
Local paratransit will take you to the county line, almost to Rockfish Gap or contact one of the local trail angels for that area

2. walk the trail northbound

3. at front Royal, 4:45 am shuttle week days into Wash., DC

This worked quite well for me this past June

08-31-2010, 04:30
Thanks guys. I really appreciate all the insights. I have been corresponding with an outfitter in Tennesee who can transport one to/from Knoxvile to the Great Smokey Nat'l Park. I'll also get our my road atlas & look at the areas you kindly suggested. Thanks for the black-fly warning.

08-31-2010, 09:39
You don't have to use a camp stove. You can bring food you don't have to cook. Ask Mags for some recipes. He makes it sound way better than cooking. If you want to cook, you don't need anything fancy just to boil water. You can make a stove out of an aluminum can.

Also, you might consider getting a guide book for the trail. It will have useful information in there about permits and trailheads, best times of year to visit and things like that.

08-31-2010, 11:27
Maria here from Standing Bear Farm.com We can provide shuttles from Knoxville, TN or Asheville, NC airports if you choose to hike through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Or you could start at our hostel and hike North to Hot Springs and then to Erwin from here.