View Full Version : Reverse Flip-flop???

08-20-2012, 20:53
Forgive a naive question from a newbie on this forum. I've looked around and cannot find much info on this kind of a flip-flop.

I plan on attempting the AT in its entirety in 2013. But I cannot begin until mid-late April. Way too early to be a SOBO, maybe a tad late for NOBO.

So I was thinking: Start at Harper's, head south. Flip up to Katadin, head south, finish at Harper's. The "normal" flip-flop does the southern half NOBO, right?

Is this partial-reverse flip-flop ever done? Are there some major shortcomings of this?

In all likelihood, I'll just do a straight NOBO, but just thinking about options.

Any thoughts appreciated.

08-20-2012, 21:13
Mid-late April is still enough time to finish NOBO on time. Your window is obviously tighter then someone starting mid march-early April but you can so it
And if you feel like you are really late once you hit harpers, a traditional flip flop is always possible

max patch
08-20-2012, 21:51
I'd do a traditional NOBO and make the decision to flip or not when you reach DWG.

map man
08-20-2012, 22:20
I have thought about the flip you are talking about as a way to avoid the worst heat of summer. So for you, start in Harpers Ferry in late April and maybe you could get to Springer by the end of June. Then devote July to rest and recovery (and avoiding heat) before picking up at Katahdin in early August and making your way to Harpers Ferry before the end of October. You would avoid both the cold of early Spring in the southern mountains and the heat of summer in the mid-Atlantic. You would get to see the traditional NOBOs twice, each time going the opposite way. You would probably get a nice send-off at the beginning and a nice celebratory welcome at the end at ATC Headquarters in Harpers Ferry.

A big drawback I see is that if you are hoping to make lasting friends with some folks you happen to meet on the trail you would probably get lonely doing this itinerary. Also, if continuity is important to you, you might feel it missing with this schedule.

Odd Man Out
08-20-2012, 22:48
On the ATC web site, the hike you describe is called a "Southbound Circuit" or "Wraparound". Their page discusses a number of pros and cons and logistical issues of this plan. Another option for a late start is described as the "Head Start". For example, start at HF as you describe but hike north to ME. Then flip back to HF and hike south to GA. For this plan they list the following advantages:

Start in easiest part of the Trail that very gradually gets more difficult.
When you start do not expect to keep pace right away with thru-hikers who started in Georgia.
Start in mild, pleasant weather.
Start amidst spring wildflowers and walk north with spring.
Hike through the mid-Atlantic before it gets hot, humid and water sources become scarce.
If you start earlier than May, plan to reach Vermont after mud season ends (about June 1).
Reach the White Mountains in July, before the peak crowds.
Reach Maine in August, when black flies are gone (but expect crowds the last hundred miles of Maine).
Plenty of time to reach Katahdin before it closes.
Walk south with fall colors on the second half of your hike.
Companionship with early northbounders the first half, then finish the Trail with early southbounders.
Be prepared for hunting season in the South.
Be prepared for cold weather and the possibility of snow starting at the end of October.

Depending on your hiking speed and your start date, you can adjust your starting point north or south as needed to optimize the advantages listed above.


08-21-2012, 09:00
Thank you!!! That's exactly the information I was looking for. That Head Start looks great as well.

I'm not worried about having enough time to finish with a std. NOBO starting mid-late April. I just want to avoid some heat, hence these other options. Again, I'll probably just do the NOBO, but plenty of time to decide among the options.

08-21-2012, 09:15
April is not to late to start. There will still be plenty of folks on the trail heading NOBO. I did a flip because I took time off and was a slow hiker. The problem with flipping is that you will meet a lot of new friends as you walk north. When you flip you will leave them all behind and may never meet them again. You will aslo finish your hike at some place other than the holy grail of Katahdin.

08-21-2012, 09:59
yep, good point Grampie. That's why I'll probably do a straight NOBO, just exploring options.

BTW: I'm excited by all the 50+ year olds I see in the profiles. Don't get me wrong, I like hanging with 20-somethings (got four of 'em myself), but it will also be nice to hang and connect with my age group.

08-21-2012, 11:11
The only problem with starting a late NOBO is once Katahdin closes, it does not open again until May 15. You obviously would not lose any of the memories of your adventure, etc., but you would risk not achieving the "ATC" defined title of "Thru Hiker." (Complete the trail in one year). I do agree with others that if you head NOBO and you see yourself not being able to make it, just hop up to Katahdin and start your flip flop then. You also have to be aware of the weather in the White Mountains the closer you get to winter, so you may want to build some time in so you are out of those before it gets snowy.

08-21-2012, 18:33

The first plan you outline seems to be the least satisfying of the flip-flop variations, based on feedback I've heard from people who have attempted various alternative itineraries over the years. I have met a few people who were okay with it, but several who did not like it, or quit before they got more than a few hundred miles because it just didn't meet their expectations of what a thru-hike would be like. The ratio of unhappy to happy seems to be the highest of any version. It's a lonely hike. You'll probably have no fellow thru-hikers to share the journey with, yet you'll pass a thousand or more northbounders, some of whom will not consider you part of the family.

Most hikers find Katahdin and staying with their fellow hikers a powerful draw. Starting in mid- to late April is not too late to start in Georgia and make it to Katahdin. The average thru-hike is a week or two shy of six months. In 2011, 35 northbounders who started after April 15 completed their hikes. But, having a time deadline can be a bit of a cloud that darkens your horizon. As others have said, you can always flip from Harpers Ferry (or any point you choose) if you feel your pace is not what it needs to be.

Starting in Harpers Ferry and going north has its advantages, as stated above. If you are an independent soul who doesn't care what other people think of you (you are willing to take the flip-flop or "alternative" label from the start), and are looking for a less crowded, less social adventure, it might be up your alley (this year, there were at 15 or more people a day still starting the 3rd week of April). However, starting in the middle going north you don't have the moral support of sharing all your new challenges with other greenhorns, and you don't have one of the world's best outfitter waiting for you 30 miles up the trail to help you correct all your gear mistakes and send home your excess gear.

If you'd like a list of people who have done various alternative thru-hikes, email me at [email protected] and I can send you some names and contact info.

Laurie P.

08-21-2012, 20:12
OutSTANDing Laurie P !!! (and others) all fine advice. I'll probably stick with pure NOBO, or like you suggest, if running slow, do a flip from Harpers to get it all done in '13. You guys at Harpers love to see flippers finish the "2000" there, right?

Great forum!!! Counting the days. In the TMI department: The reason I have to start late is a grand child is due right around April 15, gotta be around for the birth, of course.

08-21-2012, 21:35
BTW: I'm excited by all the 50+ year olds I see in the profiles. Don't get me wrong, I like hanging with 20-somethings (got four of 'em myself), but it will also be nice to hang and connect with my age group.

Yep, I think it would be wonderful to hang and connect with my age group too. They ARE out there, I know, and wherever they are, I hope they will raise their hands and say "Present!"

08-21-2012, 21:55
And, BTW, I think that some cool version of the Cool Breeze is a reasonable alternate plan. The social part is important, but there are so many gatherings, including The Gathering itself, where we see those we enjoyed on the trail that the fear of never seeing them again should not be a determinative factor. Also, being thus attached can do real damage to one's hike because people drop off even without saying anything about it all the time. One superb hiker once wrote to me exhausted because of trying to keep up with someone else. I advised to keep one's own pace because to do otherwise is going to eventually ruin the thru. In spite of all the stamina, agility, and strength required of a thru, it seems to me that its "success" (whatever that means) is a fragile thing. It has to fit the hiker.