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  1. #1
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    Default A month away from my start date, now what?

    I am heading Northbound from Georgia on March 1st, me and my Border Collie, however endless hours of reading, studying, and physical training but I still feel unprepared. What are some things I should memorize, or know before starting the trail? For example, should I know where all the towns I will stop in are? Or just go with the flow? Is there anything you wish you prepared for before starting your thru-hike, other than gear/physical training/understanding the map?

    Thank you for any replies, hope to see some of you out there next month.

  2. #2
    Registered User dudeijuststarted's Avatar
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    I haven't done a thru yet, but have decent some section hiking done. The AT is pretty easy to navigate. Follow the whiteblaze, know north from south, carry a guidebook to know how long you are going until water, shelter, and food. For the most part you can take the AT day-by-day.

    The physical and mental preparation are important, but so is remembering that this is also intended to be an enjoyable walk in the woods. I'd suggest simply walking. No pack, just relax, go for a walk, and focus on smelling the roses.

    Me, I'm fattening up a little to keep warm, keeping a steady but not overbearing gym/yoga schedule, strengthening those ankles, and making final preparations external to the hike (bills, storage.) I find that backpacker magazine has some concise helpful tips to fill in information on food, injury, etc. I made notes in the back of my AT guide. The latest issue is focused on tips.

  3. #3
    Registered User sadlowskiadam's Avatar
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    Enjoy the excitement you have right now leading up to your thru hike. I carried AWOL's guide and just went with the flow on my 2013 thru hike. I generally planned resupply points at about 3-6 days at a time, which worked for me. My advice to you and any new thru hiker would be to not let the first 50-100 miles discourage you. They will be very difficult and your body will be in pain, but if you can make it through this first stage, then you have a good chance of making it to Maine. Best of luck,

    - Counselor

  4. #4
    mountain squid's Avatar
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    Just Go Slow (low mileage days in the beginning) and Have Fun.

    Carefully consider each piece of gear, so that you don't carry unnecessary/extra items. Ounces add up to pounds very quickly.

    As far as towns go, you should have either The Companion or The AT Guide. Typically you'll go into town every 3-5 days.

    Good Luck and Have Fun!

    See you on the trail,
    mt squid

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  5. #5

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    You and your collie should be going out for long walks to get used to the cold. The best way to get ready for a long walk is to do long walks. Break in your boots and toughen up your feet so you don't get blisters. That goes for the dog too, it's probably more used to sleeping most of the day, not walking for hours at a time. But then, Boarder collies are pretty hyper dogs, so maybe that isn't a problem. I guess it depends on if it spends most of its time indoors or outdoors.

    The rest you'll figure out when you get on the trail. Even those who start out with a detailed spread sheet itinery end up shreading it after the first three days and winging it from there. There is no sense planning any farther ahead then the next place to buy food.

    Oh yea, practice setting up your tent so you can do it in a hurry.
    Last edited by Slo-go'en; 01-27-2014 at 12:53.
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  6. #6
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    Put the ATC phone number into your cell. 304 535 6331 If you need any info that they have either in the data base or in the Companion you can call during business hours. You can call in all trail emergency's you encounter.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    You and your collie should be going out for long walks to get used to the cold. The best way to get ready for a long walk is to do long walks. Break in your boots and toughen up your feet so you don't get blisters.
    Long training hikes with a fully loaded pack is excellent advice, and I'd go a step further to recommend sleeping outside every night in the backyard or deck or porch and get used to several things---

    ** The cold and your clothing and hat system for sleeping.
    ** The pad system you will be using. This is important since sleeping on a Thermarest etc takes some getting used to---and you can tweak your cold weather pad system before you hit the trail.
    ** The utility of your sleeping bag. If you stay warm now in the yard with it, then it will work in March.

    ** If you are using a tarp/tent for a shelter, you should set it up in the backyard and take it down many, many times so when you hit the trail there will be no surprises in a cold wind or cold rain or deep snow.

    Just some thoughts.

  8. #8
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Practice/final test on cooking setup in wind and cold with very cold water, especially if using alcohol stove. Impacts ability to heat/cook and fuel usage.

    Practice setting up tent/shelter in wind. How fast can you set up? In the wind? In the dark with only headlamp?

    Final test on footwear. Any rubbing, especially on back of heels when ascending? Do toes jam, even slightly into fronts of boots/shoes while descending? Any other foot issues for you or dog?

    Dental and medical checkups for you and dog. All shots up to date? Dog license current ? Do you have license/tags/vaccination record to take with you for dog? Dog's preventative meds (frontline, advantix, etc)?

    Check expiration dates of driver's license or other ID, debit and credit cards (make sure they don't expire during your hike or make prior plans).

    Is there a bail out plan for the dog and caretaker if needed?

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by akneisser View Post
    I am heading Northbound from Georgia on March 1st, me and my Border Collie, however endless hours of reading, studying, and physical training but I still feel unprepared. What are some things I should memorize, or know before starting the trail? For example, should I know where all the towns I will stop in are? Or just go with the flow? Is there anything you wish you prepared for before starting your thru-hike, other than gear/physical training/understanding the map?

    Thank you for any replies, hope to see some of you out there next month.
    Great advice for you, akneisser.. you can always count on WB for that.

    I think you will find that you won't be alone in starting the trail with others that feel the same way you do. They might not be sure exactly what they are doing at first either but y'all can get through the learning curve together. There will be ones that will help you figure things out.

    Have fun is the main thing! Don't get discouraged if you aren't moving very fast at first. That's fine! :>)

  10. #10
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Also, you noted your substantial planning, but is everything set for kenneling/shuttling your dog around GSMNP?

  11. #11
    Thru-hiker 2013 NoBo CarlZ993's Avatar
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    Lots of good advice in the thread. I thing that helped me was to create a itinerary spreadsheet based on AWOL's 15 mile per day plan (available on his website). I carried it with me on the entire hike. This would show the locations where he recommended resupplies. You can determine whether buy-as-you-go would fit at the resupply locations or a mail drop is appropriate. I used this plan as a template. I tweaked it as I went. Sometimes I went further. Sometimes not as far. Oddly enough, I finished on the exact date that the spreadsheet predicted.

    Starting as early as you are, you will probably encounter some really cold situations. Snowy & icy trails. Be sure you're ready for this. I'd recommend taking some Microspikes early on. They would really help on those icy trails and lessen the likelihood of a thru-hike ending injury from a fall. It would also allow you to maintain a more normal pace in those situations. Not like the slow, butt-sliding pace I had when coming down Clingman's Dome.

  12. #12

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    The toughest part is getting all the home stuff planned. Mail. Bills. Home maintenance if applicable. Car. The hiking stuff is easy.

    If you are buying as you go all you need to know is where your first stop is gonna be (Hint - Neels Gap) and how much food to take to get there. (3 days for most, take 4 to be safe. If you using maildrops in a couple weeks mail out your first couple packages.

    Day or 2 before you leave get your GSMNP permit and print it out.

    Now relax and enjoy.

  13. #13
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    All you really need to prepare for is you next resupply of each of your consumable/'wearoutable'. - this applies for the entire trail and all you need to know, the rest of the post is just extra.

    Now to this you will learn as you go to add in things like restaurant stops, minor resupplies, trail magic, hiker boxes, ect.

    Also additionally though it is fine without these I would recommend:
    1 - Especially for NoBo, mail your resupply to Fontana Dam as it is expensive and limited to buy there (SoBo's not that effected as NOC is soon after)
    2 - Consider a food drop in the middle of the 100 mile wilderness (was $20 at LakeShore house for me), makes life more pleasant and the sun shine more
    3 - Know about the permit in the smokies, but that can be done on the trail, plenty of opportunity to pay and print it.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    All you really need to prepare for is you next resupply of each of your consumable/'wearoutable'. - this applies for the entire trail and all you need to know, the rest of the post is just extra.

    Now to this you will learn as you go to add in things like restaurant stops, minor resupplies, trail magic, hiker boxes, ect.

    Also additionally though it is fine without these I would recommend:
    1 - Especially for NoBo, mail your resupply to Fontana Dam as it is expensive and limited to buy there (SoBo's not that effected as NOC is soon after)
    2 - Consider a food drop in the middle of the 100 mile wilderness (was $20 at LakeShore house for me), makes life more pleasant and the sun shine more
    3 - Know about the permit in the smokies, but that can be done on the trail, plenty of opportunity to pay and print it.
    How much planning (permit wise) do you need to do prior to a thru-hike? Can you start the trail with nothing more than a passport and get all necessary permits along the way? If so, is it a burden?

  15. #15

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    You can get your GSMNP permit from the comfort of your home a day or two before you leave , or you can stand in line at an outfitter or library to use a computer and printer. Permit is good for 38 days (30 days to arrive at park and 8 days to get thru it) which way more than enough time. This is a no brainer.

    At SNP you just show up and fill out a paper form.

  16. #16
    Registered User Russ979's Avatar
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    Thank God someone feels the same way I do. Gf and I have been sitting at home for days now just wondering what to do. Most aggravating thing is you can do all the research you want (I tried, trust me) but you just know that before you leave Georgia things will be different, gear will be sent home, and plans will change. Grit your teeth, keep reading, and one way or another March will get here. We're starting around March 10th so theres a chance we'll see you out there.

  17. #17
    Registered User WILLIAM HAYES's Avatar
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    march weather in the south is unpredictable be prepared for ice snow and low temps also as you probably know you will need to make arrangements for your collie when you get to the smokies check my gallery if you want a taste of what the weather can be in march in the smokies good luck and see you down the trail
    it will be a great adventure

    Hillbilly

  18. #18

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    I'd recommend getting a pair of waterproof (or resistant) mitten shells and wool mittens for a March start. That is one item many don't think of and will keep your hands much warmer in the cold. And it will be cold!
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  19. #19

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    Sign the book that's in the drawer at the Springer "rock". Take a deep breath and then laugh out loud with joy for just being there.....from then on be rigidly flexible.

  20. #20

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    You may be feeling unprepared because you are doing something for the next 5 months of your life that to some extent you'll have to figure out along the way. You'll never do anything new going in having asked all the possible questions and having all the answers. That alone is something everyone of us comes to terms with or we go back to the comfortably familiar. Don't despise having a hand in directing your evolution. This is a chance to do that.

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