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  1. #41

    Default Mud season and Shenandoah tips

    Dwill1000, awesome that you are considering starting in Harpers Ferry!

    April 1 is definitely on the early side to start from Harpers Ferry. Although there will be some people on the Trail (spring breakers, weekenders, day-hikers), you'll be ahead of the nobos and most flip-floppers won't have started yet. It's good to have a few long-distance hikers around you for companionship, moral support, and advice. You don't have to hike together during the day, but it's nice to chew the fat with at the end of the day, share your successes and woes and food fantasies, high and low points of the day. You have your areas of expertise and you'll have done a lot of research, but there are always more tips you can learn from others.

    Here's info about Mud Season in Vermont greenmountainclub.org/page.php?id=60

    Mud Season
    Early spring through Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend

    Please help protect the fragile alpine tundra and prevent soil erosion by staying off susceptible trails during Mud Season! This will allow the trails to dry out and reduce the amount of maintenance required each year to keep them safe and enjoyable. We know everyone is just itching to get out and enjoy the wonders of spring - we are too!

    Rain and melting snow at higher elevations are keeping many of Vermont's hiking trails wet and muddy. When hikers tramp on saturated soils, they cause irreversible erosion and damage to the trail and surrounding vegetation. The Green Mountain Club, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation, and Green Mountain National Forest advocate responsible use of the state's hiking trails during mud season (usually between sugaring season and Memorial Day weekend).

    Some of the Long Trail has been worn down to bedrock by soil erosion over the years. Higher elevation soils take longer to dry out, and their higher content of organic material slows the drying process. A trail may be dry at the trailhead, but it will get muddy if you climb very high this time of year.

    The GMC thanks hikers for their cooperation to help preserve one of Vermont's finest recreational resources.

    Mud Season Hiking Guidelines

    • Walk through the mud, not around it! If a trail is so muddy that you need to walk on the vegetation beside it, turn back, and seek an alternative area to hike.
    • Hike in the lower-elevation hardwood forest (unless it is muddy!) with southern exposure (south facing slopes dry out first in Spring).
    • Avoid the spruce-fir (conifer) forests at higher elevations.
    • The State of Vermont closes all trails on state land including those on Camel's Hump and Mount Mansfield from mid-April until Memorial Day weekend. Please do not hike in these fragile areas. [Note from Laurie: most of the A.T. is on U.S. Forest Service lands, so the state closure doesn't apply, but the USFS is still asking hikers to stay away. The A.T. follows the ridge line of the Green Mountains, and many parts are in spruce-fir forests.]



    If you're really itching for an early start, then how about a little compromise and starting at Rockfish Gap, near Waynesboro, Virginia (at the southern end of Shenandoah National Park, 160 miles south of Harpers Ferry) or Swift Run Gap/US 33 (45 miles north of Rockfish Gap). where you'll reach some services in a few days) around April 15? Perhaps you could time it to reach Harpers Ferry May 1?

    Most services in Shenandoah National Park start to open at the beginning of April. Here's the schedule for 2014: nps.gov/shen/planyourvisit/facilities-opening-schedule.htm. It theory it shouldn't be much different in 2015. Although the camp stores in the park don't have fancy hiker food and they are expensive, they do have a lot of staples. If you're not choosy, you can completely resupply there. Another option is staying at Skyland Resort and having a drop box sent there (only guests can do that). Or, you could go into Luray, 5 miles west, which has all major services. There are some shuttlers in Luray who could pick you up and take you back (see the shuttle list at appalachiantrail.org/transportation).

    When you're just starting out, it's good to resupply frequently to keep your pack weight as low as possible. Whatever you're doing before your thru-hike, it probably won't equate to the rigors of carrying a pack for 8 hours a day up and down mountains.

    Many former thru-hikers will tell you Shenandoah is easy. True, it's easy compared to just about everything on the A.T. to the south of it, but it's not easy if you're just starting out. Eight to ten miles a day is plenty to start (ignore thru-hikers who can tell you that it's easy to do twenties in Shenanodah, just because after 2 months of hiking and pushing full-tilt for 2 months they found it easy). It's a little harder than Maryland (though not as rocky). The Roller Coaster in northern Virginia is tougher than either--not difficult or seriously steep, just grueling with unrelenting ups and downs.

    This may be more information than you wanted or were asking for, but if so, it may be helpful to others.

  2. #42
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    Laurie -Thanks very much for the info. It is much appreciated. My plans are flexible, so I'll look into either a later HF start or a start further south April 1ish so that I don't hit Vermont before memorial day. David

  3. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dwill1000 View Post
    Laurie -Thanks very much for the info. It is much appreciated. My plans are flexible, so I'll look into either a later HF start or a start further south April 1ish so that I don't hit Vermont before memorial day. David
    Dwill. I am starting in early April too but further south in Daleville/Troutville. This gets you to, or at least near HF at the first of May. The ATC's Flip Flop kick off is May 2nd, I think. Good timing for that and probably plenty of thrus leaving around then from HF too. Just thought I'd let you know an alternative idea. Good luck and maybe we will see each other out there!

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    Thanks, Treehugger. Sounds good. I'm going to look into starting further south too. Transportation is the biggest factor - Harper's Ferry is the most accessible point on the trail because of Amtrak. I may end up leaving from there around May 1.

  5. #45
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    Looks like a flip starting in Harpers Ferry is catching on. Can anyone advise these hikers where a good outfitter is located 30 -50-100 miles north of Harpers? Gear adjustments are common and NOBO's from Springer are lucky to have Mountain Crossings available at Neel Gap.
    Order your copy of the Appalachian Trail Passport at www.ATPassport.com

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  6. #46
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    http://appalachiantrials.com/outfitt...lachian-trail/

    Check this out. Has just about all of them. But leaving HF it looks like you need to be more careful to pack lightly and smart. Cabelas is closest north of HF and AORE will deliver if not too far away from HF, probably within 30 miles would be ok. I know them, very cool people.


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  7. #47
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    I started a 260 mile section hike NOBO from Rockfish Gap on April 15. The first night was very cold with frozen water bottles and it remained cold in SNP but warmed up as I moved to lower elevations north of the park. I found the hiking in SNP relatively easy and hiked low 20s every day after the first partial day, but planning for 10-15 mile days would allow a larger margin of safety and avoid potential injury early in the hike.

    Park services were were mostly open during my time in the park. I carried food for the 7 days between Rockfish Gap and Bears Den hostel but could have easily resupplied at Big Meadows which has the most extensive food selection. Lewis Mountain camp store also had quite a bit. Elkwallow had less variety.

    Although i I plan to SOBO when I thru hike, a flip flop starting mid April from Rockfish Gap could also be a great trip. Easy to flip back to Rockfish Gap after reaching Maine by taking Amtrak to Charlottesville or Staunton.
    HST/JMT August 2016
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  8. #48
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    Alright, I thought I had convinced the wife that a start from central-snp/HF between April 15 & May 1 would be nice...until the Lyme talk came. :-) We're talking being in the midst of New England Dear Tick season at the height (June or so)...any good info & arguments pro/con? I haven't used Permethrin (sold tons when working @ a backpacking store in the Shenandoah Valley), but it sounds pretty good. Clothing infused with added daily Deet, tick-checks and just watching where we are going should cover the bases. I know it was just a "freak-out" moment for her, but it seems that the number of people utilizing the outdoors in NE compared to the actual Lyme cases is still fairly distant...especially with fore-thought. Just wondering if any of you have experience, anecdotes, etc. for me?

  9. #49
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    Ticks are active and looking to feed when temps are 40 degrees and over. Northern VA and vicinity has as many cases of Lyme disease than anywhere in NE. So really You can't avoid them because they are out looking for food when we want to be out playing in the woods. Repellants, checks and avoiding prolonged exposure to their habitat is the only way to deal with them. I have had lots of experience with ticks, their habitat and effects of bites. I have seen what Lyme can do to people and animals and it is no joke. I will use permethrin sprayed on my clothes and deet on occaision. I bought mosquito netting for my head and the pants too. I do not want what ticks are pushing so I hope my strategy works.


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  10. #50
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    It's cool that the ATC is having a little Floppers workshop/meetup on May 2nd. I plan to head with that group. One of my issues with flipping was that it seemed more of a loner hike because I would be too far ahead of the nobo pack. I'm a slow hiker so they would definitely catch up after a month or so. But it looks like there will be a small group starting out from Harpers on May 2st. Not so much to create a bottleneck, but enough for a social hike.

  11. #51
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    Don't worry, Steinberg. There will be some other slowpokers starting out about then, heading north. You will not me lonely.

    I want to thank everyone who had a part in me deciding to do a Flip from HF. The more I prepare and talk about it, the better it sounds for me. I can take my time. Avoid the party crowd (not interested!). Enjoy the trail and the woods and the mountains with a few (and it would seem mature) like-minded individuals.

    We shall see. I am s very much looking forward to it.
    AKA "DANGER" AT Thru-Hiker Class of 2015

  12. #52
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    Since I changed from an April Fool to a Flip Flopper, I got me a new patch for my pack...

    Njldl-QrxtU-eWNjh-StarsFlipFlops.JPG
    AKA "DANGER" AT Thru-Hiker Class of 2015

  13. #53
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    Default Who You Calling Mature?!

    Quote Originally Posted by dangerdave View Post
    Don't worry, Steinberg. There will be some other slowpokers starting out about then, heading north. You will not me lonely.

    I want to thank everyone who had a part in me deciding to do a Flip from HF. The more I prepare and talk about it, the better it sounds for me. I can take my time. Avoid the party crowd (not interested!). Enjoy the trail and the woods and the mountains with a few (and it would seem mature) like-minded individuals.

    We shall see. I am s very much looking forward to it.
    Feels good to settle on a plan doesn't it? I may have missed it but did you come up with a start date?

  14. #54
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    Default You, Treehugger!

    Yes, it does, and you did miss it! Beginning of May (probably the 1st). I haven't decided whether to hang around for the Flip Flop Kick-off or just head out on the first.
    AKA "DANGER" AT Thru-Hiker Class of 2015

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    OK. It's kind of official. I just requested a reservation for a room in Harpers on May 2. The plan is to go the Flipper workshop at the ATC, and hike out after breakfast the next day.

  16. #56
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    Someone help me out here. Hiking on the AT is all I think about. A thru hike this year is all I think about. Now with this flip flop start in May that's even more better. Now my problem. How does a person get past the mental part of leaving your family for 6 months. I have a 6 yr old grand daughter that I don't know if I can be away from that long. Thanks

  17. #57
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    A small pack for the grandaughter and take her along!

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    Part of the mental challenge I'm sure. My wife says when she drops me off for the start of my thru, she'll lay a patch of rubber leaving the parking lot. She's joking (I think ?!), but the sense of humor helps.
    Simple is good.

  19. #59
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    Hiker Guy. You can always bounce off and back on the trail if you want to. I have to come off for my daughters HS graduation in June and again in August to take her to college. I wont be off long each time and it add to cost and logistics but I think its worth it! Good luck to you!


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  20. #60
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    My first section hike was in 95, which was kind of pre-cell phone or at least I didn't have one yet. It certainly was pre social media. I remember being on Max Patch on father's day and borrowing a cell phone to call my father. It was pretty cool. The cellphone guy also gave be a soda and a sandwich, which was cool too, and I picked wild strawberries with him and his kids.

    This hike will be interesting for me because it will be a challenge to "be on the trail," and not checking my facebook all day. I might even chat more with friends from home more than in my daily life.

    As for feeling homesick, that's going to happen.

    For my hike, I have planned some family meetup alone the way, which is easy for me because I'll be in striking distance of some of them. And I also planned a 7-10 day trip in August off the trail.

    You can be flexible with your hike.

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