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  1. #1
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    Default Sounds like spring break on the trail?

    Hi, new here, thinking about hiking the AT. From the posts I have read here and some videos I have watched, it appears that hiking NOBO is akin to a moving Spring Break party in Florida. It sounds like there are 30 or more people in all the shelters every night, the hostels are always full, and there is a line of hikers on the trail. Is this a true depiction? Are you ever alone for more than 10 minutes on the trail? Is it possible to find solitude? I am 53, and while a party every once in a while would be fun, having one 24/7 is not what I am looking for. I can and would camp away from shelters, but what is it like actually hiking?

    Tabriz

  2. #2
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    Consider flip-flopping or a southbound hike if either fit into your plans. Either would put you against the stream of traditional NOBO hikers. You seem to have discovered what I too find as a trend that thru-hiking the AT is growing in popularity by leaps and bounds. And LORD HELP US when Bill Bryson's "A Walk In The Woods" (starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte) hits the theaters later this year. If it is anywhere as good as the book then hiking the AT will never be the same again :-(.

  3. #3
    Registered User mrcoffeect's Avatar
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    Byrson didn't walk the whole way, and neither will 98% of the people who see the movie.
    there is enough trail that your hike can be whatever you would like it to be.

  4. #4

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    We just returned from Panama City Beach after spending the winter down there and believe me, there's no comparison to the Trail and Spring Break. My wife and I, both in our sixties, attempted a "thru" last Spring and tented almost every night near a shelter and had no problems. Sure, on a couple of ocassions we could hear some revelry but we were usually so beat from the days exertions we slept like logs, nothing crazy by any means. For the most part the young hikers we met we intelligent and friendly kids and we dearly missed when after leaving the trail, and as for solitude, you'll enjoy plenty of it! Have fun!
    "every day's a holiday, every meal a feast"

  5. #5
    Registered User Donde's Avatar
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    Just go SOBO, its better anyway, and yes I have done both.

  6. #6

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    I agree with the SOBO suggestion.
    Or, skip the beginning and come back and do it later.
    Most newbies drop out in the first 200 miles.
    Start in Hot Springs, if you insist on the NOBO hike.
    I wouldn't want to be around 60-70 per day starting either.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  7. #7
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    yes, I am considering solo. Why is it better, Donde?

  8. #8
    Registered User Donde's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tabriz View Post
    yes, I am considering solo. Why is it better, Donde?
    1.You do the best part while you are fresh and totally engaged (many NOBOs are just cranking miles trying to be done by the time they get to NH)
    2. Fall in the south.
    3. No Oct. 15th deadline. SOBO it might get cold you might need warmer stuff, but if you are willing you keep going right into New Year's.
    4. Less crowding obviously/ more solitude. More shelter space if you are into that (shelters suck anyway just camp)
    5. Conversely better comraderie, smaller tighter group.
    6. Less feeds, hostels, and support in general, thus more self reliance, more satisfaction. (though I should note I had much more trail magic on my SOBO, but if you think trail magic is hiker feeds and coolers you are a silly NOBO)
    7. Trail Thanksgiving with all your trash friends in whatever town you are near is pretty sweet if you are on trail that late.
    8. Smug since of superiority

    obviously just my opinion YMMV

  9. #9
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    There are moments of "spring break". But no that's not how it is. There are long stretches of solitude along with the familiarity of family acceptable and home and the occasional cut loose.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  10. #10
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    It is a lot different than most of what's depicted online. I'm 240ish in right now just outside the northern boundary of the smokies. I am frequently alone for hours at a time on the trail aside from passing or being passed here and there, you can usually make a choice of whether or not to hike around a group. At this point shelters are almost always full, if you want to stay in them you will find it quite crowded. I always tent, usually pitch near a shelter for the company and have only had several nights of needing to push farther so if you don't mind your tent you'll be fine Tonight's one of those nights actually, no tent space at davenport gap shelter and I said no way am I sleeping locked in a cage (think it's the only one that still has the bear fence) so I walked out of the park and got a great spot trail side in between Davenport and I 40. Oops digressed a little there.. Anyways yeah full shelters but a crowd of 30 is rare, only saw that once or twice in the smokies where we are all bottlenecked. No you will not be walking in a line. Yes hostels are almost always full, people flock to them and calling for reservations is highly recommended. For example when I stayed at top of Georgia in Hiawassee the morning I left they were full for the night at 9AM. A simple solution to this is not staying at hostels very much, has worked great for me. Lastly you asked about partying, it is pretty low key on the trail. By and large it seems like town is where people go to heavily drink and drug. Hiking is just a bit too much work to get hammered in the woods it seems. You'll see the occasional beer or whiskey someone hiked out of town and a bit of pot smoking but that's it. 9PM seems very well respected as a general quiet hour. Don't let the posts on here and the youtube videos scare you, both often portray the most extreme and relatively rare cases.

  11. #11
    Registered User Donde's Avatar
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    While I agree that self selection of your crowd and campsite mitigates alot of the OPs concerns I gotta call BS on the following

    " a bit of pot smoking"

    After two AT thru's (one in each direction), numerous small section hikes, and iving in a trail town outside SNP for 18months I assure you there is a lot of pot smoking. Most but far from all are respectful and will ask before blazing out a shelter, many but not most will go off on their own, and many if not most are very inclined to share ( I can not count how many times I have turned down pot on the the AT). I agree not to let this scare you off just camp on your own, and or go SOBO, it is a delightful time. (plus in full disclosure you might enjoy that offer of pot 2-3 time out of a 100)

  12. #12
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    you looking for spring break on the trail, go to Trail Days in Damascus next month.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donde View Post
    While I agree that self selection of your crowd and campsite mitigates alot of the OPs concerns I gotta call BS on the following

    " a bit of pot smoking"
    Fair point, words like that mean very different things to different people. Relative to college I would call it a bit both in frequency and amount. To put numbers to it, I'd say on average I see someone smoking or am offered it without asking about every 2-3 days. Agree about most but not all people being respectful around those who might not want it. Rain definitely decreases the courtesy in shelters for legal and illegal smoking. Kinda funny sometimes when people stand at the edge of a shelter canopy to smoke a cigg and don't seem to realize they chose the upwind side relative to the crowd.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donde View Post

    " a bit of pot smoking"
    I would say that this is accurate but it depends on your definition. I am not offended by it and it is done pretty low key and by a minority of thru hikers.

  15. #15
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tabriz View Post
    yes, I am considering solo. Why is it better, Donde?
    "solo" and "sobo" are two different things. There is either a typo in here, or a misunderstanding.

    "SOBO" means hiking SOuthBOund, starting at Katahdin and hiking south to Springer.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  16. #16
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    Sorry, that was indeed a typo, I meant SOBO, although I will also be solo. Thanks for the responses, I am now seriously considering SOBO now. I willbe hiking the Colorado Trail this Summer, if I enjoy that I will probably attempt the AT next Summer. The longest trip I have done was 10 days on the CDT, and we had llamas then so we're totally spoiled.

  17. #17
    Registered User Donde's Avatar
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    Tabriz that is a solid plan. Not just the SOBO part but the incremental ramp up. Have a Great Hike!

  18. #18
    Thru-hiker 2013 NoBo CarlZ993's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Donde View Post
    While I agree that self selection of your crowd and campsite mitigates alot of the OPs concerns I gotta call BS on the following

    " a bit of pot smoking"

    After two AT thru's (one in each direction), numerous small section hikes, and iving in a trail town outside SNP for 18months I assure you there is a lot of pot smoking. Most but far from all are respectful and will ask before blazing out a shelter, many but not most will go off on their own, and many if not most are very inclined to share ( I can not count how many times I have turned down pot on the the AT). I agree not to let this scare you off just camp on your own, and or go SOBO, it is a delightful time. (plus in full disclosure you might enjoy that offer of pot 2-3 time out of a 100)
    Saw quite a bit of pot smoking as well. It was irritating to be in a shelter when someone started smoking away. But, it bothered me even more when it was cigarettes. If someone wants to smoke, just walk away from the shelter & do it. Be respectful of others.

    As far as being crowded, I stayed primarily in shelters on my thru-hike in 2013. I started hiking early in the morning & hiked to my planned destination (usually another shelter). The only shelter I hit that was completely full was the last one in Baxter. Got the last or next to last place on many occasions. Each year, the crowds will increase & the competition for space (shelters or hostel) will intensify as well.
    2013 AT Thru-hike: 3/21 to 8/19
    Schedule: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets...t1M/edit#gid=0

  19. #19
    Registered User jdc5294's Avatar
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    I left on February 19th, avoided most of the crowds. After the first week or so I was the only one at a shelter about 80% of the time.
    There's no reward at the end for the most miserable thru-hiker.
    After gear you can do a thru for $2,000.
    No training is a substitute for just going and hiking the AT. You'll get in shape.

  20. #20
    Registered User canoe's Avatar
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    This is a quote from bonbon just a couple of days ago..After 3 days in shelters inhabited by young people, I was beginning to think the Smokies got their name because of a recreational reason,
    http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=489533

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