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  1. #1
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Default A positive shelter experience

    I've read entirely too many negative threads on behavior at shelters, so I just wanted to post a positive experience for once.

    On my section hike last week, I did a "short" 12 mile day NOBO from Bland, VA to Jenny Knob shelter. I'd originally planned a "long" 18 mile day to Trent's Grocery but decided to cut it short after seeing an 80% chance of afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast. I arrived at the shelter just after 2:00 and there was only one other person there. I'd been out for a week and hadn't seen many people on the trail so I set up in the shelter figuring at most 4 people in for the night.

    Around 3:00, a group of 4 NOBO weekenders came in. A little surprising since these were the first NOBOs I'd run into in a week, but it was the weekend after all. I left my stuff in the shelter and hoped no one else showed up. Then around 4:00, two SOBO thru-hikers showed up. They told us that at least 6 more were coming. At this point, the sky was getting darker and the wind was starting to pick up. Much to my surprise, everyone agreed to set up their tents and save the shelter for people who were coming in later.

    So we all set up our tents, cooked our dinner, and sure enough a total of 8 more SOBO thru-hikers showed up between 5:30 and 6:00 while we were eating. (Apparently, they'd all gotten bunched up in town waiting out 10 straight days of rain.) By this time the sky was dark, the wind was blowing pretty hard, and thunder was rumbling, but the shelter was empty and there was just enough space for all the newcomers.

    At 6:15, the sky fell out and it rained pretty hard for several hours. There were a total of 16 people at a shelter designed for 8, but everyone stayed dry and there was no complaining or fighting over who got to stay in the shelter.
    It's all good in the woods.

  2. #2
    Section Hiker
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    Good juju for posting (and doing) something positive! I've had mostly good shelter experiences, with the only negative being the mice at one shelter.


    "Your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.
    "


  3. #3
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    Years ago the mantra was, "There's always room for one more in a shelter during a storm." Obviously there were some limits, but things were a bit different. Like you folks did, if you had a decent tent you set it up, so late arrivals or those without good shelter had a dry place. And sometimes, like during one ice storm I remember when large branches were falling, about 20 hikers took cover for a night in a shelter designed for 12. And no one complained. You always left a supply of dry wood if possible for the next hikers coming behind you. You swept out the shelter before leaving, and made sure the fire was out and cleaned up the fire pit. When in town you behaved so as not to give the hiking community a bad reputation. Given some of the bad stories we hear, it's good to hear that some of that same spirit is still alive.
    "That's the thing about possum innards - they's just as good the second day." - Jed Clampett

  4. #4
    Registered User dudeijuststarted's Avatar
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    A shelter in a rainstorm. It's easy to forget how wonderful that experience can be, brings back good memories. Great post!

  5. #5

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    Thanks so much for sharing that, LittleRock! Very good karma indeed! Warms the heart.
    [I]ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit....[/I]. Numbers 35

    [url]www.MeetUp.com/NashvilleBackpacker[/url]

    .

  6. #6
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    Yep, a nice departure from the usual "shelters suck" threads. Goes to show, a bit of cooperation and consideration go a long way.

  7. #7

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    Most shelter experiences are fine, if not interesting. But it only takes a couple bad ones to sour the bunch.

  8. #8
    Registered User FarmerChef's Avatar
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    Glad you had a nice experience. I've had far more good experiences in shelters than bad. There have definitely been some bad ones but they were by far the minority in my experience. Thanks for posting this positive take. Sometimes the negative posts make it seem as if it's normal.
    2,000 miler. Still keepin' on keepin' on.

  9. #9
    Registered User ekeverette's Avatar
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    What dudejuststarted said..... they are wonderful if its really raining.If not, I love privtcy of my tent
    eveready

  10. #10

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    Many years ago, at a shelter in Massachusetts (just south of Dalton, I think), there were maybe 6-8 people, with heavy rain in the forecast. The shelter was filling up fast; I chose to stay nearby in my hammock. While we were all eating and chatting, a pathetic-looking, obese young man carrying heavy shopping bags (containing big bottles of soda, bags of chips, canned food...) painfully made his way toward us. He was hiking to lose weight, and he announced sadly that he would sleep outside the shelter because he snored loundly and didn't want to disturb anyone. One of the hikers told him that rain was expected and he had just as much right to stay in the shelter as anyone else. People made room for him. I was new to backpacking then, and I was impressed.

    When I left in the morning, he was inside the shelter, safe and dry.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    Years ago the mantra was, "There's always room for one more in a shelter during a storm." .
    I totally agree with this.

    This past June, I was bedded down about 8pm in a shelter in NJ that the A.T. Guide stated slept 8. It was raining, and we had 6 people in it. When another person walked up, one girl tried to say we were full. The big "B' that I am, I stated, "this shelter sleeps at least 8, and if it gets really bad, I am sure we will fit more in." Two of the people already there weren't happy with me, but oh well.... That newcomer ended up staying - as well as another person who came in later.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by shelb View Post
    I totally agree with this.

    This past June, I was bedded down about 8pm in a shelter in NJ that the A.T. Guide stated slept 8. It was raining, and we had 6 people in it. When another person walked up, one girl tried to say we were full. The big "B' that I am, I stated, "this shelter sleeps at least 8, and if it gets really bad, I am sure we will fit more in." Two of the people already there weren't happy with me, but oh well.... That newcomer ended up staying - as well as another person who came in later.
    Good for you!

  13. #13
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shelb View Post
    I totally agree with this.

    This past June, I was bedded down about 8pm in a shelter in NJ that the A.T. Guide stated slept 8. It was raining, and we had 6 people in it. When another person walked up, one girl tried to say we were full. The big "B' that I am, I stated, "this shelter sleeps at least 8, and if it gets really bad, I am sure we will fit more in." Two of the people already there weren't happy with me, but oh well.... That newcomer ended up staying - as well as another person who came in later.
    Nice to hear.
    "That's the thing about possum innards - they's just as good the second day." - Jed Clampett

  14. #14
    Registered User Water Rat's Avatar
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    I tend to avoid staying in shelters because I prefer the comfort of my tent. In my tent I don't have to worry if others snore, if mice are going to jump on my face, and I can turn on my light when I need it.

    One time, on a really rainy day... I stayed in a shelter. It was in Maine and the weather turned really nasty - I was lucky to make it to the shelter just before the soaker began. On the way to the shelter I kind of figured the shelter would be full, so I started to look for places to set up my tent. I was quite shocked when I arrived at the shelter and was the only one there. I got my stuff set up and ready for the night, fetched water (though, I could easily have held a bag out in front of the shelter and collected water that way) and was getting ready to settle in for the afternoon. That was when another person showed up. He asked if there was room available and I told him to pick a spot. We chatted as he set about settling in - It was good conversation and we had fun talking about the change in gear over the years and our favorite parts of the trail, etc. A few hours later (just as it was getting dark) a woman staggered in and she was in the beginning stages of hypothermia (and would have quickly progressed had she stayed out in that weather!). She couldn't unbuckle her pack or her sopping coat.... As I helped her, the guy who showed up after me started warming water so the hypothermic woman could have some tea and start to warm up. We got her to the point where she could get herself out of the soaked clothes and into some dry clothes and her sleeping bag and then we heated more water so that she could get some hot food in her. At that point, she started to cry because she was so grateful. Both of us helped her because we were looking out for one of our own and not for any other reason. We were treating someone the way we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes (the way it should be).

    My only shelter stay was a very positive experience and I would do it again in that sort of weather. On the way out, I looked at the spot where I would have set my tent and it was standing-water wet.

  15. #15
    Registered User Diamondlil's Avatar
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    With caring people like all of you, I know my AT 2016 experience will be all I'm imagining it to be. Good Karma to all!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Water Rat View Post
    I tend to avoid staying in shelters because I prefer the comfort of my tent. In my tent I don't have to worry if others snore, if mice are going to jump on my face, and I can turn on my light when I need it.

    One time, on a really rainy day... I stayed in a shelter. It was in Maine and the weather turned really nasty - I was lucky to make it to the shelter just before the soaker began. On the way to the shelter I kind of figured the shelter would be full, so I started to look for places to set up my tent. I was quite shocked when I arrived at the shelter and was the only one there. I got my stuff set up and ready for the night, fetched water (though, I could easily have held a bag out in front of the shelter and collected water that way) and was getting ready to settle in for the afternoon. That was when another person showed up. He asked if there was room available and I told him to pick a spot. We chatted as he set about settling in - It was good conversation and we had fun talking about the change in gear over the years and our favorite parts of the trail, etc. A few hours later (just as it was getting dark) a woman staggered in and she was in the beginning stages of hypothermia (and would have quickly progressed had she stayed out in that weather!). She couldn't unbuckle her pack or her sopping coat.... As I helped her, the guy who showed up after me started warming water so the hypothermic woman could have some tea and start to warm up. We got her to the point where she could get herself out of the soaked clothes and into some dry clothes and her sleeping bag and then we heated more water so that she could get some hot food in her. At that point, she started to cry because she was so grateful. Both of us helped her because we were looking out for one of our own and not for any other reason. We were treating someone the way we would want to be treated if we were in their shoes (the way it should be).

    My only shelter stay was a very positive experience and I would do it again in that sort of weather. On the way out, I looked at the spot where I would have set my tent and it was standing-water wet.
    Love this. I wish there were more positive threads here on WB. So glad a wondered into this old one. Thanks OP for starting it.

    I have enjoyed many positive experiences in shelters, and have learned a lot about hiking/backpacking from others while staying in or hanging out at shelters.

  17. #17
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    Thank you for sharing! Last year, I was surprised by the number of people who tried to say a shelter was "full" when it did not yet contain the maximum number specified in the Thru-Hiker Book. People soon learned that I would speak up and say that since the shelter capacity was "___", we certainly had room for more and everyone needed to move over a bit!

    Even so, in rougher weather, I would want to make sure we made space for absolutely everyone we could fit!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by shelb View Post
    Thank you for sharing! Last year, I was surprised by the number of people who tried to say a shelter was "full" when it did not yet contain the maximum number specified in the Thru-Hiker Book. People soon learned that I would speak up and say that since the shelter capacity was "___", we certainly had room for more and everyone needed to move over a bit!

    Even so, in rougher weather, I would want to make sure we made space for absolutely everyone we could fit!
    It can be hard sometimes for somebody to speak up. It's nice that you did.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post

    So we all set up our tents, cooked our dinner, and sure enough a total of 8 more SOBO thru-hikers showed up between 5:30 and 6:00 while we were eating. (Apparently, they'd all gotten bunched up in town waiting out 10 straight days of rain.) By this time the sky was dark, the wind was blowing pretty hard, and thunder was rumbling, but the shelter was empty and there was just enough space for all the newcomers.

    At 6:15, the sky fell out and it rained pretty hard for several hours. There were a total of 16 people at a shelter designed for 8, but everyone stayed dry and there was no complaining or fighting over who got to stay in the shelter.
    To each his (or her) own. I myself never stayed at a shelter no matter the conditions. I have alot of positive things to say about backpackers carrying their own tents or tarps or hammocks and not using AT shelters, ever. Even in the worst of weather. Especially in the worst of weather. Why?
    ** It's good training to set up your camp in all conditions, from a 0F blizzard with high winds to a 150 hour rainstorm to a hot clear summer day and everything in between. You get so good at it you can do it in your sleep without thought.

    ** By humping your own camp all the shelter negatories are avoided: Mice, dope smokers, drunks, filth, sleeping next to strange men butt to butt, bonfires, surprise new arrivals at 2am, muddy dogs etc. Harmonicas!!

    ** Oh and in terrible conditions AT shelters are too exposed to wind and cold when compared to a decent four season tent.

    ** Laziness is a negative human trait, and I believe AT shelter use highlights human laziness, i.e. the unwillingness to 1 carry the extra weight of a personal shelter and 2 the lazy unwillingness to set up your shelter every night. Ergo the glomming onto the AT shelter system.

    Which brings me to my bold highlight from LittleRock's post: Apparently, they'd all gotten bunched up in town waiting out 10 straight days of rain.


    This I find completely deranged but then I'm making a personal judgment call on the behavior. I keep thinking hiking the AT is an actual backpacking trip but I'm always reminded how town-oriented the experience becomes. In your quote case, minimal forest time, maximum town time. (And to me, AT shelters represent indirectly the lure of the town---the clever man-made boxes stuck in the woods).

    So many times I hear AT backpackers using towns to escape weather events from blizzards to severe cold to rainstorms, when instead they could use their tents and pull zero days in the woods and away from towns. Even in a 10 day rainstorm there are short windows for the opportunity of movement---go 2 or 3 miles each day and set up camp again. But 10 days in a town?

  20. #20

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    nice story.
    I've had very few bad experiences in shelters. And there's always my tent if people are annoying (harmonica for an hour anyone?) or smoking too much pot, etc, so I'm still lovin' the shelter system

    Canada doesn't have anything close to this. And for the cost of $0 and no annoying reservations. Something to appreciate

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