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  1. #1
    Registered User boudreaux76's Avatar
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    Default good section with no experience?

    So I have been planning on starting my section hike starting this year and apparently I have been WAY too excited and have spent WAY too much time talking about it. What started off as a hike starting from Springer and ending at the NC border with my wife dropping me off and picking me up at beginning and end is now a hike that INCLUDES my wife.

    So here is the situation... she has NEVER backpacked before. I will probably carry the heaviest of her load and should be able to keep her 20-25 lbs. She's had ankle surgery, but should be able to hold her own if we take it a little slower. We are planning on hiking 6 or 7 days.

    And the question - - Where? Since I am just starting my section hike I can really start anywhere I want. I'm looking for a section where there are multiple options to peel off and get her somewhere to get a rental car if she changes her mind or get her to a hotel when she needs a real place to sleep. Maybe somewhere that is a little less difficult as far as "less" up and downs. I'm not trying to make her sound weak or spoiled, I just want to make sure she enjoys it and maybe learn to love it like I do for the future.

    Thanks in advance...

  2. #2
    Registered User Kristeninmb's Avatar
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    from a slightly older lady and someone who has never done this before and GOING to go from Springer to NOC, 99% is mental. ( have also had 2 knee surgeries) I have been walking on the beach with my pack loaded on and this had helped with my knee strength. Do a little bit of strength work, but her positive attitude and your reassurance is what will get you there. I will be sectioning starting May 15. Hope to see both of you out there.

  3. #3
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    So far I have only sectioned hiked the AT from NJ through lower Vermont and Shenandoah. I know what you mean about your excitement and focus on it!
    Have you considered Shenandoah National Park? It would probably take you about that long to hike the AT through it.
    There are tons of rest stops along skyline drive where she could park her car and hike in with her gear a few miles to the nearest AT shelter to meet you. If you look at the AT maps she pretty much could do this the whole way through the park.
    In the morning she could hike back to the car while you travel on and she could meet you later up the road.
    There are some ups and downs but very mild and the ground itself is pretty smooth and lacking in rocks/boulders etc.
    If you wanted to try leaving your car and just traveling the miles together I would think it would be easy to call a shuttle to pick her up and she would have a beautiful park to camp out in while you finished up.
    You for sure won't have a feeling of being in the middle of nowhere but you will have dozens of rewarding, beautiful views which doesn't always happen on all sections of the AT.
    Anywhere in NJ or NY you pretty much cross a road once every day but its rockier in sections and you don't get a nice view EVERY day.
    Massachusetts has GREAT shelters in my opinion with bear boxes at every shelter.
    Wherever you end up I hope you have a great journey!
    Section hiking is like having tons of adventures to look forward to, get excited about, talk tons about AND you get to keep doing that over and over and over year after year! WHOOT!

  4. #4

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    I would say the section you were planning on is as good as any and the logistics from Texas to Atlanta are pretty straight forward. Late May or early June would be a good time as you don't need to worry about cold, but it's still reasonably cool. And it's real pretty. You can have a hostel or motel room every three days if you want. If the spring isn't possible, wait for the fall. In the mean time, try a few weekends closer to home.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  5. #5
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    The GA section has a good bit of ups and downs. Not sure it fits the bill, although opportunities to bail are readily found. I would think the VA section might be better for consistent elevation but maybe someone can chime in on that.

  6. #6
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    I agree that starting at Springer is fine. There are multiple bail-out points. I would call The Hiker Hostel and set up a night there before and after the hike. They can also pick you up wherever you finish. Take it slow and easy, 8 miles per day works out for shelters/tent sites/water and gets you to Neels Gap after four days for resupply and a shower.
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  7. #7

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    Springer is fine, i would say a much more mellow section would be from damascus north for 7 days. Youll get to see the ponies, partnership shelter (hot shower), some farmland, nice rivers, the iconic red barn diner, chestnut ridge...good little section
    AT Shuttle List
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    AT Map 1 Completion: 1818.9 Springer, GA - Franconia Notch, NH
    AT Map 2 Completion: 263.8 Gaps From GA - PA

  8. #8
    illabelle's Avatar
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    If you don't feel you have to hike the AT in sequential sections, I second the Shenandoah suggestion. SNP is scenic, and the road is never far away. Georgia can be difficult for newbies - after all, a large proportion of wannabe thru-hikers quit in Georgia.

    Enjoy your hike!

  9. #9
    Registered User boudreaux76's Avatar
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    I'm having a hard time figuring out how to start a trip at the Shenandoahs or damascus on the cheap. Anyone have any ideas that maybe I am missing just looking at this map?

    A friend of mine mentioned that getting to Harpers Ferry would be easy via Washington Airport and a short train ride (all for $244 for two people). Good views and walking going 7 days south or 7 days north from there?

  10. #10
    illabelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boudreaux76 View Post
    I'm having a hard time figuring out how to start a trip at the Shenandoahs or damascus on the cheap. Anyone have any ideas that maybe I am missing just looking at this map?

    A friend of mine mentioned that getting to Harpers Ferry would be easy via Washington Airport and a short train ride (all for $244 for two people). Good views and walking going 7 days south or 7 days north from there?
    If your intent is to do one section hike and then another and another and another, you'd better get used to the transportation costs. We are fortunate to live within a half-day's drive of about half the Trail. Coming from Texas complicates that significantly. Not much of the Trail is accessible via public transportation.

    If you haven't already seen it, this website will give you a list of people to contact to set up a shuttle. Even if you take the train to HF, you'll have to get back to the place you started. http://appalachiantrail.org/home/exp...tation-options

  11. #11

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    Georgia is way easier then southern and central Virginia. A common theme by thru hikers I heard while SOBO in Virginia last spring was "who ever said Virginia is flat, lied". The terms PUDS (point less ups and downs) and MUDS (More ups and downs) were coined in Virginia. Those micro bumps along the ridges can ready wear you down, to say nothing of hiking on sloping rock ledges for miles where your feet are always at a 30 degree angle. (and are really slippery when wet).

    Getting to Harpers Ferry is easy enough from DC, there is an afternoon Amtrak train that stops there. However, I would not recommend starting a hike there. Going south you quickly run into something called the "Roller Coaster", a series of 500 to 700 foot climbs and descents over the course of 18 miles. It's a serious work out. I almost broke an elbow going down one of the steep descents there when I stepped on a loose rock and took a tumble. But I only scrapped a couple layers of skin off my arm which took 2 weeks to heal. The only place with a decent view between HF and Front Royal was at Sky Meadows State Park.

    Going north from HF isn't much better and there isn't anything exciting to see until you get to Vermont. I wouldn't waste my time or money going to hike there unless I had to. (which unfortunately I have to, if I want to complete my goal of doing 90% of the AT a 3d time).

    I'm spoiled by living in the White Mountains, so I don't find SNP very interesting either. The only good thing about the park is the ability to spend lots of money on food at the wayside restaurants and it's the easiest section of Virginia.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  12. #12
    Registered User linus72's Avatar
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    pretty sure that PA, NY, CT and MASS ALL HAVE exciting parts and things to see! I've seen plenty of beautiful and exciting things on my NY/CT/MASS section hikes. hmff
    Doin' the trail one section at a time
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  13. #13
    Registered User linus72's Avatar
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    For example, the climb out of Lehigh Gap, Harriman and Bear Mtn NY with its gorgeous views of the Hudson river valley and NYC skyline, St John's Ledges and the views from Lion's Head and Bear Mtn in CT, the high ridges of Mt Race in Mass, etx etx
    Doin' the trail one section at a time
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  14. #14
    Rain Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boudreaux76 View Post
    A friend of mine mentioned that getting to Harpers Ferry would be easy via Washington Airport and a short train ride (all for $244 for two people). Good views and walking going 7 days south or 7 days north from there?
    Walking south would be easier (although some think the "Roller Coaster" is hard). I will cast another vote for the Shenandoah National Park. You can likely do the entire thing in 6-7 days, stay mostly at campgrounds and park motels, and eat at waysides every day.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

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  15. #15
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    Oooh, Kristen, I'm on the beach, too and do what you do. But even this early stage of conditioning for a thru-hike, I'm finding it challenging to walk on sand with all my gear. (But having lived near the ocean for 8+ years I realize that walking through sand is great exercise all around.) Great that you mentioned the knees. I too am slightly older - the quadriceps are what ache me most when I put in the preparation time. I hope you and the couple get to meet each other!

  16. #16
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    And the Trail Days Festival in Damascus this May.

  17. #17
    Registered User LIhikers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by boudreaux76 View Post
    I'm having a hard time figuring out how to start a trip at the Shenandoahs or damascus on the cheap. Anyone have any ideas that maybe I am missing just looking at this map?

    A friend of mine mentioned that getting to Harpers Ferry would be easy via Washington Airport and a short train ride (all for $244 for two people). Good views and walking going 7 days south or 7 days north from there?
    You could go north from Harpers Ferry and hike the AT across Maryland finishing in Waynesboro, PA. It's a pretty easy hike and passes a lot of interesting Civil War history as well as THE Washington Monument. Plus you'll have a whole state finished after hiking a little less than 50 miles.

  18. #18

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    Given your wife's inexperience and questionable ankles, I'd suggest either Shenandoah National Park or the stretch from Harpers Ferry north to Waynesboro, PA. As you can see from the above responses, others have also suggested this.
    Last edited by Cookerhiker; 02-18-2016 at 10:40.

  19. #19
    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    I had the same concerns for my teenage daughter's first backpacking trip. Originally I was targeting the 30-50 miles north of Damascus (through Grayson Highlands and its wild ponies), but by the time my schedule and hers aligned I had already covered that section. We ended up starting at Standing Indian (just north of the GA/NC border) heading north. She weighs all of 105 pounds at 5'5", and I really, really wanted it to be an enjoyable introduction. I kept her pack weight to 16 pounds that first trip (carrying 30 myself) in mid-May. Unfortunately, she ended up hurting one of her knees (since a recurrent issue) on the first major climb in her excitement, so we had to get off at Winding Stair Gap 24 miles later. The next May we continued north for 60 miles Fontana Dam, with her now carrying 18 pounds (she wanted more, but I wanted to make sure she was comfortable). We had very good weather for both trips, which certainly helps with an introductory experience.

    Basically, keep her pack weight as light as possible; make sure she boots/trail runners are light and fit very well; keep an eye on the weather forecast and be flexible on your plans; keep daily mileage low (likely 6-10 miles initially, with later starts that you probably typically have); and take on the bulk of the camp chores so she can just enjoy the outdoors.
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

  20. #20
    Registered User ChaVoice's Avatar
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    Shenandoah for sure.... this was my first section hike and it offers the security of never being more than a few yards from the road that follows the trail. Easy trail with lots of opportunities to spend the night in a lodge or stop for lunch at a wayside. Even if she does "bail out" she can still park the car near one of the huts and spend the night with you.

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