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  1. #1

    Default First AT SOBO Wilderness area - No Blazes

    While hiking in the Great Gulf Wilderness in NH this past weekend we encountered a somewhat upset SOBO thru hiker who had just rejoined the trail after an unplanned one hour detour up the Great Gulf trail. He was bit upset and was muttering that the AMC was too cheap to put up white blazes. He calmed down a bit when we explained the Federally Designated Wilderness Rules that precluded any substantial blazing and allowed only minimal signage.

    I realized that for SOBO folks, this is the first Wilderness area they encounter on their way south and expect that just following the white blazes is pretty well routine after a month or so on the trail. The area he had gotten confused is easy place to get off track as even the minimal signage is confusing. The AT goes over a slight rise and follows a well established route up the gulf past a signed intersection where the AT diverges steeply downhill and about 160 degrees from the direction of travel. I expect the hiker may have missed the signage and just went along the path of least resistance. There are no AT logos on the signs but the there are usually (but not always) spelled out APPALACHIAN TRAIL with an arrow in the right direction. The AT rapidly crosses a suspension bridge and then ends up at another trail junction for Madison Gulf Trail, it is signed DIRECT ROUTE TO MADISON HUT and does not have Appalachian trail with an arrow but does have Osgood trail with an arrow. (Madison Gulf trail skips a section of the AT, is not blazed and is not recommended for hikers with backpacks). The trail then has to cross another significant stream without a bridge before coming to another intersection where the AT is not the obvious route. This is all blazes free and I expect for most folks a map is essential.

    He calmed down a bit and we asked him his planned end point (it was around 9:30 AM). He was hoping for Mitzpah Spring Hut but would settle for Lake of the Crowds (still a bit of a hike). I mentioned the Jewell Trail site as an option and then wished him well on his hike.
    Last edited by peakbagger; 06-21-2016 at 15:11.

  2. #2

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    Did the hiker have a ........map?

    They can be handy in the Whites.

    Due to limited field of vision on my right side, I have occassionally walked past intersections, signs, etc while watching where I step. I try to make it a point to be aware of my position to upcoming intersections and be looking for them. When I do miss something, Im usually like "How the F did I miss that, its plain as day"
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 06-20-2016 at 21:47.

  3. #3

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    No idea if he had one, few folks including myself use them actively while hiking, they pull them out when they need them usually at intersections. The rest of the time they use the blazes and trail bed. On the same trip my friend and I managed to miss a turn in the trail and ended up wandering around in the woods for a bit.

    The area where he missed the intersection is fairly dense softwoods. Its quite dark, the obvious route is straight forward towards an open area along side a river which is brighter. The trail junction is still in the dark woods and the AT drops down a hill into darker woods. Unlike the normal AMC signage north of this point in the Mahoosucs and the Carter Wildcat range which use a white background with contrasting green letters, the signage used in the designated forest areas are unpainted Douglas Fir that has faded to gray with occasional patches of moss. Depending on the location, a flashlight is almost needed to read them even on a sunny day as the sun really doesn't get down into the Great Gulf in the dense softwood.

    Ultimately all he lost was time. At some point he realized his error and corrected it. Others have been less lucky.

  4. #4
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    doubt he had a map.

  5. #5

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    That might be how the group which had to get rescued last week off the Madison Gulf trail got there. The report didn't say if they intended to go that way or took the wrong trail.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    ... The are no AT logos on the signs but the there are usually (but not always) spelled out APPALACHIAN TRAIL with an arrow in the right direction.....
    As I recall the AT is usually unofficially carved into these signs by hikers, making up for a obviously deficient sign system.

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    Its should be well known and understood the AT travels a bunch of pre-existing trails that may be known by their historical names. I know AWOL cautions about this.

    "The other name may be the one you see on signs"

    When people only know how to follow blazes, its not a good thing. It works 99% of time unfortunately.

    Not the sign system thats deficient......
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 06-21-2016 at 11:42.

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    Wow. One hour delay on a 3-4mo hike? Sounds like a first world problem. Hope he found a safe space.
    nous défions

    It's gonna be ok.

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    Quote Originally Posted by greentick View Post
    Wow. One hour delay on a 3-4mo hike? Sounds like a first world problem. Hope he found a safe space.
    ...now, now! Sounds like you are engaged in some micro aggression! No trophy for you.

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    Off topic here. I got confused going down mahoosuc arm. Thought I had missed the AT up at speck pond. I hiked back up the arm just to find that I was still on the AT. I thought there couldve been a couple more blazes. I had maps too.
    skinny d

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    As I recall the AT is usually unofficially carved into these signs by hikers, making up for a obviously deficient sign system.
    I agree. The sign system up there is obviously deficient. I hiked the AT through NH. When AT hikers have to rely on each other to scratch names on old, old, old signs, that's evidence enough for me. Way too much provincialism and snobbery up there when it comes to trails and signs. IMHO.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rain Man View Post
    I agree. The sign system up there is obviously deficient. I hiked the AT through NH. When AT hikers have to rely on each other to scratch names on old, old, old signs, that's evidence enough for me. Way too much provincialism and snobbery up there when it comes to trails and signs. IMHO.
    I think it's more a matter that AT thru hikers just don't get any special consideration. These woods are filled with peakbaggers, clueless weekenders, backpackers of all kinds, many of whom have no idea at all or are barely aware of this thing called the Appalachian Trail. I know, amazing, huh? SMH.

    I hike frequently with one of those people. This spring as we descended Kinsman in the snow, she asked me, "So, is this Cascade Brook Trail, or is it the AT?" I had to explain that it was both, and that "Cascade Brook Trail" came first. The AT just hijacked it. Locals still refer to the local names. Thru hikers can adapt or complain, it's all the same to us.

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    I was surprised to discover that there are stretches on the Presidential ridge where the AT is blazed in yellow.

    Met a thru hiker up there last fall, livid with rage over this. It caused him to miss a bit of the trail and compromised his purity which he'd managed to maintain up until that particular "error." He was clearly having a very bad day. Not a happy camper.

    It was explained to me that yellow blazes are easier to spot in snow, than white ones. That made sense. Yeah, people hike up here all year round. Crazy!

  14. #14

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    Yellow paint is based on lead chromate, about the longest lasting paint I have seen. I don't think they have blazed the AT in yellow for years on the Crawford path and the Gulf side it just lasts quite awhile far longer than the water based paint they use today.

    As an aside, on of the local scouts needed an Eagle project years ago and ended up being in charging the last major trail in the whites, the Kilkenny Ridge Trail. We had a three day backpack and had to lug all the paint. We went to pick up the paint and it was lead chromate yellow. The FS ranger was real excited as they had found what he thought was the last case of this type of paint in the Whites. Unfortunately the darn cans seemed to be made to survive an air drop, they were two or three times heavier empty than standard cans. We got it done but it was grunt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    I think it's more a matter that AT thru hikers just don't get any special consideration. These woods are filled with peakbaggers, clueless weekenders, backpackers of all kinds, many of whom have no idea at all or are barely aware of this thing called the Appalachian Trail. I know, amazing, huh? SMH.
    equally true to this statement is the fact that no matter how hard you try you will NEVER convince an "AT Hiker" of this. i guess "we" just arent a very observant bunch, or maybe we're clique-ish, but if you walk into any of the huts or campsistes or anywhere there are hikers gathered and start talking to them about the "AT" you will overwhelmingly be met by blank stares. they mostly have no clue the AT is even there. you could remove it and it'd barely be a blip on the radar. yet AT hikers always seem to not notice this.

  16. #16

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    Many people say that in the Whites the AT is less well marked in the SOBO direction. JPF lost an hour on her record hike when she went off trail near the Mizpah hut.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scrum View Post
    Many people say that in the Whites the AT is less well marked in the SOBO direction. JPF lost an hour on her record hike when she went off trail near the Mizpah hut.
    many AT hikers say this, i have little doubt. many people? naah, i'm sure the overwhelming majority of people who have hiked in the white mountains have not put forth any opinion on the subject.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tdoczi View Post
    many AT hikers say this, i have little doubt. many people? naah, i'm sure the overwhelming majority of people who have hiked in the white mountains have not put forth any opinion on the subject.
    Most of us bring a map and hike the trails we want without a thought to the AT.

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    Off topic. Trip planning for tm. Does anyone have any info on how well the great gulf wilderness is marked out. Tm is suppose to be beautiful. I'm thinking of parking at Pinkham notch and summiting. Then heading tward osgood. Either camp in the wilderness since it looks like that trail follows water the whole way or at the end if I can't find a suitable spot. Thank you and sorry again for being off topic. Just hoping this will attract more attention then in the other subforums


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    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    I think it's more a matter that AT thru hikers just don't get any special consideration. These woods are filled with peakbaggers, clueless weekenders, backpackers of all kinds, many of whom have no idea at all or are barely aware of this thing called the Appalachian Trail. I know, amazing, huh? SMH.

    I hike frequently with one of those people. This spring as we descended Kinsman in the snow, she asked me, "So, is this Cascade Brook Trail, or is it the AT?" I had to explain that it was both, and that "Cascade Brook Trail" came first. The AT just hijacked it. Locals still refer to the local names. Thru hikers can adapt or complain, it's all the same to us.
    This sounds just like a thru hiker who, on his blog, about complaining several times to the GSMNP personnel about the "unacceptable thru hiker experience". I actually laughed out loud when I read that statement.

    More than 77,000 overnight hikers utilized the backcountry sites in 2013. Let's say that all 3,000 aspiring thru hikers actually made it that far and spent a total of 6 nights in the park. Those 18,000 "camper nights" PALE in comparison to the number of non-thru hiker camper nights. Yet many thrus like to complain about it.

    I used to be opposed to the shelter rule in the Smokies, but now I realize why that is, and that for all my love of the AT, it only comprises 12% of all the trails in the park.
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep."

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