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  1. #1
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    Default Georgia in March

    Thinking about beginning a thru hike in Georgia in early March, but have limited experience backpacking in winter conditions. Wondering what folks have experienced in terms of the weather in the mountains that early in spring and whether the conditions demand winter backpacking experience or not. Thanks!

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    March is wintertime in the Georgia high country. Most of the time the temperature will be cold and/or wet. Sometimes it will be cold, wet and windy at the same time. On average, two days out of seven will be pretty. Snow is common as is cold rain. Lows can range from the single digits to 20s. By the end of March and into April, temps will swing wildly. You can have blistering hot days when the temperatures on south-facing slopes can be in the low 80s with sunburn a real concern. Or the wind might be blowing 50 miles an hour with the temperature at 30 degrees.

    Water is never a problem in March, so you won't have to worry about carrying much. That's the one good thing about March.

    So experience will help, but it's not generally an absolute necessity. A well-prepared novice can do well. And there are enough road crossings and plenty of trail company to help you out in tight spots.

    Good luck.

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    Those arent Winter conditions, those are early Spring conditions and it can be worse. In Winter, you only have to deal with cold. In Spring you have to deal with wet and cold, which is much worse.

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    I think March is the wettest month down here.

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    Some snow, maybe, and cold rain, almost for sure. Be ready to handle extreme swings in temperature.

    I was there early April, saw sub-freezing temps several nights those first few weeks, freezing rain and sleet at Jarard Gap on the third night out. But hot and muggy at Justus stream the night before. It was in the twenties at Muskrat Creek shelter. Even so, daytime temps often in the 70s or higher. Big swings.

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    Take an umbrella. You can thank me later.

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    As far south as Atlanta can get heavy snow in late March. The most snow I've ever seen in Atlanta came on March 31, 1993. It snowed as far south as Jacksonville, FL that year.
    "I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list." - S. Sontag

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    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    Those arent Winter conditions, those are early Spring conditions and it can be worse. In Winter, you only have to deal with cold. In Spring you have to deal with wet and cold, which is much worse.
    No, in winter you often have to deal with cold and rain. RAIN. Examples---


    In December 2015 I got caught in a 75 hour butt cold rainstorm in the TN mountains not far from the App Trail. I was able to pack up and move most days but I had short days and even a couple zeros waiting for the crap to pass.


    After the December storm the creek along the trail looked like this---and I had to cross it over a dozen times to reach the top of the mountain.


    On another trip in January 2014 I was on the Benton MacKaye trail close to the AT and spent several days on mountaintops above 5,000 feet and got caught in a 153 hour rainstorm which never seemed to let up, along with high winds.


    In January 2013 I pulled a long backpacking trip into the Big Frog wilderness and got hit by my worst rainstorm of all lasting 180 hours, a record. Here is Frog Pond near Big Frog Mt before the storm.


    Here is the same pond after 3 days of rain as I backtrack from the mountaintop back to Frog Pond.


    Oh and finally, in 2008 I pulled a trip into the NC mountains and on April 30 got hit with this small snowstorm---which caused several AT hikers to bail into towns to get warm as they had insufficient clothing.

  9. #9

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    It's not so much Georgia you have to worry about. You soon get into the high elevations of NC and that's where the fun starts. There is a very good chance of running into a wet snow storm, but it typically melts out in a day or two. If you pay attention to the weather forecasts, you can usually arrange to be in town at the time.

    But overall, plan on being wet and cold much of the time, well into April or even May sometimes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maydog View Post
    As far south as Atlanta can get heavy snow in late March. The most snow I've ever seen in Atlanta came on March 31, 1993. It snowed as far south as Jacksonville, FL that year.
    I believe you're talking about the Blizzard of '93 which hit on March 13-14 and shut down the Eastern US. Approx 250 people died in the storm. I remember the storm well as I was living on a ridgetop in North Carolina outside Boone at the time and took this pic of where I was living at the beginning of the storm---in my 17 foot diameter Tipi---



    Are we due another big blizzard in the Southeast? Don't know. How can a backpacker be prepared? Carry extra food and a snow shovel to dig and make a tentsite camp and to dig out your tent in the morning (and thruout the night).


    I was out in the Citico wilderness of TN last February 2016 and got walloped by a series of 5 snowstorms and was very glad I had my Voile XLM snow shovel as pictured. This isn't relevant to a March start on the AT . . . or is it???

    But I love being out in such storms and enjoy coming back home after my trip and reading the trail journals of Appalachian Trail backpackers who bail into towns at the first sign of nasty cold weather with snow. Here's an example from February 2016---(and taken from my trail journal on a March 2016 trip)---

    PITIFUL TRAIL JOURNAL ACCOUNT
    This jewel is from Hestia, an Appalachian Trail backpacker describing his experience with snow on the trail on February 9, 2016 (remember I was in deep snow on Brush Mt in a tent and loving it while he was hating it). Here's part of his entry from that day:


    "Let me tell you how I really feel. F*** snow. Snow is no joke. It's a hateful bitch. Meteorologists suck, and so does snow. The forecast was for a max of 6 inches over the course of two days on the mountains. We woke up to 6 inches after the first night and the snow was not stopping."


    "Einstein was ambitiously planning to hike 15 miles, but the rest of us were already formulating contingency plans. It took me only an hour of hiking with the snow stinging at my face to realize I needed to get the f*** off the mountain ASAP. Although the snow was light and powdery and not nearly as difficult to walk in as the snow in the Smokies, I had developed icicles on my hair and felt as though I had sandbags tied to my ankles. Bill caught up with me before reaching Flint Mountain Shelter (our designated lunch spot) and he commiserated with me on finding a way out of the snow."


    "We waited for Sun Down while at the shelter and decided to call Uncle Johnny's for a shuttle from Devil's Fork Gap, a few miles down the trail. Bill handed me the phone to "work my magic" and procure us a ride. Within an hour and a half, we were in a warm van with Jeff, the hotel manager, and Jerry Garcia, the hostel mascot."


    MY OPINION?
    "We were in a warm van" is about the most depressing thing I've read this year."""

    I'm not much into seeing backpackers bail in bad weather. Why? Because the whole point of being out is taking all of Miss Nature's mood swings without regret (or bugging out) and enjoying them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kindling View Post
    Thinking about beginning a thru hike in Georgia in early March...
    Which means you'll be at 6,000' in the Smokies by the middle or end of March. As bad as early March in the GA and NC mountains can be at 2,000', 3,000', and 4,000', you'd be making a mistake to get fixated on Georgia and not be devoting a good deal of thought also to the Smokies at elevation that same month, without all the road crossings to bail out at. Just my two cents.
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  12. #12

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    lots of thru hikers without much experience start late feb or early march. It's a good time to beat the crowds
    You just have to carry extra cold/rain gear for a couple months, and know that you can get tons of snow, lots of cold rain, and maybe also luck out for a stretch. But cold is guaranteed

    If you keep an eye on the forecast for any serious storms, and avoid accordingly, proper gear and basic prep will allow you to get through without issue

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    Tipi, What tent is this?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lnj View Post
    Tipi, What tent is this?
    The Tentmakers! Ha!

    Hilleberg, something something something

    If it rains, it ain't Winter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    The Tentmakers! Ha!

    Hilleberg, something something something

    If it rains, it ain't Winter.
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    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    it a really nice tent. TW gets his moneys worth out of it.

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    Registered User Maydog's Avatar
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    Yep, that's the one. I was in a bar in Jacksonville, FL when it started. The locals thought it was the coolest thing ever...for a while.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    I believe you're talking about the Blizzard of '93 which hit on March 13-14 and shut down the Eastern US. Approx 250 people died in the storm. I remember the storm well as I was living on a ridgetop in North Carolina outside Boone at the time and took this pic of where I was living at the beginning of the storm---in my 17 foot diameter Tipi---


    "I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list." - S. Sontag

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    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    I dont remember that storm, but being in Maine, it was just anf average snow fall. Reading the wiki article on it, some parts of the Appalachian trail got hit with 5 or 6 feet of snow with drifts 14' deep. Probably more memorable down South than up here. Pretty impressive storm.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by egilbe View Post
    I dont remember that storm, but being in Maine, it was just anf average snow fall. Reading the wiki article on it, some parts of the Appalachian trail got hit with 5 or 6 feet of snow with drifts 14' deep. Probably more memorable down South than up here. Pretty impressive storm.
    I had a buddy named Hoppin John who was backpacking the Smokies during the storm and he had no choice but to be airlifted out on a helicopter. His experience gets me to worrying that in another "storm of the century" the Tent Police will see my red tent from above and I'll be required to bail so I'm thinking of not only having to survive such a storm but hiding from rescue.


    Here's my buddy Hoppin John, one of the select lucky ones who got to backpack in the '93 Blizzard.

    While I was getting thru the storm in my Tipi 200 miles away, high school students from the Cranbrook School in Michigan were pulling their annual 10 day wilderness trek thru the Citico and Slickrock wilderness in NC and TN. You could write a book about the school and the blizzard and how 117 kids were rescued. And they are significant to me since I have backpacked and camped with the school's trip leaders for the last 15 years. (See below pics).

    Check out their Blizzard stories---
    http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/17/us...wy-forest.html

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1...tion-mountains


    This pic of the Cranbrook kids was taken at exactly the same time as the blizzard of '93 on March 15 but it's now 2010, 22 years later. I had a tough hell slog thru deep snow on a 12 mile day and near the end of my hike I run into the "Cranberries" who broke trail for me for 2 miles and I was happy.


    Here's another March Cranbrook group from 2016 on the Haoe Lead trail in the NC mountains. These are the 3 trip leaders---3 leaders per 7 students.


    A group of Cranberries coming down a 5,000 mountain in the snow and losing 3,000 feet of elevation---in March 2016.

    Oh and btw, in the '93 Blizzard a student lost half of a foot to frostbite and a trip leader lost all his fingers except for a thumb and half of both of his feet. You don't have to be in Maine or the Presidentials to have your butt handed to you.

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    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kindling View Post
    Thinking about beginning a thru hike in Georgia in early March, but have limited experience backpacking in winter conditions. Wondering what folks have experienced in terms of the weather in the mountains that early in spring and whether the conditions demand winter backpacking experience or not. Thanks!
    After what Tipi's written and the pictures hes posted, what do you think?

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