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  1. #1
    Registered User molly_beth's Avatar
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    Question How should I section out the AT for a section hike **help**!

    I've hiked portions of the AT but I want to the whole thing Maine to Georgia, just not all at once. Work won't allow that. Does anyone have any resources, ideas, anything? Any advice for practicing for the sections? Anything would help, thank you so much!

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    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Great idea One cool thing about section hiking is the possibility of choosing the best weather/season for each section. Doesn't always work out, but it's worth keeping in mind as you plan.

    I've met lots of section hikers who started at Springer and hiked for two weeks (or a month), then went home, and the following year they picked up in the place they left off the year before. That's probably the easiest and most logical way to do it, and it allows maximum flexibility while hiking. My wife and I are planning something like this when we retire, probably 4-6 weeks at a time on the trail, chosen for maximum enjoyment of that area.

    (Or you can be like me so far and do random sections to the point where I'm missing little 3- and 5- and 20-mile sections that I have to go back and fill in.)

    Good luck with the planning.
    Ken B
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    Registered User runt13's Avatar
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    Being from Jersey, I will start my section hike next year with the NJ section. I do not like the heat so I will do it in September / October. Logistically this is my best starting point. After that i will do another state each year, most likely NY, then so on until I knock off a state year graduating to the larger states.

    Always in the cooler weather.

    That is my plan

    RUNT ''13''

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    Molly Beth,
    First off,
    Always good to have new members!

    Section hikers are a diverse group. Some are section hikers because they tried a thru, got off, and finished it up the next year - essentially two long sections. Others (like me) do several small sections over a period of several years. The answers and advice from one type of section hiker may not fit the needs of another type. Which type are you?

    As far as resources go, the planning tools I use include www.atdist.com, and this guidebook, www.theatguide.com . Google AT shuttle list, and you'll have access to a PDF document with contacts for shuttles from Georgia to Maine.

    We are finishing up year 6 of a 10-year section-hike plan. Approximately half the trail is within a few hours drive of my house. That half is where we go for 1, 2, or 3-night trips. We fly twice a year for weeklong treks in the northern states.

    To plan a hike, I consider time of year, weather forecast, driving distance, time required for shuttle, difficulty of terrain. Hiking distance is dependent on how much time I have available after subtracting drive time and shuttle time. I start with 10 miles per day, and add or subtract based on difficulty. Then I use the resources noted above to identify a piece of the trail, learn about the shelters, water sources, and other features, then set up a shuttle. Only things left to do are prepping and packing food and equipment, and maybe dancing around in anticipation...!

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    Registered User molly_beth's Avatar
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    Thank you so much! I believe I am a small section hiker because I have neither the time, nor the endurance to do a thru hike. I do however want to push myself as hard as I can do finish it in small increments. I have done parts of the trail at time, and I know it takes careful planning to plan this trip so thank you so much for your help!

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    Be an active person, stay in shape, carry light pack, and you can make the most of your available time. Suffering when out of shape and heavily laden probably isnt as much fun.

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    illabelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by molly_beth View Post
    Thank you so much! I believe I am a small section hiker because I have neither the time, nor the endurance to do a thru hike. I do however want to push myself as hard as I can do finish it in small increments. I have done parts of the trail at time, and I know it takes careful planning to plan this trip so thank you so much for your help!
    We'll be up in your area in the spring of 2018 to finish up Pennsylvania from Port Clinton to NJ. I bet by that time you'll be catching up with us!

    By the way, that website, www.atdist.com can be used to keep track of what you've completed. It stores your record (on that computer), so you can update as you hike sections here and there.

    Our sections were not done in order from north to south, but not exactly random either. We don't like hiking in hot weather and we're not equipped or experienced for serious snow and ice. We go north in late summer to avoid lingering snow, the early summer bloodthirsty bugs, and the mid-summer heat. In the south we hike mostly spring and fall. Most sections start connect with one completed previously. We do have a few odd-sized little bits to clean up, but we've been careful to avoid that.

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    This is now my plan, as I do not like time pressure. I am lookin to choose sections based on likely weather (fall the north east forests) and I want to begin and end sections with public transportation where I can. Beyond that, no plan.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

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    Quote Originally Posted by molly_beth View Post
    Thank you so much! I believe I am a small section hiker because I have neither the time, nor the endurance to do a thru hike. I do however want to push myself as hard as I can do finish it in small increments. I have done parts of the trail at time, and I know it takes careful planning to plan this trip so thank you so much for your help!
    the endurance comes simply with time and miles on the trail

    I have done all the sections at least once, prefer to go out for a month at a time

    - with no training, I have reasonable endurance after 2 weeks

    good stop /start points Gorham, Pawling, Harpers Ferry, Pearisburg

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by molly_beth View Post
    ... Any advice for practicing for the sections? Anything would help, thank you so much!
    I've now section-hiked 1,900 miles. Practice? I used to do a lot of specific, daily conditioning hiking, which does help, but I found isn't absolutely required if I'm willing to hike a few shorter mileage days to start a section hike. So, your choice on practicing, just be willing to adjust based on what practice you do. Also, practice best done with a backpack on.

    That said, I also backpack at least once a month, year-round. Those hikes are both for fun and to help a bit on conditioning even if I don't also do daily hikes leading up to an AT section hike (though I do some of those too).

    All that said, definitely take into account where you will be doing your AT section hike. I've done 20-mile days and I've done 5-mile days. Very much depends on where on the AT my hike is.
    Last edited by Rain Man; 11-16-2016 at 12:43.
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  11. #11

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    I did just about every variation of section hike over 10 years from a 5 week car supported section to key swapping with one car. Every version has its pros and cons. I was based northern NH so some of my drives were long. I second the suggestion that sectioning allows you to pick the best weather months Here are my observations

    5 week section hike in VA in the early spring with two cars. We would spot a car at one crossing, drive south 4 or 5 backpacking days and then backpack to the car we had spotted. Last day would be an early start and short day ended up at the car around noon. We would grab a motel or hostel, resupply wash clothes and would respot a car then get up early in the AM and drive to the next spot. Big plus was no zero days so our average daily mileage was good. Cons was we drove two cars down from NH to VA. We also hit the early thru hiker bubble the last two weeks of the trip, previous to that we had three weeks of shelters to ourselves and plenty of firewood from winter blowdown.

    2 week section hike with a intermediate resupply and shuttle in the spring. We did a couple of them. We dropped off a resupply box at a hostel or stashed in the woods while we were driving down. Pros are nice way to kill two weeks of vacation but the first couple of days is tough due to poor conditioning. Spring also is less stable weather. Cons is we miss see the areas to either side of the AT (green tunnel effect).

    1 week two cars slack packing, my hiking partner has ankle issues so he was far better slackpacking than backpacking. We could crank out 18 to 20 mile days. We leapfrogged the cars every day and usually stayed in a local hostel or frequently we would just walk into a shelter (it was off season so we usually has them to ourselves. Shelters except in Maine are rarely more than 1/4 o 1/2 a mile from a road. Its nice option but double the gas. Pros are we got to see a lot more of the surrounding country, some of the rural roads and communities we saw were quite nice and thru hikers were probably never aware of the them

    1 week one car and key swapping. We would drive to trail crossing and one person headed south the other person would drive south to trail crossing 15 to 18 miles away. He would hike north. We would meet for lunch and the north bound hiker would hand over any hints on how to drive back to the pick up the north bound hiker. We stayed in motels, hostels and or shelters. Same pro as before, we got to see a lot of the surrounding country. We also got to sample the local cuisine. (We found a AYCE eat barbeque buffet in Erving at a whitewater rafting outfitter that had more than few visits over the years). I liked this method the best as I like solo hiking, I day hike year round so there really isn't a lot of conditioning needed compared to lugging a pack with several days of food, a tent and sleeping bag.

    A general observation about shuttles, they may be convenient but inevitably they eat up a lot of time, on a one week vacation 4 to 6 hours for a shuttle really cuts down the miles. Speaking of optimizing time we would leave as early as possible after I got out of work on Friday, drive south until after midnight, grab a hotel usually in PA or Maryland then get back on the road by 7 Am and were usually hiking by 10 AM. The drive home was usually the worse but with one car we could take turns and do an all nighter. Note the logistics in Maine are somewhat more difficult as car spotting can take hours. I would suggest a traditional back pack with shuttle. There was book published a few years back by someone who day hiked the majority of the AT so with some creativity you can get access as you need.

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    I live in eastern MA. I did the southernmost 670 miles and northernmost 118 miles as a thru hike attempt (1990). Years later I began doing sections in New England. I sectioned my way back from north to south, seeing as how the north was where I lived. Many sections, in no particular direction or order.

    Long walk short: I did sections close to home, which led to sections farther and farther away from home. The last one (2007) was a biggie. Forty days, 587 miles. No zeroes. Woohoo.

    Most sections ranged from long weekends (three days, 35 miles or so) to ten-day trips, 100-120 miles or so. One of these every year between 1997 and 2007. I used public transportation in some cases, car in other cases. Sometimes I relied on shuttles, sometimes I shuttled myself via bicycle. I'm good for 30-40 miles of bicycling in three or four hours, so that usually gets me a nice 35 mile AT section.

    AT section hikes aren't the sum total of my hiking. I do day trips, weekend outings, etc. in the White Mountains, southern NH, Vermont, DAKs, western MA, locally, etc. These days two or three nights in the woods is my limit.

  13. #13
    Registered User lyagooshka's Avatar
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    Having no experience, my 'advice' is somewhat meaningless, but I would start with MD.
    Go SOBO, Pen Mar to Harpers Ferry.
    It's the only section I have dome and it was what almost everyone said would be a good way to start.
    It's about 40 miles and "as close to 'A Walk in the Woods' as you will get on the AT".
    If you get that out of the way (psychologically it's nice too as you will have completed a whole state), you can move on to parts of PA, NJ, CT, etc.
    I heard someone say to get the "tough" parts in early.
    I agree, but know what you're getting into first.
    Don't start with the 100-mile wilderness.
    Geed luck and see you on the trail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lyagooshka View Post
    Don't start with the 100-mile wilderness.
    But that's exactly what southbound thru-hikers do.

    It's out of the way, for sure. I mean, just getting there, for most folks.

    Climbing Katahdin and walking from there to Abol Bridge is two days. From Abol Bridge to Monson is 105 miles, half of it relatively easy and the other half semi tough. Logistically, the HMW has been made easy by a plethora of shuttlers and service providers. Several roads intersect the trail.

    It's only mildly tough if you tackle it like it used to be done, ie. in one go, without any of that support. Then you're looking a week in the woods, give or take.

  15. #15

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    My section hiking took me 29 years to finish the AT, 1977 to 2005. Why? I was working, had a family, didn't use all my vacation time for the AT. And like you, I did short sections - never more than 4 nights, usually 2-3, and lots of day hikes.

    Living near the trail's half-way point at the time (Washington DC area), my section hikes were random - some north, some south. I ventured to New Hampshire in the early 1980s to hike the Whites but otherwise, I covered mostly PA, MD, and VA.

    Never hiked 100+ miles until my retirement in 2004. Except for the White Mountains, avoid the summer and do your hikes in March-May and September-November.

  16. #16

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    2017 will be year 4 of a tentative 7 year goal to hike the entire AT, I am 1080 miles into it and have learned a lot. My suggestions would be the following:
    1-Dont wait for others to join in order to make a trip. Go solo, and meet people along the way. The more people that go with you, the less likely you will have a successful trip.
    2-Dont leave gaps in the trail, don't jump around in short distances. Logistically I would say start in GA and every trip pick up where you left off.
    3- Me personally, I walk every inch of the trail. No shortcuts, road walks, "ill pass this section". I hold myself accountable for COMPLETING the AT, not hiking a bunch of it.
    4- Conditioning, Hike and hike and hike lol if you can, hike the AT, in order to get ready for the AT...Make sense? lol
    AT Shuttle List
    Trail Miles: 3,715.9
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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

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    Do the Whites and Maine as soon as possible, you are not getting any younger. Don't wait until you turn 80.

  18. #18

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    I've been a section hiker since 2006, and I've now completed everything except for Caratunk to Katahdin. When I began, I was working and so had to schedule vacation time for the hike. I soon fell into the pattern of hiking "outbound" from my home in Connecticut. I also used public transportation and shuttlers, for the most part, to access the trail. My segments were as follows: Massachusetts, New York to Delaware Water Gap, DWG to Duncannon, Vermont to Hanover, Duncannon to Harpers Ferry, Hanover to Moosilauke, Moosilauke to Pinkham Notch, Pinkham Notch to broken ankle in Wildcats, Harpers Ferry to Roanoke, Connecticut, Roanoke to Damascus, Damascus to Amicalola, and Wildcats to Caratunk. I hiked in various seasons, trying to pick a time when I'd be out there with other hikers (but not mobs of other hikers).

    For prep, I didn't do much at all, other than frequent short (3-5)-mile walks with my dog. Most of my prep involved dehydrating food for the trip.

    Good luck with your hike, and don't worry too much about a grand plan. One of the good things about section hiking is that if things don't work out, you can adjust your plan for the next adventure.
    Last edited by tiptoe; 11-17-2016 at 22:14. Reason: forgot my home state

  19. #19
    Registered User Kaptainkriz's Avatar
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    I find these web pages very useful when planning my sections:
    http://www.summitpost.org/appalachia...3282#chapter_8
    http://tnlandforms.us/at/googleat.php
    http://appalachiantrail.rohland.org

    I carry a small garmin GPS and upload my section tracks after each hike to a master file so I can see/track where I've been. Eventually I'll have all the little sections filled in. I usually do in and outs, but impatience is driving me to hike futther and have a ride get me on the far side. I tend to hike SOBO, the trail seems less crowded when I do that. I find with sections, I also have time to plan the specific trip better and explore side trails, waterfalls, and other interesting sights. Youtube is great for seeing what you are getting into before you go. I try to have better food when I section and plan a little extra to share with throughs/others the shelters.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by molly_beth View Post
    I've hiked portions of the AT but I want to the whole thing Maine to Georgia, just not all at once. Work won't allow that. Does anyone have any resources, ideas, anything? Any advice for practicing for the sections? Anything would help, thank you so much!
    Peakbagger has great suggestions.
    I started with MD and have planned around that area for several years; however, this past year, I jumped down to GA.

    Pick an area to start. It might not be Springer or Kahtadin. Then go north or south from that area. Each section hike, try to tag onto that area, beginning where you left off. You may end up with two starting points - like I have.

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