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  1. #1

    Default Newbie multi day backpacker...is my goal reasonable?

    Hi all!
    I am 27 years old and female from Upstate NY. While I grew up camping and hiking and often do long day hikes, Iím a newbie when it comes to multiday, longer backpacking trips. I am in research/read everything/learning mode right now, and have been formulating a plan.

    GOAL - I would like to be ready to hike 65 miles of the NY section of the AT by early September in one trip.

    I think that if I start training now, get into better shape, use and practice with my gear and do a few overnight weekend 1 or 2 night trips, and hike as many different trails as I can in the meantime, this could be a reasonable goal.

    Of course my family, while well-meaning, is freaking out and saying absolutely no way will this be possible for me.

    Iím not a novice that doesnít realize the huge risks, physical and mental demands, safety and training needed...but I really feel like I could do this if I really dedicate myself and use the next 6-8 months wisely.

    Any words of wisdom?

    Am I seeking the impossible or setting my expectations way too high?

    What do you think?

  2. #2

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    no problem (assuming you are reasonable shape)

    every year lots of people thru hike the entire AT with no prior backpacking experience. you plan sounds fine with the practice overnights you will figure out real quick if your gear works for you and if you really like overnighting on the trail its also going to tell you what you need to know about conditioning.

    only real advice - go slower/less miles than you think you should - pushing too hard is the thing that will stop a hike like yours.

  3. #3

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    It's just walking - anyone can do it. The NY section is fairly mellow and at no point is far from a road. If you decide it's not for you, or an issue pops up, leaving the trail is extremely easy.

    Why wait until September? Give it a go in the spring. Whether you hike 5 miles per day or 35 miles per day, you'll likely have a good time. And if you're not having a good time, simply ask a friend or family member to pick you up at the next road crossing.

    I'm not sure what huge risks you're alluding to. Thousands upon thousands of people hike along the AT in NY each year. It's safe, accessible, and has some truly beautiful parts. Get out there and give it a go!

  4. #4

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    That is not a lofty goal. You could do it when spring comes (July?).
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  5. #5

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    Also embrace everything and don’t pack your fears. Meaning know your comfort level and your abilities

  6. #6
    Registered User QuietStorm's Avatar
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    I hiked it in less than a week in May. The tricky part of NY is figuring out where to camp if you want to stay at shelters. It is harder than people give it credit for, but not ridiculous. Relatively steep ups and downs. Rockier than one would expect. Good opportunities for food and re-supply. The northern half is easier than the southern.

  7. #7

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    Thank you, all! Iíd like to go as early as July possibly...but I think while I had a reasonable amount of smart caution, my family is now fearmongering me and making me feel like Iím setting some reckless and dangerous goal. My mom is convinced Iíll be attacked by a bear or something ridiculous.

    I DO realize I have a lot to learn and will figure things out as I go and try things out...but theyíre making me doubt myself and I donít want to feel like I am being too sure of myself or underestimating things.

    If I can go in July or August, that would be preferred. Thank you for assuring me Iíve set a realistic goal. Honestly, Iíd like to maybe even do the entire 90 mile section, border to border.

  8. #8
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    Four years ago when I got back into backpacking, I was twice your age and almost certainly in much worse shape than you. My first trip was 82 miles from Pen Mar to Duncannon in six days, and I did it easily. Set aside five or six days for your trip and you will have no problem. Good luck on your hike and tell your family to stop worrying.

  9. #9
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    You're kidding, right? Sixty-five miles are nothing as long as you are in moderately good shape. I hiked with a 72 year old woman in 2016 and she left me in her dust. She was much faster than I was. I'm no youngster either, and I've done 1,280 miles in two LASH's (2016 & 2017). Before my hike in 2016 (532 miles), I had never slept in the woods, backpacked or even took a walk in the woods.

    The point is just get out and do it. Find someone experienced to go with maybe the first few days at least. When you finish the 65 miles, you will probably be eyeing a LASH or even a through hike attempt.
    Trail Name - Slapshot
    "One step at a time."
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  10. #10

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    Folks walk the entire trail every year with no prior camping experience and do just fine. You don't state what kind of shape you are in, but you seem to sound pretty worked up over the challenge. I could only see the way you are talking about it as if you had a weight loss goal attached to this goal, otherwise, just go do it. FWIW I am 29, male and did all of New York last October as part f a 240 mile trip and completed NY in 4 days of walking. Best way to practice is by doing.
    Trail Miles: 3,715.9
    AT Trips: 67
    AT Map 1 Completion: 1818.9 Springer, GA - Franconia Notch, NH
    AT Map 2 Completion: 263.8 Gaps From GA - PA

  11. #11

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    So now Iím starting to feel silly, but I guess thatís why I asked. I know for experienced backpackers, my first goal trip IS nothing. For me, it will be an accomplishment and a good point to start from...but Iím letting people around me who DONíT hike or camp convince me that this is a much bigger ordeal than it is...which is why I wanted to ask all of you fine people

    Thanks for the reassurance! I am no longer worried and will take the next few months as they come. May even increase my distance goal.

    And also - Iím 5í2 and 130lbs so, not very out of shape or significantly overweight or anything either (since that was mentioned/questioned).

  12. #12

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    I suppose you could become the first person ever killed by a bear in NY, or the first killed by snakebite there since 1796, but I rather doubt it.
    Last edited by Feral Bill; 01-04-2018 at 14:52.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by nosuchthingaslost View Post
    So now I’m starting to feel silly, but I guess that’s why I asked. I know for experienced backpackers, my first goal trip IS nothing. For me, it will be an accomplishment and a good point to start from...but I’m letting people around me who DON’T hike or camp convince me that this is a much bigger ordeal than it is...which is why I wanted to ask all of you fine people

    Thanks for the reassurance! I am no longer worried and will take the next few months as they come. May even increase my distance goal.

    And also - I’m 5’2 and 130lbs so, not very out of shape or significantly overweight or anything either (since that was mentioned/questioned).
    Keep in mind, at that body structure, pack weight is quite important. As others have said, don't pack your fears. Youll do great and welcome to whiteblaze. Countless years of experience on this forum

    Trail Miles: 3,715.9
    AT Trips: 67
    AT Map 1 Completion: 1818.9 Springer, GA - Franconia Notch, NH
    AT Map 2 Completion: 263.8 Gaps From GA - PA

  14. #14
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    Unlike most of the folks on this board, I'm a novice. But, I hiked about 100 miles this year through Shenandoah. I would not pay much attention to how easily or quickly others have hiked this section. I picked Shenandoah because it was supposed to be easy, and it is super easy for thruhikers, but for me it was not easy at all and it was not easy for most of the people hiking when I was out there. If you don't plan more than 10 miles a day for the first 3-4 days you should be fine. I went a few miles further on day 2 and that was a bad mistake. I'd suggest starting with the easier part of the state first, so north to south maybe. Also, I went by myself and it was fine. I spent only one night alone, the rest of the nights there were people at shelters or campgrounds. I saw several single women out hiking by themselves. They were all fine. I think of the AT as pretty safe, there are people on the trail if you get into trouble and most are very willing to help. It is a hiking community.

  15. #15
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    You have my attention. I am leaving April 8 to hike SNP to HF. This will be my first real backpacking trip. I day hike quite a bit and I have experience camping but I haven't done any real backpacking. I am planning some 2 day trips to work with my gear and stuff prior to leaving and I am training by walking 6 to 14 miles at least 3 days a week to get my body used to walking many miles. Looking at where the shelters are located along the AT in SNP there are many days that require a 10 plus mile day to get from one shelter to the next. Did you mostly hike from shelter to shelter each day? I'm concerned about finding tent spots away from shelters. What did you find most difficult? I appreciate any advice you could offer.

  16. #16

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    I did NY once in July - at the tail end of an 11 day heat wave. I don't recommend the experience. I'd plan for late August. Better chance of it not being so beastly hot, but water might be an issue. Springs can start to dry up towards the end of summer.

    Going south from CT would start you out easier then going north from NJ.

    Upstate NY is a big place, no doubt there are places and trails not too far from you to do a few easy weekend trips at. Definitely a good idea to do that before committing to a multi-day trip. The AT through NY is basically a hike through suburbia. It's not exactly a wilderness experience. Hiking in the ADK's is more like wilderness. Get some experience there and everywhere else will seem tame.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  17. #17
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    SLMaui: SNP was a lot of fun and perfect for me. I'm 59 and out of shape. It was my first hike of over 2 nights. With the miles you are walking you will be a lot better off than I was. My only experiences with the AT are in Georgia and NC.

    Here are my thoughts about the hike and the park: First, the trail is exceptionally well graded, well maintained and beautiful. I'll probably want to hike it again. The shelters (huts) are also a lot nicer than the ones I have seen in Georgia and North Carolina. The southern 25 or 30 miles or so of the park can be pretty rocky but the middle of the park has some fairly flat areas which are a joy to walk. I'm in Florida and we don't have rocks. Or hills. I started at Rockfish Gap and headed north ending at VA 522. The uphills were challenging for me the entire hike as were the rocks, especially the first couple of days. I did enough walking before the hike that I didn't have blister problems that have plagued me in the past, but I did have quite a bit of foot pain after the second day and some other casual hikers like me I met also experienced foot pain from walking on rocks. I used guthook's app and it worked well. I also had the pages from the AT Guide. I used them both but can't imagine why you need more in the way of maps. Not much ATT cell service in the park but enough to get by. I didn't see many flat camping spots anywhere in the park, the northern part did have some, but by then 14 miles a day was not too difficult and I could have gone a few more so the distance between huts wasn't a problem. My biggest problem was scheduling myself to do over 13 on days 2 and 3 because that is where the huts are located. That was too hard for me and I ended up exhausted, and I mean exhausted, at the end of day 2. I was so sore I needed to get off the trail for a night and called a motel that picked me up at Swift Run Gap for night 4. After that I was able to go forward ok and I threw in a short day between Big Meadows and Skyland.

    I didn't cook and relied on the camp stores, waysides and ate at the restaurants along the way plus bought snacks and sandwiches. Also, there are coin operated showers and laundries at some of the campgrounds. That was very nice. I did take some trailmix which was plenty for the first couple of days as I didn't want much to eat--too exhausted. I'd check to see what is open in early April. Also, water is scarce (at least in the fall) until you get to swift run gap, so I had some extra water with me usually 2 liters. Plus it was hot and I needed to drink a lot. You may want to make a scoop for water as in some of the areas it isn't so easy to get the water out of small pools, but overall water was ok. I got a lot of my water at campgrounds but it isn't potable in all campgrounds. I did not have a scoop, and treated my water with Aquamira -- no filter.

    Lots of bear sightings by others, but I saw only 2 bears, neither were the slightest problem. But I would check the park's website to see if there are alerts about aggressive bears. Some of the huts had notices and log entries associated with recent and scary bear behavior. The huts all had bear poles of a very good design or lockers and I just hung or stashed my entire pack after getting ready for bed.

    The portion of the trip outside the park on the north end is nothing special at all and if I do it again I might try to figure out how to end, or start, the hike at compton gap or to walk the dickey ridge trail into or from front royal. Also, I might start on the north end as I thought most of the more difficult terrain was in the south and I think it would be easier to find flat places to camp (near the top of ridges) north of Skyland if needed. If you started at 522 the hike to Gravel Springs hut is steep.

    I can't think of anything else, but let me know if you have any questions.

  18. #18
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    The only potential I see for failure is if you don't give yourself enough time to cover the ground. 65 miles over 10 days would be a stroll. Over 8 days a leisurely walk. 3 days (starting "cold" so to speak) would be pure torture.

    If you've got 5-7 days and (as others have pointed out) don't pack the kitchen sink you should have a good time.

    You probably should give serious consideration to the after-effects. The only cure for trail fever is more hiking.

  19. #19
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    Absolutely you can do this. You've done your research, including the wise step of asking advice from knowledgeable hikers. Don't let the ignorance if others hold you back. Please do me a favor and thumb your nose at your detractors once you are through your hike.

  20. #20

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    Sure you can do this. I think hiking tends to be more of a mental issue than physical. Just learn to listen to your body and don't over do it, relax and enjoy! The only person you have to please is yourself.

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