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  1. #1

    Default Headed SOBO 2020, question about the first couple hundred miles...

    What things should I be doing now to get ready for the first couple hundred miles? I already have rocky hikes (creekbeds) to sort of practice on, but watching some YouTube videos shows some rock scrambles and climbing rock faces.

    I'm 6'2", 225lbs. I'll probably weigh a bit less by next June when I plan to start, but should I be trying to find places to rock climb? Working on upper body and core strength? I'm already pretty used to backpacking, and will be doing a 45 mile hike next week, but watching these videos of rock climbing and rock scrambles, things I've never had to do, have me questioning if this is the right way for me to start the trail (all the hard stuff first).

    Thoughts?

  2. #2

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    You might occasionally need your hands to hold onto to rocks and roots as you go up (or down, often backwards) but it's still mostly all leg work. The main trick is to learn when to use your poles and when to drop them down the cliff (carefully) to free up your hands. About the only way to learn is to do it, on the job training.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  3. #3
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    Default Headed SOBO 2020, question about the first couple hundred miles...

    Question for the folks who have hiked this section. Southern Maine and NH are notoriously difficult and remote. Assuming you’re an 18 mile per day hiker through other sections (VA, PA), how much does your pace slow down due to the terrain towards the northern terminus? Does it generally get cut in half, reduced by 25%, etc? Thanks.


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  4. #4
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    Maine consists of a mix of stretches and difficulties. It far less predictable then down south where you can go days on ridgelines. Many folks get fooled for the eastern side of the "100 mile wilderness" its easy walking without a lot of elevation but once they hit Whitecap they hit the proverbial wall and stay that way most of the way to Monson and some folks get burnt out or injured by trying to force the mileage. Its like that over to Long falls Dam road,a couple days of easier going with a day of steep mountains. IMHO that is the start of Western maine. With the exception of the stretch from RT 4 to RT 17 ( a very pleasant hike) you start the equivalent of the Maine rollercoaster, with a lot more elevation gain and steeper ascents and descents on a daily basis. Sure you get some breaks on top of the ridge but those daily climbs up and down out of the valleys are steep.

    So figure maybe one out of ten days down south are steep ups and downs while in Maine it may average out to 1 out of 3 east of Long Falls Dam road then it flips to 2 or 3 rough days for every 1 "easy" one and stays that way to Glencliff in NH. Unlike NOBOs, sobos are fighting lack of conditioning and heavier pack loads as there are no real easy resupplies until Gorham. Most require a longer hitch into town and back and a night at a hostel or hotel so many folks try to carry more food to cut back on town days. So take the trail lenght of roughly 280 miles and divide by a typical 4 weeks of a NOBO and thats 10 miles per day I would suggest adding a week for a SOBO and that is 8 miles per including a zero at Monson Stratton, Caratunk Rangeley and Andover day realizing that some days you will do more.

  5. #5
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by globetruck View Post
    Question for the folks who have hiked this section. Southern Maine and NH are notoriously difficult and remote. Assuming you’re an 18 mile per day hiker through other sections (VA, PA), how much does your pace slow down due to the terrain towards the northern terminus? Does it generally get cut in half, reduced by 25%, etc? Thanks.
    We're from the South, and we did a Long Trail e2e hike five years ago. We can easily average 15-18 mpd on the Southern AT. We worked *very* hard to get 11 or 12 miles a day on the LT. We did have a couple of 17 mile days, and some 15 mile days, but we also had a bunch of 9 and 10 mile days that didn't feel anything like easy. We were hiking at first light, and usually stopping around 6 or 7pm.

    So it wasn't a 50% reduction, but it was more than 25%.

    To MannDude, the OP: The first day of a southbound hike is generally regarded as the toughest single day on the AT. You'll want to make campsite reservations for two nights at Baxter State Park as soon as the reservation system opens. You'll arrive at the park, spend the night, then climb Katahdin with a loaner daypack, starting very early, and come back to your campsite and spend the second night. Then continue sobo the next morning.

    Anything you can do to increase your cardio workout will help. Some folks who live in the flatlands go to the local high school football stadium and run or walk up and down the stairs in the bleachers. This will help. Wear your pack if possible.

    Good luck!
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  6. #6

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    Thanks everyone.

    Another question, about heights... I've seen some images where it makes it seem like a few feet to the left, and a few feet to the right is, well, death. I'm not a big fan of heights. You won't find me dangling me legs off of McAffee Knob nor following blue blazes to scenic fire tower overlooks. I'm okay to a degree, and I've tried climbing towers to overcome this fear (and still do, when I can, and usually turn around once I am above the tree line, lol). Any places like this? I know once I get out of the northern most sections that the literal rock/boulder climbing is limited.

    @bigcranky, commicaly enough I tried to reserve already and was told to try again in April/May, that they don't reserve a year in advance. Fair enough. I was trying to be the early bird getting that worm. Heck, I tried to even book a flight to Bangor but I can't even do that this far out. I'll try again in a month or so.

    Everyone else: Thanks. I'm going to continue to hike and backpack through the hills of Southern Indiana as I do now. I've got the Knobstone Trail near me which is considered the "little AT" in regards to it's steep uphill and downhill climbs (but a couple hundred feet in a short period, so not massive climbs). I'm planning a 4 day 'thru hike' of in a couple days, actually. I'd call it a shakedown hike but I already know I'm replacing my pack and tent before I hit the actual AT, so it's more of a 'get out of the house and have fun in the woods' type thing.

    I'm confident that once I get past the areas that make my palms sweat just by looking at photos that I'll be fine.

  7. #7

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    Don't worry, your first "If I fall here I will die" moment will occur about half way up Kathadin on your very first day After that, everything else will look tame. But yea, there are a lot of places where you don't want to get too close to the edge of. Butt sliding is a perfectly acceptable method of going down, some times the only way.

    People who make reservations a year out have a bad habit of not actually showing up.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  8. #8

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    HI. I'm planning a SOBO hike in 2020 also. I live near the Whites in NH, so I hike there almost every week. If you have any questions about the Whites I'll be glad to try and answer them, or even go and try it out and report back.

    I don't want to hijack this thread, as I think it's a good one. But what should thru hikers be planning right about now? I mean, should I be looking into things or planning thing this far in advance to my hike? It's still a year away.

    My current plan is to do a few mail drops, in towns that are expensive or don't have good variety. Plan a start date, and let the rest fall together. I do enough hiking currently that I have my gear pretty well tweaked.

    Thanks

  9. #9
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    The only things to plan a year in advance is how you are going to save up $5000 between now and then and still cover any bills. if you are employed you need to start figuring out your "escape" plan and if you have access to COBRA health care extension and how you will pay for it. If you don't have COBRA figure out a way of how you can get insurance. One trip to an emergency room shuts down your hike without it.

    Some things that will kill time is figure out what the latest and greatest gear of last year and this year was and come up with plan on your big three, do you need to budget for new or will your odl stuff be good enough?. Once you figure out what gear you wan, keep an eye out for sales and used equipment from folks that decided that a thru hike was not for them.

    If you are fair weather hiker plan some hikes in crappy wet and cold weather. Depending on the spring, you may be in for 60 days or wet cold weather and that's where you need to get your gear and your techniques down.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    The only things to plan a year in advance is how you are going to save up $5000 between now and then and still cover any bills. if you are employed you need to start figuring out your "escape" plan and if you have access to COBRA health care extension and how you will pay for it. If you don't have COBRA figure out a way of how you can get insurance. One trip to an emergency room shuts down your hike without it.

    Some things that will kill time is figure out what the latest and greatest gear of last year and this year was and come up with plan on your big three, do you need to budget for new or will your odl stuff be good enough?. Once you figure out what gear you wan, keep an eye out for sales and used equipment from folks that decided that a thru hike was not for them.

    If you are fair weather hiker plan some hikes in crappy wet and cold weather. Depending on the spring, you may be in for 60 days or wet cold weather and that's where you need to get your gear and your techniques down.
    Thanks. I'm planning on taking a leave of absence. I'm definitely working on saving up the money currently as well.
    As far as hiking in crappy weather, I think I've got that covered. I'll hike in the Whites anytime, and do winters as well. I'm feeling pretty confident in my hiking abilities.

    I'm going to start researching towns that may be expensive, or out of the way, so that I can plan drops for them. I'm going to try and stay out of towns to save money. I know there are going to be those times that I'm going to just want to stay in town. I understand that. I'm going to be trying real hard to save money and do the hike on the inexpensive side, if possible.

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