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  1. #21
    Registered User JPritch's Avatar
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    Man, I'm loving the advice, stories and experiences!

    Peakbagger - that 5 week car hopping trip through VA sounds epic!

  2. #22
    4eyedbuzzard's Avatar
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    I've got a mess of a patchwork. Over the years I hiked what was readily available without paying any attention to gaps. Mostly, I parked at the end point and hitchhiked back to the start so far as logistics goes. My first hike on the AT was in 1968 at age 12 with my uncle and his family - all of GSMNP. Then with uncle's BSA troop Delaware Water Gap to Bear Mountain (1972 - 1973 - two trips). Then on my own, Franconia to Gorham (1974). Springer to Damascus (aborted thru-hike 1976). Luray to Waynesboro (1982). Luray to Harpers Ferry (1985). Then other than overnights and weekends with the kids in PA and NJ, I didn't hike any distance for many years until moving to NH. Started hiking again in 2002 or so. Williamstown to Gorham in 2 to 3 day weekends (2002 - 2005). Then got injured and couldn't hike for 4 years or so. Back to hiking locally in the Whites and VT - "runnin' over the same old ground" and filling in local gaps (2008 - 2012). Moving to Texas due to job has chilled hiking the AT the last few years except for a repeat section in the Whites with my daughter, but I hiked about half of the Ouachita Trail in OK and AR over the last few years. I'm planning on a NOBO section starting in Damascus when I retire, trying to pick up where I quit back in '76. The larger sections I'm missing are in VA and ME, with some shorter ones in PA, NY, CT, and MA. That should keep me busy for a couple of years of section hiking. Any plan I come up with will center on hiking in the best season temperature wise for the given section and like others have noted I'll keep an eye on the weather.

  3. #23

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    Funny thing was we could have kept going after 5 weeks but we both agreed we preferred one or two week sections and that is how we did everything south of Damascus After a week or so it started to turn into a "job".

  4. #24

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    I didn't start my journey thinking I would be doing a nobo section hike of the entire AT.

    Based on a suggestion from a guy at an outfitter down here, I started at the NOC and hiked to Clingman's dome for my first ever section hike on the AT. After that one, I decided to start at the beginning and do it one section at a time.
    Various things have happened to prevent my journey from happening smoothly and sequentially, but rather than skip small sections, what I have done is to overlap and double some parts. I have even done some parts SOBO. While I may be officially at mile 750 (ish), I have hiked closer to 850 miles of the AT.

    The patch or official designation we will get when we have hiked the entirety of the AT is "2000 miler" as opposed to "Thru-hiker" … so if a small section is skipped, you will still likely have hiked at least 2000 miles since the AT is closer to 2200 miles than 2000.

    I like the Shakespeare quote "To thyne own self be true". From what I understand, the ATC gives out patches and documents thru hikers and 2000 milers based on the honor system.

  5. #25

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    Another factor in my planning, not mentioned in my earlier post, was to hike during relatively warm weather, and at a time when there would be other hikers on the trail, but not mobs of other hikers. This last was for two reasons: safety and the opportunity to meet people and chat.

  6. #26
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    I started hiking in 2016 after retiring. I had never hiked or camped before and was looking for something to do. I started at Springer with a partner; although we parted after a few days. Not really knowing what I was doing I thought I would hike a couple of weeks, go home and that would be the end of it. I hiked 532 miles that first year. I was hooked. In total, I have hiked 1,925 miles through 2019. I was supposed to finish last year but I got hurt and had to leave the trail in Maine after only 50 miles.

    All my LASH's have been NOBO and consecutive sections. I've not skipped around at all. If I stay healthy this year, I'll finish the last 265 miles in Maine. I've always considered it climactic to summit Mt Katahdin at the end of my hike and I wouldn't do it any other way.
    Trail Name - Slapshot
    "One step at a time."
    Blog - www.tonysadventure.com

  7. #27

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    I tend to do my section hikes when my business partner is taking vacation. It works better for the business if we both take off at the same time. So my sections have been whenever his son is on spring break (usually the end of March or early April), the last week of June, and Thanksgiving.

    The end of March can either be chilly or quite cold. Depends on if a front comes through or not. I hiked in 6 inches of snow in the Smokies the third week of March a few years ago because a Nor'easter came through. Depending on how far south I am during this time period dictates how many thru hikers I get to share my section of the journey with.

    Last week of June can be nice, or it can be uncomfortably hot. Since I'm only a third of the way through this trail, in mid Virginia, last June, there were handfuls of thru hiker stragglers around. It wasn't lonely, but it wasn't anywhere close to crowded. Also, it's the beginning of tick season, so I thoroughly treat everything with permethrin; it keeps mosquitos and flies away, too.

    November, Thanksgiving week, the trail is as empty as I've seen it. I did my sobo trip of 85 miles into Damascus a few years back (I had skipped ahead to avoid the smoke and fires that were going on in NC and TN) and I would be lucky to see one hiker a day. That particular section had very large sections with no cell coverage, so I decided not to do anymore Thanksgiving week hikes by myself (solo) anymore. I got spooked when I tripped on a root and realized that if I got hurt with nobody around and no cell signal, it would be quite unpleasant.

  8. #28

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    I am another patchwork-type hiker. I started in 2005 with a trip to the SNP with my son and 3 of his friends, and have managed to piece together nearly 1900 miles. Shortest gap I ever had to fill in was the 33 miles south of Uncle Johnny's that I had to skip due to a hiking buddy's injury. I went back later and did that piece and was planning to do more further up the trail but got called home for personal reasons. Completed Clingman's - Hot Springs last May, my last southern section, and went through the Whites in August. Note: If you can afford it, go hut to hut. It is pricy but worth it, especially the food. So far I have hiked about 70% NB and 30% SB and have a little of NH and all of ME to go. In hindsight I should probably have headed to New England before completing the Mid-Atlantic states as I am not getting any younger. To summarize, I think the advantages of section-hiking are 1) you can pick the time of year you go; 2) you can tailor your gear needs and thus pack weight depending on the time of year; 3) you can pick what part of the trail you want to do next; and 4) you can pick which direction you want to hike. Taking every section in order geographically eliminates the last two advantages.

  9. #29
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    If you wind up with a short section (for instance the 6.5 miles mentioned in the second post, or possibly even less), one option to save on trying to get rides and having a very short hike would be to do it "double" - that is start at one end, hike to the other and then walk back the same trail to your vehicle at the start point.

    That way, no ride costs, and it makes the hike a more decent length for a day hike (in that situation 13 miles vs. 6.5).

    This could also work with a section where the end point(s) are not easily accessible, if there was a point in the middle (or elsewhere in between) that was more easy to get to.

  10. #30
    Registered User Carl7's Avatar
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    I started backpacking my AT sections SOBO in 1981 with 82 miles left to go. The longest section was 6 weeks but was mostly weekend to 2 week long sections over a lot of time.

    I backpacked about 50% of the trail in random order but SOBO. However, the memories I have of those random sections are like a hodgepodge of memories now in my mind. I have much more meaningful trail memories of the sections I hiked in consecutive order, picking up where I previously left off.

    However, as I have learned with age, any trail time is good time. Direction, section, season, weather, alone, with a group, etc. don't matter as much as just being on trail, any trail.

    Carl

  11. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    For those of you who have sectioned the trail or done a large chunk of it, how did your actual execution of it differ from your initial plan, and would you change anything about how you hiked the trail?

    Thank You
    My execution didn't really differ from my plan because I didn't really have any plan on how to do it, except to kind of "go with the flow" as much as I could. i.e. Not try to "swim against the current".

    What I mean is, if the majority of the folks in that area/section, at that time of year, were going to be hiking nobo - I'd do that section nobo, and vise versa.
    For sure, that I would definitely do that the same again. I did not let the mountains/climbs dictate what direction i went. I stopped caring about how many or how big the ups were pretty early on. They were part of the trail, I wanted to hike the trail, that was enough and fine.
    It took me about three years to section the whole trail. I did it more or less nobo. I did maintain a full time job while doing so.
    I say "more or less", because I did about half of VA first, due to living here. Doing a handful of "little" out and backs kind of local first, was nice, and I learned a lot. Then I stated sectioning in earnest when I went down to Franklin/Winding Stair Gap and got shuttled down to Amicalola Falls State Park. There were a lot of firsts on that hike, lol.

    So, having done it now - would I do it differently?

    Great question by the way.

    I think I might try to go to the farthest places first and work my way back closer to "home" with each section. I intentionally say "might" though, because I really like how it all turned out in the end.

    I do remember thinking though, on my couple of drives up to NH/ME, that I wish I had done those already - BUT - those are also my two favorite states in regards to the actual trail, sooooo there'something to be said maybe for "saving the best for last" too..

    I wish you the best of luck and experiences with your sectioning and eventual completion of the entire trail! I had a flood of emotions and reflection(s) on my last section and day...,
    And while I did complete the entire trail including the approach, I am in no way done, or finished hiking.

    willin'

  12. #32
    Registered User greentick's Avatar
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    *Mostly* contiguous section hiker, though the direction of travel usually would be dictated by whatever was easiest to get home after hiking. We started in 2005. The first few years I lived in N GA and we would base out of my house and self shuttle. In 2008 I moved to SE GA and the majority of our group lives here or a bit further South. We started carpooling and using a shuttle. Hikes were 2-7 days. Some years we haven't hiked. Some years we get together and hike somewhere else and some years we re-do sections because someone missed it and it was a good section. To us, it's more the camaraderie with a good portion of feeling good if we push ourselves. We have about 400 or so AT miles done. We don't necessarily have a goal to finish the whole thing though we wouldn't mind getting to Damascus and finishing out the "south" AT. After that travel times become an issue.

    We always love being out, rain or shine, hot or cold, light or dark, sick - meh, snow - whatever. We've always had the attitude of "we've planned this hike for a long time and it's happening, no matter what." Juggling around jobs, kids (between 3 of us, we've had 15 kids in this timeframe), deployments (a lot of military), surgeries, relocations etc. When we get together and hike it's on. S#itty conditions just mean it's more memorable lol. Great memories. HYOH definitely in effect.
    nous défions

  13. #33
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    It depends upon your goals. Mine is to section hike the triple crown. So, I start where I stopped at roughly the same date as when I finished (give or take a few days) going the same direction. The CDT being the exception as it has morphed into a section flip-flop. Go with what works for you.
    Lonehiker

  14. #34

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    Started at Springer and gone NOBO pretty much except recently in NH and ME. Completed 2025 miles, and first gap was in VT when I had to go in to Rutland to replace my phone and still be in Hanover by a certain date. But I picked that up this past summer. Have gone SOBO sometimes when slack packing. This summer the plan is to complete the AT with section from Pinkham Notch to Grafton Notch and then Monson to Mt Katahdin.


    Biggest driving factor of where to end a section was logistics of where easy to leave and pick up next time. I have done quite a few different things: drop off/pick up by family, bus, train, plane, and driving my car and shuttling (or rental car) back to to it. Like with most things there are tradeoffs and you just need to figure what works out best for you in that situation. Thinking back on it what Baltimore Jack told me is true, thru hiking is a lot easier. Just start walking and keep going till you finish. Section hikers have to get their trail legs back every time, and then you have logistics to work out for every section.
    The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
    Richard Ewell, CSA General


  15. #35

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    I forgot to mention that a long time ago, I picked up one of those folding park service maps of the AT. It’s in my office, on the wall. When I finish another section, big or small, I highlight that section. Sometimes it’s just a little dot, but I always get to highlight something, and for me, it’s a meaningful occasion. I also have a Databook from one of my early years. I highlight the sections that I have completed and keep a running tally of the number of miles done in each state, and the total. Again, sometimes I’m recording a tiny segment, but if I record it, it’s one I earned. I have some newer Databooks, and the trail is always evolving, but for as long as I’ve been collecting miles, the two end points have remained the same, so it’s close enough for me. Recoding the information in the Databook is also a tiny celebration for me. Sometimes, it’s just a smile, but an earned one.

  16. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pringles View Post
    I forgot to mention that a long time ago, I picked up one of those folding park service maps of the AT. It’s in my office, on the wall. When I finish another section, big or small, I highlight that section. Sometimes it’s just a little dot, but I always get to highlight something, and for me, it’s a meaningful occasion. I also have a Databook from one of my early years. I highlight the sections that I have completed and keep a running tally of the number of miles done in each state, and the total. Again, sometimes I’m recording a tiny segment, but if I record it, it’s one I earned. I have some newer Databooks, and the trail is always evolving, but for as long as I’ve been collecting miles, the two end points have remained the same, so it’s close enough for me. Recoding the information in the Databook is also a tiny celebration for me. Sometimes, it’s just a smile, but an earned one.
    I always look forward to logging another section on atdist.com (e.g. https://www.atdist.com/atdist?k1=JV&...d10c&year=2020)

    Amazing amount of satisfaction you get from one simple mouse click when you've completed a new section, especially when it fills in a gap.

  17. #37
    Registered User greenpete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JPritch View Post
    ...any regrets in a patchwork section hike? Any tips to get the most out of the experience as possible?
    Regrets: None. I started out like you, wanting to do a seamless NOBO flow of sections. Then I discovered, as an oldster who has other hobbies and travel interests, I may never complete the entire AT. So I chose to do just the most scenic and/or pleasant AT sections. I'm glad, because now I'm not interested in Pennsylvania (which I hear is uncomfortably rocky), or the Smokies (which I hear is uncomfortably wet). Which leads me to...

    Tips: Don't limit yourself to the AT. Enjoy some different geography other than eastern U.S. I've done the John Muir Trail, a Montana/Idaho piece of the CDT (where I had practically the whole trail to myself), and a beautiful section in western Scotland. This might violate contemporary AT "groupthink," but as wonderful as our AT is, too many folks think they have to do THRU...or...get as close to THRU as possible.

    Just go out and enjoy yourself in god's green earth, while there's still some green. (Greenpete)

    "Wilderness is where things work the way they're supposed to work." (Walkin' Jim Stoltz)

  18. #38
    Registered User tagg's Avatar
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    I've been section hiking since 2009, have completed a little over 1300 miles, and have done them all in a continuous NOBO direction. The first few years I did 5-7 night trips, but since then have been doing one 10 night section each year. Picking up where I left off and always heading north makes trip planning simple because I just pick the easiest access point that's 150-200 miles from my starting point and end it there. I met another hiker when I was going through the Smokies at the same time as me who was doing the same thing and hiking the same mileage as me every day, so ever since then we've been taking our trips together and driving two cars, which makes planning super easy. Now that we're up in NJ, we'll probably stop driving two cars (I live in SC and he lives in GA) which will add an element to planning.

    I've often thought that it would have been nice to have started in Maine so that I'd be walking towards home every year making transportation to and from the trail easier and easier, but in hindsight that probably wouldn't have been the best idea. When I started at Springer, I had never done any long distance backpacking and hadn't camped out more than a couple of nights. Springer is within a few hours of where I live, so as a newbie it was nice to be close to home in case I needed something or decided it wasn't for me. I didn't need anything on that trip, but it was nice knowing I wasn't that far from home. Over the years I have gained a lot of experience and feel confident with what the trail is going to give me and my ability to go with the flow, but having to figure out transportation issues along with figuring out newb issues would have made things more difficult on my first trip. So my advice on where to start would depend on your experience level. Little to no experience like I had...start on a section closest to where you live. Experienced...start wherever you want because flexibility is one of the best things about being a section hiker.
    -tagg

  19. #39
    illabelle's Avatar
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    My husband and I did our first section in November 2010 for our 20th anniversary. We'll finish the trail this year, on Election Day, November 3, 2020, for our 30th anniversary. This old girl will turn in an absentee ballot.

    Direction doesn't matter to me, but finishing does. We have driven to everything from Springer to PenMar (mostly long weekends), and flown from PenMar to Katahdin (7-12 day sections).

    In 2018 we drove up to northern VA (7 hours one way) to close up three gaps: 11+ miles just north of SNP that we had aborted due to illness on a previous trip, 1.5 miles between road crossings in SNP before we knew what we were doing, and 6.5 miles in central VA that we carved off of a larger future piece to cut it down to weekend-size.

    Early on in our ten-year journey, I identified key points in the northern states that were about 75-ish miles apart. That became the template going forward. So Pennsylvania became PenMar to Duncannon, Duncannon to Port Clinton, and Port Clinton to DWG. Pick a section, determine the preferred direction, where to fly to, approximate daily endpoints, arrange transport, plan food, pack, go.

    We sometimes used a rental car, which is great to carry clean clothes, food resupply, or to drive to town.

    I carefully plan the longer trips so that we don't leave unplanned gaps. The gaps we have left, except for one, are all planned. (The unplanned slack occurred because of terrible strong winds when we did the Whites (hut to hut), and we were strongly advised not to proceed. To avoid screwing up our hut reservations, we went down a side trail from Madison, and came up a side trail at Lakes of the Clouds.)

    This year we'll complete several slacks in NH/ME, backpack through the Wildcats and Mahoosucs, and then finish the last piece, a 21-mile stretch in TN that we've saved for last. We'll be making two trips to NH/ME, the first including most of the more difficult miles so that we can use the second trip to clean up. The second trip will be very slow, shelter-to-shelter in the Mahoosucs, which hopefully gives us the flexibility to adjust to difficulties without missing our flights home, or leaving orphaned miles unfinished.

  20. #40

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    I've done two 850 mile sections in 2016 and 2018. In 2016, I intended to do a thru hike, but became a section hiker due to injury, and had to head home. For me, I have the time, and enjoy doing longer sections. It takes a while to get your hiker legs, and for me short sections never get me to that level of hiker fitness. Also, what I like most about the trail are the people, and the relationships that you develop over time. When you are doing long sections, you become accepted, and thought of as just one more of the hiker trash. It's a totally different mind set than being out for 1-2 weeks. I have done many short sections over the years, but repeated all of them during my long hikes.

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