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  1. #1

    Default Completing Shorter Trails After a Long Trail

    With some grace from the brain and trail I will finish the AT next year. I thought this may wrap up my hiking intentions but it seems that the mind will think about what it wants to and it is about chasing the adventure for me rather then completing the AT. So, for those that have completed a 2k+ mile trail what has been your experience with not wanting to start another long endeavor like that, but stick closer to home, and hike shorter trails?
    Within a 3 hour drive for me I can hike: The Pinhoti, Sheltowee Trace, Cumberland Trail and the BMT. I plan on starting with the Sheltowee Trace this month and sampling these three trails extensively over the next few years.

    What is everyone's experience with shorter 300-400 mile trails like these after completing a task like the AT? The scope for these trips for the foreseeable future will be weekends and possible some 3 day holiday weekends, but mostly just Friday to Sundays. In the 2022 timeframe I would enjoy spending a week or 2 on these short trails - What expectations should have in in contrast to the AT for a trip like that? Involving off trail accommodations, resupply and logistics?
    Trail Miles: 3,978.2 - AT Trips: 70
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 59.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 0.0

  2. #2
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Is the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail beyond a 3 hour drive?
    Just curious since we moved to North Carolina and the MST is practically in my backyard.
    Wayne

  3. #3
    Leonidas
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    I haven't completed the AT yet, but the allures of the shorter trails is real for me. To me the reality for most is that a shorter thru hike is possible where a big-3 is not. So I have been focusing on trails around 200-400 miles as my new personal goals with the AT as a goal for my wife and I to eventually complete.
    Pinhoti is done, BMT is next month and the Ouchita is on the agenda for next year.
    AT: 471 mi

    Pinhoti Trail '18-19'

    @leonidasonthetrail https://www.youtube.com/user/tehJC13

  4. #4

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    Sheltowee Trace was one of my post-AT trails. It was a great experience and the folks at http://www.sheltoweetrace.org provide excellent information. One obstacle was finding GPS data. Thankfully, https://caltopo.com/find had what I was looking for.

  5. #5
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Well, I do certainly get it..... my first long trail (except for a 230 mile JMT) was indeed the AT. After that I completed the Long trail (270 miles), the CT (485 miles) the Sierra High route (230 miles) and various other <100-ish mile loops or other routes. I also did the first 702 miles of the PCT and have done a few hundred miles on the CDT.

    Every single one of the post-AT trails was day-for-day more beautiful, scenic and overall more enjoyable than the AT. Also generally harder (like the LT and SHR in particular) and all with tougher logistics than the AT.

    BUT, this takes nothing away from the AT, that hike was a real experience at so many other levels. So much so, that yeah, I'm kinda repeating the AT with LASH's, mostly (allegedly) because my wife is LASHing it and I love tagging along, and having a great time. I totally get why so many folks rehike the AT, some many times, it is a remarkable trail.

    Not sure I answered any of your specific questions, just sharing thoughts.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Venchka View Post
    Is the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail beyond a 3 hour drive?
    Just curious since we moved to North Carolina and the MST is practically in my backyard.
    Wayne
    3-4 hours to the GSMNP side of that trail wayne
    Trail Miles: 3,978.2 - AT Trips: 70
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 59.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 0.0

  7. #7

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    I've been stuck hiking the AT repeatedly. It's convenient. Don't really have to plan or think about it. Although, it is starting to get old repeating the same sections over and over. Not sure if I'll bother doing another AT LASH hike.

    But going anywhere else is a pain. Many of the other trails are harder to get to or get back from and take a lot more effort to figure out the resupply, since many of them really require mail drops and that's something I don't like to do. It's really hard to figure out what you'll need weeks before hand. Information can be limited or out of date. They can be poorly maintained and/or blazed. Camping can be limited if the trail winds it's way through a lot of private land, or is a patch work connected by roads. These trails are great if you live near-by, but having to travel a long distance from home to get to them makes them less attractive. With the West on fire, going out there is less attractive too. Who wants to be caught in a forest fire, or just have to breath the smoke? Or hike through charred forest?

    So, I've settled for trying to Red line all the White Mountain trails. I'm making pretty good progress there, but there are a few I'll just never do.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  8. #8
    AT 10,000 Miler
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    I've been stuck hiking the AT repeatedly.
    Slo-go'en - How many times have you completed the AT?

  9. #9

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    If you're doing short weekends, I'd recommend starting with even shorter trails like the Foothills trail. I enjoyed being able to do the Sheltowee Trace and the BMT end to end, but logistics on the Sheltowee were far more difficult than on the AT. In fact most of these trails are far more difficult than the AT in terms of finding information about parking, shuttles, resupply, post offices, maps, water sources and of course the trail. Blazes can be in short supply and you may be trampling on spring flowers growing in the actual trail. Other hikers can be a rare sight, but I rarely went a day without seeing another person, even if it was only at a road crossing.

    On short weekends things like resupply don't matter; your big issue is parking and shuttles (a major issue until covid dies down). This has likely improved now that the Trace is more popular and data access for smart phones is more common on much of these trails. Keep in mind that a minor incident of losing the trail (far more likely on these than on the AT) can easily result in a missed shuttle or being late to work on Monday. For example, when I was a couple hundred miles down the Trace, I encountered a 'trail closure due to major storm damage- go back to your car' sign that was not posted on road. Since that wasn't a good option, we forged ahead. The bushwhack was incredibly tough, but only added a couple of miles of road walk and perhaps 5 or 6 hours to our plans. However, if I'd been planning on working the next day....

    Don't expect reception in the hollers. On the BMT, I recall talking to a local as I was standing next to an old pay phone that had been removed- they indicated that no plans had cell service there but the pay phones were removed anyway...

  10. #10
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    With the West on fire, going out there is less attractive too. Who wants to be caught in a forest fire, or just have to breath the smoke? Or hike through charred forest?
    The west is vast. And, although I have to concede that there may be varying degrees of smoke haze/smell (but sometimes totally clear), there are thousands of miles of western trails that you don't have to worry about forest fires or hiking through charred forest. The only disadvantage to hiking out west is that, for most, the hiking season is short.
    Lonehiker

  11. #11
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    shoot......

    you are within spittin distance of a place with around 800 miles of trails......

    knock them all out.....

    keep ya busy for a bunch of weekends...

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    Since finishing the AT, I've been doing a lot of relatively close-by shorter trails in PA - Laurel Highlands, Allegheny Front, Black Forest, West Rim and the Long Trail in VT. These are shorter than the 300-400 miles you mentioned. I have really enjoyed them. Logistics have been manageable (used shuttles on 3 of them) and it's been good to just experience the trail without having a long term goal (such as finishing the AT) hanging over your head. I might try to tackle another longer trail, we'll see.

  13. #13
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    @Gambit Not far from you over in Cookeville. Working on the BMT myself but mostly just have time for the short ones. The JMT in Big South Fork is a nice 55 miler if you haven’t done it. Start at Burnt Mill at end at Pickett, catches some of the Sheltowee and lots of loop options. I’ve got all the gps tracks and camp/water way points if you want.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Blue View Post
    Slo-go'en - How many times have you completed the AT?
    Never. I still have a few miles left in NH I guess I'll have to do those miles eventually to complete my red lining of White Mtn. trails.

    Otherwise, Best I can figure I have have hiked roughly 7,000 miles on the AT and maybe 1,000 miles on other trails. It adds up after a while
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  15. #15
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    I've still got another 6 years or so left to finish the AT, but I've already started thinking about what could come next.

    The NC MST is right in my backyard and I'm already on my third time through day hiking the Raleigh/Durham segment. I'd love to hike the mountains sections, but for most of the rest of the state the trail is only complete in fragments here and there, and honestly most of central and eastern NC is kind of boring. I'm saving the MST for after the AT in hopes that my son (now 7) will be able to come with me.

    If you're looking for weekend trips within driving distance I highly recommend Grandfather Mountain and Linville Gorge.

    I'm also interested in the northern part of the Long Trail and maybe a loop hike in the Adirondacks.

    Lots of stuff out west also sounds really nice, but I have a hard time spending money on a plane ticket when there's so much good stuff within driving distance.
    It's all good in the woods.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    stick closer to home, and hike shorter trails?
    All my backpacking trips stick close to home and involve short trails. On my most recent 27 day backpacking trip I became a "thurhiker" going from my drop off point on Hooper Bald to Green Cove Cabin on Tellico River and I used a wide variety of trails to do this. Trails like Snowbird Creek and King's Meadow and Trail 154 and Sycamore Creek and Sugar Mt etc. My Springer Mt was Hooper Bald and my Maine was Green Cove Cabin. I wrote this in my trail journal during my last trip as an attempt to redefine Thruhiking---and because I was sitting in my tent all day during Hurricane Laura.


    Redefining Thruhiking

    This thruhike is no different than an AT thruhike except it's much shorter and the trails I'm backpacking are more confusing and intricate and there are no trail shelters or motel stays or town resupplies or laundromat visits. Is it possible to therefore thruhike a wilderness area or national forest backcountry? Yes, certainly. This trip is proof of that.

    Like any thruhike I'm going from a start point to an end point---"GE to ME". Instead of taking 5 months to do it I'm completing my thru in 27 days. Today's zero day in the rain in my tent is like a motel/hostel zero day off the AT except I'm not spending money or getting more food. My backpacking trip officially ends when I reach "Maine"---in my case Green Cove Cabin. Thus ends my thruhike from Hooper Bald to the Cabin.

    Let's say you're planning a 60 mile trip on a section of the AT. Wouldn't it be better to do it in 10 days instead of 2? Wouldn't you want to get more forest time instead of less? I know I would. The more the better. Point is---if you're backpacking in North America you are both a thruhiker, a section hiker, a south bounder, a north bounder and an east and west bounder. You're all over the map---and you're also just a regular backpacker pulling a backpacking trip. One thing I am not is a dayhiker or a slackpacker or a FKT endurance athlete or a basecamper or a car camper.

    Plus, semantically if you are pulling a complete numbered trail like Slickrock Creek #42 or Snowbird Creek #64 or Fodderstack Ridge #95 or any of a thousand other NF and wilderness trails you are thruhiking these trails by doing each compete trail. So what if the entire trail is 3 miles or 7 miles or 15 miles? Have you completed it? If yes then you thruhiked it and you are a thruhiker. Expand the narrow definition of "a thruhiker" and think in different terms.

    Another aspect of embracing this new definition of Thruhiking is to level the playing field by defining all backpacking as what it is---just backpacking---and not assigning higher status to thruhiking than regular backpacking. Remember, a regular backpacker completing a named trail has thruhiked that trail and is therefore a thruhiker. We are all just backpackers.

    Even long trail section hikers are thruhikers because didn't they complete and thruhike their section? Goal reached. Amen, pass me the trowel and toilet paper.


    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    shoot......

    you are within spittin distance of a place with around 800 miles of trails......

    knock them all out.....

    keep ya busy for a bunch of weekends...
    Totally agree. In my neck of the woods there are about 400 miles of foot trails south of the Smokies where I do 90% of all my backpacking.

    A backpacker could easily spend 30 or 40 days backpacking all the trails in Cohutta/Big Frog wilderness and then link up with Little Frog wilderness on the BMT and use the BMT to go north into Upper Bald River wilderness (Kirkland Creek, Brookshire Creek, State Line Ridge) and then go over Sugar Mt to Sycamore Creek and backpack all the trails in Citico Creek/Slickrock-Kilmer wilderness. I would call such a trip a Long Distance Trail Thruhike.

  17. #17
    Garlic
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    My choice after my first long trail, the PCT, was the challenge of the CDT rather than shorter or regional trails. I think it was Yogi who said something like, "You can hike one long trail, or you can hike three long trails, but you cannot hike two long trails." True to form, I went for the AT and loved it. After those three, I started on the shorter trails.

    I've met all sorts of hikers, like some triple triple crowners, some FKT holders, who are obsessed with only the long trails. Others don't care about the alphabet soup, sort of spurn it in fact, never want to do the same hike twice. For every ten hikers, there are eleven reasons to go hiking. They're all good.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  18. #18
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    Totally agree. In my neck of the woods there are about 400 miles of foot trails south of the Smokies where I do 90% of all my backpacking.


    yeah....

    i was specifically referring to GSMNP and deleted my line about all the other wilderness areas around the Park, just to
    keep it short and simple...

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    I've still got another 6 years or so left to finish the AT, but I've already started thinking about what could come next.

    The NC MST is right in my backyard and I'm already on my third time through day hiking the Raleigh/Durham segment. I'd love to hike the mountains sections, but for most of the rest of the state the trail is only complete in fragments here and there, and honestly most of central and eastern NC is kind of boring. I'm saving the MST for after the AT in hopes that my son (now 7) will be able to come with me.

    If you're looking for weekend trips within driving distance I highly recommend Grandfather Mountain and Linville Gorge.

    I'm also interested in the northern part of the Long Trail and maybe a loop hike in the Adirondacks.

    Lots of stuff out west also sounds really nice, but I have a hard time spending money on a plane ticket when there's so much good stuff within driving distance.
    Definitely hike Grandfather Mountain! We did it a couple months ago, and it was awesome!

  20. #20
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    After my SOBO thru in 2011 I found myself drawn back to the AT any chance I got for about 3 years. I'm not sure if it was nostalgia, trying to cling to the experience, tagging views that I missed, or just the comfort/convenience of the known. Logistics were easy, so I could just go without much prep.

    However, I've slowly shifted away from that, in part from reading about Tipi's adventures. I seek wilderness areas with larger trail systems that allow for loops and other creative map-wanderings. Less people. Shorter days but more map reading and planning required. For me, the planning is half of the joy now. The anticipation and mental vacation I get by pulling out maps, looking at Google earth, selecting different gear each time (unlike the AT)-- it stretches the experience out well before I actually get on trail.

    So, South Cumberland, Cohutta, Big Frog, Citico, Joyce Kilmer, Linville, Smokies... all interesting, especially the lower elevation areas. I no longer care about the "views" and instead find myself drawn to other details that enrich the experience.

    I do want to make time for some "shorter" thru hikes like the Tahoe Rim Trail or Superior Hiking Trail, but those are once a year goals at best. Completing a designated "thru" is longer my drive or motivation like it was on the AT. The motivation comes from wanting to walk around on as much dirt as I can while I can.

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