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  1. #1
    Registered User greenpete's Avatar
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    Default Older Section Hiker Seeks Thru-Hike Advice

    I'm a 62-year-old section hiker seriously thinking about doing the whole NOBO enchilada. I plan to start from Amicalola this coming May 1 and end at Katahdin about October 15. Any advice for a (somewhat) older guy? I'm in great shape, despite my addiction to Miralax. Other than withdrawal from that, my biggest worry is wet, rainy weather. Any recommendations for rain gear? An easy-to-use cookstove? Healthy food alternatives to ramen noodles? Helpful hints for my wife to mail care packages? THANKS!

    Pete (author Evergreen Dreaming: Trail Tales of an Aging Hiker)






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

  2. #2

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    As a section hiker, you must know the answers already.

    Starting in May, T-storms will quickly become the dominate rain threat until you hit New England. A poncho is handy for sitting out an afternoon storm. You will get to New England in the early Fall and that can be a rainy time of year here. I don't care what anyone says, I hike in GTX or otherwise waterproof boots. I hate slopping wet feet, I don't mind slightly damp feet. You'll likely need a new pair of boots about then anyway, so get something suitable for the often wet and rugged trail. Time to retire the trail runners. If you have been using a poncho, switch out to a jacket. NE trials like to eat ponchos and you'll need the jacket for the wind.

    With the continued disruption in mail delivery, the timing of care packages to be where you want them, when you want them, could be tricky. Also expensive. Price the medium flat rate box someday.

    Good diet on the trail? Eat a lot in town. Ramen noodles? Never. I go with Knorr sides and tuna. Hard to beat the canister stove for ease of use, though I'm a die hard alcohol stove guy.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  3. #3

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    I admit that I am a section hiker, but from everything I've read, and the people I have talked to who have been thru hikers, I'm thinking May 1 is a late start. And I don't really want to do this (point out age), but being an older hiker, you may not hike as fast as someone in their 20's - 30's. Also. . . how much preparation have you done for the mountainous terrain you will be starting with? (I am not familiar with trails in Ohio - do you do strenuous hiking in your area?)
    A May start won't give you much room for zero days, an injury, or illness.

  4. #4

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    I am about your age and also in great shape starting about the same time going faster in a modified flippy floppy plan.

    Have your wife send USPS priority boxes to addresses shown in the attached link to WB document. I plan on 4-5 business days for packages to arrive even though they are supposed to be 2 days. In my limited experience, I have found my food preferences change and that mailed resupply boxes are a pain if shipped to a post office. Personally, I am only planning drops thru the GSMNP and then see how it goes food-wise. I am planning drops to where I am staying or in the 2-5 day range. 5 days is about my limit for a shower.

    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/art...t-resupply.pdf

    You could have a box or boxes at either mile 31, 69, 137, about 160, 242, 341, etc. Some places are directly on the AT and resupply would be easy at a grocery store or small store. I did not mean those mile points to suggest a box sent to each of those locations. For instance why send a box to NOC and then one to the Fontana area 25-30 miles up the trail since one can buy supplies at NOC? Food from home is probably cheaper and would be what you might want to eat. I have not done the math.

    Note, I think the Fontana store is still closed. Resupply before the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is essential and the USPS there reportedly has weird hours.

  5. #5

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    Do not plan to end up at Katahdin near Oct 15th. The weather can turn to nasty in late September. Have a backup plan to flip north in Gorham NH to BSP and hike south if you are running late.

  6. #6

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    One of the best articles on planning that I have found and it probably has not aged much.....

    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/content...Katahdin-Maine

  7. #7
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    Default

    I agree with TrailWeaver - May is a late start.
    Most people I know who through hike the AT end up doing more re-supplies and less mail drops. Find the shoes you like and get 3 pair and have them all broken in. Good thing to have mailed out along with some treats from the wife.
    Wet weather is something I havent quite figured out yet - Best advice I can give is to be comfortable in your wetness. I have tried different things - full rain gear and it seems like you get just as wet from sweat. I use wool "Darn Tough" socks - my feet stay warm even when they are wet and my boots are icy - less blisters too. I try to opt for a shelter when its super wet - stuff your shoes with dry leaves all night to wick out the moisture and start with fresh socks the next morning. (Take care of your feet).

    Good luck with your hike. I am putting in overtime now so I can retire in 5 years and do the same. Wish I could do it now!!

  8. #8

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    I started a NOBO at age 71. Made it to Akins VA when family issues (death of family members, grandchild being born in Germany that needed my presence) stopped me. Then civilization grabed me and I kept postponing a return as a section hiker to finish. I am now 81 and returning to Atkins 1 April to continue north. All age ever said to me was that I was always 25% slower that the average of those around me. I hiked alone. I didn't let my ego sucker me into trying to keep up with the "kids". I had my best time when I liked up with a grandmother whose pace fell in with mine. The core deal is more emotional than anything. When I got called home, I didn't want to return. Hiked since return. Overnight stuff. But the desire to return to the percise place I had to bail is intense. I hope I get left alone for months this time. I don't worry about my health. I worry about extended family needing me to return. If you are in shape, you'll do fine. The advice on weather and gear is the same for anyone. I never carried more than 30 lbs.

  9. #9
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by greenpete View Post
    I'm a 62-year-old section hiker seriously thinking about doing the whole NOBO enchilada. I plan to start from Amicalola this coming May 1 and end at Katahdin about October 15. Any advice for a (somewhat) older guy? I'm in great shape, despite my addiction to Miralax. Other than withdrawal from that, my biggest worry is wet, rainy weather. Any recommendations for rain gear? An easy-to-use cookstove? Healthy food alternatives to ramen noodles? Helpful hints for my wife to mail care packages? THANKS!
    What the others said... if starting May 1 I strongly advise a flip-flop starting NOBO from Harper's Ferry rather than a traditional NOBO thru-hike.
    It's all good in the woods.

  10. #10
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Just another opinion from an "older hiker" (I'm 64) and a fellow Cincinnati man (I grew up there):

    I personally think that if you want to do a traditional Thru, springer->Katahdin, a May 1 start is just dandy, that gives you about 5.5 months to get 'er done. It too me 150 days, essentially 5 months, and I didn't hurry. this was 7 years ago now, I was 57. This assume you really are in great shape.

    Sure, the weather can turn sour on Katahdin in mid October, so what; great chance you can simply hang out for a few days then climb it. Don't get scared away by the negative nellies. That being said, if you are running behind on a standard Thru attempt, you could flip up to Katahdin and hike south to your flip point. but let that decision wait to see how you progress.

    For the record, I did flip all over the place during my 1st AT hike, but it was because my wife was joining me here and there and that's what worked out.

    One slight advantage for us Older Farts is that some of us at least are not seduced by the younger crowds socail pressures to take lots of Zeros and such. I took exactly 3 zeros, and two of those were dictated by logistics of meeting my wife in a few places.

    The only negative I see on a May 1 start is the heat. I don't do well in hot, humid weather, but you living in Cincinnati and surviving those summers, you're acclimated!

    Rain gear? I used Frogg Toggs the entire way. Most of the time who cares if you get wet. Up north though, in September/October, you have to take it a bit more seriously.

    No idea about "healthy foods", I got by with the standard stuff. I did use mail drops the entire way, pure personal preference. I've got my trail diet/food thing nailed down. But be careful, use Hostels and other places for mail drops, avoid post offices because of the hours restrictions, like being closed from noon on Saturday through Sunday. I learned my lesson on mail drop #1 in Hiawasee (got there a day early, which was a Sunday, wound up being a Nero).

    Heading to Cincy this June for a wedding! Looking forward to some Skyline and Grators, and a Red's game.

  11. #11
    Registered User greenpete's Avatar
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    Default

    Lots of great advice here, thanks everyone. I'm starting May 1 for two reasons: to avoid the hiking crowd, and also because my wife and I are vacationing out West in April and to visit our son. I totally understand about New England weather in the fall, but will just play it by ear and adjust as necessary (I've already sectioned much of Shenandoah and the Whites, so may skip those areas). I've got Vasque Breeze Gore-Tex boots, broken-in and good for wetness, but need another pair. Got an old Coleman fuel stove that still works (bought in 1983!), but will probably get a new canister-type stove. And I want to eat healthy (as healthy as one can get on trail), so I'll check out Knorr products. Re mail drops, it sounds like these days most hikers lean more to trail town resupply than drops? So maybe just limit drops to Smokies vicinity?

    For info, I do a lot of stealth camping, and usually overnight at shelters only if the weather's real bad. Really looking forward to this hike. Lost my job last summer to COVID, my daughter and son-in-law moved back to Cincy from Scotland recently (so my wife has support here at home)...and since COVID seems to be easing a little, the timing seems right. I'm a marathon runner, so not worried about cardio-vascular, but mountain-hiking muscles are totally different from distance running. Might not be until Fontana before I'm in prime hiking shape.

  12. #12
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    It just occurred to me, we might see you; my wife and I are coming out, hitting the trail in Hot springs on May 24th, heading north. She has an unfinished 480-mile section starting there and north. Hot Springs is what, about mile 280, so you'll probably be by there and beyond by May 24th, but who knows. Look for a grey haired couple with blue and orange Arc Haul packs.

  13. #13

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    Gear has gotten much lighter and better since 1983. My then state of the art, Moss Starlet, is 3.5 pounds and still going strong. My circa 1980's Marmot sleeping bag is still good but is 3 pounds. My MSR stove that burns any fuels still works but is also a beast weight-wise. It is very easy to half these weights with newer stuff, if budget allows. I like my old stuff but my back doesn't. I would not lug a Coleman stove, in fact I am not bringing a stove at all. YMMV

  14. #14
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    Great point Big_Old_Dog .... No stove is an option a lot of people are using. I do not like cold weather and a hot meal at night before bed is very nice. Also, I enjoy a hot breakfast and coffee to get started in the morning (especially when its cold out)..... I opt for a stove/hot food.

    I worked in an office at night years ago and made a few alcohol stoves out of soda cans at work. I gave most of them away and kept one - great little stove that I still use today (Over 15 years later). Great light weight option!

  15. #15

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    I went from my old Coleman to a Jetboil Flash. Lighter, easier, quicker. Not much for simmering, guess they have one that does simmer now. Awesome upgrade.

  16. #16

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    Take everything you have learned section hiking and just plan on repeating it for the thru hike many many times in a row.
    Trail Miles: 4,090.3 - AT Trips: 71
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 116.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

  17. #17

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    I havent used the various smart phone hiking aps but it does sound like you should probably grudgingly or enthusiastically embrace them as with a late start, getting recent real time reports of water supplies at shelters is of great value. During my sectioning in the stone ages I had a few hot weather summer hikes and fall hikes where dried up water sources were a significant issue even at shelter sites. If I had access to recent hiker reports on water sources via a smartphone ap, I could have saved myself some significant grief upon arriving at a shelter site with dry source if I had a day or two notice as I would have tanked up earlier. The ridgeline shelters in PA all tended to be problematical unless we were in the mood to walk down to the base of the ridge.

    The great thing with a May start is you wont need to gear up for cold conditions until NH so a much lighter pack.

    Someone mentioned Darn Tuff Socks. I started with Smartwool years ago but once I switched to Darn Tuffs I never looked back. I use trail runners with a better insert and mesh panels even in the whites (my backyard) with the dirty girl type gaiters and never worry about wet feet. If I get them wet they dry out as I hike.

  18. #18
    Registered User greenpete's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    It just occurred to me, we might see you; my wife and I are coming out, hitting the trail in Hot springs on May 24th, heading north. She has an unfinished 480-mile section starting there and north. Hot Springs is what, about mile 280, so you'll probably be by there and beyond by May 24th, but who knows. Look for a grey haired couple with blue and orange Arc Haul packs.
    Sounds good, Rob. I'll have a blue Gregory pack, throwback walking stick (i.e. wood), glasses, and long grey-flecked hair (ponytail or bandana).

    My start date is now May 2. Too crowded at Amicalola on May 1.

  19. #19

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    "I'm a marathon runner, so not worried about cardio-vascular, "

    I wish it were that easy. I've run 75 marathons and ultras, and only recently learned about all the endurance runners who developed heart problems and other metabolic conditions from running. Running does help hiking fitness, but it may not be good long term. Even Tim Noakes came down with T2D in his 60's, and Mark Sisson regrets his years as an olympic level marathon runner because he says "it ruined my health".

    I still do some, maybe a few half marathons/year, but I don't push it much in my 60's. Younger people can get away with more, although you see a lot of the young elites drop off the screen with chronic metabolic health conditions. In our evolution we tended to walk a lot and sprint now and then. Even the idea of persistence hunting is just a hypothesis. When a group of track stars went to Wyoming to try to persistence hunt pronghorn antelope, they never even got close.

  20. #20

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    It isn't all gravy in the golden years for old endurance athletes. Nobody could explain a pain in my heart at the left side.

    I finally found a sports cardiologist who works on ultramarathoners, ironmen, and others. He diagnosed it immediately, said he only sees it on older ultra runners and once in a while on older ironmen. The apex of the heart hitting the rib so hard for so many years gave me arthritis of that rib. He basically said older endurance types mostly have orthopedic issues as they age. I went to him to try and find out why my heart stops (flatline) many times per night for up to 8 seconds. He said not to worry. It happens with older athletes. He was absolutely astounded that I did 18.4 METS on the treadmill, and I told him fitness doesn't necessarily mean healthiness. After a long pause, he agreed.

    Someone here had recommended the fitness balance board and it has absolutely helped my stability on bad terrain and strengthen the muscles leading down to the foot, I can see that they are bigger and my overall footing has improved. I think it is called, "Fitterfirst Professional Balance Board". It was about 90 dollars. I swaer it strengthened my feet and lower leg a lot or maybe my balance is just better from it.

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