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  1. #1
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    Default Head start on my thru Hike

    Hi everyone,
    I'm new to this site and excited to find this community. I'll be 62 this year and have wanted to thru-hike the AT since I was 15.

    I have been planning my thru-hike attempt for next spring (2023) but am strongly considering starting on trail mid-October 2022 and hiking to Damascus, VA. then jumping off in early December. I would return to Damascus and hike to Katahdin starting the beginning of February (2023). I see a lot of advantages of doing this but the biggest is getting a comfortable head start on the bubble. I've been looking for information on others who have approached their thru-hike in this way and would like to confirm my thoughts. I'd appreciate any feedback to consider as well.

    Also curious if this would make me part of the class of 2022 or 2023?

    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    If next year's winter is anything like this one, you will not want to be hiking in Virginia in February. March is still winter and very stormy in the mid-Atlantic states. Heading north from Damascus in April is more realistic, and still puts you well ahead of any bubble. In fact, you will be very lonely.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  3. #3
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    I was 60 when I started from Springer in 2018.I started on February 15.Stayed ahead of the bubble the entire way.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    If next year's winter is anything like this one, you will not want to be hiking in Virginia in February. March is still winter and very stormy in the mid-Atlantic states. Heading north from Damascus in April is more realistic, and still puts you well ahead of any bubble. In fact, you will be very lonely.
    no. April in Damascus is busy

  5. #5

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    If you are trying to avoid NoBo bubble this should work. I would think you would get a snowstorm on each leg..probably more than one on the 2023 leg. Based on your name it sounds like you enjoy cold weather hiking/camping--which will be important with this schedule.
    I suspect you could start in September and March and still meet your goal of limited overlap with '22 SOBO's and '23 NOBO's.
    AT Nobo 2013; NPT-2014-2019; NCT-PA miles 0- and CNY miles 0-53

  6. #6
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    Good info. I used to live in Lynchburg and was a trail maintainer for four years. I enjoyed the cold months and the solitude. Also, curious if any hostiles will be closed during my timeframe in case I need to zero for a few days of really bad weather.

  7. #7
    Registered User thestin's Avatar
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    I live in Front Royal, and Slo-go'en. is right. It's been bitterly cold the first couple of weeks of February here, followed by brief warm ups, and then snow and cold. Trails have been very icy, and the high winds have brought down trees.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by PolarBearTreks View Post
    Good info. I used to live in Lynchburg and was a trail maintainer for four years. I enjoyed the cold months and the solitude. Also, curious if any hostiles will be closed during my timeframe in case I need to zero for a few days of really bad weather.
    Open Hostels? Probably not, as they would have to be heated to have running water and that would be a big expense. Woods Hole outside of Pearisburg is the only one I can think of which might be open. There really aren't that many to begin with. I mostly used cheap motels on my hikes through VA.

    It will likely take a good 2 months to get to Harpers Ferry, so that puts you there in early April, which is about the right time to be there. Sounds like your flexible with the timing, so it's easy enough to delay the start if the 10 day weather forecast is bad. Delaying until March would still put you well ahead of the bubble and likely give you better weather (and longer days) then Feb would.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  9. #9
    Registered User ezdoesit's Avatar
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    You can always start when ever you want to and camp away from everyone and not worry about the bubble.
    No need to stay at shelters .
    ezdoesit
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  10. #10
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PolarBearTreks View Post
    I would return to Damascus and hike to Katahdin starting the beginning of February (2023).
    If I read this right, you're going NOBO from Virginia to Maine starting in February. At a reasonable pace for a 62-year old guy, that's 3 months of hiking, February, March, April.
    February in the mid-Atlantic states is doable, but you'll likely have to step off now and then for snowstorms to pass. March and April in Northern New England is not doable. Early to mid-April is the peak snow pack, it's still deep winter in the Whites of NH and ME, Baxter won't be open, etc.

  11. #11
    Registered User soilman's Avatar
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    I had an idea awhile ago that if I did another AT thru hike I would do a flip over two calendar years but within a 12 month period. My thought was to start around Sept. 1 from Harpers Ferry and head to Springer. Then the next year I would start at HF around May 1 and head to Katahdin.
    More walking, less talking.

  12. #12

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    Not certain leaving Damascus northbound before April would be too much fun. I went through there on April 2nd and was able to watch spring evolve for several weeks as I headed north and also changed elevation. I had a brutally cold night on Whitetop Mtn, snow at Woods Hole/Pearisburg, a terrible stage one hypothermic experience around Chestnut Knob and two bone crunching rainy cold days to start the Shenandoah. Not certain I would want to go any earlier than I did. Not saying you can't do it, but why not enjoy that state with at least a little good weather to mix in.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by soilman View Post
    I had an idea awhile ago that if I did another AT thru hike I would do a flip over two calendar years but within a 12 month period. My thought was to start around Sept. 1 from Harpers Ferry and head to Springer. Then the next year I would start at HF around May 1 and head to Katahdin.
    Completed my 10 year section hike July 22.
    Planing future flip flop somewhat the opposite of yours. Start at Harpers Ferry at end of first week of May NoBo to Maine. Then return to Harpers Ferry and head SoBo to Georgia.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Astro View Post
    Completed my 10 year section hike July 22.
    Planing future flip flop somewhat the opposite of yours. Start at Harpers Ferry at end of first week of May NoBo to Maine. Then return to Harpers Ferry and head SoBo to Georgia.
    I too was going to suggest a flip flop. You could also do the "flop" NOBO and end at Harper's Ferry, although some people find that anti-climactic.
    A potential problem with finishing the trail starting from Damascus in February is you could get to VT in mud season and Katahdin when it is still under snow.

  15. #15
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    Northern Virginia is usually pretty cold in February but there are scattered warmer days and that's usually when I go hiking this time of year, usually for day hikes. Most years, I plan some sort of backpacking trip in Shenandoah NP timed for when the waysides open up in mid April. The trees are still bare of leaves at that time and the views are great and the weather much milder.

  16. #16
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    [QUOTE=Slo-go'en;2293175]Open Hostels? Probably not, as they would have to be heated to have running water and that would be a big expense. Woods Hole outside of Pearisburg is the only one I can think of which might be open. There really aren't that many to begin with. I mostly used cheap motels on my hikes through VA.


    I hiked from springer to rockfish gap starting mid October this year, as the second limb of a nobo flipflop. Most of the hostels were open and relatively empty, so you can get the equivalent of a private room at bunkhouse prices. The ones I stayed at were above the clouds, around the bend, uncle johnnies (but the showers were unheated), standing bear (not sure I recommend), mountain harbor, boots off, broken fiddle, weary feet, woods hole, angels rest, and stanimals in Glasgow. All great stays except as noted, and there were a number more open, so with the cheap but good hotels, there are plenty of warm spots close to trail.

  17. #17
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    I started my hike in 1990 on May 5th not to miss the bubble but to miss all the cold weather and snow. Only had 2 mornings that the temperature dropped below freezing until hitting the White Mts. . Finished on Oct. 9th without seeing any snow. Hikers who start in Jan. and Feb. won`t see any leaves on the trees until hitting Pa. They will most likely finish before the fall colors in New England. If I were to hike the trail again I would start in May again. You will see more hot days and have more bugs but I would much rather deal with those then the freezing cold nights.

  18. #18
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    The start in October makes sense to me only if you SOBO from Damascus to Springer. Even then Dec in GA can be real cold. Also agree with the masses that Feb start NOBO from Damascus is too early for temps/snow. April/May would be optimum.

  19. #19
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    Seems like this schedule would get your trail legs built up only to be discarded and restarted a few months later.

  20. #20

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    I wouldn't worry about the bubble. I started on April 4 and made great friends as we went along. But more than half of them dropped off by Hot Springs. Come on, a big part of the experience is the people you meet.

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