WhiteBlaze Pages 2022
A Complete Appalachian Trail Guidebook.
$5 for printable PDF, AVAILABLE NOW. $9 for interactive PDF(smartphone version)
Read more here WhiteBlaze Pages Store

Results 1 to 18 of 18
  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    02-11-2013
    Location
    Florhma Park, NJ
    Posts
    9

    Default Months suitable for hiking

    I'd like to section-hike the AT but within reason.

    I'm close to 66yo and have hiked about 300 miles - Lehigh Gap to Great Barrington. Because of commitments at home (and because I don't think my body could handle it), through hiking and LONG sections are not in the cards.

    I'd like to finish the AT by the time I'm 72. Hopefully I'll still be able to do the required hiking by then. That means hiking 322 miles per year. Next to calculate is how many miles per month, and that is where question arises. How many months at the beginning and end of the calendar year are "hike-able" at the southern end? When does the season open in Georgia and when does it end. In the summer months, I'll be hiking the northern sections. Is October hiking still fine in Georgia? The Carolinas? How about November? April?

    I don't mind hiking in cold weather (winter is the best time for hiking in NJ), but I choose my days cautiously so I'm not hiking in a storm. Cold and snow is fine, dangerous (icy) is not.

    What I'm trying to determine is how many months are hike-able so I can calculate miles per month which will help me to decide if I can do one 50-mile week or two 30-mile trips or...

    Thanks in advance for your consideration
    Doc

  2. #2

    Default

    Well every year is different, depending on global weather. Remember the Great Smoky get some tough/cold/snow/rain weather when south of there and north of there are decent. I'd say November is probably out unless the weather forecast for a week is really good. But you are also going out for 300 miles so that is more 3 to 4 weeks at a time. Except you are thinking to do about half that mileage. Long range forecast.....not very good on specifics. Given your caution about age, I'd focus on from NY northward and get those done. Vermont and points north are rough hiking and tough weather. There was a fatality on Mt Washington just this summer, caught in a bad storm. Once most of the northern stuff is completed, maybe look at April/May/June and stay out longer and get more miles in down south when the weather is decent and not full on summer yet. Take off July and August and start up again for September/October down south. It's a lot of logistics.
    For a couple of bucks, get a weird haircut and waste your life away Bryan Adams....
    Hammock hangs are where you go into the woods to meet men you've only known on the internet so you can sit around a campfire to swap sewing tips and recipes. - sargevining on HF

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    08-14-2015
    Location
    Rome, Georgia
    Posts
    399

    Default

    Georgia can be hiked year-around, if you have a flexible schedule. There are stretches of bad weather in winter and high summer, but even those seasons offer windows of good weather. The best months for backpacking here are April through early June and October, November. North Carolina and Tennessee have much higher mountains, so December through March can be really hard, though there are windows there too. On the other hand, even the summer months are nicer than in Georgia. It's usually much more comfortable at 4,000 feet than at 2,500. If you want to pick a guaranteed month in Georgia, it's May. For North Carolina and Tennessee, mid-May to mid-June.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    02-11-2013
    Location
    Florhma Park, NJ
    Posts
    9

    Default

    Thanks for the replies

  5. #5
    Registered User Tim Rich's Avatar
    Join Date
    07-08-2003
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Age
    57
    Posts
    470
    Images
    6

    Default

    We sectioned the AT over 16 years, almost all of it in cooler weather. We did GA in Feb and May, NC in Nov, Smokies in March. We did the Whites in July. Some of Maine in September.

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    06-25-2012
    Location
    Lurkerville, East Tn
    Age
    62
    Posts
    3,661
    Journal Entries
    1

    Default

    We finished the trail over ten years, mostly in short sections. 2-4 day weekends in the South, 7-12 day trips to the North. Around 220 miles per year. If you're already 66, I'd suggest doing more miles and harder miles now, and save the easy miles and shorter trips for later years as you age.

    Because we live in the South, it was easy to squeeze in a weekend here and there when the weather was okay. That would be harder coming from a distance. Generally speaking, I would avoid the high elevations down here between mid-December and early March. You can have nice days during that time, but harder to find nice days for a whole week. Likewise, you can have nasty weather outside that time frame. The best time to hike Georgia is in the fall. Too crowded in the spring. Too hot in the summer.

  7. #7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JRushman View Post
    I'd like to section-hike the AT but within reason.
    I don't mind hiking in cold weather (winter is the best time for hiking in NJ), but I choose my days cautiously so I'm not hiking in a storm. Cold and snow is fine, dangerous (icy) is not.

    What I'm trying to determine is how many months are hike-able so I can calculate miles per month which will help me to decide if I can do one 50-mile week or two 30-mile trips or...

    Thanks in advance for your consideration
    Doc
    Determining what winter months/days are hikable is difficult without more information. For example, how long are the sections being considered, are you camping one or two nights in the section or is it strictly day hiking and if so are hikes in and out, loops, or one way with a shuttle? The problem with cold weather hiking is being surprised when unforecasted changes take place once on the trail. I hike through all the winter months here in New England, though I tend not to go into places that may require technical gear in bad or dangerous weather like the Whites and will leave those mountains alone in winter for the most part. Only the individual can determine distances and sections to hike if they are otherwise up to the physical challenge.

    Perhaps the greatest challenge is predicting weather for any planned section. Trailhead conditions rarely provide much in the way of signaling what lays ahead on the trail or from weather and weather forecasting typically is for the valleys near the planned section(s). Accuracy of conditions a few thousand feet up in mountains that can generate their own weather makes long term (24-hr) forecasting difficult. Temperature data, precipitation (type and duration), and wind activity are geared to audiences in the lower elevations and should be taken as advisements only. Regardless of weather conditions being sunny or nasty, cold and snow on the trail nearly always turns into icy conditions over time, sometimes immediately, sometimes after a few thaw/refreeze cycles, sometimes dissipating over a short time or lasting for many days.

    Day hiking can be impacted by this as well, so carrying some basic winter gear with you is always advisable. If camping one or two nights in a section is planned, most of the preparation for cold weather issues is complete with tent, sleep system, food, and clothing for colder conditions than found at the trail head. With that gear along with traction devices and gators, you should be able to tackle most anything south of NH. I carry a GPS in case the route and blazes are snow covered and everything looks like a trail. There is generally not a lot of foot traffic on the AT in some sections so following trails by means of tracking others may be greatly reduced if not impossible. When going up in altitude in deep winter I expect to reach snow at a depth trail snowshoes are needed to avoid post holing, twisted ankles, and exhaustion. My trail snowshoes are pretty light and strap onto the outside of the pack easily, and they do tend to make a long, hard slog a LOT easier.

    What tends to strand people in mountains is a weather event like a bombogenesis that can be sneaky and pin a hiker down for a day or three with incredibly hard accumulating snowfall. Once done, temperatures typically drop to dangerously low levels and deep snow becomes very difficult to push through without snowshoes. Only preparedness will help mitigate these situations, turning them into a survivable event as opposed to a life threatening one.

    So the short answer is, all winter months are hikable. The question really becomes where you are going and what weather conditions are you comfortable in facing with what you typically carry or should you add to the provisions/equipment for the trek. This is an interesting topic for me and several others in this forum, please keep in touch with your progress through the winter months!

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    01-22-2008
    Location
    Kentucky
    Age
    57
    Posts
    1,441
    Images
    69

    Default

    Every month outside of Dec-March are great. So pick a section and head out. Maybe Springer nobo after the bubbles are gone? I would keep in mind that global warming, climate change, or whatever they're calling it these days will raise the earths temperature by .007 degrees by the year of 2100 so make sure to plan accordingly.... LOL...
    Now git outside & get dirty!!!
    Take Time to Watch the Trees Dance with The Wind.....Then Join In

  9. #9

    Default

    I section-hiked the entire AT over a period of 13 years (with 2 years out to recover from a broken ankle). I started this adventure at the age of 60, when I was still working. In choosing my sections (I did not do them in order), the primary considerations were weather (I get chilled very easily), expected number of other hikers (did not want to be in a mob scene, but enjoyed some company and felt it was safer to have people around), and the ability to reach start and end points by public transport and shuttles. Most, if not all, of my hikes happened April to August.

    I second Illabelle's advice to finish up north first. That's what I tried to do, but Maine ended up being last for me, because after the ankle healed I still had Front Royal to Springer to do and I wanted to ease back into things.

    One of the best decisions I made when I began was to get a hammock. I did this because I was unsure of my mileage per day and ability to reach a shelter or find a suitable tent spot if I got tired or if the weather turned bad. With a hammock, you can pretty much stop anywhere most of the time.

  10. #10
    Registered User
    Join Date
    03-14-2020
    Location
    Evanston IL
    Age
    59
    Posts
    471
    Images
    4

    Default

    One comment I’d make having done some sections with my daughters Ian my late 40’s and a thru last year at 58, is that on a thru you only have to get your trail legs once. If you are retired and family situation allows, you might want to consider a thru.

    Whatever you decide, I highly recommend spending up for high quality, light weight gear. Reduces the wear and tear on the body.

  11. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    02-11-2013
    Location
    Florhma Park, NJ
    Posts
    9

    Default

    Thanks, everyone, for your input.

    HankIV - I'll probably never get my trail-legs. Doing one to three days at-a-time won't allow that to happen. And I know I have to lighten my load. I have a Hennessy hammock I've been looking to upgrade. It's served me well but it is HEAVY. Considering the Blackbird from Warbonnet.

    Tiptoe - I agree. I'd like to get the more challenging sections done first.

    WornOutBoots - I like your suggestion for starting at Springer after the bubbles. Maybe WELL after the bubbles.

    Traveler - I'm planning to do one to five days at a time. One day hikes if I'm more local (Pennsylvania, Massachusetts), 5 days for the termini. I have trail crampons and snowshoes for hiking in the winters here in New Jersey and New York, but would not plan on using them for my AT walks. If the conditions are such that I'd need them, I wouldn't want to drive many hours to find out the conditions are worse than anticipated and I'd need to cancel. For hiking in the Catskills this past winter, I often used my Hillsounds and carried my Tubbs. If the snow was such that I was pretty certain I'd need the snowshoes, I wouldn't drive to the Catskills and did something local instead. I found the Mountain-Forecast website to be quite good. I'll have to see how accurate it is for other locales.

  12. #12

    Default

    Section hiking is the most enjoyable in my opinion. You can hit the trail fresh, have some control over weather, and can determine how far you want to do at a time. Maine in sections, NH as one section, VT one section, MA and CT as a section, etc.. I did the 230 in PA as a section as well as MD south into VA. GA into NC could be done as a section. The NC/TN and VA sections could be done is separate sections due to all the miles.


  13. #13

    Default

    After 2 weeks is usually when you get your "trail legs". I always enjoyed the days after that much more.

  14. #14

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by HankIV View Post
    One comment I’d make having done some sections with my daughters Ian my late 40’s and a thru last year at 58, is that on a thru you only have to get your trail legs once. If you are retired and family situation allows, you might want to consider a thru.

    Whatever you decide, I highly recommend spending up for high quality, light weight gear. Reduces the wear and tear on the body.
    Excellent advice. Invest in lighter gear continues to pay dividends every mile you walk.

  15. #15
    -
    Join Date
    08-14-2005
    Location
    Fort Madison, IA
    Age
    59
    Posts
    1,649

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Astro View Post
    After 2 weeks is usually when you get your "trail legs". I always enjoyed the days after that much more.
    most of my hikes have been about a month, and after 2 weeks I often kept up with some thru hikers

    - if you have the budget to call for a ride and lodging, south of the smokies is practical even in dec/ jan so many services for hikers even in winter

    -- ideally have a sat phone to monitor the forecast and call from anywhere

  16. #16

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by rhjanes View Post
    Given your caution about age, I'd focus on from NY northward and get those done. Vermont and points north are rough hiking and tough weather. There was a fatality on Mt Washington just this summer, caught in a bad storm.
    Agree, I personally know two section hikers who couldn't finish because they weren't well enough to take on the northern sections. At least one of them could have completed trail sections further south if they had been left for last.

  17. #17
    Registered User Tim Rich's Avatar
    Join Date
    07-08-2003
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Age
    57
    Posts
    470
    Images
    6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Astro View Post
    After 2 weeks is usually when you get your "trail legs". I always enjoyed the days after that much more.
    Great point. As a section hiker, our longest stretch was ten days, 170 miles from near Carlisle to Delaware Water Gap. Over 16 years, we had much interaction with thruhikers, both NOBO and SOBO. We learned we had a mutual admiration for each other. Me: "I can't believe the commitment to put your life on hold and knock this out over X months." They: "Who would have to go through the break-in of every hike? We hated the trail before we became acclimated to it."

    We fell in with some NOBOs in western Maine on a 130-some odd section. They were hiking machines and we were grasping through inky darkness to find our way. The day of Mahoosuc Notch and Arm, the thruhikers got an early start. We didn't think we'd see them again. We get to the Notch and they are winded and struggling. We play through and moved ahead, perplexed that we caught them. Then, we got our butts kicked headed up the Arm, and the thruhikers scream by us - but on the whole we all end up at the same shelter that night. As we recounted the day, the thruhikers marveled at how we navigated the Notch, and us how they smoked us on the Arm. Fresh out of the world, in decent shape, our upper body strength moved us quickly through the maze and jungle gym of the Notch. The thruhikers had lost much of their upper body strength, and they struggled mightily shoving packs overhead and pulling themselves up.

    Complete immersion vs. long-term commitment. Both are great approaches if they get you 2,100 miles along the trail.

    Take Care,

    Tim

  18. #18
    Registered User
    Join Date
    07-15-2011
    Location
    Williamsburg, VA
    Age
    74
    Posts
    46

    Default

    I've been section hiking the AT for 16 years, with the goal of completing it all. Since I live in the middle (Virginia), I took an inside out approach, North in the spring/summer, and south in the fall/winter, while trying to avoid as much rain and drought as possible. Longest hike was the 100 miles of wilderness. To date, I have only to complete the last 52 miles in Georgia, and a 40 mile stretch between Gorham, NH and Andover, ME. Disadvantage of this methodology is planning and making, all of these separate trips, plus getting to old to finish. I've used air, rail, bus, POV, and even hitchhiking to get to and from these section hikes. And for support, I used as many friends and relatives that I could muster. Wouldn't trade my AT experiences for anything.

++ New Posts ++

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •