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  1. #1
    Fat Guy Lemni Skate's Avatar
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    Default Why start in January or February?

    It seems like these super early starts are getting very popular judging from the people on here.

    I always wanted to start on March 21 (my Birthday), but have always thought that even that would be too early and I'd freeze my butt off.

    What's the appeal to doing the South before the leaves come out or there's even a flower on a redbud or dogwood? What's the appeal of getting socked by freezing rain or a blizzard and having your water bottles freeze up at night? What's the appeal of having to carry heavier equipment for months to deal with the cold?

    Don't get me wrong, here. I believe in "hike your own hike," and I like winter hikes. I'm not much on winter camping. I spent my hike in April in Georgia last year freezing. My hike in LATE May in SNP 2 years ago was also cold as I awoke on May 19 to 30 degrees and the high temperature didn't hit 60 until around May 28.

    Just being a Southern Boy I'm not acclimated to the cold and I truly don't like waking up and realizing it's 28 degrees out there. I can't imagine waking up in February and it's far colder than that.
    Lemni Skate away

    The trail will save my life

  2. #2
    Fat Guy Lemni Skate's Avatar
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    Again, please don't take my post as criticizing the choice. I just want some of you to get a chance to wax eloquent about the joys of winter hiking and to maybe get some hints on how you deal with the stuff I seem to not enjoy.
    Lemni Skate away

    The trail will save my life

  3. #3
    Registered User kayak karl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemni Skate View Post
    I like winter hikes. I'm not much on winter camping
    its different. there are view you will never see in the spring



    I'm so confused, I'm not sure if I lost my horse or found a rope.

  4. #4
    Henry birdog's Avatar
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    If your not prepared/comfortable with cold weather hiking/camping then a start that early would NOT be for you. The temps at elevation in the GSMNP can be very cold indeed. It is not unusual for overnight temps to drop into single digits and awaken to find 12" of snow on the ground. March is a very wet month in the Smoky's so snow late is always a factor. Just recently the higher elevations received 2" of snow and 17 degrees. Yes, the temps rose and the snow melted but it happened non-the-less.
    Birdog

    Underestimation is the mother of all failure

  5. #5
    Henry birdog's Avatar
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    On the other hand I personally love to hike at this time. Solitude and some beautiful scenery are my companions. I love to winter solo(because no one else will go) through the Park on the AT at that time of year. I'm equipped properly and have had 25 years experience hiking in winter conditions but in no way do I let a sense of complacency invade my thinking. My pack weight averages around 23 lbs for a 5 day hike so I'm not overly burdened and I take every precaution that one should. Sadly, there are many tragedies that have occured because someone underestimated the weather in the GSMNP.
    Birdog

    Underestimation is the mother of all failure

  6. #6
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    Weird as this may sound some people prefer to cold to bugs (not me). I've done section hikes in Feb that weren't as bad as I thought they were going to be but then again there wasn't any appreciable snow on the ground either.

    Plus I think some people just like knowing they're out in front. I did a section hike in Mass last May and kept running into a guy who was the 4th person to sign the book at Harpers and the guy who was 5th. The guy in 5th kept trying to catch the guy in 4th. I was doing SOBO sections and ran into both of the them 5 days straight.

    I've also met people who wanted to summit Katahdin on July 4th and other people who wanted to finish their hikes and still have the majority of the summer to do other things.

    Last March I was in Hot Springs and there were over 10 thru hikers where I was staying. Some of the let's say slower hikers started early because they were afraid they could not make it to Katahdin before Baxter closed down.

    I would imagine most people who start early do so because (1) they can, and (2) they have some reason to finish early.
    Pain is a by-product of a good time.

  7. #7

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    For me, the problem with the early start is not just missing the beautiful spring flowers of the Southern Appalachians or dealing with cold, ice, and darkness. It's also arriving in NH and Maine during mud and black fly season and before blueberry season. The northern bugs are worse than the southern bugs.

  8. #8
    I walk, therefore, I am datadog314's Avatar
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    Personally, I'm born and raised New England, I've seen more than my share of winter settings. I too, am thinking about a later start than first planned. I always thought the south had sunny, warm, tempertures......I'm taken aback by talk of single digit temps and spring snows.

    I always thought that's why people lived down there.........hell, I didn't think it even snowed past the Mason-Dixon line.
    I'm not trying this trail, with the intention to fail......so, hold your applaudin'.....till I reach Katahdin!

  9. #9
    Henry birdog's Avatar
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    Oh boy does it snow down here at the higher elevations. March in the Park averages 26" of snow: not much by New England standards but when you are out in it for a week at a time it seems like 26 FEET. I remember one year, 1985 I think, where 5 hikers were stranded in the Cosby shelter for 5 days. Ran out of food, fuel to melt snow, and had to be rescued by the park service. Almost didn't make it. All this happened within 7 miles of a ranger station and I-40.
    Birdog

    Underestimation is the mother of all failure

  10. #10
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    In some cases, it's just personal schedules.

    A few years ago, I had a nephew getting married in July, so he had from when ever he though he could get started until then to do the AT. He started sometime between Christmas and New Year. Occationally was held up in shelters or just flat out had to get of the trail for a week due to cold weather and/or snow. But some how he still managed to complete the AT and get to his wedding on time. Actually, the groom's cake had something of a silk-screen like overlay on the cake, and it was a pair of picture, one at the start of the hike, the other at the end.

  11. #11
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    when you hike off season you almost have the trail to yourself

  12. #12
    Rain Man's Avatar
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    Or, you're from Denmark?! LOL

    Red Dane's trail journal

    Started January 7, 2006. She has some nice snow and ice photos posted in her Trail Journal.

    I've hiked parts of the AT in the snow and have had my water freeze, including my CamelBak tube. But I do thinking "walking with Spring" makes more sense.

    RainMan

    .
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

    www.MeetUp.com/NashvilleBackpacker

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  13. #13
    Registered User Lyle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lemni Skate View Post
    My hike in LATE May in SNP 2 years ago was also cold as I awoke on May 19 to 30 degrees and the high temperature didn't hit 60 until around May 28.
    This just struck me as funny. I consider these temps to be dang near IDEAL for backpacking. Any daytime temp above 40*-45* for me is shorts weather, depending on sun/wind.

    As you said, you're a southern boy who likes warm weather. You probably shouldn't start until mid to late spring. On the other hand as some have already pointed out, cold has it's own rewards and is quite comfortable if you are prepared.

    HYOH is a definite principle to apply here, no one is right or wrong.

    HAVE FUN!!!!

  14. #14
    Peakbagger Extraordinaire The Solemates's Avatar
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    Default

    no bugs
    no hot
    no people

    3 cardinal rules of hiking in my book. these lend themselves well to winter hiking.
    The only thing better than mountains, is mountains where you haven't been.

    amongnature.blogspot.com

  15. #15

    Default

    I love winter hiking. I hate winter camping. Even if your prepared, few realise just how difficult it is to deal with the cold 24/7 on an extended hike. Very few who start Jan/Feb make it very far.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by datadog314 View Post
    ....I always thought that's why people lived down there.........hell, I didn't think it even snowed past the Mason-Dixon line.
    Your post reminds me of one southerner who told me she didn't know there were mosquitos in NJ (let alone New England) because the winters were too cold. And another southerner who thought we didn't have rattlesnakes in PA, NJ, and NY because of the allegedly cold winters.

  17. #17
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    False Start, who my wife and I met on the trail in March, would have an interesting perspective to share. He began his thru hike in January and ended up going home (within about a week as I recall) due to cold wintery weather. He returned in March to continue - thus the trail name False Start was earned.

  18. #18
    I walk, therefore, I am datadog314's Avatar
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    Man, all this talk of snow, ice, and cold temps down south has this New England boy bummed out. I figured I'd start in early March and have a golden tan by April 1st. Seriously, all the southern people I meet around here, say the only cold the south gets is alittle in Janurary...........and, when they speak of cold, they're talking anything below 40 degrees. I figured I had it made. I hate the cold.......that was a huge reason I was going down there in early March.

    Are we talking about cold mornings?.........then, the temps get into the 50's by afternoon? Have we screwed the enviroment so bad that the polar region is ebbing into the sunny, warm, south............three lousy weeks shy of spring?

    I'll walk in the cold but, I want no part of camping in the ice and snow.......been there, done that. I believed all those stories about sunshine and heat and that the girls crusied around half naked.......now, I'm beginning to wonder if the bears I might run into are going to be huge and white.

    Can we use whale blubber to stoke our fires and seal skins for clothes?

    And, does the sun ever set in the summer down there?

    I'm taken aback by all this talk of ice and snow.
    I'm not trying this trail, with the intention to fail......so, hold your applaudin'.....till I reach Katahdin!

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I love winter hiking. I hate winter camping. Even if your prepared, few realise just how difficult it is to deal with the cold 24/7 on an extended hike. Very few who start Jan/Feb make it very far.
    Where do you get your stats? %wise I think the earlier hikers start the better their chances of finishing. They leave Springer better prepared, determined,equipped and motivated than many of the later starters who think it's just going to be a walk in the woods. This is just my observation and I've seen quite a few hikers over the past couple years.

  20. #20
    Registered User Doctari's Avatar
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    From MY point of view:
    Good points; better views in many cases due to less foliage to block them, fewer hikers / less crowds, Less heat (I wear a tee & kilt down to the lower 40s or colder when I hike.), NO D**N BUGS! More time to hike, therefore you can take it slower possibly reducing the chance of Injury.
    Bad points; Fewer people to depend on in emergency, possibly more opportunity for there to be an emergency, Normal people need to carry more insulation, fewer people to talk to, some services may not be available early in your hike.

    My friend Privy Monster started on January 1 of last year, his reasoning: "I knew I would want to start out hiking slow, so I allowed for the first month or so to be 5 miles per day, and that is what I did till through the Smokies." When I last saw him at Old Orchard Shelter he was doing 13 - 17 mile days, but still not hurrying "I'm walking from Georgia to Mane, looking for good places to sit!"
    Curse you Perry the Platypus!

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