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  1. #1
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    Default Asking for some good advice.

    I am an older woman planning to hike the AT starting April 1, 2011. At this time I am thinking it might be wise to start just north of Damascus, hike to Katahdin, then return to my starting point and finish at Springer Mt. That way I will have plenty of time to get my "trail legs" before the more difficult parts, and won't be so pressed for a finish time. Does this sound like a reasonable plan? Any other suggestions? I am open to considering other plans and welcome all advice. I have enjoyed reading the threads and articles on this site. It's been a great way to learn about backpacking. Just wish I had started serious hiking when I was much younger, but hey, better late than never. Thanks.

  2. #2
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    sounds like a very good plan

  3. #3

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    Sounds like a great relaxed way to do it. Good lck.

    geek

  4. #4
    Registered User Jedeye's Avatar
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    I think it's a good way to go, but one thing to conceder is if you find yourself hiking with a "bubble" of people that you really enjoy it may be pretty sad to leave them and then start hiking alone again. But I'm sure you will run into more great people!
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  5. #5

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    The NOBO's will catch you going north and the SOBO's will catch you going south...you shouldn't have alot of solo hiking.

    geek

  6. #6

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    I don't know, there are some down sides to that plan. First, SW VA isn't all that easy. Your cutting across the grain of the ridges there. I think it is easier to get your trail legs in GA then it is going north from Damascus. (And just going out for a walk every day for a couple of miles between now and when you leave for the hike will do you wonders)

    Second, you'll be well ahead of the bulk of thru-hikers. This may or may not be a good thing.

    Third, weather might be more of an issue being that much farther north in April, even though you will be at lower elevations than the same time in NC.

    I think a better plan is to start at Springer with everyone else, then skip ahead to New England sometime in middle/late June when it starting to get real hot, then finish up that middle section in the late fall.
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  7. #7
    Registered User Rick500's Avatar
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    I can't offer much advice other than to say, I've hiked the trail from Damascus north through Grayson Highlands and it's just beautiful (and you'll get some good exercise in...there's a lot of uphill in that stretch). If you make camp near Thomas Knob Shelter, walk a little bit past it; there are some awesome places to tent just past the shelter.

  8. #8

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    The terrain and weather in SW Virginia shouldn't be any worse than March in Georgia. Just go slow till you get your trail legs and avoid injury. I really like the plan and think that it will work fine.

    geek

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by hwh View Post
    I am an older woman planning to hike the AT starting April 1, 2011. At this time I am thinking it might be wise to start just north of Damascus, hike to Katahdin, then return to my starting point and finish at Springer Mt. That way I will have plenty of time to get my "trail legs" before the more difficult parts, and won't be so pressed for a finish time. Does this sound like a reasonable plan? Any other suggestions? I am open to considering other plans and welcome all advice. I have enjoyed reading the threads and articles on this site. It's been a great way to learn about backpacking. Just wish I had started serious hiking when I was much younger, but hey, better late than never. Thanks.
    How far "north of Damascus" are you talking about for your start? If you start at Fox Creek/Rt. 603 which is 40 miles north, then I think Slo-goen's concerns are negated somewhat; you'll have some ups and downs but not on the scale of getting to Mt. Rogers. Starting here means you also get to hike through Grayson Highlands in late summer/fall when you pick up after finishing at Katahdin.

    Another possibility for getting your trail legs is to contact Lone Wolf for a shuttle south to Rt. 321 outside Hampton and start your hike north from there - about 40 miles. This stretch is relatively easy. Now keep in mind on the AT that "easy" doesn't translate into "flat" or "level" but nearly everyone agrees those 40 miles are markedly easier than the trail before and after it.
    Last edited by Cookerhiker; 01-25-2011 at 12:43.

  10. #10
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    Thanks so much for the quick responses! Very interesting comments. It's good to know more about SW VA. I had thought about starting at Dickey Gap. I realized that there are some steep climbs in the 50 or so miles right after Damascus. Would that put me past the ridges you mentioned? I walk 3 miles a day now and have been wearing a weight vest. I'm up to 14 lbs now and will be adding more. I do look like someone from a swat team when I wear it, but that's ok. I just want to be able to do this. It's very important to me. Thanks again.

  11. #11
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    Georgia, in any direction, is challenging, especially starting off.

    And there is a very special rhythym of the Trail that begins with Springer (or, I imagine, Katahdin) and keeps moving with you.

    Don't be afraid of "not making the miles." That's the beauty of 'packing. It's not a contest, and there aren't standards. If you walk 5 miles in day, no one criticizes you or, for that matter, praises you much, either.

    Start at Springer, and just walk. April is a lovely time to do so.

    TW
    "Thank God! there is always a Land of Beyond, For us who are true to the trail..." --- Robert Service

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by hwh View Post
    Thanks so much for the quick responses! Very interesting comments. It's good to know more about SW VA. I had thought about starting at Dickey Gap. I realized that there are some steep climbs in the 50 or so miles right after Damascus. Would that put me past the ridges you mentioned? I walk 3 miles a day now and have been wearing a weight vest. I'm up to 14 lbs now and will be adding more. I do look like someone from a swat team when I wear it, but that's ok. I just want to be able to do this. It's very important to me. Thanks again.
    there are no steep climbs out of damascus. they're all very gradual and switchbacked. i would start here

  13. #13

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    By "older hiker" I assume that you are really telling us you are a "slower hiker".

    Since I don't know your hiking pace I would make sure that you feel confident that you can reach K by Oct 1 (park closes 10/15 so I am giving you a cushion for your pace and for an early winter closure). You want to make sure that you only have to flip once; it would be a pain to have to flip to K from Gorham and hike SOBO and then leave from Gorham to Damascus.

    So if you leave from Damascus can you reach K by 10/1?

  14. #14
    Digger takethisbread's Avatar
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    If you left April 1 you would still have 192 days to finish the trail in complete. That's 11 miles a day. I think you are being over cautious.

    Even the most out of shape hiker could easily average more than that over the whole trail. I think staying with a pack the entire trip might help you move along.
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  15. #15
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    This has been very helpful. I'll continue to read all the replies and keep thinking. Such good ideas here.
    HWH

  16. #16
    Registered User Rick500's Avatar
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    When I hiked from Damascus through Grayson Highlands (mid-October, a few months ago), I did the (approx.) 40 miles in three days (Thursday afternoon through Sunday noon). At that point I was fairly accustomed to walking four or five miles in relatively flat terrain once or twice a week; no more training than that. I think you'd do just fine, just watch your pace and rest when you need to.

  17. #17

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    There's one other consideration which makes your plan of starting north of Damascus very appealing, to me at least. I'm talking about weather, specifically the heat & humidity of mid-summer.

    Let's say you start April 1 at Dickey Gap, 50 miles north of Damascus, about 510 miles from Springer. If you average 11 miles per day, then July 1 finds you in Massachusetts near Great Barrington. 12 miles per day would bring you to Rt. 9 outside Bennington, VT. This means that you'll escape the worse of the mid-summer heat & humidity in the low elevations of the mid-Atlantic - MD, PA, NJ, NY, CT. And if you start at Springer April 1, the mid-Atlantic is where you'll be in July

    Yes, I'm generalizing somewhat - you could have hot weather in June, the northern locales can also be hot in July. I don't presume to project my preferences i.e. aversion to hiking in hot weather onto you. But if heat & humidity is a factor, I think your plan is a better one. I see you're from TN; I've known other Tennesseans who thought all of "the North" i.e. PA on up was cool and pleasant because after all, it's "up North." Nope, not in July!

    Also, starting near Damascus avoids the black fly season in Northern New England; they'll be largely gone by the time you reach there. Flip-floppers who start further north e.g. Harpers Ferry often run in to black flies.

    Oh: can you average 11-12 miles? I'm confident you can, perhaps more. AT thruhiking history is replete with stories of those in less-than-idyllic shape - of all ages - successfully finishing a thruhike.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I don't know, there are some down sides to that plan. First, SW VA isn't all that easy. Your cutting across the grain of the ridges there. I think it is easier to get your trail legs in GA then it is going north from Damascus. (And just going out for a walk every day for a couple of miles between now and when you leave for the hike will do you wonders)

    Second, you'll be well ahead of the bulk of thru-hikers. This may or may not be a good thing.

    Third, weather might be more of an issue being that much farther north in April, even though you will be at lower elevations than the same time in NC.

    I think a better plan is to start at Springer with everyone else, then skip ahead to New England sometime in middle/late June when it starting to get real hot, then finish up that middle section in the late fall.
    Sounds like this makes good sense. Great advice Slo-go'en

  19. #19
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    Thanks, I really appreciate all your replies. I especially appreciated the fact that nobody at all discouraged me from hitting the trail. Some of my friends have looked at me very strangely and asked if I was sure I would be safe. Recently a 90 year old man was attacked outside the Verizon store right here in my city. He's ok and the 3 crazy women have been caught, but you have to wonder if staying home is all that safe. At least I will be having an adventure. Just can't wait.

  20. #20

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    Wonderful idea hwh. Just don't start too soon unless you like sitting in a hostel/hotel/motel waiting for snow to melt. I think there are a fair number of hopeful thruhikers who start too early at the southern terminus and spend too much time and money waiting out bad weather, especially in the Smokies. I suspect also that some of these folks, who have the drive and stamina to complete a thru run out of money and have to leave the Trail.
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11

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