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A Complete Appalachian Trail Guidebook.
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  1. #1
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    Default Can someone explain campsites (shelters) to me?

    Hey All,

    So I am still confused about the campsites/shelters. From what I have heard, on the trail there is one about every 10/15 miles or so. My question is, is this where most people set up camp for the night then? Do a lot of people actually sleep in the shelter? If so, is it covered so they don't even need to set up their tent?

    If they don't sleep in their shelter, do they usually camp right around where the shelter is located?

    I am wondering because I mentioned that I wanted to bring a guitar and play it at night before going to bed. Most people said to watch out and not be too loud at night in consideration to the other people at the campsite. Does everyone just camp together at night? I kinda liked the idea of being completely alone so that way I could jam out/sing without bothering anyone except for the fellow animals. Are there people that do this as well? If most people camp at the shelter, I was thinking about just staying a few hundred yards away from everybody so I could be loud without people caring much.

    thanks

  2. #2
    Registered User DavidNH's Avatar
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    Popnfresh.. some of the shelters are 15 miles apart, some just a few miles apart, some are more widely spaced.

    Most of us will want to camp out next to a shelter. There's an outhouse there and always a water supply near by. Plus there's social interaction opportunity. I bet most folks will appreciate your strumming a guitar, especially if it is soothing melodic music. Or if earlier in evening, it might be more lively. I would venture to guess that your strumming a guitar will be more appreciated than despised, especially if you are good at it!

  3. #3
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    Depends on the timing of your hike. Think most thru hikers start NOBO in March sometime. If your hiking at a time where you would be running into alot of them (you'll know them. they really smell bad) then the shelters will be filled. I tent hike & try to avoid areas where their might be alot of thru hikers & have found tent sites spread pretty far from the shelters (lean toos). Most hikers are used to snoring & other bodily noises so I wouldnt think a little acoustic guitar noise would bother anyone; but theres always 1 or 2 exceptions. I also have found there are alot of tent sites along the trail that are not marked as tent sites.

  4. #4
    Registered User Papa D's Avatar
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    Shelters on the trail range from very simple three-sided shed type enclosures to more elaborate buildings with ladders to sleeping lofts and so forth - - some have front porches and one is even an old barn. Originally, when the shelter system was conceived, the idea was to place them about one-days walk apart which at the time was somewhere in the 7-10 mile range with the average spacing being about 8 miles. Today's hikers (especially fast thru hikers) often skip by 2,3, or more shelters in a day - - many of the old three sided shelters have been replaced - - the oldies usually maxed-out at about 8 hikers sleeping hip-hip. Most new shelters can usually take at least 9 or 10 bodies. Most shelters on the trail are located on more or less flat spots and typically pretty close to a good water source. About 90% of shelter locations also have good tent sites associated with them or located nearby. There are a few shelters where tenting is not allowed (tenting in the GSMNP is not allowed near the shelters unless you are thru-hiking) - the GSMNP's definition of a thru-hiker is someone who started their hike at least 50 miles outside the park, so I suppose a long-section hiker could do this too.

    Most shelters have privies (basically little out-houses). Privies use either a molding or composting method for handling human waste. Using the smallest amount of paper possible, not putting trash in privies (or things like tampons) and tossing in some dry leaves or mulch is always appreciated by the trail maintainers and hikers that follow.

    On almost all of the Appalachian Trail you can tent in the woods near the trail so you don't have to stay at shelters. There are some noted exceptions to this but those areas are clearly marked "no camping" or you will have advanced notice (i.e. GSMNP). It is important to practice Leave No Trace Ethics when camping on the AT - - especially at non-designated backcountry sites - - leaving the site exactly (or better) than you found it in terms of impact.

    I'm sure you want to have fun (we all do) but please remember others and don't get too loud out there. Keeping pretty quiet is part of LNT.

    Hope this helps

  5. #5
    Registered User patman25's Avatar
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    Shelters are usually occupied and are 3 walled buildings with a roof. Campsites are just that, bare ground with a fire ring, sometimes close to a water source.

    My personal view on playing music/being loud is that it's fine while it's light...as soon as it's dark, please quiet down so people can sleep.

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    You do not need to camp at shelters except in GSMNP, and a few other places along the way. I have never hiked the trail north of PA but I understand there are a few places in New England that have restrictions also. Other than that, when you want to camp, just walk out into the woods, find a flat spot and camp.

    Most people camp near shelters because they want company, they want to be near a spring for water, quite a few of the shelters have a privy (out house), and of course the ever present fire ring. When you stay in the shelter, you sleep with everyone else that is in the shelter, sometimes on the floor, sometimes on a plywood bunk/platform. First come first serve, and the space you get can be just enough to lay down and hang you pack.

    At a shelter you may be all alone, or you may be there with 20 other people. Never count on being alone, always plan on other people showing up. There is a strange law of nature on the trail, that as soon as you think no one will show up for the night, a headlight comes bobbing out of the darkness with a quick "Hello, which way to the spring"

    Some may appreciate your guitar and singing more than others, the earlier in the evening, the more will enjoy it

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Papa D View Post
    ....On almost all of the Appalachian Trail you can tent in the woods near the trail so you don't have to stay at shelters. There are some noted exceptions to this but those areas are clearly marked "no camping" or you will have advanced notice (i.e. GSMNP). It is important to practice Leave No Trace Ethics when camping on the AT - - especially at non-designated backcountry sites - - leaving the site exactly (or better) than you found it in terms of impact...
    Quote Originally Posted by bfayer View Post
    You do not need to camp at shelters except in GSMNP, and a few other places along the way. I have never hiked the trail north of PA but I understand there are a few places in New England that have restrictions also. Other than that, when you want to camp, just walk out into the woods, find a flat spot and camp...
    Exceptions include all of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. In these states, camping is restricted to designated sites. Not all such sites have shelters; some do, some don't. Also in New York's Harriman Park (west of the Hudson River), you're also restricted to the designated sites,

  8. #8
    Registered User Papa D's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cookerhiker View Post
    Exceptions include all of New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. In these states, camping is restricted to designated sites. Not all such sites have shelters; some do, some don't. Also in New York's Harriman Park (west of the Hudson River), you're also restricted to the designated sites,
    Yep - you could also add caretaker shelters in VT an NH
    and BSP to places with restrictions.

  9. #9
    Registered User The Cleaner's Avatar
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    Just wondering have you ever played outside in cold damp weather?Last time I was out the temp was 28* for the high temp and I had gloves on.Well my fingers got a bit too cold and I could barely light a match to get a can of sterno going.I wanted to warm my hands a little before starting a fire.I use a small amount of sterno as a fire starter.....

  10. #10

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    Most of the AT in maine and the Mahoosucs also requires camping at designated campsites or shelters only. This tends to be ignored by many thruhikers. There are plenty of legal spots but the MATC's goal over the years appears to be relocate shelters away from road access to cut back on "locals" abusing the facilities which leads to a lot of shelters being up near the top of mountains instead of next to a stream down in a valley.

  11. #11
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    Most people naturally like to cluster, and organizers of people like people to cluster.
    I tend to bump into people and bounce off.

  12. #12
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    Go to the Shelters part of this site and you should be able to find a picture for pretty much every one of them.

    For me shelters are good for hanging food and chatting up other hikers but I rarely sleep in any of them. As a primarily SOBO hiker I can trade intel about trail conditions and water sources.
    Pain is a by-product of a good time.

  13. #13
    Registered User Tharwood's Avatar
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    I would like to know how you are planning on keeping your guitar in tune with all of the moisture and temp differences. It plays havoc on my Martin HD-28 just sitting in the den.....

  14. #14
    Registered User prain4u's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Popnfrsh24 View Post
    ....I wanted to bring a guitar and play it at night before going to bed. Most people said to watch out and not be too loud at night in consideration to the other people at the campsite......I kinda liked the idea of being completely alone so that way I could jam out/sing without bothering anyone except for the fellow animals.........I was thinking about just staying a few hundred yards away from everybody so I could be loud without people caring much.
    Regarding the guitar, I'm not saying "play it" or "don't play it". Just note, that sounds (even quiet sounds) can sometimes travel a VERY long distance outdoors. If you are sincere about not wanting to bother anyone--"a few hundred yards" might not ALWAYS be enough distance. Some noises can travel for a mile or more under certain conditions.
    "A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world." - Paul Dudley White

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tharwood View Post
    I would like to know how you are planning on keeping your guitar in tune with all of the moisture and temp differences. It plays havoc on my Martin HD-28 just sitting in the den.....
    I would think the OP is not planning on lashing a guitar worth 3+ grand on his backpack. Bought a classical guitar up north in the 60s and brought it back south during a Thanksgiving leave that was 0 deg when I left....lined up for inspection outside in the snow before I got on the road. It took several days for it to return to normal tuning and was an awful lot of stress to put on an instrument. I believe it still suffers to this day from that bad mistake of exposing it to extreme temperature/moisture swings.
    Martin though, has their backpacker series of guitars which are smaller, lighter, probably sturdier, cover a lot less real estate and thus, IMO, would suffer less from changes in temps and moisture.
    I would hope that is what the OP is considering taking along with him.
    "Experience - that thing you only get immediately after you needed it."

  16. #16
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    To address the original poster, a shelter also makes a fine place to prepare a meal- whether or not you elect to stay there. It is perfectly proper to make a meal and eat on the platform and doing so can be a welcome respite from the elements if its raining. Best not to leave scraps behind, of course.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tharwood View Post
    I would like to know how you are planning on keeping your guitar in tune with all of the moisture and temp differences. It plays havoc on my Martin HD-28 just sitting in the den.....
    I think you turn those little pegs at the end of the neck. ;-)

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Popnfrsh24 View Post
    Hey All,

    So I am still confused about the campsites/shelters. From what I have heard, on the trail there is one about every 10/15 miles or so. My question is, is this where most people set up camp for the night then? Do a lot of people actually sleep in the shelter? If so, is it covered so they don't even need to set up their tent?

    If they don't sleep in their shelter, do they usually camp right around where the shelter is located?

    I am wondering because I mentioned that I wanted to bring a guitar and play it at night before going to bed. Most people said to watch out and not be too loud at night in consideration to the other people at the campsite. Does everyone just camp together at night? I kinda liked the idea of being completely alone so that way I could jam out/sing without bothering anyone except for the fellow animals. Are there people that do this as well? If most people camp at the shelter, I was thinking about just staying a few hundred yards away from everybody so I could be loud without people caring much.

    thanks
    To get away from the shelter police argument, I would suggest that you eat at the shelter and then walk another mile or so and find a nice place to camp.
    Most people, especially noobies, like to camp near the water and that is usually where the shelters are.
    So, eat, fill up a litre for the night and maybe coffee in the morning and head back out where you will have lots of piece and quiet.
    The shelter police won't bother you, neither will those who don't want any noise and want to think they are in the true wilderness.

    Most of all, have fun. If you are good, people will know and even ask you to play for them sometimes.
    To the guy who wants to make rules for everyone, chill out and HYOH.
    There's enough rules in the world. Let's try to keep them to a minimum on the trail.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by fiddlehead View Post
    . If you are good, people will know and even ask you to play for them sometimes.
    To the guy who wants to make rules for everyone, chill out and HYOH.
    .
    Good call: Ask people about your playing!

    Do not take their answers personal: Sometimes we are in a mood where even our most favorite song sucks and we need quiet. Other times, your guitar would make the difference!

    Enjoy!

  20. #20
    Native Norwegian Polar Bear Tor's Avatar
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    It sounds like we'll (my wife and I) stay away from shelters :-). Plan on doing a little section hiking this year (Max Patch , Hot Springs and further north)
    "Adventure Is Just Bad Planning" - Roald Amundsen

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