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Thread: 2016 Flip Flop

  1. #1
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    Default 2016 Flip Flop

    What would be the problems starting a flip flop at Waynsboro instead of at Harper's Ferry? Possible advantages or disadvantages.
    Thanks.
    Would even further south be a good idea and still miss the big crowds/

  2. #2

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    Well, for one thing Harper's Ferry is a tad easier to get to by public transportation. Other then that, not a whole lot except being about 2 weeks behind where you'd be if you started at Harper's. So, it's all about timing.

    For example, I went SOBO from Harper's Ferry May 1st last year. I was just south of Waynsboro when trail days let out and the trail went from being pretty quiet to "where the heck did all these people suddenly come from?" So, the closer to May 1st you want to start, the farther north you best be and even then, they will be nipping at your heels.
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    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    It would be a little easier to answer if you gave your start date.

    To what Slo-go'en said I would just add that the elevation north of HF is lower than it is in SNP, which is just north of Waynesboro. So if you get caught just starting out in some cold/rainy weather (in 2008 or maybe 2009 it snowed on Mothers Day!) you'd rather be in lower elevation, right?

  4. #4

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    Wanna Bs,

    Assuming you're talking about northbound on your first half?

    There are some advantages of starting in Waynesboro, VA instead of Harpers Ferry:

    - Smoother treadway, not as rocky as Maryland and especially Pennsylvania (though more elevation change)

    - More time to develop your trail legs before reaching first the rocky terrain and then the steep climbs like at Lehigh Gap, PA (235 miles north of Harpers Ferry) and the short, steep pitches in New York.

    - More amenities and opportunity for calorie ingestion along the Trail to keep your food weight low if you start as Swift Run Gap (the first highway to cross the Trail in Shenandoah going north). Keep in mind these amenities are non-existent in the winter, and various facilities start opening up in late March. Some don't open until mid-May.

    But, the significantly higher elevation in Shenandoah means it's colder longer. Shenandoah is maybe 2 weeks behind Harpers Ferry weather-wise than the mountains just north of here in Maryland, or put another way, the temperatures will be about 10 degrees colder.

    ATC has revised the alternative thru-hikes page of website to highlight the option of starting in Shenandoah, after hearing that some members of the 2015 Class of flip-floppers felt they could have used more miles under their feet to get ready for the rockier terrain north of Harpers Ferry.

    What might be best for you depends on a variety of factors: when you can start, what kind of shape you're in, how you feel about cold-weather hiking, how frequently you want to be able to resupply, etc. Starting in Shenandoah instead of Harpers Ferry might be especially good for older hikers who have not been fit for a while or who have knee issues.

    FYI, the Flip Flop Festival in Harpers Ferry will be April 16-17 next year (2016).

    Laurie P.
    ATC
    Last edited by Lauriep; 12-06-2015 at 18:01.

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    •Completed A.T. Section Hike GA to ME 1996 thru 2003 •Donating Member Skyline's Avatar
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    Laurie,

    That Alternatives page is fab-u-lous! Did you write it? It's very complete, and obviously much thought went into it. It portrays each option honestly, and should make prospective hikers really think about both their own hikes as well as impact on the Trail.

    LOL, as a marketing person myself...I especially liked the "branding" given to some of the alternatives. Was that the result of a focus group, or will you take the blame/credit?

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    Laurie,

    Impressive document that should be added as a sub-forum "sticky" in the Thru-Hiker Classes Forum. Thank You again for your diligent work at the AT Conservancy.
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    Really happy to see these alternatives get a rebrand/refocus. I love the different approaches to the trail they provide.

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    Edit:

    Impressive document that should be added as a sub-forum "sticky" in Thru-Hiker Specific Topics/Q&A Forum. Thank You again for your diligent work at the AT Conservancy.[/QUOTE]
    Getting lost is a way to find yourself.

  9. #9

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    Thanks for the nice comments about the Alternative Thru-Hikes page. It could use more work, but there is content all in one place I don't think you can find anywhere else.

    Some of the content has from hikers themselves. I have tried to talk to just about every alternative-itinerary thru-hiker who has come through Harpers Ferry and noted their comments in their 2,000-miler applications. And of course I do a lot of monitoring on WhiteBlaze too :-)

    Some of the branding for the different types of alternative hikes have come from the hikers. I have to credit former info staff member Lauren Post for emphasizing the importance of naming the different variations.

    The "Modified Cool Breeze" doesn't make much sense unless you already know what "The Cool Breeze" variation is, and now we've dropped the original version in favor of the one that puts the northern third northbound. So if anyone has ideas for that, let me know.

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    Default Thanks and more questions.

    LaurieP
    Thank you for the complete response and the link to the AT Alternatives page. It is a great read. I am still a little concerned. It does sound like starting further South will be our best bet as we are older and could use the extra time to build our legs before hitting the rocks. We are trying to do some of that now but both still working makes it difficult. However, starting in the colder weather conditions is not too exciting but if we had chosen to do a NOBO, it is often cold in Georgia in April from what I hear. We like people and look forward to meeting others but not in hoards. We had originally planned to start on April 14th, our anniversary but the flip-flop gathering in Harpers Ferry April 16-18th sounds like how we should start and then find a way down south to Shenandoah to start the hike. Does that sound stupid or reasonable?

    Thank you also to others who responded. We appreciate all the advice we can get.

  11. #11

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    Hey Wanna Bs,

    If I were in your shoes I'd be contemplating the same questions. Your proposal actually does make a lot of sense--to come to the Flip Flop kick off in Harpers Ferry April 16-17 and then go back to Shenandoah--maybe at Swift Run Gap--and hike north.

    Weather does vary significantly from year to year (and there is typically about a 60-degree difference between the record high and low in any given location), but of course there are more-or-less predictable patterns.

    You could also start in Georgia the second half of April, and be prepared to do a flip or Leapfrog. A leapfrog has more going for it for Georgia starters than the simple flip-flop , terrain-wise. (Skip the middle, low-elevation middle third and then hike north to Katahdin, come back to do the middle third southbound.) The reason you don't hear about it more is it requires additional logistical planning and expense. (Almost half of all thru-hikers are in their 20s, and most of them are on extremely tight budgets, and many of those in other demographics are too.) Doing a "leapfrog" gives you even more time to build up to the extreme terrain of the White Mountains of New Hampshire and Maine. You also get to hike northbound to Katahdin, which is very exciting and motivating, and you're better able to enjoy the beautiful 100-mile wilderness; the rooty, rugged terrain there won't be a shock, which is is if you flip from the mid-Atlantic.

    The crowds in Georgia do thin after April 15 (though there is still considerably more traffic than in the Harpers Ferry area). We should have starting date charts back up on the thru-hike registration page at www.appalachiantrail.org/thruhikeregistration in the next few weeks.

    But, Georgia and North Carolina have longer and steeper ascents than Shenandoah, northern Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania (until Lehigh Gap).

    It's best to do all you can to gradually get in shape before your hike, and to test yourselves fully to know if you're truly up for it. Only 1 in 4 succeed on a thru-hike. Although I don't know for certain, I suspect the success rate is not as high for older hikers. You may hear that you can walk yourself into shape, and to a degree that's true, but older bodies and joints are not always as resilient. Also, if you have underlying health problems, they could worsen (although some may improve).

    I'll see if I can find some of last year's flip-floppers to weigh in on this thread!
    Last edited by Lauriep; 12-07-2015 at 09:19.

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    Maybe put together a group that wants to attend the kick off and then split a rental to Shenendoah. Maybe a friend or family of someone getting dropped off to the flip flop kick off could give you a ride south. Do consider Harpers Ferry will be easier to get back to when you flop. So you want to start in Shenendoah double the issue of getting from Harpers Ferry to Shenendoah.
    A few other points
    Last May someone slackpacked all of us the 1st day. That was cool!
    Don't worry about the flipflop bubble it will thin out soon enough.
    You can buy a canister at the kick off. and many other things. A local outfitter had a booth.
    It's a great way to go. Enjoy!!

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    How does one sign up for the flip flop, or do you just show up?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauriep View Post
    FYI, the Flip Flop Festival in Harpers Ferry will be April 16-17 next year (2016).
    Laurie P.
    ATC
    Laurie, you should put this on the ATC calendar of events. I saw someone mention the April 16-17 dates and tried to verify it on the ATC web site but couldn't, so I'm glad I saw reference to it here. Otherwise I'd show up on May 1st like last year.
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    My '14 flip started as a NOBO, and the crowds were just not an option for me. I ended up winging it and being loose & creative about it to make it a nice hike for me.

    Springer-> Newfound Gap: Got the Springer jump-off and NOBO herd experience.

    Duncannon-> Williamstown, MA: I saw maybe 3 early NOBO's the entire time. The trail was literally all mine. Nice cool, drizzly strolls through low elevation. I wanted to experience Vermont in the fall so...

    Harpers-> Newfound Gap: The NOBO herd I left with was just making their way to Harper's. I even ran into some of them as far south as Glasgow. There was crowding but I didn't have to see the same people every day, so the "herd" aspect wasn't an issue for me. The Smokies are far more enjoyable in the summer time.

    Baxter-> Williamstown, MA: The terrain was a shock. Maine was the hardest (and most rewarding) thing I'd ever done in my life. Things got easier once I hit NH. Vermont in the fall was everything I dreamed it would be.

    Duncannon->Harper's Ferry: This was the first section I'd ever done on the AT. I descended on Harper's ferry on a beautiful evening, the mysterious misty air lit by the Harper's Ferry colonial street lamps. A nostalgic and meaningful end to my hike.

    This probably doesn't help carve up anyone's itinerary, but hopefully it shows that you can do what you want with the trail and still finish it on your terms. If you NOBO and the crowds don't work for you, don't quit, just adapt. The experience was night and day once I got out of the herds. The flipping and flopping costs extra but not terribly much more (sub-$1000,) and you can be back on trail literally the next afternoon/evening. Adding the "planes, trains, and automobiles" aspect is a fun addition to the hike if you are the kind of person that likes variety and travel. I'd also add that the alternative thru-hike is a great option for those in a position to "treat themselves."

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    I spent this afternoon looking at the 2015 AT Companion and the 2015 AT guide looking at the Shenandoah's vs the first 400 miles after leaving Harper's Ferry and we have decided to go ahead and start at Harper's Ferry, planning not to stay with the group but to start out slow and easy, hiking our own hike. Yes, we are old and not in prime shape and you might want to vote us as "the least likely to succeed," but if you go to trailjournals and read about our thru hike of the fairly level except the up and down out of gulches of the Lone Star Trail, you will note the pain in my foot that appeared within the first 30 miles. After we finished that 96 mile hike despite the pain, I sought medical opinion and it was discovered to be a stress fracture. That should say something about how determined I am to succeed. I think we will make it. I think doing it as a flip-flop allows us to take our time. I think we will not just hike it to finish but will hike to enjoy every mile, every minute of the challenge. Oh, I've read hundreds of journals and I know it is not a picnic but I am generally not a whiner. Well, I am but I am not a quitter. Well, I am sometimes but not always and I am not going to quit on this dream.

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