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  1. #21
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    If folks are starting this early just to avoid crowds, it's just not necessary. I started April 14 last year. I guess that is behind the modern day "bubble" but there were still several dozen staying at Stover Creek Shelter that first night. I hiked about one half mile on and had a campsite all to myself. Same at Devil's Kitchen on night 2. I got water and camped about 1 mile past by myself. Gooch was empty when I passed it morning of day 3..

    The trail didn't feel overcrowded in my experience. Larger groups are easy to avoid just by staying away from the shelters.

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  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by El JP View Post
    I may come off as a bit of a jerk with this but......If the AT wasn't a big challenge, I wouldn't be doing it.
    Thats a misconception. The at isnt that much of a challenge really.
    Too many services, people, shelters. Whats challenging anout it? Walking every day?
    Yup. The challenge is....walking 15 mi...almost every...day.
    Some people just defeat themselves. Too much too fast.

    Winter may add a bit more challenge for some im sure, and thats attractive. Or at least give a story or 2.

    Perhaps the increase in early starters is a sign of the way the AT has been beaten into submission so that is not so difficult to do today. The communications, internet, effusive services, etc have made this so. Increase in completion rates in last 30 yrs show this. Some may be looking for more of a challenge.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 02-08-2018 at 18:55.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  3. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Actually, McKaye wanted AMC style huts all along the AT with meals and bunks. Or was that Avery? Pretty sure it was McKaye...
    It was MacKaye. He envisioned a trail, with communes, and farms, as a lifestyle cure for the ills of early 20th century industrialization. The idea languished under MacKaye's initial chair of the newly formed ATC, started rolling a bit more under Major Welch's chair, and then when Judge Perkins replaced him as chairman (1928), Perkins brought in Myron Avery, who was as strong a practical builder as MacKaye was a visionary. Avery bulled ahead actually physically building the parts of the AT that weren't linked/done (including ALL of ME), and then Perkins became ill and died (1930-1932) and Avery took over ATC - for the next 22 years. Avery and MacKaye were as compatible as oil and water. MacKaye wanted a completely wilderness trail or nothing. Avery wanted to build the trail. Period. MacKaye, disillusioned, left the ATC in 1937 and co-founded The Wilderness Society. The trail got built - the rest of MacKaye's vision never happened.

  4. #24
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    Just a note to the above - lots of shelters were built under Avery's lead, by hiking clubs, CCC, and others, as tents were quite heavy canvas things at the time.

  5. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    ....It's hard to say how many of those who start in Feb and then go home after a week wouldn't have done the same thing had they started in April. Well, maybe instead of just a week, they'd last 2 or 3

    There was a string of fairly mild winters which helped push the start dates earlier and earlier. Now we're back to more "normal" winters. With the saggy jet stream this season and last, the artic vortex dipped way south and that directed storms right into the southern Appalachians. This well could be the new normal for a while. That will put a stop to all the early starts.
    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    ...Winter may add a bit more challenge for some im sure, and thats attractive. Or at least give a story or 2.

    Perhaps the increase in early starters is a sign of the way the AT has been beaten into submission so that is not so difficult to do today. The communications, internet, effusive services, etc have made this s Increase in completion rates in last 30 yrs show this. Some may be looking for more of a challenge.
    Don't ATC thru-hiker stats demonstrate NOBOers that leave the earliest have a higher drop out rate than the somewhat later NOBO starters? I thought I recall Laurie stating something to that effect. Do I have that wrong? And, if that is right are early starters aware of those statistics? And, if they are aware of it how are they, if they are, addressing it for their individual attempts?

  6. #26
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    I'll be hiking this year. I feel like the AT is only going to deteriorate even more in the years to come.

    I feel as if the culture surrounding a thru hike has vastly changed over the past 4 seasons on the AT.

    Too many services, electronics, etc.

    Vlogs, I'm guilty of making some hiking videos. But vlogs need to go away. Too many selfie sticks running down the trail nowadays.

    As for winter starts. People who start in March usually catch up to them. They also spend more money and take more zeros.

    I'll be on trail sometime in April. Just enjoying the trek.



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  7. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Don't ATC thru-hiker stats demonstrate NOBOers that leave the earliest have a higher drop out rate than the somewhat later NOBO starters? I thought I recall Laurie stating something to that effect. Do I have that wrong? And, if that is right are early starters aware of those statistics? And, if they are aware of it how are they, if they are, addressing it for their individual attempts?
    Dogwood, the following post was my attempt to answer this question and it was partially computed with data Laurie shared:

    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/showthr...ons?highlight=
    Life Member: ATC, ALDHA, Superior Hiking Trail Association

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    Don't ATC thru-hiker stats demonstrate NOBOers that leave the earliest have a higher drop out rate than the somewhat later NOBO starters? I thought I recall Laurie stating something to that effect. Do I have that wrong? And, if that is right are early starters aware of those statistics? And, if they are aware of it how are they, if they are, addressing it for their individual attempts?
    Who said anyone cared only about finishing?
    Few do.
    They want to do, what THEY WANT to do
    May be starting in winter, might be bringing a dog, or lots of heavy crap

    Or..making own choices do it dont seem like they are a minion following a recipe hike.

    To some, doing it their way IS more important than making it all the way.

    Many never contemplate actually finishing, and are amazed when realize they might or will,. And then start to focus on that.. Others start with the experience to know they WILL finish in x days.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 02-08-2018 at 20:28.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  9. #29
    Registered User El JP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Thats a misconception. The at isnt that much of a challenge really.
    Too many services, people, shelters. Whats challenging anout it? Walking every day?
    Yup. The challenge is....walking 15 mi...almost every...day.
    Some people just defeat themselves. Too much too fast.

    Winter may add a bit more challenge for some im sure, and thats attractive. Or at least give a story or 2.

    Perhaps the increase in early starters is a sign of the way the AT has been beaten into submission so that is not so difficult to do today. The communications, internet, effusive services, etc have made this so. Increase in completion rates in last 30 yrs show this. Some may be looking for more of a challenge.
    So it's a casual stroll in the boonies, along a nice cleared path, where we enjoy comfortable evenings sipping cocktails after making our way.....somewhere from somewhere else.

    Isn't there something about climbing Everest 15 times? Or the rain, rocks, mud, bugs, etc, etc? Nothing of the sort? Hot damn, this is going to be a snap. Might as well make plans to knock off the PCT and CDT the next chance i get since this AT thing is just a mere walk in the woods.
    BR360
    "no one is a thru-hiker, until they have done the whole AT."

  10. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by El JP View Post
    So it's a casual stroll in the boonies, along a nice cleared path, where we enjoy comfortable evenings sipping cocktails after making our way.....somewhere from somewhere else.

    Isn't there something about climbing Everest 15 times? Or the rain, rocks, mud, bugs, etc, etc? Nothing of the sort? Hot damn, this is going to be a snap. Might as well make plans to knock off the PCT and CDT the next chance i get since this AT thing is just a mere walk in the woods.
    I have to remind you it's been thru hiked by geriatrics, young children, a blind man, and a guy.....carying.....a.... Tuba.....

    It's a path in the woods. You choose to make it as hard as you want it to be by how far and how fast you try to go per day and the weight you carry. The mental side is harder than the physical

    Everest, is also only 12,000 feet base to Summit. Denali has more vertical than Everest.
    If you had Everest altitude then maybe you'd have something. An average day on A.T , or many mountain trails, can be 3000-5000 vertical ft. Woohoo. Comparing to Everest is kind of stupid. It's done to make it seem more difficult than it really is because Everest is difficult ( due to weather and altitude). The AT is nothing like Everest.


    Some people actually enjoy hiking and do it for....... Fun
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 02-09-2018 at 04:01.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  11. #31
    Registered User El JP's Avatar
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    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/sho...Breaking-point

    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/arc.../t-104708.html

    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/arc.../t-104708.html

    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/arc...p/t-32540.html

    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/arc.../t-101715.html


    If you ran your premise around where i'm at right now, people will either treat you as a retard and walk off or punch your teeth out for blatant disrespect.

    If it's so easy, why are there countless dropouts every year?
    BR360
    "no one is a thru-hiker, until they have done the whole AT."

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by El JP View Post
    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/sho...Breaking-point

    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/arc.../t-104708.html

    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/arc.../t-104708.html

    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/arc...p/t-32540.html

    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/arc.../t-101715.html


    If you ran your premise around where i'm at right now, people will either treat you as a retard and walk off or punch your teeth out for blatant disrespect.

    If it's so easy, why are there countless dropouts every year?
    Why do 50% of marriages end in divorce?
    It's easier to quit, than to make it work. The average person is lazy, weak-minded, and self-centered. And quick to quit anything when it gets even moderately difficult. This is why obesity rates are so high in the US. You would think having a modicum of self-respect would rate high on somebody's priority list. So you would think also that making their marriage, their life-long commitment work would too. But you be wrong on both counts for much of the population . Why would attempting a thru-hike be any different?

    Many reasons for dropping out .

    Injury
    Money
    Poor preparation
    Lack of real committment
    Friends quit/got ahead
    Sickness
    Loneliness
    Not having fun
    Combined factors just become overwhelming and they aren't mentally strong enough to maintain positive attitude.

    With the right prep and attitude.....it's fun. It's why some people here have hiked tens of thousands of miles.

    If anyone quit in the first 500 miles (where many do), and they weren't seriously injured, then they simply were never serious about hiking the trail in the first place. Or doing it for the wrong reasons.


    I think many people's initial downfall is putting a time limit on their hike in the first place, or trying to keep up with others.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 02-09-2018 at 04:53.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by El JP View Post
    I may come off as a bit of a jerk with this but......If the AT wasn't a big challenge, I wouldn't be doing it.
    Of course it is a big challenge.

    But one thing that is so cool about thru hiking is that it is a big challenge that is attainable by a wide range of people.

    Those who who would equate that with it being easy, fail to understand the AT ó or at least so many peopleís experience on it.

    When you meet that challenge, you take away something that sticks with you forever. Something far different than just memories of places and people like you would get from a great traditional vacation, traveling the world, or signing up for a pre-packages adventure with a predetermined outcome.

    Or not. Out of the 10,000+ people who have hiked the entire AT,I am sure some feel differently. Glad I am not one of them.

  14. #34

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    Wow a lot of old fuddy duddies in this thread. A lot of the comments scream "My way is the right way."

    You can hike it exactly as it was done in 1950 if you wish. Even then I'm sure there were still people bitching about those damned kids using plastic forks and rubber soled shoes.

  15. #35

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    Let's try to keep the focus on the original poster's premise: Specifically, why are more hikers starting in January and February? (The assumption is that there were always people starting early but recently the numbers seem much higher.)

    So the question isn't how - but why. And are they starting early to avoid the party-crowds? My answer is yes they are starting earlier to avoid the party crowds. I base my response on conversations I have had with potential and recent thru-hikers. Fact, it's almost always the first or second item broached in our conversation. (And I talk to tons of hikers. It's my job.)

    In my opinion, large numbers of people trying to do anything ruins the experience for others. For example, if 2,000 college kids show up at your favorite Florida beach for spring break you have a nice festive atmosphere. But if 20,000 show up you have a disaster that overwhelms neighborhoods, EMS, police, trash and fire services and pisses off everyone except the local beer distributor.

    And that's what has happened to the AT in the past five years. Too many hikers, most starting at the same time, looking for a fun time, drugs and hookups. Which means that others will start too early or late or go SOBO or flip-flop to avoid the party-hardy crowd.

    The trail is becoming too popular. Why? Well, you can start by blaming social media and cellphones in general and YouTube videos more specifically. Since 2015, David "AWOL" Miller, author of the AT Guide, has been asked by owners to remove 9 different trailside hostels from his book. Apparently, they didn't want any part of the party animals.

    Look, I don't have a solution to the problem and apparently neither does the ATC. But it was this exact same issue that caused the Baxter State Park officials to call a meeting with their ATC counterparts and tell them, essentially: "Get control of this crowd or go find yourself another place to end your trail."

    Here is a link to a recent Backpacker Magazine story about the problem: Trail Daze

    There are many other such articles dealing with this subject.
    Last edited by Knee Jerk; 02-09-2018 at 11:23.
    It's not a camera - it's a tiny little chip, embedded in a smartphone, hiding behind a crummy plastic lens. It's not a camera.

  16. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrogLevel View Post
    Wow a lot of old fuddy duddies in this thread. A lot of the comments scream "My way is the right way."

    You can hike it exactly as it was done in 1950 if you wish. Even then I'm sure there were still people bitching about those damned kids using plastic forks and rubber soled shoes.
    You got to understand that a lot of us are just buying time until we get accepted into the group of old men complaining about people on welfare and nursing their small coffees for hours on end in the corner of our local McDonalds.

    Until then, WB is a natural outlet.

    BTW, my personal feeling is that many people who start early might be doing so out of the misplaced notion that by giving themselves more time, they actually increase their chances of making it to Katahdin.

    Back when men were men and thru hikers were backpacking royalty, ď6 monthsĒ was considered to include a cushion for the unexpected or the less able.

    Now that common wisdom tells us that 6-months is the norm even for fit young people, I think some of those with less confidence in their hiking ablities/speed might be accelerating their starts to provide that cushion.

    If that is the case, add me to the list of people who would suggest that may not be the best strategy for success. Probably should keep my mouth shut on that though, my knowledge is stale and if someone ****s up their chances itís really not my problem.

    Just a theory.

  17. #37
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    I wonder if itís something to do with impatience? Wanting to hurry up and get out there?

    I was told years ago April was the standard start time and then people started pushing earlier.

    I left in mid March, which seemed at the time to be pretty common.

    Now that March is super common itís not surprising that people are pushing earlier.

    I think wanting to push the envelope is a trait common to people that decide to attempt a thru hike in the first place.

    Eventually itíll bounce back and and people will start leaving later again.

    In reality I never had an issue with ďthe crowds.Ē There were one or two camp sites in the beginning that were quite full; but people were respectful and polite.

    The only real **** shows I saw were in towns - Erwin and Damascus - and even then the real drama was always caused by a few specific people, not some murderous group of technology addicted kids.

    Go easy on the kids, most are great.
    Go easy on the technology, itís not to blame. We all watch YouTube gear reviews and trail videos.

    And good lord go easy on the pizza.

    I canít imagine my reaction being anything but laughter if someone had told me it was wrong to have pizza delivered to me on trail.

    That pizza was a breath of life!


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  18. #38

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zed View Post
    If folks are starting this early just to avoid crowds, it's just not necessary. I started April 14 last year. I guess that is behind the modern day "bubble" but there were still several dozen staying at Stover Creek Shelter that first night. I hiked about one half mile on and had a campsite all to myself. Same at Devil's Kitchen on night 2. I got water and camped about 1 mile past by myself. Gooch was empty when I passed it morning of day 3..

    The trail didn't feel overcrowded in my experience. Larger groups are easy to avoid just by staying away from the shelters.

    Sent from my Pixel 2 using Tapatalk
    Your post is spot-on. I practice the same technique when I'm backpacking the AT---get to a shelter, load up water at the spring, hike on another half mile or mile, find a camp and spend the night. I have never spent the night in a box shelter---no need when there's thousands of campsites fore and aft.

    And it's fun to sit in camp by my tent at dusk and watch the AT backpackers rushing by on their quest to be at the next shelter---almost running to get there. What's the allure??? Can't figure it out.

  19. #39

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    Why is it "not necessary" to start this early? if someone feels the need to start in February, then they need to start in February. Let them HTOH.

  20. #40
    92.8% complete Berserker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knee Jerk View Post
    The thing is the ATC has a party-crowd problem. Their trail has suddenly become TOO popular, it's being trampled and the experience is being altered by too many feet and too much technology.

    And because the ATC doesn't have a solution to the problem, they deny the problem exists at all - a very corporate way of handling things - but not really a solution.

    Have you ever wondered what Benton McKaye would think about having pizza delivered to a lean-to?

    But instead of coming up with a solution, ATC officials dance around the issue by using all sorts of code words that don't adequately describe or solve the problem or even acknowledge that the problem exists.

    Crossing your fingers and wishing upon a star is not a very good plan of action.
    Not trying to start an argument as I'm unbiased on the issue you discuss above (no affiliation with the ATC either), but I think you are a bit inaccurate as to what the ATC is doing to solve the problem. They acknowledge that there is an overcrowding issue as documented here: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home...r-registration. The solution is a voluntary registration, and asking people nicely to adjust start dates if there are too many people starting on a certain date. It's not gonna totally resolve the problem, but it's a good start.
    JMT - 2013

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