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  1. #1
    Registered User sadlowskiadam's Avatar
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    Default Increase in Winter NOBOs

    I have been following many of winter starters on trailjournals.com and other blogs online. It appears that more and more NOBO thru hikers are starting in February "to hit the trail early" and "avoid the crowds." Almost all the early starters I've followed this year have never thru hiked before and their winter hiking experience is limited (if any). Why are more inexperienced hiking starting so early? Is there any way "get the word out" that it is not necessary to start this early? I guess I'm simply frustrated seeing so many of the hikers I'm following get off the trail one week in because they were unprepared. I want to see as many thru hikers make it to Maine, but it seems many are not even giving themselves a realistic chance by starting so early (the hike is hard enough without having to deal with extreme winter conditions). Just my thoughts and would welcome others' insights.

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    Registered User DavidNH's Avatar
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    I can only hazard a guess on this. It might be that many of those early northbounders (leaving Springer in early February) do want to avoid crowds but don't realize that just because they are in the southern Appalachians, doesn't necessarily mean it will be an easy go at high elevations, such as in the Smokies. These hikers will likely hit the GSMNP (where elevations are often over 5,000 feet and in places like Clingman's Dome well over 6,000 feet) sometime late February to early to mid March. Pretty good chance they will encounter cold rain, ice, even deep snow at the high elevations and many won't be prepared. I started my 06 hike on March 21 and still had some really cold days and nights. I was fortunate though to hike a week through the Smokies with nice weather and not getting rained on.

    These hikers will, incidentally, miss out on New England's fall colors because those who finish will finish too early.


    DavidNH

  3. #3

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    Most if not all will probably be spending the worst, coldest weather in towns and indoors and off the trail.

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    Registered User sadlowskiadam's Avatar
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    I completely agree. This puts added stress on hiker budgets and morale. By starting later in the season, the weather is significantly better and the days are longer because of more sunlight (which allows higher mileage days). I've been reading lots of horror stories at trailjournals.com in the past couple of weeks with the bad winter weather the southeast has been experiencing this year.

  5. #5
    Wanna-be hiker trash Sarcasm the elf's Avatar
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    I think you answered your own question. I love winter backpacking but it sucks and most inexperienced folks don't understand how much it sucks until they get out there.
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

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    Registered User DavidNH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarcasm the elf View Post
    I think you answered your own question. I love winter backpacking but it sucks and most inexperienced folks don't understand how much it sucks until they get out there.
    If you truly loved winter backpacking.. then it wouldn't suck would it? and if it does suck, how could you love ot?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidNH View Post
    If you truly loved winter backpacking.. then it wouldn't suck would it? and if it does suck, how could you love ot?
    Things can suck and wonderful at the same time. Biking up long hills, for instance. Use your imagination.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

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    Maybe some folks are using the info here (and perhaps registering at the same time) to help determine when they want to start: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home...tration-charts. Per the current chart there are going to be a ton of people out there in late February/early March, and that's just showing the ones that registered.

    Also, in the past few years the winters in the SE have been fairly mild, and a February start wasn't a big deal. This year has been different though, it's been a significantly colder winter thus far.
    JMT - 2013

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    MuddyWaters's Avatar
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    Hyoh

    Means let other hike their own as well.

    They know it's out of the ordinary, they know it's winter, they have their own personal reasons for wanting to do it so let them.

    They will have more interesting time than starting in april
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Hyoh

    Means let other hike their own as well.

    They know it's out of the ordinary, they know it's winter, they have their own personal reasons for wanting to do it so let them.

    They will have more interesting time than starting in april
    Exactly. And do we really “need” everyone that starts to make it to Maine?


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  11. #11
    Registered User El JP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heliotrope View Post
    Exactly. And do we really “need” everyone that starts to make it to Maine?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    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.
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    "no one is a thru-hiker, until they have done the whole AT."

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    MuddyWaters's Avatar
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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

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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?

  14. #14
    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."

  15. #15
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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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 — or at least so many people’s 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.

  16. #16
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Hyoh

    Means let other hike their own as well.

    They know it's out of the ordinary, they know it's winter, they have their own personal reasons for wanting to do it so let them.

    They will have more interesting time than starting in april
    I'm in this camp. It's nice that you're concerned, but it's really not your business

  17. #17

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    I can only hazard a guess, as well, but avoiding the party crowds - in full rut - who start in March/April is a powerful urge.

    Because, even though the ATC denies that there is a problem, we've all seen the same reports of overrun campsites and late-night carousing in the first 500 miles of the trail. And some hikers just don't want any part of that. I've spoken to more than a few people who have wrestled with this decision and while they may be making a mistake by heading out into awful weather, their choice usually comes down to this: "Do I want to do a flip-flop, go SOBO or go NOBO like God and Grandma Gatewood intended?" If your decision is "go NOBO," then the second part of that question is "do I want some level of quiet or not?"

    So the only choice for some is to start early and hope for the best. Let's face it, most of us head into the woods for the solitude. But somehow, in the past five years, hiking the AT has turned into a vast northbound mating ritual for the un (der) employed. (Hey, lycra, bro-beards, vlogging, selfie-sticks, cellphones and IPA's for everyone!)

    Some hikers don't want any part of that and clearly, I agree with that sentiment.

    HYOH has the unwritten understanding of "by yourself."

    So maybe it should be: "HYOH-BY"
    Last edited by Knee Jerk; 02-09-2018 at 09:10.
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knee Jerk View Post

    And some hikers don't want any part of that.
    So don't do the AT and instead backpack the thousands of miles of trails all around the AT.

    Example: Start on the BMT at Springer Mt thereby avoiding the AT. Hike north into Cohutta/Big Frog wilderness. Pull all the trails there on intricate loops. Return to the BMT and continue north.

    At Sandy Gap veer off down Kirkland and do some loops on Brookshire and State Line Ridge and maybe a side trip on Henderson Top/Cow Camp to Bald River wilderness.

    Stay north on the BMT and go over Sugar Mt and head up Sycamore Creek to Whiggs Meadow and do all the trails in the Snowbird backcountry and all the trails in the Citico/Slickrock wilderness.

    Point is, there's hundreds and hundreds of miles of trails without the AT human glut. And mercifully without hardly any detested AT shelters.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    So don't do the AT and instead backpack the thousands of miles of trails all around the AT.
    No cache for the unwashed masses.
    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.

  20. #20
    Registered User Reverse's Avatar
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    They may not know that this is even possible as the trails you mentioned don't get the same press as the AT.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    So don't do the AT and instead backpack the thousands of miles of trails all around the AT.

    Example: Start on the BMT at Springer Mt thereby avoiding the AT. Hike north into Cohutta/Big Frog wilderness. Pull all the trails there on intricate loops. Return to the BMT and continue north.

    At Sandy Gap veer off down Kirkland and do some loops on Brookshire and State Line Ridge and maybe a side trip on Henderson Top/Cow Camp to Bald River wilderness.

    Stay north on the BMT and go over Sugar Mt and head up Sycamore Creek to Whiggs Meadow and do all the trails in the Snowbird backcountry and all the trails in the Citico/Slickrock wilderness.

    Point is, there's hundreds and hundreds of miles of trails without the AT human glut. And mercifully without hardly any detested AT shelters.

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