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.

- Counselor