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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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  2. #2
    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.

  4. #4
    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.

  5. #5
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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

  6. #6
    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

  7. #7

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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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  8. #8

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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.

  9. #9
    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?

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Knee Jerk View Post
    , hiking the AT has turned into a vast northbound mating ritual for the un (der) employed. (Lycra, bro-beards, tattoos, vlogging, cellphones and IPA's for everyone!)

    Some hikers don't want any part of that
    Some people don't want any part of lycra? go figure!

  11. #11

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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

  12. #12
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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?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  13. #13
    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

  14. #14

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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.

  15. #15
    Wanna-be hiker trash Sarcasm the elf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knee Jerk View Post
    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. (Lycra, bro-beards, tattoos, vlogging, 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"
    If nothing else, at least the quality of the beer is improving.
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  16. #16
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    Why are more inexperienced hiking(hikers?) starting so early?


    Because it's the AT, characterized by a greater percentage of inexperienced thru-hikers/thru hike attempters.


    Perhaps, also playing a factor are publicly advertised winter hikes by others who virtually always are more experienced and wider skill set possessing LD hikers. Then, those not possessing such traits assume if they did it they too can do it. Maybe, they can. Maybe, they can't. Either way we gain personal experience by doing, trying based on first times. IMHO, there certainly are better ways to approaching gaining that experience though.

    I strongly suspect what Tipi said will happen. It very well might lead to an even higher than avg AT thru hike attempter drop out rate or even higher than avg fudging of completed thru-hikes.

  17. #17
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    It boils down to the difference between what the hiker imagined starting early to be like, what it really is, and their willingness to adapt and embrace what it really is.

    I won't knock a newbee for trying a winter start, and won't say I told ya so if it doesn't work out. Call it a great learning experience.

  18. #18

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    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.

    I certainly don't have a solution, but I suspect that in the future we may see a monetary tariff imposed. But by that time millennials may have discovered a different right of passage and wandered off in that direction.

    To me, at least, it's obvious that if you solve the party-crowd problem, you'll begin to solve the inexperienced-hikers-starting-too-early problem.

    Don't get me wrong: I'm not anti-young - I'm anti-overuse. Too many people flocking to anything is just a bad idea.
    Last edited by Knee Jerk; 02-08-2018 at 20:42.
    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.

  19. #19
    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.
    BR360
    "no one is a thru-hiker, until they have done the whole AT."

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Knee Jerk View Post
    Have you ever wondered what Benton McKaye would think about having pizza delivered to a lean-to?
    Actually, McKaye wanted AMC style huts all along the AT with meals and bunks. Or was that Avery? Pretty sure it was McKaye.

    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.

    I've often said, I love hiking in the winter but I hate camping in it. Especially for more then an overnight. 24/7 for the foreseeable future is not fun.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

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