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  1. #1
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    Default Few questions about section hiking the AT

    Hey everyone! I'm pretty new here so hopefully there's no harm in posting in this forum... I've been thinking about hiking the AT for about a year and a half or so and I finally decided to do it! I currently live in New Jersey and was going to hike the NJ portion and possible NY portion as well depending on how things go. My questions are...

    1) I plan to have someone drive me up and drop me off at the PA/NJ cross over area on the last weekend in July or maybe some time in early august. How likely is it I will be hiking with other people around this time of the year?

    2) Am I likely to bump into other people staying at the shelters and if so are they going to be welcoming of a section hiker? I don't need to join a group of hikers as I am pretty self sufficient but I would feel a lot of comfort knowing if I had a question (like maybe I couldn't figure out how to hang a bear bag or was having trouble with something) there would be someone around whom I could ask.

    If anyone gets a moment to answer these questions - thanks a ton! =)

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    Welcome to the group!

    I imagine you will run into many other hikers—though it might be rather hot at that time, and that might cut back on the number of people you run into.

    I’ve been a section hiker for a long time, and while sometimes the people I meet at shelters are reserved, I’ve always found people to be friendly and open to answering questions. In those few instances that I needed help, I got that, too.

    Have a great hike.

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    Once you get out there for a few days you will learn everything quickly. From what to bring and not bring, to how far you can go, to what times are best to arrive in camp, etc. Before any long hiking or cycling trip I/we go on a short warm up to make sure all the gear & our bodies are ready.
    Be Prepared

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    Almar,
    Shelters are for everyone. Thru-hikers don't have priority, section-hikers are definitely welcome.
    As Pringles said, it may be kinda hot in the July/Aug time frame, but there will still be hikers out on the trail.

    Since you're new, you might have a lot more questions. WB is a good group, and we'll be happy to answer your questions and direct you to resources of information. Good luck on your hike.

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    When do most thru-hikers normally move through the NJ/NY area? I don't mind delaying my hike a month or two, my biggest concern actually was being on the trail at an odd time when no one else was. I don't mind an antisocial experience while I hike throughout the day but I would like something a bit more social at the end of the day. So... If I have the opportunity to go when the weather is a bit nicer (hot during the day and just chilly enough at night to make it feel like a relief) I would go then.

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    In our 8 years of section hiking, it is rare that the trail is empty. An individual shelter may be empty one day, full the next. There are usually plenty of section and weekend hikers out if the weather is comfortable.

    When we hiked NJ in April/May a while back, we were never alone. At that time, the majority were section-hikers.

    Personally, I plan our sections with the weather in mind. I think the best time to hike NY/NJ would be May or Sept/Oct. Not too hot/cold. Spring/fall colors.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlmarWinfield View Post
    1) I plan to have someone drive me up and drop me off at the PA/NJ cross over area on the last weekend in July or maybe some time in early august. How likely is it I will be hiking with other people around this time of the year?

    2) Am I likely to bump into other people staying at the shelters and if so are they going to be welcoming of a section hiker? I don't need to join a group of hikers as I am pretty self sufficient but I would feel a lot of comfort knowing if I had a question (like maybe I couldn't figure out how to hang a bear bag or was having trouble with something) there would be someone around whom I could ask.
    I believe the tail end of the bubble of thru-hikers, diminished by dropouts by NJ, should be in your general area in July. The faster hikers will be long gone, but there will still be laggards out there. If the whole thru-hike takes 5 to 6 months and most hikers try to finish around the end of September, then the average thru-hiker should be approximately 1,460 down the trail. Delaware Water Gap is almost 1,300 miles, so you might be a little behind at the end of July. I'm a section hiker and hope to finish the trail this year. I'm starting at Wind Gap, PA on May 22 and expect to be right in the middle of the bubble. I should be in Maine around the first of August.

    BTW. If you come up on a hiker feed (sore subject on this forum) and you want to partake of the free food, tell everyone you are a thru-hiker; otherwise the people putting on the feed might tell you to keep walking.

    As for help on the trail, what makes you think anyone else knows how to hang a bear bag?

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    Personally, I plan our sections with the weather in mind. I think the best time to hike NY/NJ would be May or Sept/Oct. Not too hot/cold. Spring/fall colors.
    If I had to pick I would go during the fall as you suggested, particularly on a week that there was no rain anywhere near jersey. I'm glad to hear that there's usually always someone on the trail, almost all of the youtube videos I have seen so far of people on the trail is from thru-hikers and I guess I was under the false impression that no one ever used the trail during the off seasons when people weren't thru-hiking.

    Well, since I got everyone already - does anyone have a recommendation for a stove to take with me? I have most of my other gear picked out or know what I want, as I said in my original post I spent a bit of time in the woods growing up and did a lot of what you would call day hiking. That said, I never spent a night out in the woods and never had to cook out in the woods either.. Those are my two areas of complete ignorance. I have no idea what makes a good stove for a hiker except for something small and light. I'm also a bit unsure of what I should do for a tent too, all I know is I am going to need an inflatable mattress so the tent will have to accomodate that... I've slept on a "mat" before when I was younger at a friends house and I would honestly rather sleep on the ground. So mats are a huge no go for me

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    I'm not a gear-guru, so others will have to help out if you need something beside basic information.

    Here's an article on air-filled sleeping pads.
    https://www.switchbacktravel.com/bes...-sleeping-pads

    and a link to browse Big Agnes tents. (we have two of them, company has a good reputation)
    https://www.bigagnes.com/Gear/Tents/Backpacking

    and an article about stoves
    http://www.cleverhiker.com/best-backpacking-stoves/

    There are many options, no right answer. Just pick something that fits your budget and go take a walk in the woods.

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    Clean water will be your biggest concern in NJ/NY in July/August.

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    I'm not a gear-guru, so others will have to help out if you need something beside basic information.

    Here's an article on air-filled sleeping pads.
    https://www.switchbacktravel.com/bes...-sleeping-pads

    and a link to browse Big Agnes tents. (we have two of them, company has a good reputation)
    https://www.bigagnes.com/Gear/Tents/Backpacking

    and an article about stoves
    http://www.cleverhiker.com/best-backpacking-stoves/

    There are many options, no right answer. Just pick something that fits your budget and go take a walk in the woods.
    Thanks! I love up to date reading material! Most of the "gear lists" I have read are from 2012 - 2016 which is extremely out of date technology wise and I am sure there's better/different stuff now adays.

    Quote Originally Posted by stephanD View Post
    Clean water will be your biggest concern in NJ/NY in July/August.
    I'll need to research how to do this better than I already know... Right now my solution is a Life Straw and the water bottle that comes with it. I'll probably need something that works better though for filtering water to store.

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    I hiked in central VA in July and was suprized to run into a number of NOBO thru hikers. At first I was going to point out that if they had only made it central VA by July they probably couldn't finish a conventional thru hike, but then I realized that was a stupid idea. The point is there can be people anywhere at any time. In fact I found this group of "stragglers" to be an eclectic group of interesting people.

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    There's always people
    You'll run into them while hiking
    You may or may not camp with them

    Are you okay camping alone?

    Believe it or not a lot of people aren't.
    One well-known blogger few yrs back got spooked by being alone at a shelter one night and hiked out during night.

    This is more common than you might think.
    There's quite a few thru-hikers who have never spent a night alone and never will.

    I bring this up cuz you ask about having other people around.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 04-25-2018 at 00:40.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    There's always people
    You'll run into them while hiking
    You may or may not camp with them

    Are you okay camping alone?

    Believe it or not a lot of people aren't.
    One well-known blogger few yrs back got spooked by being alone at a shelter one night and hiked out during night.

    This is more common than you might think.
    There's quite a few thru-hikers who have never spent a night alone and never will.

    I bring this up cuz you ask about having other people around.
    I honestly don't know if I would feel comfortable spending a night alone in the woods... If I said I wasn't worried about it at all I would totally be lying.

    How I personally feel is that my first night out there I would probably want to have someone with me. In fact this is arguably the main reason I would like to have other people around. If I had to spend a night out in the woods alone without any emotional support I would probably barely sleep and would be extremely jumpy at every single noise. I don't picture myself hiking out in the middle of the night if I get spooked but I could totally picture myself sitting there holding my knife not being able to sleep the whole night just waiting for morning. If I am allowed to start a fire that would probably ease my worries quite a bit but I haven't googled if NJ allows fires yet.

    I'm glad you brought it up though, cause I would have felt like a wimp saying I was worried about spending my first night alone out in the woods if I didn't know it was common =P

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    I have another question too that I can't find answered online... I know almost everyone I have ever seen in pictures or on youtube uses Trekking Poles, I understand the concept and how they work but I am curious if anyone out there has tried to just use a stick instead? When I day hiked as a kid the first thing I did every single day is look around in the forest for a stick before starting my journey. I totally understand how important the concept of a walking stick is and I honestly wouldn't hike without using one, but I am struggling coming up with a good reason to buy Trekking Poles and lug them around with me when I am so accustomed to just using a stick. Am I being naive?

    Has anyone ever tried using a stick/long object made of any material versus Trekking Poles and if so did you notice a difference?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlmarWinfield View Post
    I have another question too that I can't find answered online... I know almost everyone I have ever seen in pictures or on youtube uses Trekking Poles, I understand the concept and how they work but I am curious if anyone out there has tried to just use a stick instead? When I day hiked as a kid the first thing I did every single day is look around in the forest for a stick before starting my journey. I totally understand how important the concept of a walking stick is and I honestly wouldn't hike without using one, but I am struggling coming up with a good reason to buy Trekking Poles and lug them around with me when I am so accustomed to just using a stick. Am I being naive?

    Has anyone ever tried using a stick/long object made of any material versus Trekking Poles and if so did you notice a difference?
    I've seen people with ordinary sticks of wood, and once of bamboo. For the physical benefits of support, balance, and load-shifting, the sticks are fine. The advantage of trekking poles is that they are lighter weight, collapsible (for the car, the plane, or stowing on the pack), have a comfortable handle, and have the added versatility of substituting for tent/tarp poles.

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    Welcome to White Blaze!

    I joined WB before I ever hikes a step because I believe knew I didn't know a thing and I wanted to learn from see the experts!

    Youll find a wealth of information here and an even greater wealth of opinions. In the end you will have to decide what is best for you own personal situation.

    Regarding the sounds in the night, if you are alone, I have just one suggestion: earplugs! But usually you may find you are so tired you sleep right through any noises in the night.

    Take the time to interact with other hikers, they can give great advice and impart their wisdom based on experience. Having said that, some have less experience, but think they have much more wisdom than they actually possess.

    Most of all, do what is best for you and enjoy your hike.

    Sent from my SM-G930T using Tapatalk

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    I've seen people with ordinary sticks of wood, and once of bamboo. For the physical benefits of support, balance, and load-shifting, the sticks are fine. The advantage of trekking poles is that they are lighter weight, collapsible (for the car, the plane, or stowing on the pack), have a comfortable handle, and have the added versatility of substituting for tent/tarp poles.
    That's good to hear! I'll pick a tent first and if they require Trekking Poles I guess I will end up buying a pair. Otherwise I will go with my old school approach and just find a stick to use.

    Quote Originally Posted by Riocielo View Post
    Regarding the sounds in the night, if you are alone, I have just one suggestion: earplugs! But usually you may find you are so tired you sleep right through any noises in the night.
    If I was alone I don't think I would be able to sleep using earplugs! I'd be too concerned that I wouldn't hear anything sneaking up on me and I would wake up with a bear hovering over me drooling. That thought alone would make me remove the earplugs =(

    Our imagination can be quite the pest in some instances!


    Thanks all for answering my many questions, I feel a lot more confident going out there this year now. I just need to make a few more equipment choices then I can go whenever I want (and the weather permits of course)!

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlmarWinfield View Post
    I honestly don't know if I would feel comfortable spending a night alone in the woods... If I said I wasn't worried about it at all I would totally be lying.
    Having done a couple of long sections in the fall, I have found myself completely alone at a shelter numerous times whether in my tent or the shelter itself. It's spooky but also, kind of cool. The first night alone, ever, there were a couple of hyperactive chipmunks who scurried around for several hours in the dark. Then there was the night when I was in a shelter alone, and I definitely heard footsteps - heavy footsteps. Another night, this time in a crowded campsite, I went to the privy around 1:00 AM and saw red glowing eyes in the middle of the tents. Turned out to be a big deer. How he didn't wake up other hikers only a few feet away is a mystery.

    I actually like being alone, and if I had my preferences, that is how I would spend the nights, but if things going "bump" in the night are not your thing, make sure you have people around and you probably will want to stick to hiking during times when a lot of hikers are present.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ldsailor View Post
    Having done a couple of long sections in the fall, I have found myself completely alone at a shelter numerous times whether in my tent or the shelter itself. It's spooky but also, kind of cool. The first night alone, ever, there were a couple of hyperactive chipmunks who scurried around for several hours in the dark. Then there was the night when I was in a shelter alone, and I definitely heard footsteps - heavy footsteps. Another night, this time in a crowded campsite, I went to the privy around 1:00 AM and saw red glowing eyes in the middle of the tents. Turned out to be a big deer. How he didn't wake up other hikers only a few feet away is a mystery.

    I actually like being alone, and if I had my preferences, that is how I would spend the nights, but if things going "bump" in the night are not your thing, make sure you have people around and you probably will want to stick to hiking during times when a lot of hikers are present.
    You heard footsteps? Must be bigfoot! (joking)

    I think that compared to most people I will likely be fine when it comes to spending a night in the woods alone. I'm used to doing almost everything in my life alone and have become very self sufficient thanks to that. I've also walked through woods before at night and always felt fairly comfortable doing so; the only thing that's ever made the hair on the back of my head stand up is... One time I was sitting on the train tracks behind my old house staring into the sky at the stars (was a clear night out), about a mile away from any "civilization", the woods on both sides of the tracks went on for a mile or so before hitting houses and roads.

    Anyway, three deer came running out of the woods almost right at me and they were making a **** ton of noise in the brush - they saw me, didn't stop, came within 10 - 25 feet and bolted right by me. To me, it felt like they were running from something. Typically the moment deer see me they presume I am a threat but these deer didn't alter course to get away from me or stop and acknowledge me. They ran by me (and my assumption was) they deemed me to be less of a threat than whatever it was they were running from.

    I got up and just started running back towards my house. I was 19 at the time so it was quite awhile ago but it's something that's stuck with me since it sufficiently freaked me out. I don't know why, I didn't even see or hear what the deer were running from... But I "felt" (bad choice of words) that they were scared and running from something.


    From the stories you told, the footsteps would have worried me enough to investigate them, if nothing came of it, it would alleviate my worries. The glowing eyes would have freaked me out until I saw the deer then I would have calmed down. If I saw glowing eyes in the woods and couldn't explain what it was and I couldn't scare it away by throwing a stick in its direction... Now that would probably keep me up all night.

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