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  1. #1
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    Default AT Nobo, is not a Wilderness experience

    Part of relaxing my mind at bed time, I read trail journals & since soboing the PCT in 2016, I find my self not enjoying the AT nobo journals when looking to read a journal about a wilderness experience. It seams that all you hear are people being met nearly every day at roads getting so called "trail magic" & you hear nothing about the forests, streams & mountains. I have section hiked the AT from Springer to DWG & have enjoyed the wilderness of it since I mainly go sobo & pick months where there aren't many hikers. I guess I was just spoiled on the PCT especially in the final 1 1/2-2 months from KM south to the border where I rarely saw any other hiker & didn't camp with anyone at all except the last night where I met a dude, "walking mantis" who I hadn't seen since Oregon. Just an observation
    Take Time to Watch the Trees Dance with The Wind.....Then Join In

  2. #2
    MuddyWaters's Avatar
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    Nope, it's not.

    Never has been.

    There was once some illusion of that
    Numbers of people kill that illusion

    So does services

    The more people that hike the , AT , the less of an experience it is. It's already past the point of no return.

    Other trail organizations, and the Park Service, understand that permits and limiting access are necessary to preserve user experience, which is the whole reason why people want to hike. Keeping things difficult is also part of keeping numbers of users down.

    The the approach to the AT is to make the trail as easy and as accessible to as many people as possible. And the park service is involved in this too. In direct contrast to their approach to many places.

    Footbridges over every trickle, switchbacks on every steep climb, maximize number of people on the trail, shelters privies, etc. The entire management plan of it has nothing to do with Wilderness style experience. And that's a shame.
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 05-14-2018 at 08:57.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

  3. #3

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    I enjoyed my 600 miles NOBO. I was looking for the wilderness experience... and I kind of found it. You have to make a bit of an effort however, and I had a bit of a learning experience in doing so.

    Starting before the leaves came in, in the spring, there were great views. I wish I'd bought a phone with a decent camera earlier in my hike. I made a point of avoiding hiker feeds, and all the crowds. I made a few mistakes early in my hike, and had some sleepless nights in crowded tenting areas. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the spring come in, and with all the altitude changes, every walk downhill eventually was like walking into spring and summer. I sat for an hour on the side of a trail and watched a group of hawks hunting.

    I learned to legally stealth camp and avoid crowded shelter/tent areas. To use a golf term, I layed up short of popular areas like Preacher's Rock, Max Patch and Beauty Spot and ended up picking up the pace as I hiked through these spots because they felt more like frat parties than part of the trail. I was stunned by views, found a magical field of wildflowers heading up Clingman's Dome, found the Firescald ridge to be something out of a LoTR movie.

    Some of my worst nights of the hike were spent in towns. I should have hiked straight past Franklin, and straight through Hot Springs, but I caved into pressure from a guy I was hiking with at the time. Entirely my own fault.

    Anyway, there's a lot of wilderness mixed in there. It's just a matter of stopping to enjoy it, and putting up with dodging a lot of crowds and scurrying past crowded nosy road crossings. The noisy people enjoy the trail their way, but it didn't prevent me from enjoying the trail my way.

  4. #4
    Registered User cneill13's Avatar
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    I completely agree that Trail Magic is out of control. I have never thru-hiked the AT so I am really just back seating driving here, but I hiked up to the top of Tray Mountain in Georgia two weeks ago.

    There was a TM table at Unicoi Gap, and another layout at the bottom of Tray Mountain at Indian Grave Gap. Then there was another Trail Magic set up half way up the mountain at Tray Gap.

    Three Trail Magic set ups in 8 miles. Is that really what Trail Magic is supposed to be about? I thought is was a spontaneous gesture of kindness to thru-hikers.

    Anyway, enough of my rant. If people want to do Trail Magic, than I think they should do it. But it is becoming way too prevalent and I agree that it detracts from the wilderness experience.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Nope, it's not.

    The the approach to the AT is to make the trail as easy and as accessible to as many people as possible. And the park service is involved in this too. In direct contrast to their approach to many places.

    Footbridges over every trickle, switchbacks on every steep climb, maximize number of people on the trail, shelters privies, etc. The entire management plan of it has nothing to do with Wilderness style experience. And that's a shame.
    Have you hiked the Appalachian Trail? Lol. Switchbacks on every climb? The approach trail easy? You realize parking 1 mike south of Springer Mountain is far easier, right? (*edit- after re-reading the post, I misunderstood about ďthe approachĒ as pointed out in a below post).

    Iím not arguing the lack of wilderness experience but perhaps you chose the wrong examples of why itís easy? The number one reason itís flooded? Itís proximity to millions of people. I would also point out that for many thru hikers, town culture and the people met along the way are huge parts of the experience, and not just walking in the woods.

    All one has to do is not stay in or near the shelters and their wilderness experience increases by tenfold.
    Last edited by capehiker; 05-14-2018 at 11:10.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by capehiker View Post
    Have you hiked the Appalachian Trail? Lol. Switchbacks on every climb? The approach trail easy? You realize parking 1 mike south of Springer Mountain is far easier, right?

    Iím not arguing the lack of wilderness experience but perhaps you chose the wrong examples of why itís easy? The number one reason itís flooded? Itís proximity to millions of people. I would also point out that for many thru hikers, town culture and the people met along the way are huge parts of the experience, and not just walking in the woods.

    All one has to do is not stay in or near the shelters and their wilderness experience increases by tenfold.

    Iíll throw in this thought. You know who also needs regulated? Day hikers. Go to any major beauty spot with parking and youíll see a major increase in litter and crime.
    By saying "the approach of the trail" I believe he meant the "point" of the trail. He wasn't talking about the approach trail itself...but I agree that it isn't a true wilderness experience anymore. I did find myself alone for hours on end when I hiked Springer to NOC a few years ago but I never camped alone (in fact every shelter was packed) and I saw trail magic at nearly every major road crossing. I still enjoy myself every time I get out there but it isn't wilderness. It's more of a community of hikers.
    "Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still." ~Carl Sagan~


  7. #7
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    An AT NOBO trek is much closer to being a wilderness experience than is sitting here on our computers under artificial lighting. Probably more entertaining, too.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uriah View Post
    An AT NOBO trek is much closer to being a wilderness experience than is sitting here on our computers under artificial lighting. Probably more entertaining, too.
    Haha. Good point. The closest thing to wilderness I have here is a potted plant.
    "Exploration is in our nature. We began as wanderers, and we are wanderers still." ~Carl Sagan~


  9. #9
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    Most trail journal entries fall into the category of "People, Towns & Food." They are boring to read. But that's what is on the mind of a northbound thru-hiker.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by johnnyjohnson2043 View Post
    By saying "the approach of the trail" I believe he meant the "point" of the trail. He wasn't talking about the approach trail itself...
    Ah yes. After re-reading his post I agree with you.

  11. #11
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    Default AT Nobo, is not a Wilderness experience

    You shouldn't base your opinions of the whole Trail on your findings in Georgia. Of course there are going to be ridiculous numbers of Trail Magic at the beginning of the Trail, that's where the masses are. If Trail Magic-givers are making any sort of trip to the AT, they are going to want to help the most people possible.
    If you are not finding what you want in your online literature, look elsewhere.

  12. #12
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    If you like solitude and wildness, hike the BMT instead.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Uriah View Post
    An AT NOBO trek is much closer to being a wilderness experience than is sitting here on our computers under artificial lighting. Probably more entertaining, too.
    Yes, this is similar to what I was thinking.

    The vast majority of people will never hike, much less actually go out and stay out overnight at a primitive spot requiring carrying all their stuff. So it's semantics, but in my opinion the AT is a wilderness experience.
    JMT - 2013

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Captain Blue View Post
    Most trail journal entries fall into the category of "People, Towns & Food." They are boring to read. But that's what is on the mind of a northbound thru-hiker.
    I tend to agree with you. I usually can't get past one or two journals entries of any one hiker. I don't even like mine and only keep my blog/journal as a diary; otherwise it's probably boring to 90% of the people reading.

    However... I got hooked on one video log that is mostly about the trail and how it affects the hiker. You might want to check it out. The hiker has many followers.

    Pee Wee's Vlog
    Trail Name - Slapshot
    "One step at a time."
    Blog - www.tonysadventure.com

  15. #15
    Leonidas
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    The AT is known as the most "social" trail, if this bothers your definition of "wilderness" experience that you choose to read, read CDT journals. It is the least social of the big 3.
    2016 2017 AT: 177.6 mi

    2017 Pinhoti Trail: 107.7 mi

    @leonidasonthetrail

  16. #16
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MuddyWaters View Post
    Nope, it's not.
    Never has been.
    There was once some illusion of that
    Perhaps that is true, but fortunately the moose do not know that.

    Nor the bear, rattlesnakes, porcupine, beaver, barred owls, raven, box turtles, raven, spruce grouse, pine Martin, bobcat, fox and salamanders.

    So not an altogether unsatisfactory illusion even now.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Runner2017 View Post
    If you like solitude and wildness, hike the BMT instead.
    Shhhhh!! Don't tell everyone the secret!

    I much prefer the AT to remain the busy/social trail so that the BMT and others remain less used.

  18. #18
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    The AT is what you make of it. If you only stop at shelters and towns, then you'll be around people most of the time. If you stop away from shelters and towns, then you can find solitude most of the time.

    Hikers who make their journals public tend to fall in the first category. You read them, you get what you paid for.
    It's all good in the woods.

  19. #19
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    One thing that I noticed in '13 was there was so much trail magic near the start that if I could do 20 mile days at the start I would need to carry no food. That itself is amazing and blogworthy. going north other factors come not play, but the AT is it's own thing, tucked neatly between the PCT and El Camino and portending to be neither.

  20. #20
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    The PCT wasn't much different. It's not all that wilderness either really. CDT is more so but that too has a LOT of backpackers and support. Not that theirs anything wrong with that. The AT is though harder hiking day to day than that soft sloping well graded PCT.
    Everything is in Walking Distance

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