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  1. #1
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    Default 2 Month Section Hike NOBO - Start at Damascus after Trail Days?

    Today is a good day! I just received my approval to take a leave of absence from my job to do a 2 month section hike of the AT!

    Due to also being a part time college professor I am unable to leave until after finals week which is the week of May 6th. I was thinking of potentially starting that following weekend and heading to Trail days in Damascus and then starting NOBO from there. Thoughts on this? Should I start a little earlier and hike in to Damascus? Other start suggestions are welcome.

    Not sure I would stay for all of Trail days, I will be eager to set out on the Trail I am sure.

    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    The only problem with that plan is a giant bubble forms at Trail Days. Hikers who get there early stay for the party and more than a few who are south of Damascus will shuttle up, but not go back to where they bumped up from.

    To avoid that chaos, I would start at Marion, VA (which has a Greyhound bus stop and therefore easier to get to, unlike Damascus) and do it before Trail days to be well ahead of the hoards. This is not a completely a fool proof plan as bus loads of hikers will be dropped off at each trail head through out Virginia, but it will be better then leaving with the Trail Day bubble.

    I was on the trail in Northern VA when Trail days let out a couple of years ago and the trail went from being really quiet to overflowing overnight. I was SOBO so there was no getting away from them. All of a sudden my nice quiet hike turned into a circus.

    The other option is to start somewhere well south of Damascus and keep the crowd ahead of you rather then try to stay ahead of it. Really, your not going to miss much by not going to Trail Days, especially if you don't know anyone there.
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  3. #3

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    Oh, hiking into Damascus for Trail Days is also popular, so the trail for +/- 50 miles of Damascus also suddenly gets overcrowded starting a week or so before the event.
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  4. #4

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    I would just start at Springer and hike North.

  5. #5
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    I considered it, but isn't Middle of May too late to start at the southern terminus? In terms of hiking with people that is. I am all for staying out of the bubble and having my own time but I am also looking to meet people and enjoying hiking with others.

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    Good Points. I knew it would be busy, but not necessarily that busy.

  7. #7

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    There's still a fair number of people starting out from Springer in early May, for the same reasons you'd be. I doubt you'd be lonely.
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  8. #8
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    If your goal is to do the whole trail eventually, I’d recommend starting at Springer. Early May gives hikers five months and some change to complete the trail so there will be people who are in shape starting then to avoid the bubble.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hostetler40 View Post

    Due to also being a part time college professor I am unable to leave until after finals week which is the week of May 6th. I was thinking of potentially starting that following weekend and heading to Trail days in Damascus and then starting NOBO from there. Thoughts on this?
    the trail between Erwin, TN and Daleville, VA will be packed with hikers during that time frame

  10. #10
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    Another vote for just starting at Springer. Warmer weather and less crowded through GSMNP as well. Take rain gear - and a camera for wildflowers.

  11. #11
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    I did a 200 mile section a couple years ago starting out at Springer in mid-June after school let out (I am a school teacher). There were plenty of other people starting out at the same time to do long sections... (many other teachers!). By the time I hit NOC, there was a group of us that were meeting up in the evenings each night after a day of hiking...

  12. #12

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    I too work at a university and have done five different AT section hikes (I've hiked everything between Springer GA and Daleville VA now) covering some of the second and third weeks of May each time -- right after spring semester and right before summer session. The last couple (Damascus to Bland and Bland to Daleville) were in the so-called "hiker bubble" of NOBO thru hikers. I've really enjoyed it. I struck up acquaintances I enjoyed each time and that enriched my experience. If I wanted company in camp I tented near a shelter. When I preferred to camp alone I tented away from the shelters and had solitude if I wanted it even when in the "bubble." When doing my town resupply overnighters if I wanted company I would opt for the bunkhouse at a hostel and if I wanted alone time I would get a motel room by myself. You can create the kind of hike you want with the decisions you make.

    So I would not let a fear of crowds deter you. If your instincts are telling you to start at Trail Days and head north then do it. The only way to be certain if Trail Days is enjoyable for you is to sample it.

    I will close with two points. One, I have enjoyed going with the flow NOBO at that time of year more than going SOBO against the flow. The year I hiked south from Damascus to Hot Springs I would often meet folks I enjoyed while camping near a shelter, but then never see them again as they headed north the next day.

    Two, since you are planning to hike from mid-May to mid-July, if it were me, hiking for several days in a heat wave (and they will happen sometimes at that time of year) would be a test of my morale. Starting in New York or Connecticut and heading north wouldn't be as hot but you would see few thru hikers, so you would have to decide if that trade off is worth it. But maybe you tolerate heat better than I do.

    At any rate, have a wonderful hike!
    Last edited by map man; 01-08-2019 at 20:55.
    Life Member: ATC, ALDHA, Superior Hiking Trail Association

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