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  1. #1
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    Default early March NOBO stories

    Greetings, all. New to the forum. Have sights set on early March start from Springer. Would be grateful to hear tales from other NOBOs who set off in early March. (I'm a slow, but steady, hiker who probably needs the extra weeks to make Katahdin before weather shifts.) Thank you, all.

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    Nighttime temps into the teens and single digits until mid to late April, snow, sleet, ice, lots of other people starting in March so the trail,shelters and tent spots will be crowded. "Early" March some Hostels along the way may not be open yet.

  3. #3

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    Go read the journals of early March starters at trailjournals.com That's your best source.

    March can be harsh. Starting in March may not buy you any extra time as progress is influenced more by weather and short hours of daylight then by the terrain.

    Not much you can do about overcrowding. Might be a good thing so many start in March and end up dropping out before long. If everyone started in April it would be really crazy.
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    Many thanks, Slo-go'en. Excellent point about the shorter daylight inducing fewer miles. It's something that is often lost in discussions about an early spring start.

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    Great post Slo! I would add that Bubble one is Hikers starting February 15th through March 3. A great time to head out is March 4 - 14, Tuesday through Thursday. Less overcrowding and easier to work around bad weather all the way to the end. Yet you are ahead of the Big bubble the entire way. Surprisingly, I was caught off guard by the overcrowding caused by SOBOs in July. Slow but steady will get you to Katahdin anytime you chose during the months of August or September. Look for my Journal in 2018. I was 58 and looking back, wouldn’t change a thing.
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    Aside from some really cold days I really liked March.

    My third night I was camped near the top of Blood Mountain during a nasty storm and with the windchill it dropped to -8, according to one kidís thermometer. That sucked.
    But the next day was gorgeous and afterwards I rented a cabin near mountain crossings with a few strangers. We were just grabbing people in the store that looked like hikers and asking if they wanted in. Soon we had 8 people and two cabins
    One guy asked if he could sleep on the floor if he made dinner and bought beer. I handed him a 20 not sure if Iíd see him again but sure enough, he hitched to town, got booze and food, and hitched back in less than an hour.

    I never really had an issue with overcrowding. Some spots had a ton of people but I would just pass em. Othertimes it was fun to have that group dynamic, though with that often comes obnoxiousness. But a lot of that will fade as people start dropping out.

  7. #7

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    You could flip-flop, say from Harpers Ferry early May.
    Last edited by stephanD; 11-13-2019 at 10:10.

  8. #8

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    Mixed bag. We started on April 4 NOBO and the hottest days were in the 80's; day one at Springer and day 22 at Hot Springs. In between it was usually friggin freezin, with significant snow and tons of rain.

    Overcrowding only for the first two weeks; people dropped like flies for all sorts of reasons. One guy who played up the thru hiker bit for three weeks quit after a phone call with his grandson, who told him "Grandpa, we miss you!". Bam, off the trail!
    Last edited by RockDoc; 11-13-2019 at 14:01.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shrewd View Post
    Aside from some really cold days I really liked March.

    My third night I was camped near the top of Blood Mountain during a nasty storm and with the windchill it dropped to -8, according to one kidís thermometer. That sucked.
    But the next day was gorgeous and afterwards I rented a cabin near mountain crossings with a few strangers. We were just grabbing people in the store that looked like hikers and asking if they wanted in. Soon we had 8 people and two cabins
    April 13 start moderate pace. It was in the high 70's and hot. At Tray Mt shelter about 5 days 60 miles later by several accts it got to 4* as a night time low. Waking up nearly everyone's water bottles were frozen solid. Next day it got to low 70*'s. In GSMNP by several accounts( ABC watches and separate thermometers) the night time lows were 38*, 26*, 12*, 14*. Snow to a 3-4 depth one day. All the rest freezing rain or nearly so. Absolutely no view the entire AT GSMNP stretch. Bubba -NOT-licious but it was what it was and you had to deal with it.
    Quote Originally Posted by RockDoc View Post
    Mixed bag. We started on April 4 NOBO and the hottest days were in the 80's; day one at Springer and day 22 at Hot Springs. In between it was usually friggin freezin, with significant snow and tons of rain.

    Overcrowding only for the first two weeks; people dropped like flies for all sorts of reasons. One guy who played up the thru hiker bit for three weeks quit after a phone call with his grandson, who told him "Grandpa, we miss you!". Bam, off the trail!
    Three types that start early. Those in the minority that prepare well knowing what they're stepping into; those who come to a rude awakening but somehow rise to meet the challenges; and the last group who represent the majority - the "I'm going home" category. That hike I place myself in the second category.


    March the weather is even colder and unpredictable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fenway View Post
    Greetings, all. New to the forum. Have sights set on early March start from Springer. Would be grateful to hear tales from other NOBOs who set off in early March. (I'm a slow, but steady, hiker who probably needs the extra weeks to make Katahdin before weather shifts.) Thank you, all.
    Most AT thrus MPD avgs vacillate. After getting your trail legs and later settling into the LD lifestyle MPD while finding your OWN ways/styles avgs can go up especially in the flatter sections and as TPW's tend to decrease.

    Moderate pace but long hrs(steady) while going UL is my typical style.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    April 13 start moderate pace. It was in the high 70's and hot. At Tray Mt shelter about 5 days 60 miles later by several accts it got to 4* as a night time low. Waking up nearly everyone's water bottles were frozen solid. Next day it got to low 70*'s. In GSMNP by several accounts( ABC watches and separate thermometers) the night time lows were 38*, 26*, 12*, 14*. Snow to a 3-4 depth one day. All the rest freezing rain or nearly so. Absolutely no view the entire AT GSMNP


    Oh man Tray mountain shelter, I remember that being an unending climb and friggin freezing at that shelter. Still, awesome sunset and town the next day!

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    I started March 11 this year from Springer, and it was pretty freaking cold. We hit snow before even hitting the Smokies. Embrace the suck, and look forward to some extremely crowded shelters haha

  13. #13

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    Hi all,
    Newbie to the group here.
    Do you all have suggestions for a good UL glove system that has worked for yíall backpacking in March in colder temps?
    Thanks

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    good UL glove system
    Do you really need UL for worn weight you will ditch after a month? Focus on warm and functional and send home when the weather turns. Find some options now and practice with them in Jan. / Feb. You might look at gloves for skiing.

  15. #15
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    I started March 7th 2014 we had cold night time temps but weather was normal for that time of year. It all changed when we arrived in Fontana. Ice, snow and temps in single digits all the way across GSMNP. Little let up at Standing Bear but we hit again at Roaring Fork shelter (Max Patch). Again single digit temps with over a foot of snow. This was just March .... But it started getting better after Hot Springs .

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    Not a thru, but I remember doing a loop hike in the Smokies with a friend in early March one year. On our way up to the AT, it was snowing the entire time and we were wading through a foot of powder by the time we made it to the top of the ridge. The next day we slogged our way up to Clingman's Dome on a clear and frigid morning and were rewarded with gorgeous views of snow covered mountains as far as the eye can see in every direction from the tower. Those views lasted about 10 minutes as it was about 0 degrees out and windy, we had to keep moving to stay warm. We encountered a pair of aspiring thrus in Mt. Collins shelter that night who looked downright miserable and said they were heading into Gatlinburg for a zero the next day.

    1928241_806679560614_4126088_n.jpg
    It's all good in the woods.

  17. #17
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    We did a March 8th springer start a few years ago for a 500 mile LASH and though we did have a few fairly cold nights here and there, it was an excellent time to be hiking the southern AT.

    Not sure where the short-daylight comment came from, the days are really starting to lengthen well in March, by mid March, of course, we're at the Equinox with over 12 hours of full daylight, another hour on top of that of hikeable light. Early March has the same daylight as late September, which is plenty.

    Anyway, we did have one bone-chilling night in the single digits; a fellow hiker claimed he read 5 degrees F and I don't dispute that. We hiked with a 20 degree-capable sleeping system but with all of our clothes on, we slept OK (but not great). This was just north of the GA/NC border, can't remember the shelter name, right around 5000' in elevation.

    We also had a couple of days of hiking in the falling snow, again, no big deal at all because we had reasonable gear. For the record, we did take one full day off in Hiawasee because of the weather; I think that was our only chicken-out day. Also for the record, I did buy one more layer there as well! A ~$10 fleece, which I later put into a hiker box.

    The smokies were no issue, but I suppose we were just lucky with weather and trail conditions and it was now 10 days later, call it March 20th before we hit the higher elevations. We had traction devices we used a couple miles here and there because what the heck, we were carrying them.

    If I do yet another repeat, I think I would start at just about this exact time, early March; it gets you ahead of the biggest crowds, though of course these days there are plenty of hikers on the trail by then.

    For us, a mid-late February start is pushing it too far, the benefit/misery ratio is too low. That ratio swaps way positive come early-mid March.
    Last edited by colorado_rob; 12-01-2020 at 11:04.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kittyslayer View Post
    Do you really need UL for worn weight you will ditch after a month? Focus on warm and functional and send home when the weather turns. Find some options now and practice with them in Jan. / Feb. You might look at gloves for skiing.
    There are plenty of glove systems that are UL and also crazy warm. What's nice about such systems is you're not as tempted to ditch the system and regret it later.

    Check out the Possum Fur gloves from Zpacks; pretty warm, but layer those with a pair of ~1-ounce shell mittens and you're good to zero degree temps, total weight of 2-2.5 ounces or so.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    There are plenty of glove systems that are UL and also crazy warm. What's nice about such systems is you're not as tempted to ditch the system and regret it later.

    Check out the Possum Fur gloves from Zpacks; pretty warm, but layer those with a pair of ~1-ounce shell mittens and you're good to zero degree temps, total weight of 2-2.5 ounces or so.
    +1 to this.
    Love my possum furs! I didn't know what kind of possum fur so I looked them up and it's a New Zealand possum fur and the hairs are hollow . I guess that makes them lighter and warmer.
    But yeah teamed up with the right shell, winner, winner!!

  20. #20
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    I know you said Early March, but if you are not afraid of the cold you could consider late February to be ahead of that huge early March bubble. I left Feb 11th this year, it was a mild winter and we had 4 snows before i got off trail per ATC request on March 16. I think they had another snow or two after that. The coldest we saw were a couple 17 degree nights, but this was a mild winter.

    Since you are from MA, hopefully you can test your sleep system at colder temps than you will see. I tested mine to 5 degrees, but knew i would probably seek a hostel if below 10F.

    Good luck with your hike!

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