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  1. #1
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    Default month long hike summer 2021 with kids - suggestions for section?

    Background: Next summer I am planning on hiking a section of the AT starting in June with my kids. We would like to hike for about a month, maybe a little more. It will be me (40 yr old female) and my 3 daughters (11, 9, 8 years old). We will be training this year with occasional short trips, but the likelihood of any of us being in super shape when we start out is fairly slim (because we are not!). I am a teacher, so besides not starting until the beginning of June, we are fairly flexible on our end date. We will be hiking SLOWLY while we get into the swing of it, and so that we can enjoy ourselves along the way. I am thinking that Georgia will be pretty hot during this time of year, so we're not looking to start from Springer, though we do come from Texas, so we're acclimatized. We camped at Smoky Mountain NP a couple of years ago, though we didn't do any backpacking or walk much along the AT. We could do this section again, or we could do another part. Other than that trip, we've never hiked anywhere in the east or on the AT, so it's all new to us. We've only seen pictures.

    Question 1: What are some suggestions for a month-longish section of the trail for June/July? I'd prefer that it 1) was not the hottest section of the trail, 2) was not the hardest section of the trail since we won't be in the best shape, 3) is a really pretty part of the trail that we can really enjoy hiking through, and 4) is not super remote so that we can carry less food with us to reduce some weight.

    Question 2: When suggesting, if you know, could you also mention the normal temps in that section during the summer? I'm trying to think about gear (sleeping bag temps) and clothes (is a down puffy necessary? long pants and base layer?). We have lots of camping and hiking gear, but the kids don't have much lightweight enough for backpacking, so I'm almost starting from scratch for them.

    Thanks! I appreciate your help!

  2. #2
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    In January, 2020, we relocated from the upper east side of Texas to the Blue Ridge Mountains in northwest North Carolina.
    Itís 11:30 am on July 12. Iím sitting on my back porch in the shade at an elevation of 3,000í feet. The temperature is 72 degrees.
    Night before last a line of strong thunderstorms moved across Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. Be prepared for occasional heavy rain.
    Be prepared for intense sunlight. Cover up like Bedouins while hiking. Sunscreen on any exposed skin every 2 hours.
    I would start North of the Smokies. Too many restrictions and people in the National Park.
    I would consider starting in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Itís a nice trail town.
    Good luck and have fun!
    Wayne

  3. #3
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    +1 on Venchka's recommendation for north of the Smokies. Lots of beautiful, high altitude balds, some trail towns. I'd encourage you to start south of Hot Springs so that HS becomes your first big, much-looked-forward-to stop for your girls...and you get Max Patch that way. Starting at I-40 (or the nearby hostel, Standing Bear) you can camp at Painter Branch or near the top of Snowbird Mountain or at Groundhog Creek Shelter on night one and be in HS in a couple of days. If you do continue a month, you'll get the Roan Highlands, Damascus, and the Grayson Highlands too. Lots of good stuff...and the weariness to make it all the more memorable and worthwhile.

  4. #4
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    I would suggest md,pa border to the Shenandoah National Park south border about 200 miles or 20 ,10 mile days. Md is relatively easy a would be a good start to get trail legs on 40 miles to harpers ferry , resupply. Continue south to front royal something like 60 miles resupply. Then south 100 miles through the Shenandoah National Park which has 3,4 waysides not far from the trail walking with hot dogs, burgers, fries,and blackberry milkshakes. Temps likely hot and humid can't sugar coat that. Shouldn't get any cooler than 50' at night. I wanted to edit to add that going through md you'll see the original Washington monument, walk right through gathland st park Civil War history vending machines, and the Dahlgren camp grounds free right on trail with showers, sinks and real toilets. Then a 3 mile walk on the c&o / AT across the new bridge into historic harpers ferry lots of history . Then on your way to front royal you'll have the black burn trail center and the bears den hostel right on trail and nice places to stay offering camping bunks ,pizza,soda etc... been trying to edit this in but been busy. Anyways good luck and happy trails.
    Last edited by JNI64; 07-12-2020 at 16:00.

  5. #5

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    Not many month-long cool temperature places along the AT in June/July that are also in fairly easy terrain and have short distance/easy resupply. Without knowing what your average daily mileage is with the kids, I am thinking between 8 and 10-miles per day on moderate to easy terrain if you get up early and take lots of breaks during the day. Thats a pretty solid pace for kids that age, but it can be done. Several Zero days are to be expected, which are nice to have near places of interest like lakes or to get into a hotel and get cleaned up and resupplied.

    To meet most of the qualifications you have, I would consider NY (88 miles), CT (52 miles), and MA (90 miles). The terrain is not too hard, but does provide conditioning and has enough challenges everyone will feel the sense of accomplishment to reach a view or summit. Resupply needs to be planned much like any other section of the AT, but can be done. The problem will be reaching resupply that is normally done via hitch hiking that may be a problem with the kids. I would recommend carrying 5 days of food and keep resupply to a minimum, perhaps adjoining a Zero day. I don't know if any of the shuttle services in this section of trail can obtain and deliver supplies at road crossings, but it may be worth considering lining up one or two services if they do.

    If everyone is in OK shape, I would estimate the kids have a tolerance for 5.5 hiking days per week with 1.5 zero days. Starting at the NY border to North Adams MA it's approximately 230 miles to make the trek, which is attainable at a pace of about 10 miles per day. If that sounds a bit much, you can shorten the trip by starting at the NY/CT border in Sherman CT to shave off about 80 miles, which lowers the daily mileage to about 7.5 or so. Additionally, if you will road walk to resupply as opposed to a shuttle or hitching a ride, there are several additional miles in this function to add into the total walking miles, so underestimating the total AT miles so you can afford resupply miles (and photo miles on Blue trails, etc) and not mess up your schedule.

    On average, CT is about 85-degrees during the summer months of June and July, with occasional 95 to 100-degree stretches during heat waves which are becoming more and more common over the last several years. It's slightly warmer south of CT, slightly cooler north of CT but only by a degree or two. The mountains likely will not have a measurable lapse rate (typically being a 3-degree loss per 1,000-feet of elevation) during the day at that time of year, though night temperatures may be slightly cooler as a result. insects can be an issue north of MA at that time of year, but this section will probably be free of black fly by then with maybe some mosquitos around but controllable with repellant at worse.

    This route takes you through some very nice forest lands through NY with a few views here and there along with some water to swim or cool off in. CT offers some outstanding views on the approach to Riga Plateau and once on the plateau some of the best trail hiking on the AT. I would recommend taking a Zero at Sage's Ravine on the CT/MA border. It's one of the finest camping areas around and a lovely place to relax and mend a little. Stepping off Jug End into MA, the trail moves up and down minor ridges and low mountains with some views along the way and many resupply points, culminating at Mt.Greylock which by that time should be fairly easy to summit. The AT passes through North Adams, north of Greylock, and you can arrange transportation to an airport.

    Downsides of this route are few but there are some. It can be difficult to get to the AT trail crossing at the NY/CT border in Sherman CT, though shuttles should be operating by then and a little poking around on White Board may land a few you can consider using. CA and MA are designated camping area only States (some areas have shelters), no dispersed camping is allowed and no campfires are allowed in CT anytime. Campfire bans in MA go up and down depending on forest conditions. NY typically also requires camping in posted camping areas (some having shelters), but does allow dispersed camping in some areas (you will need to look that up at the NY DEC website), campfires are allowed in prepared facilities like metal fire rings, however dispersed camping areas are likely to be posted no fires at that time of year into fall.

    As far as clothing goes, you should not need a lot. Summer clothing (shorts/tees) along with long pants/long sleeve shirt with anticipation of a few mid-50 degree nights and/or biting insects are probably in order. A rain jacket is recommended that can act as a windbreaker as well (pants too if hiking in rain is anticpated) a wide brim hat is always handy. You know best what to carry for the kids, but that's the short list from my perspective.

    Those are my thoughts for a June/Julyish section that is physically doable, has some wonderful trail to walk, and can be done in the timeline you suggested.

    Good luck!

  6. #6
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    The above posting is pretty good. To add, we've had Scouts hike all sections of MA & CT over the years (including a group that did the whole CT section as a 5 day backpack) and I'd suspect that just about any section at some point in time had someone who was new to the group (probably around 11, give or take).

    Have also heard that the NY sections tend to have a few more small food shops in spots fairly close to places where the trail crosses the road, so that might be of help there (being able to get supplies frequently with a short walk, avoiding the need for getting rides - just depends on your budget, as that's likely to be a bit more expensive than completely store bought and make yourself). We've only done the northern 25 miles (or so) of NY, and weren't really looking for them, so this is only from reading.

    This is also a reasonably easy section to travel to/from - there are several spots within the NY section that have transit from the greater NYC metro area (which is easy to reach from anywhere, not sure how you plan to travel). At the northern end, once your reach North Adams, there is a system of locally operated buses that offer options to get you either to longer distance travel via the Boston area, or towards Albany NY where you have options for flight or train if you wish to return to the NYC area to make a round trip travel that might be a better deal.

    The other benefit of going northward on these sections is that you reach a (literal) high point on Mt. Greylock (the high point of MA) just about 10 miles before the end of the hike. And (depending on where you start in NY), right near the middle (about 15 miles into CT), you get 5 miles of the flattest trail on the whole AT as a relaxing section (follows the Housatonic River - I think the elevation change is about 10-20 feet over the whole stretch).

  7. #7

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    I would second the NY and beyond recommendation. But I would start at the Hudson and skip "agony grind", the death defying mad dash across the Palisades parkway and Harriman state park. This is a PITA section which is best avoided if your just starting out.

    The north end of NY is really nice. The trail is easy to moderate until Vermont. Resupply is reasonably frequent and close by. However, keep in mind this is a high end neighborhood through prime real estate and is priced accordingly, so if your on any kind of budget, that could be a problem. Bugs might be a little annoying, but temps should be reasonable until about the last week of June. This section is designated site camping only, so you must make it to one. These are reasonably close together, so that shouldn't be a problem.

    The Hot Springs north is also a decent option. More scenic, more options to camp if you can't make designated sites, but is also a bit harder then the southern New England hike. It could be done less expensively too, if that is a consideration.

    SNP/MD/PA? That's silly talk, don't even think about that for June.

    One other consideration is how are you going to get to the trail and how are you going to get back? That can influence where you go especially if public transportation is desired. There are only a limited number of places where public transportation gets you close to the trail. Otherwise your looking to add shuttles to the trip which can be pricy.
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  8. #8

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    Interesting about the sun screen. Hiked over 2,000 miles on the AT in the summer, never needed any until last summer on a sunny day coming down Mt Madison. Actually always lost my tan walking the green tunnel my last 9 summers.

  9. #9
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    I didn't recommend PA, and there's nothing wrong with my suggestion not silly at all. Why because it's gonna be so much hotter then hot springs or so much hotter then new york that's silly talk.

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    Everyone's suggestions are great and you really can't go wrong with any of them. That's is what's great about the AT lots of versatility and options for getting on and off trail as well. Would you be flying or driving?

  11. #11
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    Last year or two years ago, there was a big family from Texas that did the whole trail and wrote a lengthy journal on trailjournals.com. I think it included the parents and children from age 20 to about eight? The journal might be under the name Hiker Family. You might enjoy reading about their experiences, especially early on and in the area you are interested in doing with your children.

    Correction: Their hike was five years ago (goodness, time flies). Here's the link: https://www.trailjournals.com/journal/about/17198

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    Or who can forget about the family of 8 with their 6 kids " fight for together " . One tuff family surprised alot of folks. I think the ages were 6months to 18 years of age. They have like 10,000 videos on YouTube. That baby i can still his head bobbin back and forth in the backpack.

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    As far as starting out with new backpacking gear, there's nothing wrong with Walmart stuff. I started out my first 500+ miles with Walmart pack,poles, sleeping bag,frog toggs . Costco has nice summer quilt for $30 packs down small. And cheap breathable athletic wear from yard sales or thrift stores.

  14. #14

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    It's going to depend on elevation and location but for much of the AT during June I bring a light fleece top and bottom and synthetic vest plus a lightweight beanie/hat. Sleeping I use a quilt but also have used a lightweight sleeping bag rated to 55F. Sleeping pad is important. If you end up in one tent four people would be pretty warm anyway. A pyramid style tent would be a very lightweight option for four.

    You might be thinking about 55-70 miles a week so maybe the trip will be 225-300 miles? Transportation you might consider bumping your vehicle up the trail in weekly increments. Mass transit can at times line up with possible sections and is sometimes cheaper than a shuttle but I don't know how that might work out with four tickets. Having your vehicle available periodically can provide some incentives and flexibility.

    I don't have a suggestion at the moment for location but I will think about it some more.
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  15. #15
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    As a skin cancer survivor who lost count of the surgeries at about a dozen, recommending sunscreen on the balds is not unusual. Along with my solution above tree line: ďCover up like a Bedouin.Ē
    Especially the children.
    Be safe. Be well. Have fun.
    Wayne

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    Hi, Tracsibole,

    I am a teacher too and live in the flat area of Michigan. Eleven years ago, I won a backpack in a raffle and proceeded to take my 10 and 12 year old sons on a week long trip on the AT. We hiked across the state of Maryland. Since then, I have completed just over 1100 miles on the AT - plus, at least 500 miles on other trails closer to home. Currently, I have a high school youth group that I advise, which completes at least one or two backpacking trips locally each year.

    Others have suggested that the south is hot in June. AGREED! That would not be my first choice to bring my kids for an introduction hike. Personally, I think Maryland or SNP (or a combination of both) would be perfect. Both areas, as other posters mentioned, offer the perfect wayside, vending machine, or historical spot. All of the aforementioned are a welcome distraction for the kids while hiking.

    If you want to PM me, I would love to give you more info... share pictures, etc. (If interested... )

    FYI: What you are doing is AWESOME! My boys, now grown, still treasure their backpacking trips with me - something that is apparent when they "must" take their significant others on trips. Last month, my youngest had me outfit him (from my youth group equipment) to take his three roomates backpacking! None of them had been before! You are not only making memories, but you are also setting up your kids to appreciate simple things and love nature! Kudos to YOU!

  17. #17
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    Thanks everyone for your suggestions!! I am going to look into all of the areas that you suggested to see which I think is most feasible. I have been going down so many rabbit holes lately about the AT and hiking and gear that I'm glad I have almost a year to prepare!

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    I finally got an Appalachian Trail Guide and I have been thinking about the suggestions made. I am thinking that I might try to start near the Connecticut border, then hike through CT, MA, and as much of Vermont as we can handle. I also have a friend from high school who now lives somewhere in VT, so that might give me a leg up in this section as well. I know that several people suggested this area (though VT wasn't among the suggestions). Is there a particular suggestion of where to start in CT so that we have a little bit to get our trail legs? Is there something near the NY/CT border that we would be missing if we start past it that we really shouldn't miss?

  19. #19

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    A good place to start in CT going north would be at the Rt. 55 AT crossing in Sherman CT. If you are using a shuttle, there should be little difficulty finding the trail crossing of Rt. 55. If you are parking a car there is a small parking area on the south side of Rt 55 near the trail crossing and another one near by on Hoyt Road. Both of these parking areas are small and do not hold a lot of cars.

    The trail itself from Rt 55 is fairly easy, though that depends on your physical condition overall, but to me a good place to build trail legs. I would advise getting some conditioning hikes done prior to your departure date at increasing levels of length and elevation gain/loss so you can enjoy the hike and not injure unused muscles or get blisters on unconditioned skin. I suspect you'll be headed to the Schaghticoke Mountain shelter just over 8-miles from the Rt 55 crossing (or 2-miles further to the Mt. Algo shelter). After crossing the Ten Mile River and reaching Bulls Bridge Road the trail to Schaghticoke shelter can be a challenging stretch of trail, so be sure to have plenty of water. If time is plentiful and you are looking to ease into the trek, you can easily reach Ten Mile shelter about three miles from the Rt 55 crossing and stay the night, which also puts you into better distance alignment between shelters from 7 - 10 or so miles.

    This should be a great trip, keep the first few days pacing slow with frequent breaks and lots of water and you'll fare well!

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    Traveler - thanks for the info!

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