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  1. #1

    Default How will Covid-19 affect hiking in 2021?

    The nights are drawing in, and it is time to think about next year....

    Will the A.T. be fully open? When? The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has weighed in on some considerations for thru-hiking next year:

    https://appalachiantrail.org/officia...ikers-in-2021/

    My own view? There's good news and bad news...

    The good news is that the prospects for a widely available vaccine next year are indeed bright. If all goes well, we should be in a much different place by next summer/fall.

    Another positive is that the nature of this virus is such that outdoors activities, with small numbers of people, are relatively safe. Sars-Cov-2 is a slightly different beast than norovirus, in terms of it being more spread by bioaerosols (breathing) as opposed to fomites (virus left on surfaces).

    The bad news: there is exponential spread of the virus at the moment, and it will take some time to put out this fire. There will be a lot of pain starting next month..

    So what do people think will happen next year in terms of hiking?
    (trailname: Paul-from-Scotland)

  2. #2
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Toss the dice.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by JNI64 View Post
    Toss the dice.....
    Summary of state travel restrictions, updated weekly here:


    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/t...trictions.html


    Does the ATC have a summary of the additional restrictions (no camping, etc. ) anywhere?

    Their opinion matters a great deal, but the actual rules are important too. perhaps even more important.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
    Summary of state travel restrictions, updated weekly here:


    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/t...trictions.html


    Does the ATC have a summary of the additional restrictions (no camping, etc. ) anywhere?

    Their opinion matters a great deal, but the actual rules are important too. perhaps even more important.
    https://appalachiantrail.org/explore.../a-t-closures/

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    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    ........all hope is gone...........

  6. #6

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    I think that the ATC opening thru hiking registration is a sign that we are getting more acclimated to the virus. Shelters and privies are probably not surface transmission threats. I wouldn’t want to sleep in a crowded shelter, but personally would care if it had been crowded the night before.

    Privies not being maintained this year kind of a bummer; I’d sure as heck rather use a privy most of the time than cathole it.

    I’m planning on a SOBO; hopefully by late May/ early June things are looking better. Despite what’s happening right at the moment, I’m more hopeful now than I was a month ago. Traditional NOBO season, not so sure.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by HankIV View Post
    I think that the ATC opening thru hiking registration is a sign that we are getting more acclimated to the virus. Shelters and privies are probably not surface transmission threats. I wouldn’t want to sleep in a crowded shelter, but personally would care if it had been crowded the night before.

    Privies not being maintained this year kind of a bummer; I’d sure as heck rather use a privy most of the time than cathole it.

    I’m planning on a SOBO; hopefully by late May/ early June things are looking better. Despite what’s happening right at the moment, I’m more hopeful now than I was a month ago. Traditional NOBO season, not so sure.
    I doubt you can start at Mt Kathadin in late May.
    The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
    Richard Ewell, CSA General


  8. #8

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    My schedule baggage is light; can start at pretty much the drop of a hat. Part of my road to glory is using as much daylight as possible. Two days early June in Maine have as much daylight as three in the Smokies in late Oct. Will start when Hunt Trail opens, usually June, sometimes May.

    The sorts of things one dwells on when constrained....

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    I've been planning for a 2021 PCT thru since mid-2019, and I'm feeling concerned. The PCTA is supposed to re-evaluate their decision on permits in January, so I'm still waiting to see what's going to happen with that. I'd like a late-April start, and my current work obligation ends in mid-April so if I don't thru-hike, I'm going to need to find another job. I have a summer gig available for June-August that was postponed from last year, but as it's a camp director position, I also wouldn't feel safe doing that if there's still community spread and I haven't been able to get vaccinated yet. I've already taken off from teaching for the 20-21 school year because it felt too high-risk for me as a transplant patient when my district was set on returning in-person, and I'm working on a backcountry trail crew instead, where I can be socially-distanced from all of society except my six-person crew.

    If the last 9 months have taught us anything, it's that we can't assume that this will be over in 1/3/6 months' time. All we can do is wait and see. Hopefully the vaccine will turn the tide, but until it's rolled out, it's hard to predict how quickly it will contain the spread.
    A.T. 2018 Thru-hiker
    Follow along at www.tefltrekker.com

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    There were a lot of thru-hikers, LASHers and section hikers this year. I haven't heard of a backpacker giving or getting COVID, to this point. Backpacking doesn't guarantee a virus-free life, but I'd rather be on the trail than just about anywhere else. I hope to return to the southwestern Virginia section in April or May. SYOT

  11. #11

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    Traveling to the trail is the most dangerous part of the trip. I still wouldn't feel comfortable with a long train or bus ride. I always seem to pick up something along the way as it is and it always hits a week into the hike. Ideally you'd have a friend or relative drive you to the trail head, regardless of distance or added expense (you have to pay for their return trip of course).

    The ATC should set up a rapid COVID testing site in one of the gaps about a week in. That would weed out anyone who might have been infected along the way.

    Once on the trail it should be reasonably safe. I'd tent just on General Principles, but if your in a bubble with known, safe companions, taking over a shelter or hostel would be safe. At least until strangers wanting to share the space start to show up in numbers.

    In town, wear your mask even if the locals give you dirty looks. Don't do sit down meals in restaurants, which you shouldn't be doing right now anyway. Outside is safe, inside is not.

    I still think the biggest question to answer is what hostels will still be open and who will be shuttling?
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Traveling to the trail is the most dangerous part of the trip....
    Once on the trail it should be reasonably safe. I'd tent just on General Principles, but if your in a bubble with known, safe companions, taking over a shelter or hostel would be safe.

    I agree with this. Relatively speaking, being on-trail should be safe.

    On a different note, I hope there are some good youtubers on trail this year, because I need some new folks to follow...
    (trailname: Paul-from-Scotland)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Traveling to the trail is the most dangerous part of the trip. I still wouldn't feel comfortable with a long train or bus ride. I always seem to pick up something along the way as it is and it always hits a week into the hike. Ideally you'd have a friend or relative drive you to the trail head, regardless of distance or added expense (you have to pay for their return trip of course).

    The ATC should set up a rapid COVID testing site in one of the gaps about a week in. That would weed out anyone who might have been infected along the way.

    Once on the trail it should be reasonably safe. I'd tent just on General Principles, but if your in a bubble with known, safe companions, taking over a shelter or hostel would be safe. At least until strangers wanting to share the space start to show up in numbers.

    In town, wear your mask even if the locals give you dirty looks. Don't do sit down meals in restaurants, which you shouldn't be doing right now anyway. Outside is safe, inside is not.

    I still think the biggest question to answer is what hostels will still be open and who will be shuttling?
    100% agree with all of this, but I doubt if the ATC will set up any testing sites. Great idea though.

    I'm cautiously optimistic given latest vaccine news, and as you said, once on the trail all is good, given that you take basic precautions. My wife still has a huge gap from Hot Springs to Waynesboro, and we plan on hitting that next spring. We will definitely avoid shelters though, but we've always done that on the AT. We'll be flying in, relatively short direct flight, wearing N95 masks, renting a car, no way we'd use long bus or train rides.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Traveling to the trail is the most dangerous part of the trip. I still wouldn't feel comfortable with a long train or bus ride.
    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    We'll be flying in, relatively short direct flight, wearing N95 masks, renting a car, no way we'd use long bus or train rides.
    A longer train ride is probably not worse than a shorter flight, IF the train (and I'd suspect most of the longer ones do) offers private spaces you can rent for the trip (like a compartment with bed etc.). Would be more costly to do that, but then you are able to stay away from others travelling even more than you would on a plane (the waiting to board is similar, possibly less and the travel you could confine most of the time).

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    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Traveling to the trail is the most dangerous part of the trip. I still wouldn't feel comfortable with a long train or bus ride. I always seem to pick up something along the way as it is and it always hits a week into the hike. Ideally you'd have a friend or relative drive you to the trail head, regardless of distance or added expense (you have to pay for their return trip of course).
    Once on the trail it should be reasonably safe. I'd tent just on General Principles, but if your in a bubble with known, safe companions, taking over a shelter or hostel would be safe. At least until strangers wanting to share the space start to show up in numbers.
    In town, wear your mask even if the locals give you dirty looks. Don't do sit down meals in restaurants, which you shouldn't be doing right now anyway. Outside is safe, inside is not.
    I still think the biggest question to answer is what hostels will still be open and who will be shuttling?
    This is excellent advice. In my experience the trail was really only shut down for a few months in spring 2020 while people figured out how the virus worked. Then people adapted and things got mostly back to normal except for the parts where you get back into civilization.
    As far as shelters the only real danger is sharing the sleeping space with others. But nearly all of the shelters have plenty of tenting space so it is really a non-issue. Some of the trail clubs even put hand sanitizer in the privies.

    The only other advice I'd add is for section hikers to avoid popular areas of the trail on weekends if possible. One of the biggest changes I noticed this year was a HUGE increase in the number of day hikers out on weekends. For example, I saw about 300 day hikers in 3 miles coming down into Delaware Water Gap on a Saturday afternoon.
    It's all good in the woods.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    The only other advice I'd add is for section hikers to avoid popular areas of the trail on weekends if possible. One of the biggest changes I noticed this year was a HUGE increase in the number of day hikers out on weekends. For example, I saw about 300 day hikers in 3 miles coming down into Delaware Water Gap on a Saturday afternoon.
    Yep, the number of day hikers was insane in the Whites this summer and fall. On a Saturday and often on a Sunday, every trailhead for a 4,000 footer had cars spilled out of the parking lots for up to a 1/2 mile along the road! From what I saw locally, I bet over a thousand people climbed Mt Madison this summer. Glad I was able to do all my hikes on a Monday, but even then popular trails had full parking lots.

    Wonder if these record crowds will continue next year? Guess we'll just have to wait and see.
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Yep, the number of day hikers was insane in the Whites this summer and fall. On a Saturday and often on a Sunday, every trailhead for a 4,000 footer had cars spilled out of the parking lots for up to a 1/2 mile along the road!

    We had the same thing here in Scotland. Our mountains are 3,000 footers (called Munros, after Sir Henry Munro, the first person to climb all 200+ of them), and people collect them. Parking lots were jammed. Even smaller, local hills were and remain unusually busy.

    I suspect this uptick in interest is a combination of hiking being relatively safe (Covid-19-wise), and other opportunities for travel being limited.

    One challenge is how to handle these crowds. Parking is a big issue, as is instances of people not knowing about or following leave no trace behavior.

    At the moment, we are about to enter another phase of lockdown, so I'll have to be creative about finding hiking and camping opportunities closer to home.
    (trailname: Paul-from-Scotland)

  18. #18
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by futureatwalker View Post
    We had the same thing here in Scotland. Our mountains are 3,000 footers (called Munros, after Sir Henry Munro, the first person to climb all 200+ of them), and people collect them. Parking lots were jammed. Even smaller, local hills were and remain unusually busy.

    I suspect this uptick in interest is a combination of hiking being relatively safe (Covid-19-wise), and other opportunities for travel being limited.

    One challenge is how to handle these crowds. Parking is a big issue, as is instances of people not knowing about or following leave no trace behavior.

    At the moment, we are about to enter another phase of lockdown, so I'll have to be creative about finding hiking and camping opportunities closer to home.
    Funny, you're across The Pond and everything you're saying is absolutely identical here in Colorado; parking issues at super-busy trailheads, littering, etc. Our local trails have at least 2X hiker traffic vs. pre-Covid, probably more. But I suppose this is pretty much true everywhere.

    One potential silver lining is maybe, just maybe some folks having "discovered" a new hobby (hiking) might stick with it and as a society we'll be just a bit more fit. Of course to a lot of us, more hikers is a bad thing, but we've managed to avoid the crowds with more obscure trails; most of our recent hiking has been in near total solitude.

    BTW, I'm intrigued by those Munros, having a good pal who's working on them (he has a sister in Scotland). I've climbed precisely one of them, albeit the Highest. Our Colorado 14ers (59 of them) have been nutso this last summer, crazier then usual, but thankfully my wife and I completed that much smaller list 15 years ago.
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  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Yep, the number of day hikers was insane in the Whites this summer and fall. On a Saturday and often on a Sunday, every trailhead for a 4,000 footer had cars spilled out of the parking lots for up to a 1/2 mile along the road! From what I saw locally, I bet over a thousand people climbed Mt Madison this summer. Glad I was able to do all my hikes on a Monday, but even then popular trails had full parking lots.
    Wonder if these record crowds will continue next year? Guess we'll just have to wait and see.
    Hopefully the local busineses benefited from all of the trail traffic.
    The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
    Richard Ewell, CSA General


  20. #20
    jersey joe jersey joe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleRock View Post
    The only other advice I'd add is for section hikers to avoid popular areas of the trail on weekends if possible. One of the biggest changes I noticed this year was a HUGE increase in the number of day hikers out on weekends. For example, I saw about 300 day hikers in 3 miles coming down into Delaware Water Gap on a Saturday afternoon.
    The 4 mile stretch from the Delaware Water Gap to Sunfish Pond in NJ is one of the most, if not THE most, heavily traveled sections of the entire AT. This is true in any year, but especially true in a COVID year.

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