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  1. #1

    Default Suggestions for late start thru-hike

    It's looking like we won't be able to start our thru-hike until early May. Our inclination is to do a flip-flop routing, northbound out of Harper's Ferry to Mt K., then northbound from Springer to Harper's Ferry.

    Any thoughts on this itinerary, and/or suggestions for a better one, given the late start?

    Duane and Laura Bender

  2. #2
    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Harper's to Katahdin, and then Springer to Harper's is what I did. I got a late start on May 22, 2001, and hiked with the early group at the head of the pack. Reasonably good weather all the time (except for a week of rain in the White Mountains).

    However, I took several months off, and then went to Georgia in late April of the following year.

    5 1/2 to 6 months is a long time to be away from family and the daily routine. It's much easier to take in 2 1/2 month chunks.

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    A lot of thru hikers who start in early May finish with no problems time wise. Paul Revere started May 3 and finished, I believe, August 5. Daddymention started April 29 and finished on September 8 or so. With a later start, you have better weather and fewer people to deal with. The days are longer and it is easier to hiker long distances. Plus, shelters are less crowded, the trail is a bit more open, since trail crews have cleared winter blow downs and hikers have knocked aside dangling plants.

    Of course, Paul and DM were hiking maybe a little faster than you might want to. Well, Powder, Betty Crockett, and YouTree all started around late April/early May and finished just before the Gathering, in early October. Bluebearee, who posts here, also started in late April and finished in early October. Starting in early May still gives you a good 5 months to get to Katahdin.

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    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Per Roland Meuser, as published in Long Distance Hiking, the average duration is 146 days of hiking, plus 24 days off, for a total of 170 days. That's 5 1/2 months.

    So, what's your average going to be? That's for you to figure out. Don't base your progress on Paul Revere or Daddy Mention. Both of them went much faster than most.

    But, back to your original question. Nothing wrong with starting at Harper's Ferry and going north. You will have Pennsylvania to get into hiking shape, and can enjoy New Hampshire and Maine in late summer. Then, you can decide how you want to the the southern half.

  5. #5

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    Originally posted by Peaks
    Per Roland Meuser, as published in Long Distance Hiking, the average duration is 146 days of hiking, plus 24 days off, for a total of 170 days. That's 5 1/2 months.
    Those are my numbers almost exactly. Started 3/7/2000. Finished 8/21/2000. 25 days off.

  6. #6

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    We're drawn to the idea of a traditional northbound hike, but I don't expect we'll hike fast enough to complete the trip in 5 months. I suppose we could start from Springer and, based on our progress, make a decision later to flip-flop to Katahdin for a southbound completion. No decision yet, but thanks a lot for your input.

    Duane & Laura

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    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Katahdin is such a kick a$$ goal. It's hard to describe in words. I think you will miss out on a lot if you flip to Katahdin and go south.

    I'd recomment that if you are running way behind the pack, leap frog up to someplace in New Hampshire and go north from there and then come back and do the missing link.

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    If you leave Springer in May you will probably have mosquitos for a long time, maybe not in the beginning, but certainly June, July, Aug. I can understand the idea of hiking toward Katahdin, it's a romantic idea, but the experience is within the trail...not at the ends. Springer may not be Katahdin...but Katahdin is not Springer either. Maybe consider going sobo, regardless just have a blast and good luck.

  9. #9
    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Well, I don't know what Stranger's experience is, but several things to be clear on.

    First, to quote the music of Takoma Ted, the people are the trail. There is a tremendous people connection along the trail. I was doing 3 to 5 day section hikes for decades along the AT, and had met plenty of thru-hikers. But I never made the tremendous people connection until I started doing long distance hikes on the AT. I think that if you ask most thru-hikers about their experience, they will say that it was the people. So, my point is that you want to go with the flow, not against it, or in the off season. Shoulder seasons are may be preferable rather than in the thick of it.

    Second: Bugs. Bugs are out in the spring and summer. Not in the fall and winter. However, some places are much worse than others. New England is notorous for bugs in the spring and early summer. Bugs didn't bother me down south this year in April, May, and June.

    Third, Katahdin. If it's a good day, you get your first look at Katahdin from Saddleback, about 2 weeks before finishing. And it becomes a visual goal from then on. Not so with Springer. Katahdin becomes a goal that everyone talks about and works toward. It's a tremendous experience. Nothing like it finishing anywhere else on the trail. I know.

  10. #10

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    Peaks, if we start on Springer in early May and hike northbound, leapfrogging to New Hampshire only if it becomes apparent we can't reach Katahdin by Oct 15, won't we be well behind the flow of thru-hikers all the way? To maximize the time we spend with other thru-hikers, it seems like we'd have to either start earlier (impossible because of classes I'll be teaching) or start farther north.

    One possibility would be to start at Damascus during Trail Days and hike to Katahdin with the flow, then come back to hike Springer to Damascus. Another would be to hike Springer to Damascus well behind the flow, leapfrog to Harper's Ferry and hike the north half with the flow, and then finish by hiking Virginia alone in the fall. The third possibility is the one you originally suggested; it's the only one that gives us a chance of finishing on Katahdin, but I think it guarantees we'll be hiking alone pretty much the whole trip.

    Thanks to you and Stranger for your thoughts.

    Duane & Laura

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    When I did my Springer->Damascus section this May, there was a healthy group of thruhikers moving north. It wasn't crowded, but there were enough people moving along the trail. I had shelters to myself about 5 nights, out of 25 trail nights. Other than these times, there were always a few people (2-3)in the shelters, usually a mix of thruhikers and weekenders. Twice the shelter was full or close to it. One thing to note is that it seems that the thruhikers who started in May were moving a bit quicker than the 12-15 miles which most people consider about average.

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