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Re: 96 thruhikers
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: Re: 96 thruhikers
- From: Wayne Dovan <email@example.com>
- Date: Sun, 28 Jan 1996 23:47:34 -0500 (EST)
- In-Reply-To: <1995Nov20.firstname.lastname@example.org> from "Owen, James R." at Nov 21, 95 01:53:03 am
Haven't been on the Net in 4 months and am finally reading 800, yes 800,
pieces of mail (since 10/7).
I have read many of you entries since this one (see below) and have many
questions. I am planning a hike to begin in 6 weeks. My two main questions
1) how did you hike change you emotionally/mentally? what have others said?
(read in one of your entries that you have spoken w/ MANY thru-hikers)
2) did you hike while married and if so, how did it affect your marriage?
again - what have other hikers said?
My wife and I have a strong relationship and she is supportive, but I know
I will worry about her (back home) a lot. I'm concerned that this will adversely
affect my hike. Any thoughts?
> I'm Jim Owen - relatively new to this menagerie - I've been reading the
> messages for the last 2 weeks but haven't had time to write anything. I'm an
> engineer, trail maintainer and AT thruhiker (Bald Eagle, Class of '92). It's
> good to see that there are others out there with the same kind af addiction
> as myself. And I'm about to throw my unsolicited 2 cents in here. So - some
> thoughts on recent posts from AT thruhikers-to-be.
> Let's start with what time to start - Anytime you want. There are
> problems associated with any starting time - in either direction - but I've
> met thruhikers who started on Jan 1 and others who started in Oct. What you
> need is a realistic appraisal of the risks and problems with any given
> starting time. For example, starting at Springer earlier than mid-March
> means a cold, wet walk through the southern mountains with snow in the
> Smokies. Starting after mid-May means those same mountains will be overgrown
> (reputedly with large patches of poison ivy). On the other end, Baxter State
> Park (Katahdin) closes on or before Oct 15. That means you don't get to climb/
> finish if you get there too late - unless you're carrying winter
> mountaineering gear and can convince the rangers that you're qualified to use
> it. Southbound presents other problems - the blackflies should NOT be
> underestimated and there aren't very many others headed in your direction so
> it won't be the same kind of social experience. Starting from Maine isn't
> recommended before mid-July, but I know people who have - and finished. The
> choices are endless. Best if you can talk to someone who's done it the way
> you want to do it - so call the Appalachian Trail Conference in Harpers
> Ferry, WV (304-535-6331). They have a list of thruhikers who are willing to
> talk about the Trail - and it's classified by age, direction, starting time,
> etc. They also have books, videos and planning worksheets. And if you're
> going to hike the AT you need to support them - they support you.
> Another consideration is that the number of northbounders is increasing
> at a geometric rate. Unofficially, there were about 3000 starters in '95.
> My personal estimate is that, considering the publicity this year, there'll
> be about 5000 starters in '96 - mostly in March and April.
> Regardless of how you feel about sharing your "wilderness" experience
> with that many people, take a tent. The shelters are crowded under the best
> of conditions and '96 won't be any better. Besides, for those who are
> worried about being cold, a tent is at least 10 degrees warmer than the
> shelters - and it doesn't have mice. Speaking of which, before you start
> find out about hantavirus. It's spread by mouse droppings - and EVERY
> shelter has mice. The mice are relatively quiet in the shelters that have
> skunks or snakes - but they're still there. If the mice weren't there the
> skunks/snakes wouldn't be either. Incidentally, don't believe those who say
> that the AT shelters have no problem with hantavirus - SNP has moved some of
> their rangers out of the trailers they were using for housing because the
> mice in them tested positive for hantavirus. If the trailer mice have it - so
> do the shelter mice.
> Next is speed and weight. The southern mountains are tougher than you
> believe - a lot of ups and downs - don't underestimate them. More than half
> of those who start at Springer have gone home before Damascus. The most
> common cause is physical problems, largely knee, tendon and back problems
> caused by carrying too much weight and/or trying to make too many miles.
> Rule of thumb - if your pack weighs more than 30 pounds (without food and
> water) - you're in trouble. Rule #2 - if you're planning on big mile days (>
> 12) in the south - you're in trouble. Like all rules there are those who can
> break them and get away with it, but if you're a serious thruhiker and really
> want to finish, increase your odds - go light and plan your mileages for the
> long term. You should be doing no more than 8 - 12 miles per day (with
> occasional 14's) up to Watauga Dam. After that anything goes. I did 18's
> and 19's from Watauga to Pearisburg and then 20 - 27's into Mass. When you
> get to New England you'll slow down again. Not many people make a 2 mph pace
> through the Whites - and who'd want to - you'd miss too much. By Maine,
> you'll slow down because you won't want it to end.
> Use at least one hiking staff/stick/pole. Two is even better. They can
> be a pain when you're in the Whites trying to get down a rock face, but
> they'll save your knees. And there's no dog alive that doesn't respect a
> stick !!
> Ah yes - winter gear. NO - DON'T SEND IT HOME FROM DAMASCUS !!!
> It gets cold on Mount Rogers - even in the summer. And you're not likely to
> be there in the summer if you're following the usual thruhiker schedule.
> On 9 May 1992 we had 14 inches of snow on Mt Rogers. Send it home anytime
> after the Grayson Highlands. And pick it up again at Glencliff, NH. The
> Whites are cold too. For winter I used a 20 degree bag and had no problem,
> but it depends on your metabolism. I know people who used a 0 degree bag in
> the south and were cold. For the Mid-Atlantic states I used an overbag
> (about 45 degree rating). Experiment before you go.
> Don't plan too little time off. Your time off in towns is important
> for a lot of reasons, mostly related to mental and physical health. But if
> you're planning less than 14 days off the trail (and most of them in the
> North) you're not even in the ball park. Most thruhikers that I know took
> off at least 20 days - and some as much as 30 -40 days. It depends on
> nutrition, injuries, weather and a lot of other factors. All of which means
> - plan the financial end of your hike liberally. Town visits cost, and lack
> of funds is a frequent and unfortunate reason for getting off the Trail. If
> your thruhike is intended as a "once in a lifetime" experience, then enjoy it
> - don't spend it worrying about money.
> There's a military adage that says "No battle plan survives first
> contact with the enemy". Likewise, no matter how much planning you do,
> your plan is likely to fall apart once you're out there. Don't let it upset
> you - you're out there to hike the Trail, not to prove how good a planner you
> are. So hike the Trail.
> Speaking of which, the paramount rule on the Trail is "Hike your own
> hike". Don't let groupthink take over your life. If the group you're hiking
> with doesn't want to stop when you do, or wants to stay in town for an extra
> day when you don't want to, or wants do more - or less - miles than you, then
> maybe you don't belong with that group. HIKE YOUR OWN HIKE !!
> The Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) has a lot of info about the
> Trail. Join. It's good for you, for the ATC and for the Trail - and it can
> save you some money at some of the hostels and the huts in the Whites.
> Go to the uncle-wolf-tips page at this location - he hiked this year
> ('95) and he has a lot of good advice.
> Last thought - After the Trail, go to the Appalachian Long Distance
> Hikers Association (ALDHA) Gathering at Carlisle, PA on Columbus Day
> weekend. The ATC people will give you information about it if you ask.
> Why go to the Gathering ?? Because it's tough coming off the Trail -
> mentally, emotionally and physically. Most of you will have changed -
> and your friends and family won't understand. Some of you will need to
> talk Trail to someone who understands - and the Gathering is a good place to
> find other thruhikers - including some of your Trail "family".
> Enuff - that's my mini-course on AT thruhiking and I'm having more fun
> than the law allows, but I'm out of time and some of you are out of
> patience. Hope this helps someone out there - and if you want to talk, just
> Jim Owen (Bald Eagle, Class of '92)