Thursday, June 25, 2015

Heat-Related Ilnesses while Backpacking and Hiking


It’s the height of summer and time for great hikes. But it’s also time that heat-related illness can affect you while exerting yourself in hot temperatures.



The two heat-related illnesses one needs to look out for are heat exhaustion and sunstroke. Heat exhaustion can be managed on the trail, but sunstroke is a life-threatening emergency where the hiker must get to a hospital.

Heat Exhaustion can occur in hot, humid temperatures when the body becomes depleted of fluids necessary to cool itself - (severe dehydration). There may be heat cramps involved. The skin may be pale, cool, clammy, the hiker slightly anxious, pulse and breathing are basically normal. However, if the hiker is not cooled down, it can advance to the life threatening sunstroke as the core body temperature begins to rise.
Seek rest in a shady, cool spot. Sometimes resting on rocks that are in the shade or beside stream beds are cool. Or find an area next to water or in a wet environment. Breezes can also help you cool down by allowing convection to happen. Drink! – Especially replace lost salt and water. Having an electrolyte type mix in your hiker bag is crucial to helping replace sodium and potassium lost during sweating. Gatorade is also a favorite choice. When you get to town, eating a banana helps with cramping.

Sunstroke occurs when the mechanism to keep yourself cool begins to fail and your internal body temperature rises. Your skin becomes red, hot and dry. You can become disoriented, confused, and irritable. Pulse is rapid and there may be a seizure. Cool immediately by immersing into a cold stream or river or pouring water over the body. Give fluids if still awake and you can massage limbs to draw out the heat. Call for help.

How to prevent these illnesses from happening on a hike: 

  • Take frequent rest breaks in cool, shady areas
  • Drink plenty fluids and eat salty foods. Carry electrolyte replacement granules to add to water. Be sure to carry plenty of water in desert environments
  • Wear lightweight clothing and bright colors. Wear a lightweight hat
  • If you feel hot, dry, your urine output is low, that means dehydration is setting in. Stop and rehydrate. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hiking Vermont's Long Trail



I'm seeing some hikers planning a Long Trail adventure and decided to go ahead and share this blog back from 2012 when I did my southbound hike of it. I found the End to Ender's Guide and the map sufficed. I did not carry the Long Trail Guide as it only has descriptions for a northbound hike and I was hiking southbound. I also took a GPS device as well that really did come in handy on a few of the situations I found myself in. 

On September 23, 2012, I completed a southward trek of Vermont’s Long Trail. What began back in 2010 with the completion of the trail from Maine Junction (where the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail part) to Rt 2 in Massachusetts, I hiked from the Canadian border to the Maine Junction this fall. 
Looking into Quebec, Canada at the start of the Long Trail
So what is the Long Trail? As taken from the Green Mountain Club's web site – “Built by the Green Mountain Club between 1910 and 1930, the Long Trail is the oldest long-distance trail in the United States. The Long Trail follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont line to the Canadian border as it crosses Vermont's highest peaks. It was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail, which coincides with it for one hundred miles in the southern third of the state.

Although the Long Trail is known as Vermont's "footpath in the wilderness," its character may more accurately be described as backcountry. As it winds its way to Canada, the Trail climbs rugged peaks and passes pristine ponds, alpine bogs, hardwood forests and swift streams. The Long Trail is steep in some places, muddy in others, and rugged in most. Novice and expert alike will enjoy the varied terrain of the trail as it passes through the heart of Vermont's backwoods.
With its 273-mile footpath, 175 miles of side trails, and nearly 70 primitive shelters, the Long Trail offers endless hiking opportunities for the day hiker, weekend overnighter, and extended backpacker.”




Some noted observations made while on my hike –

Atop Mt Mansfield looking toward the Adirondoacks of NY and Lake Champlain
Best part of the trail – Except for a bit of a nerve wracking ascent up the chin and then the calamity with my backpack on the forehead, Mt Mansfield was one of the trip's highlights for stunning scenery.

The Presidential Range of NH from the Lincolns
I also liked very much a lone mountain called Laraway Perch. I had a beautiful view of Mansfield that day. The trail also meandered below huge rock formations.

Another favorite was Mt Abraham in the Lincoln region. My last views above tree line as I headed south.
  
Worse part of the trail – I attempted to climb Camel’s Hump in sixty mile an hour winds and heavy rain. It got so bad that I was obliged to take a side trail to avoid the exposed summit. On a clear day, this would have been a great mountain. But on adverse weather, it made for a treacherous and rather frightening experience.

What I’m glad I took – I accepted a fellow hiker's generous offer to carry his GPS with me. This served me many times when the trail became a bit confusing in ski areas such as Jay Peak (and the trail crosses many ski areas). It also helped me navigate back to the trail when my backpack fell out of the “Needle” portion of the forehead on Mt Mansfield and careened down 100 feet into a ravine. After retrieving my pack, I was able to bushwhack back using the GPS. I'm also glad I did take a 15 degree bag and outerwear for my September travels. Many hikers out there were pretty cold in their 30 plus degree bags in September.

Regrets – I didn’t need the mail drop at all in Jonesville, even though the post office is directly trailside. Between Jeffersonville (which has a nice general store) and Waitsfield, there is good resupply for the northern hiker. I ended up ditching some food at the inn at Waitsfield.


Speaking of which, the B&B's I stayed at (Nyes Green Valley and the Waitsfield Inn) were first class, friendly to hikers, did up laundry for free, and provided shuttles. Great breakfasts too. Worth the hefty price.  

Favorite place to stay on the trail – I had a great time at the ski lift hut on Spruce Peak. And I had wet gear that dried quickly that night inside the hut. The view overlooking Stowe was lovely. Stark’s Nest is another great place to stay, with views from the porch extending toward the Presidential Range of New Hampshire.




The Finish at Maine Junction. I did the southern part on my 2010 hike of the AT southbound

What I Learned – When the going gets rough, listening to the still small voice telling me where to go and what to do (like trying to negotiate the rocky traverse of the Camel's Hump ascent) really saved my hike.   

My Long Trail Journal on Trail Journals.
 

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Bear Facts of Life

I photographed this bear in a tree in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
And this bear up a tree in Shenandoah
Bears can be a hot topic in the hiker forums. After the recent events in the Smokies where a bear was reported to have taken a hiker out of his hammock, it makes good sense to go ahead and share the facts when encountering these animals in the woods.

Most bears are skiddish when encountered on the trail, but a mother with her cubs can and will attack to defend her young if she detects a threat. It's prudent, therefore, to know the basics of bear safety when out hiking. And it's wise also to be aware of their scent to let you know they are nearby. I was taught the scent of a bear from a hiker/former ranger, and she said it smells like a wet dog. Once you recognize a bear's scent, it will alert you to their presence and avoid surprise encounters.   

Below are some general bear safety tips taken from the Shenandoah National Park website. If you are out west in grizzly country, that's a more dangerous area, and bear spray, bear bells, and other protection are needed, as well as bear canisters in many places (such as Yosemite National park which requires it).



Avoiding Bears While Hiking
  • Stay alert to your surroundings and the presence of wildlife while hiking.
  • Make your presence known by keeping the wind to your back (your scent will alert bears), if possible hike in groups, and make noise.
  • When you spot a bear, stay 300 feet or more away and never linger or take photographs for long periods.
  • Slowly back away and leave the area or take a detour. Making noise during your retreat is appropriate. Keep children close to the group. Do not turn your back on a bear. Do not make eye contact.
  • Do not pursue and NEVER surround a bear. Give it room to escape.
  • DO NOT run from a bear. Bears will pursue prey and flight is a signal to them to start pursuit.
Encountering a Black Bear
If an encounter occurs …
Remain calm and don’t run. Like dogs, bears will often chase fleeing animals. You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph! Climbing a tree is futile since black bears excel at climbing trees. Jaw popping by the bear is a signal to you that it is uncomfortable.
Let the bear know you are human. Talk to it in a normal voice and wave your arms. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious – not threatening.
Move away slowly, but don’t turn your back. If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Black bears may approach at a measured pace and attack the human as prey. The calm appearance of the black bear may have lure some of their victims into a false sense of security.  If leaving the area is not an option or if the bear gets too close you should make yourself appear as large as possible. Lifting your arms and a pack over head, moving to higher ground or, if in a group, huddling together will help discourage the bear. Make louder noise by banging pots and pans or using other noisemakers, but never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal. Throwing objects at the bear may be appropriate but only when you are “cornered”. A black bear calmly and steadily approaching who is not bothered by yelling or thrown objects should be considered extremely dangerous.
Avoid eye contact with the animal.
If a bear charges…
Don’t run! Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Usually if you hold your ground they will back off.

If a bear actually makes contact…
Fight back! In rare instances black bears perceive humans as prey – if you are attacked by a black bear fight back. Try to focus your attack on the bear’s eyes and nose.

In camp...

Eat away from your sleeping area. Never store food in a tent or vestibule. Use bear poles or bear cables or hoist your food in a tree ten feet off the ground and four feet out in a bear bag. Cookware and trash should be similarly secured as well as anything scented such as toothpaste, toothbrush, medications, bug repellent, soap, etc.
In some places where bears are known to be aggressive on the Appalachian Trail, especially with food in areas such as Georgia near the Blood Mountain region or in New Jersey, carry a bear canister to store your food. Canisters are also required in the Adirondack region of New York State. Check your local areas for updates on aggressive bear activity.


Feel free to share your trailside bear stories and what you learned.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Warranties, Repairs, and Not Cheating the Gear Manufacturer

Inevitably after you have been hiking for a good while you will be saddled with gear issues. Some could be gear defects. Or wear and tear. Or gear that needs repair.

I had the unfortunate incident of tearing a hole in my new Big Agnes UL tent. I plastered it with duct tape which seems the cure-all for some gear repair in the field. It did fine until I got home and called the manufacturer.

Pillow with a defect, handled well by the mfct
Which brings me to this. When in doubt on your gear, call the manufacturer directly to get their opinion. Just last week I had a pillow that suffered a defect – (see the photo). You can tell when a
piece of gear has an obvious defect. I called Exped, talked to a helpful rep who then immediately sent a replacement upon receiving a photo of the gear issue. No fuss, no issue.

For the tent issue, I talked to a Big Agnes rep. The tear was my fault. It was not a defect or anything else. I caused it. They helped me figure out how to repair it, suggesting Tear Aid, a special kind of patch. I gently removed the duct tape (the manufacturers are not keen on duct tape as it leaves a sticky residue where repair patches like Tear Aid do not). I cleaned off any lingering residue with some rubbing alcohol, then made the repair.

Tear in the the tent fabric



Applying Tear Aid to patch the tear


I had also broken a buckle on my ULA Catalyst pack. ULA immediately got a new buckle out to me, no questions.

Then comes the gray areas of gear and clothing. Just last week, in my job as a ridgerunner, I was talking to a young thru hiker who was upset that an outfitter would not take back his socks and exchange them en route. He had hiked in these socks nearly 1000 miles since Springer MT in GA (he was now in upper Virginia) and since he had holes in this one pair and they had a lifetime guarantee, he should get new socks. I disagreed with this. There are going to be issues with gear or clothing under normal things like wear and tear. Manufacture guarantees usually do not guaranty against constant use, especially thru hiker use and abuse. In the past manufacturers and companies' policies have been abused by people who think they deserve their clothes or shoes to make it through 2000 miles. REI had that issue with their lifetime guarantee where hikers would bring back used gear, ages old, in an attempt to get new gear. Thus the company was obliged to change its policy to one year. In this case, getting a 1000 miles out of a pair of socks before you see a hole is excellent wear in my humble opinion. And time to buy another pair of socks rather than abuse the good graces of the manufacturer and their supposed lifetime guarantee to get freebies. But in this case the manufacturer, Darn Tough Socks, agreed to send him a pair. I read their guarantee, and they seem to dare folks to wear out their socks. I guess this guy decided to prove the issue. He lucked out by a great company. I am curious how long their policy will remain. 

Gear manufacturers are most willing to work with hikers on gear issues. But a hiker needs to realize too when their gear simply needs to be replaced because it has been used and loved to death.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why "A Walk in the Woods" will be A Nightmare in the Woods

Today I am seeing all over the clip for the movie coming on Labor Day. "A Walk in the Woods" with Hollywood’s Robert Redford. I see it and shudder.



Why?

I work out on the AT as a ridgerunner in Shenandoah National Park. I am already witnessing the increased usage on the trail and what that means. Overflowing huts (shelters in Shenandoah), full privies, toilet paper flowers, burnt out cans and cigarette butts, gallons of garbage. 

Please don’t mistake me. I am thrilled when newcomers come take their first walk on the AT. When people post pictures and experiences of their times. I do all I can through education and this blog to get them ready.  If I could count on hikers who followed the Leave No Trace principle, who were courteous, who carried out their garbage, who did what they could do to protect the trail and the environment, themselves and each other, I’d rest a bit easier.

But that isn’t the case. Already I am seeing such increased usage that areas are being stretched beyond capacity, and the movie hasn’t even been released. And the usage by hikers who don’t know and don’t care. Garbage is overflowing. Tents are stacked on top of each other as hikers wrestle for space.
One of the AT huts, May, 2015, and tents everywhere. Pre-movie.
When there is no space, they ignore camping regulations and camp wherever they want, even with their dogs by the springs. It’s already a nightmare out there and it hasn’t even begun.

I shudder also that trail organizations seem woefully unprepared for the coming onslaught and coming damage. They don’t seem to understand what is going to happen. Nothing has been planned. No action has been taken to cope with the masses that will flock to the AT after this movie comes out. I’ve had some higher-ups ask me as ridgerunner what will happen. I say it, but that’s it. Nothing has been done. 

Now it is too late. The masses are coming. There will be unprepared hikers (and more rescues), garbage galore, campfire pits and campsites scarring the land. Shelter areas strewn with trash,
15 gallons of trash found in a privy, May 2015 - pre-movie
with overflowing privies, and worn-out volunteer maintainers that can’t keep up and get burned out.




Thanks a bunch, Hollywood. "A Walk in the Woods" will become the AT and the maintainers' Nightmare in the Woods. 







Thursday, May 21, 2015

Campfire Talk

Okay, let's talk campfire lingo. Snap. Spark. Heat. Glow. Entertainment. S'mores. People-pleaser.

Fires seem to be the mainstay of an evening sojourn in the woods. Done properly and with care, they can add to an evening. Who doesn't like to share tales around the embers? Or roast marshmellows? Or take the chill out of a cool evening?

Unfortunately, more often than not, campfires are tools of abuse. There are an overabundance of campfire pits and rings built in the woods. Sometimes they scar the beauty of rocks at an overlook or are scattered all over the forest floor. They surround a single tent platform at such close proximity, I often wonder why the occupants' tent hasn't burned. I've seen woods totally devoid of downed limbs used to replenish the soil of the woods because it's used to feed the hungry flames of a large fire.

But more often than not, campfire rings are used as garbage containers in the wild. As a ridgerunner, I have cleaned out burnt cans, paper, numerous "hobo" meal wrappers - IE foil, from the pits. Some just leave whole garbage bags in them. Some have tried to burn their trash, only to have the burnt remains littering the pit and sinking in ash. I see lots of tn cans left in there. Why do folks think a tin can burns? Others toss used toilet paper and other unsavory items into the ring. And fire pits consistently used as an ashtray where hikers leave their cigarette butts.

So if we are to salvage anything good out of having a campfire - please do the following:

- Do NOT burn any garbage!! Not a scrap. Pack it all out. If you can carry in the food wrappers, you can pack out the empty ones!! That includes the foil from the "hobo" campfire meals. Pack it ALL out.  

- Do not build new campfire rings. There are plenty to be found in preexisting campfire rings out there. Share a ring with a neighbor. Or gather around the principle campfire ring at the shelters or established campsites. Who knows - you may develop friendships for life and save the woods from another scarred campfire ring.

- When you have a campfire, keep it small. Huge bonfires risk the vegetation, can cause a forest fire if they get out of hand, sterilize and damage the surrounding soil, and eat more of the wood in the area needed to replenish the soil. Huge fires also cast annoying light and smoke on other fellow hikers and campers who may want to sleep or who don't care to light a fire. Respect your neighbors.

- Some like campfire cooking. I'm not sure I like the idea of a blackened pot to stow away in my pack. I find a canister stove works very well. I've used a pocket rocket for 4,000 miles of hiking. But if it works for you, go for it.

- The flames of a fire can be entertaining but I've seen hikers use other methods. Like a candle lantern. I saw two hikers do it and were perfectly content.

If you choose a campfire, please be responsible so others can enjoy the beauty of our woods. And be sure to put out the fire completely. DO not leave it smoldering when you go to bed at night or leave in the AM.

With care and consideration campfires can be an enjoyable part of the hiking experience.    

Related Blogs:

Plan and Prepare for that Trip

Town Etiquette for Hikers

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

A Colorado Trail Adventure

Review: Shades of Gray, Splashes of Color - A Thru Hike of the Colorado Trail by Bill Cooke


I was eager to read this account as I had not yet read a thru hiking book on this famed 486 mile trail that spans the length of wild and beautiful Colorado, from north in the San Juan National Forest to Durango. To me, an easterner, the Rockies seem like wild mountains in need of special skills. I had visions of plowing through big snowfields and other major obstacles. But Bill Cooke’s book put to rest a good many fears.

It was great having some intro to the trail, mileage, facts, etc. to start off. Once the hike began, it grabbed my attention and held it throughout.  I liked it too that Bill was honest about how he felt (sometimes he wasn’t well either) and what gear he brought. He didn’t gloss it over but you felt as if you were on the journey, struggling with him, even as his partner obviously had better strength on the trip. But it didn’t bother Bill or get to him. He hiked along anyway and they had a good time despite their different hiking speeds. The account also gave good ideas on trip planning, like the summer thunderstorm issue and resupply points.

 I always like to read accounts of trail magic and trail angels, and they both had their share with folks giving them rides to town or helping out with slackpacking. This gives me assurance that there are people eager and ready to help out in more remote areas. But beyond that, the descriptions of sheer Colorado beauty is enough to send a hiker like me packing up my backpack and heading for the far reaches of the Rockies.

I was also eager to hear about the mountain bikers as I had heard conflicting reports on them. I liked it how Bill worked with the bikers on the trail and not against them. He made friends, and they found themselves equals, sharing the trail rather than getting on each other’s nerves. It made for a better experience.


On the downside, I only wish the map of the trail was bigger so I could see where they were at different places in the book (I’m visual that way). Also the pictures of the flowers in black and white didn’t do them any justice. Color photos would have been great, to be honest.

If you are thinking of doing this trail or just want a good read on a hiking adventure in the Rockies, be sure to pick up this book. It will make you believe you can do it!

More information on the Colorado Trail:









Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Flip Flops - or Going Against the Norm

On May 2nd and 3rd the Appalachian Trail Conservancy will be hosting what will be an annual event each year. A Flip Flop Hiker Kick-Off Festival in Harper's Ferry, WV. When I mention flipflop this is what people assume -




But in hiking circles, a flip flop actually refers to an alternate method of completing a long distance trail. That is - not going from end to end but rather hiking the trail by alternate starting and end points.

The trails are getting busier. Already there are rumors of over 3000 starting the Appalachian Trail down in Georgia this year. And that number will likely increase as Hollywood makes known the trial
I finished my southbound hike at Harper's Ferry. It was great.
in the media and word spreads. Thus it's important to get out the word about other ways to enjoy and accomplish the trail. Like a Flip Flop.

For most AT hikers, the flip flop normally consists of jumping off at Harper's Ferry, WV for the trip north. The hiker hikes to Katahdin, returns to Harper's Ferry and heads south during the fall season for a finish at Springer Mnt, usually round early November. A flip flop has the advantage of not only missing the huge masses of thru hikers flowing from GA but also the enjoyment of seeing the trail in good weather, usually without the snows, cold, and other issues. And great fall colors in the south if you end there.

Some other alternate ways for a flip flop hike are as follows (from the ATC website)

HEAD-START FROM HARPERS FERRY (RECOMMENDED BY ATC)

Harpers Ferry, W.Va., north to Katahdin; Harpers Ferry, W.Va., south to Springer Mountain.
Summary: For a two-part flip-flop, this version hits the sweet spot between crowds and loneliness. It begins with the easiest part of the entire A.T., reduces exposure to extremes of weather, and starts in one of the prettiest and easiest-to-get-to spots on the Trail.

Sample itinerary:
 Start in Harpers Ferry late April or first half of May, reach Katahdin second half of August; return to Harpers Ferry after Labor Day; finish at Springer Mountain the second half of November.
  • Start in easiest part of the Trail that very gradually gets more difficult.
  • Start in mild, pleasant weather.
  • Start amid spring wildflowers and walk north with spring.
  • Do not expect to keep pace right away with thru-hikers who started in Georgia.
  • Encounter rocky but mostly flat terrain in Pennsylvania 
  • Hike through the mid-Atlantic before it gets hot, humid and water sources become scarce.
  • If you start earlier than May, make sure you do not reach Vermont before mud season ends (Saturday of Memorial Day weekend). 
  • Reach the White Mountains in July, before the peak crowds; less competition for work-for-stay in huts
  • Reach Maine in August, when black flies are gone (but expect crowds the last hundred miles of Maine).
  • Plenty of time to reach Katahdin before it closes.
  • No advance reservations required for Baxter State Park  (eligible to use The Birches long-distance hiker's site)
  • Wait until after Labor Day to start southbound from Harpers Ferry to give the earliest southbounders time to catch up with you.
  • Walk south with fall colors on the second half of your hike.
  • Companionship with early northbounders the first half, then finish the Trail with early southbounders.
  • Be prepared for hunting season in the South.
  • Be prepared for cold weather and the possibility of snow starting at the end of October, especially in The Smokies.

HEAD-START FROM DAMASCUS, VIRGINA NORTH 

Damascus, Va., north to Katahdin; Damascus, Va., south to Springer Mountain. 

Summary:Allows you to start earlier than some options, but you can expect cold weather much of he first month, and a solitary hike on the final leg southbound from Damascus.

Recommended Itinerary: Start in Damascus mid-April, hike north to climb Katahdin mid-September; resume hiking south third week of September, finish on Springer Mountain beginning of November. 
  • Start ahead of biggest crowds of thru-hikers, but be assured of companionship from early hikers.
  • Be prepared for snow and frigid temperatures across the 5000-foot-plus Mt. Rogers highlands (a 26-mile high-elevation stretch that starts about 17 miles north of Damascus).
  • Be prepared for the possibility of below-freezing temperatures anytime in April since you'll be in higher mountains
  • Do not expect to keep up with the pace of thru-hikers who started in Georgia; allow yourself 3-6 weeks to get in optimal shape.
  • Start out in terrain of moderate difficulty.
  • Plenty of time to reach Katahdin before it closes.
  • Enjoy fall colors in the deep South, but expect no fellow travelers (you'll be ahead of the southbound thru-hikers) 

HEAD-START FROM NY/CT NORTH

Southern New England north to Katahdin; southern New England south to Springer Mountain.
Case study: “Scatman” started on the NY/CT line mid-June and hiked northbound, climbing Katahdin mid-August. He returned to starting point in NY and headed south with the southbound thru-hikers, finishing the end of November.
His comments: “I believe that beginning in Connecticut in early June was beneficial. By hiking southbound for most of the trip, we also avoided the crowded shelters and the 'spring break' atmosphere of the early part of a northbound hike. It also allowed me to 'follow autumn' for much of the southbound portion of my hike. We did experience some cold weather at higher elevations and some snow in the Smokies … Doing New England northbound also afforded me the opportunity to approach Katahdin head-on, one of the most exciting sights on the A.T.”

Transportation note: Public transportation is available weekends to the Appalachian Trail Stop in New York near the Connecticut border via the Metro North railroad line (between Pawling and Wingdale). More information is available on ATC' shuttle and public transportation list at www.appalachiantrail.org/transportation.

CLASSIC FLIP-FLOP

Springer Mountain north to Harpers Ferry, W.Va.; Katahdin south to Harpers Ferry.
Sample itinerary: Start at Springer Mountain second half of April and hike north, reaching Harpers Ferry, W.Va., middle of July; then flip to Katahdin. Hike south to Harpers Ferry and end first half of November.
  • Start at Springer Mountain, but without the crowds.
  • Minimal chance of snow or severe cold the entire hike.
  • Avoid heat in most of mid-Atlantic.
  • Reduced (but not eliminated) exposure to Lyme disease and tick-borne diseases.
  • Avoid crowds of other thru-hikers.
  • Advance campground reservations required at Baxter State Park (not eligible to uses The Birches Long-Distance Hikers site)
  • No worries about reaching Katahdin in Baxter before it closes.
  • Hike with late northbounders first half; hike with southbounders the second half and meet northbounders a second time.
  • Hike south with fall colors.


More Information on the Hiker Festival:
Appalachian Trail Conservancy Flip Flop Kick-Off Weekend