So when are you planning to be on a 5-month hiking journey?! That’s probably the single biggest question I am asked when I talk about my dream to hike the AT. The short answer is either this Spring or the year after. The longer answer is … hopefully starting in March 2018, assuming we can solve a few more logistical and financial requirements in time, otherwise for sure in March 2019.
March is the most common month to start a Northbound (NOBO) thru-hike of the AT in order to avoid the cold temps at the start and finish (and ensure you reach Katahdin before the trail shuts down in October). Some hikers appreciate the solitude and challenge of winter camping, but that is not one of my motivations. To me March remains ideal for a few reasons:
- No desire to carry weight for extra warm clothes and gear
- No mental strain of getting out of bed in freezing temperatures
- More sunlight on the trail for maximized hiking time
- Proximity to trail festivals along the way (e.g. Damascus Trail Days)
However, since this is the most popular time, it can make for a congested trail and very crowded shelters/hostels. The above graph shows that of the 1700 hikers who registered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in 2017, more than half started in March. The ATC collects this data voluntarily, so may not be 100% accurate, but it certainly supports the theory. The good news is that I do not anticipate this being a problem for 3 reasons:
- I am extremely extroverted and look forward to sharing adventures with new friends on the trail
- I am primarily hammock camping, so will rarely sleep in a shelter
- I have a Hike Plan to anticipate and reserve town rooms in advance
I will explain why 2017-18 specifically represents the best time in my life to hike a long-distance trail for 4-6 months in a future blog post. Stay tuned for more Hello Neiman!