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Author Topic: AT - Flip Flop  (Read 7437 times)
Buckeye
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« on: December 22, 2011, 08:58:20 AM »

Folks,

Giving some serious thought to doing the AT next year or the year after, but instead of doing the standard NOBO routwe, or the less completed SOBO route, I would like to plan a flip flop.  This should allow me to start with some easier sections of the AT, giving me the chance to work into trail shape, while enjoying the better weather and avoiding things like black flies and snow.  Does anyone have any details or knowledge about a flip flop (where to start, which way to go first, etc.)?

Thanks,
Buckeye
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atwalker
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« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2011, 10:21:44 AM »

Buckeye,

I did the AT back in 99 as a Flip-flop and I loved it and will probably do it again that way sometime in the future.  I will give you the only 2 reasons that I felt were cons.  1. Not climbing Mount Katahdin as the final climax to a thru hike.  2. Not being able to share the experience with hikers that I had learned to love while hiking northbound. 

Now I will give you the reasons I loved it and would do it again the same way.   First of all like you already said it allows you plenty of time to get used to the trail, without having to be concerned about getting to Katahdin before October 12 or there abouts.   I would recommend starting in the south and going north, while taking your time and getting your trail legs.  The weather will be nearly perfect most of the time in the south and even though it may be a bit crowded the first week or two many will not make it more than 2 weeks. Once you get to Harpers Ferry you can take some time off at home, then flip up to Maine and head south.  If you wait until August the weather will be great and you will be going through New England when the fall leaves are beautiful.  Very little trail traffic heading south, until you meet the North bounders and it is great meeting old friends that you made while hiking northbound.  However, by this time in your hike there will not be many. The weather is nearly perfect as you go through the mid atlantic states and still you are not rushed to be completed at a certain date.  Hope this helps.  Ed 
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Captain Blue
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« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2011, 11:10:53 AM »

Most people flip-flop on the AT out of necessity. They start as northbound hikers in the spring in Georgia hoping to complete a south to north journey. Then for various reasons (got a late start, hiked too slowly, took too many zero days, all of the above) they realize they won't reach Katahdin by October 15. So to beat the winter weather they get off the trail at a designated spot, travel to Katahdin by car, bus or plane and begin a southbound hike. Then they hike back to the spot where they left the trail.

What you are thinking about doing is what is called an alternative thru hike. You can check the ATC web site for suggestion on alternative thru hikes here:

http://www.appalachiantrail.org/hiking/thru-section-hiking/when-where-to-start

Anywhere you start your AT hike will be hard. No matter where you start it takes a few weeks to get your trail legs, get your routine down and shed both body weight and pack weight.

Also - the correct name for that mountain at the northern terminus of the AT is Katahdin. For some reason people like to call it Mount Katahdin. Just like they say Caesar's Creek State Park. I am guilty of using both names.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2011, 10:54:10 AM by Captain Blue » Logged

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Buckeye
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« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2011, 04:29:02 PM »

Thanks for the info, gents, much appreciated.

Looking at the ATC's page on alternative hikes, looks like I could do one of several options.  The "head start" in May and the "Cool Breeze" options seem to offer the best weather choices and avoidance of mud and black flies in New England.  As for starting at Harper's Ferry and heading north, it appears that would be the "easiest" place to start and become acclimated to the trail.  I've done over 15 miles on a day hike in Maryland on the AT, so starting off with 10-12 mile days wouldn't be too far-fetched.  If I can climb Snowbird Mountain right out of the car in mid 90 degree (and humid) weather, I think I can do Maryland as my starting off point.  And I am not worried about the traditional NOBO to Katahdin route...it's my hike, I will do as I please, yes?  And avoiding most of the crowds actually appeals to me.  While I understand the social interaction that most hikers enjoy along the AT, I also really do enjoy hiking alone and could see doing my own thing.

The better half is telling me to quit my (frustrating) job and get this done!  I bought a southbound book last week and literally finished it in one day, and she noticed.  But I don't think she understands that doing one long trip just means I will yearn more for another one!   Wink

The BT would be "easier", at least from a physical aspect.  However, even with the recent thru-hikes on the BT, I am still more than leery of doing one myself where I did not know where I was sleeping each night in advance.  That is something I can plan on the AT.

Anyway, things to ponder, and I have plenty of time to do so.  Again, things for the info!
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« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2011, 06:58:31 PM »

If getting another job is no issue then go for it.  At some point you will have the feeling that time is running out.  In 1977 I stepped from a car and walked to the bottom of the grand canyon on a whim.

I've spent the decades since wishing I was free to hike further.  As retirement eligibility has passed and the finishing line keeps moving out thanks to insurance costs, I regret not ever doing what I want to do.

Go for it while you have the chance.
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Couscous
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2011, 01:50:26 PM »

For some reason people like to call it Mount Katahdin.

Possibly because that has been the official name per the USGS for 118 years.
"Mount Greatest Mountain" is redundant, but if you want a topo map of the area you get the USGS Mount Katahdin section.

The USGS may have been influenced by Thoreau's book "The Maine Woods" in 1864 where he called it Mount Ktaadn. "From this place, which is about one hundred miles by the river above Bangor, thirty miles from the Houlton military road, and five miles beyond the last log-hut, I proposed to make excursions to Mount Ktaadn, the second highest mountain in New England, about thirty miles distant, and to some of the lakes of the Penobscot, either alone or with such company as I might pick up there."

Back on topic .. Restless Legs did a Flip Flop in 2010. I maintained his webpage with almost daily notes - http://twchikers.com/mta/
He was off trail due to shin splints for several weeks, another week visiting family, so he flipped because he was running out of time.
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2011, 02:53:23 PM »

You guys are killing me.  You talk about hiking and I can't walk across the room.

I have however, thought about doing the AT in 12 months.  Doing half this summer and fall and finishing it next spring and summer.  I do need to get back on the BT and finish it.  You keep telling me that it is my hike, and I am starting to believe it.  I plan to get back on the BT in February as part of my physical therapy.  Then start more aggressive hiking in March and be finished with the hike in April.  I finished Bowerston and Stockport last April and May so I can jump over them for now.  If I can get the stupid loop finished in February with Eden Park I will have about 400 miles to catch as a hike in March and April.  "My" though hike is not as expected even with all of the help from you and other supporters.  Thanks to all.

Back to the topic!  If I can get on the AT this fall, I hear you saying the SOBO from Katahdin is the best is the fall???  Even if I cannot start my through hike, I will get out for some miles.
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« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2011, 09:56:46 PM »

Bruce:  go to whiteblaze.net and read the board on that subject.   I think May is sobo time.
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« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2011, 10:12:55 PM »

You may also like Trailplace.com to visit.  I am on both White Blaze and Trailplace and they are both very good sites to get information.  However, imho I think Trailplace is a little more friendly.   It was Wingfoot's old site but it is now under new mangagement.  Also imho the best AT guide book is available on Trailplace and the 2012 version should be available very soon.   

Another very good site if you wish to read various journals is Trailjournals.com.

Best of everything to everyone. 

Ed
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« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2011, 11:24:16 PM »

Depending on the snowfall, Baxter State Park can keep the trails closed until mid-June some years. Black fly season peaks in May and June. So July/August is probably the peak time for SOBO from Katahdin.
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Buckeye
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« Reply #10 on: December 29, 2011, 02:23:16 PM »

For some reason people like to call it Mount Katahdin.

Back on topic .. Restless Legs did a Flip Flop in 2010. I maintained his webpage with almost daily notes - http://twchikers.com/mta/
He was off trail due to shin splints for several weeks, another week visiting family, so he flipped because he was running out of time.

Ahhh, very cool!  Plenty of detail to plan my own flip flop or Cool Breeze!  Thanks for sharing, Couscous!

Buckeye
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Buckeye
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« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2011, 02:30:14 PM »

You guys are killing me.  You talk about hiking and I can't walk across the room.

Well, it IS a hiking forum!   Grin

I just finished a southbound thru-hike book (called originally enough "Southbound on the Appalachian Trail").  I believe the chap started in June, but seemingly he did some fairly aggressive miles, and, unlike every other thru-hike book I have read, really downplayed Maine and the Whites.  Must have been in great shape to start with.  Seemed to think the Whites were fairly easy.  I hate him.   Smiley

From what I am gathering, hiking north from Harper's Ferry allows one to get their trail legs going fairly well, allows some interaction with NOBOs, and then allows interection with SOBOs on the flop.  Avoids the herd around Springer in spring, hike north with spring in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states, avoids the black flies, more stable weather in the Whites, water seems to be not a huge issue, and hits fall in the south.  Sounds like a plan!

Buckeye
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Buckeye
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« Reply #12 on: December 29, 2011, 02:32:56 PM »

It was Wingfoot's old site but it is now under new mangagement.  Also imho the best AT guide book is available on Trailplace and the 2012 version should be available very soon.   

Ed
AWOL does the old Wingfoot guides now, yes?  Does he also manage the trailplace.com site?

Buckeye
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atwalker
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« Reply #13 on: December 29, 2011, 04:20:49 PM »

Buckeye,

No, AWOL does not maintain the website even though his guide book is available there.  It is actually maintained by 7Sisters, who is also very knowledgeable about backpacking and hiking the AT and other trails.  I think he has completed the AT as a section hiker as well as several other trails. 

I bought a guide from AWOL last summer and it is a little different than what Wingfoot used to author.  One advantage I really liked was a profile map on each page of the guide for that page and mileage.  I don't think it has as many foot notes and other interesting facts as the Wingfoot's guide, but does have all the facts needed for hiking the AT including maps and info concerning the trail towns.

I would suggest to get a copy before the start hiking the AT, if you do not have one already.   


Happy Trails,

Ed
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It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end. -- Ursula K. LeGuin
Buckeye
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« Reply #14 on: December 29, 2011, 08:47:41 PM »

I would suggest to get a copy before the start hiking the AT, if you do not have one already.   


Happy Trails,

Ed
I've got it.  Had it for about a year now...guess I need to get the latest one!   Grin

I made copies of the few pages I needed for my I-40 to Hot Springs trip.  Worked very well.  I too, like the elevation profiles. 

Buckeye
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