When(ish) do Appalachian Trail walkers pass through New Jersey?
April 24, 2005 10:01 AM   Subscribe

When(ish) do Appalachian Trail walkers pass through New Jersey?

Being a novice hiker myself, and having heard of the concept of "Trail Magic", I'd like to dayhike on the NJ portion of the AT at some point, timing it to be able to give out sandwiches, sodas, to thru-hikers I meet, in exchange for a few minutes of conversation about their experiences thus far.

It seems people leave Georgia mind-March to mid-April, and reach Maine Septemberish(?), but I'm having trouble finding non-contradictory info on when the average NJ pass through time is.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: *mid*-March
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:05 AM on April 24, 2005

I hit NJ in early August, but I was at the tail end of things that year. I expect you'd find the first big clump coming through in mid-June, and the bulk of people coming through in mid-July.

Sandwiches with meat, fresh veggies, and mayo (which can't be carried, of course) are really appreciated. A lot of folks love a cold beer. If it's hot (like, over 90 or so) and the section of trail has a paucity of water, or decent water, cold water is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Things that aren't even accessible in the little stores in trail towns are best. I once hauled a watermelon that was mystically for sale in a little gas station in SW Virginia to slice up and share with my fellow thru-hikers. I was a right popular guy for a week or so. For more enterprising folks, you could have some carrots, celery, cukes, etc. -- I'd love to have gotten a carrot to slice up and add to my soup on any particular night.

Oh, and if you had some Coleman fuel to share, that'd be cool, too.

That's all I can think of at the moment. It's been 9 years. :)
posted by waldo at 10:33 AM on April 24, 2005

The above sounds about right on. I second the motion for cold beer - the best beer I ever had was a budweiser on the AT at the end of a 20 or so mile day. Ice cream's also nice - a buddy and I once roadhiked 4 miles outta the way for some ice cream.

You might also contact that Appalachian Trail Conference for real time data on when the bulk of the thru hikers are coming through. At the very least, they'll know when a bunch of folks hit Harper's Ferry, you can probably gauge from there.

You're awesome for spreading the trail magic.
posted by jimray at 10:48 AM on April 24, 2005

I just finished reading A Walk in The Woods detailing Bill Bryson's experiences hiking parts of the AT. My understanding is that people hike at widely differing speeds, usually making somewhere between 10-20 miles per average day. From a few of the journals I've looked at [I didn't know about trail magic before, what a neat thing!] it looks like if you're averaging 13 miles a day, you're in New Jersey ths second two weeks of June, less and you're there in late June, early-July, more and you're there early-June. Check out this map to see if maybe you could get some early warning of hikers from further South on the trail if you can be a little spontaneous about things.
posted by jessamyn at 10:50 AM on April 24, 2005

Ice cream's also nice - a buddy and I once roadhiked 4 miles outta the way for some ice cream.

Until the Pine Grove Furnace halfway half-gallon. Then nobody wants to touch the stuff for a month. :)
posted by waldo at 10:59 AM on April 24, 2005

I came through NJ in late June on my 1980 through hike, if memory serves. I was ahead of most of the pack though, so maybe more like early July.

It was a hot June, and I remember that in one trail register I wrote "Of all the cold beers you ever drank, why didn't you save just one for right now?" Apparently the hikers behind me thought I deserved bodily violence for that. Freeze a sixer of cans and wrap it in your sleeping bag. Other treats include anything fresh/crunchy (through-hikers in town descend on salad bars like locusts), quality chocolate (melts in the backpack), eggs, boot grease and good, flat boot laces, and newspapers and magazines.

Oh, and a ride into town, and maybe back, is like gold. Especially if there is a place to shower.
posted by LarryC at 11:06 AM on April 24, 2005

Response by poster: Ooh, I didn't even think to ask what would be best to bring. :-)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 12:16 PM on April 24, 2005

My buddy started last summer in Maine, early June, and walked south to escape winter. He made it to Georgia in November. From what I gather he 1) started kind of early, as the trail in Maine was very desolate and the streams were overflowing from melting snow 2) walked at an average speed for most of the trip, but sped up towards the end, 3) liked to make fun of "speed walkers," people who were doing the trail in like three months nearly naked from stripping all "unnecessary" weight.
posted by trinarian at 1:10 PM on April 24, 2005

Southbounders are a strange and unusual breed. My next thru-hike will be southbound, I decided some years ago. I wonder if I'll be a grizzled old tough dude by the time I climb Springer some November.
posted by waldo at 1:38 PM on April 24, 2005

What causes 80% of people to fail? Do they run out of summer or hurt themselves, or is it more like "I'm tired of this shit, I'm getting on the bus home." ?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 8:10 PM on April 24, 2005

Yeah, the drop-out rate is incredible, most of it happening in the first 100 miles. It looked to me like the people who failed didn't have a lot of experience hiking. They were discontented with their lives for various reasons, read a book hiking the Appalachian Trail, and made a rash decision.

Hiking the trail is NOT that great a physical challenge. If you stick it out, walk every day as far as you can, and don't go home, after a month you will be good enough shape to go the distance. The challenge is psychological. It is a lonely business, and if you try and do it with a partner, the two of you will be at one another's throats before you get to Virginia.

I was really well prepared. I had done a month-long through hike of the Long Trail three summers before I set out. I spent the two summer in between working as a caretaker along the Vermont portion of the trail, and I interviewed every through hiker who I could bribe into slowing down with a handful of M&Ms. I had the right gear and realistic expectations. But there were weeks at a time, mostly in Virginia, where I was sick to death of it, lonesome and bored, and actively daydreamed about how great it would be if I broke my leg, because then I could go home without being a quitter. Around 2000 of us started the trail that summer, just over 100 of us finished.

One more thing about through hikers. After some time around them, you can recognize one instantly and without exception. In Vermont I would watch hikers walking up to my pond and ID the through hikers instantly, even from people who had been hiking for several weeks. My third day on the AT I saw a hiker coming the other way and thought--through hiker for sure, but why is he going the wrong way? Turns out he was finishing a southbound hike through mid-winter. Last summer I was stopped at a rest area on the Skyline Drive. On the way to the loo I was walking past a picnic table of hikers and stopped dead. "When did you leave Springer?" I asked, and sure enough.
posted by LarryC at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2005

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