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Apalachian trail anyone?

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Has any Scout troops out there done the Appalachian trail or could you give some insights into such a trip?

 

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Oh boy. My troop did a lot of hiking on the Appalachian Trail, but that was more than 40 years ago and my memory of the logistics is a little hazy. :)

 

My son's troop (including me) has done some camping in northwestern New Jersey where we go onto the Appalachian Trail for short stretches, but the troop has never done an actual backpacking trip. I have suggested it, and we're practically right there (less than an hour away), but they haven't done it.

 

I am sure there are those on the forum whose experiences are slightly more recent, and more extensive.

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Has any Scout troops out there done the Appalachian trail or could you give some insights into such a trip?

A handful of Scouts in our troop took a trip two years ago.  A group is currently planning another trip this month. What questions do you have? I can get info from them and pass it along.

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We frequently do segment hikes and backpacks. Many are short enough to do in one day. A couple of segments can be a great overnight. It depends a lot on where you are. If you're in the extreme northern end, it can get pretty rough. The Nantahalas can be a challenge for some boys as well. Where are you located?

 

Our plan usually includes at least two vehicles, one for the troop and one for the shuttle. This means more than two leaders or else someone has to meet us at the takeout to drive back to the start. You can figure this out the best way that works for your group. The rest is just basic backpacking. Don't plan to use the shelters in the summer as they can get really crowded and in some places you should set up camp in designated areas. In some areas you can go off trail and camp most anywhere in national forest. Other places there's no camping, no campfires. Do your homework before you leave for the trail.

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"Don't plan to use the shelters in the summer as they can get really crowded and in some places you should set up camp in designated areas. In some areas you can go off trail and camp most anywhere in national forest. Other places there's no camping, no campfires. Do your homework before you leave for the trail."

 

This!   We failed to research the prices in Harper's Ferry, and the PLC's plan to "eat out" as a break from our own cooking was a flop.  Prices were too high for the budget.  (Still, we were able to buy some bacon (bit of a side hike) to enliven the rations.)

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Some good advice here, I would add this:

  • Pick your segments and resupply points carefully. As @@vumbi said, picking your segments wisely is important. Water and food re-supply are key. There are some "trail angels" -- folks that supply hikers in a trading post fashion -- on various segments.
  • Have someone waiting on your hiking grid in case you need some extracted and taken home for non-emergencies.
  • Have a plan for emergency situations. Where will you get help? How will you contact emergency personnel?
  • Make sure you have 1-2 people trained in wilderness first aid. This is required by BSA for anything considered in the "back country".
  • Consider renting or buying a personal locator beacon. Have a weather radio too.
  • Have gear and endurance shakedowns before you go. Nothing stink more than troubles that could have been avoided on the trail.
  • Make sure EVERYONE knows how to use a map and compass. Make sure EVERYONE has their ten essentials on them at all times. Most search and rescue problems start because someone wandered off without following procedure or having the right gear.
  • Train everyone on Outdoor Ethics Awareness. Packing out trash, properly managing human waste and such are really important on the trail.
  • I would avoid the shelters. Most campers are not as good about food and waste management as Scouts should be. Those things are breeding grounds for rats, mice and vending machines for other critters.
  • @@TAHAWK is right about certain locations, including Harper's Ferry. It is expensive to eat there unless you live in the DC area and are used to their inflated prices. I would DEFINITELY visit Harper's Ferry, but I would make my own breakfast and eat it on top of Maryland Heights. Breakfast for sunrise or dinner at sunset, your boys will remember that view the rest of their lives...I know I still do.
Edited by Krampus
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Staying in Shelters.  In many areas along the trail there is area to pitch a camp so you need to plan on staying in the shelter area.  Shelters vary in capacity from 6-12 people.  Required to sleep in the shelters in the Smokies and must have a permit.   I would recommend keeping the group size to under 12 total.  Just not a lot of space to set up large camps. 

 

Cell service is pretty good meaning at least 80% of the time you can get a signal.  But don't rely on having cell service. 

 

Tough to get lost on the trail.  The white blazes are frequent enough.  The trail itself is well worn in most places.  Occasionally there are little side trails but really just go 50 ft to a scenic overlook or rocks to climb on.  

 

The larger problem is water.  How much to carry and how frequently can you refill.  Many trail maps show water locations.  Just need to carry purification methods and gather water during the day.   Some water sites are just little dribbles from the side of a rock up to running creeks.  Refill everytime you find water and no problem.  Carry at least 1 litter per hiker. 

 

There are many many many books about the AT.   Lots of trails stories but also lots of how to books.

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Our Troop does an annual summer trip, typically 5-6 days and 50-60 miles. I did a week around Roan Mountain...beautiful. My sons have done 4 trips each. Train, train, train. Our boys must train 30-50 miles for eligibility so we have an idea that they are physically and emotionally ready.  Hardest on the old pudgy backpackers like me. For boys biggest problem was carrying enough calories--we make them submit a food plan with calories, nutritional info, and carried weight for review by older more experienced scouts who have a couple trips under the belt. We try to keep the parties down to 6-8 boys + 2 adults. If we have a large group and enough adults we split up into a small enough group and 'fast hikers' vs 'slow hikers'. Keep the weight down and do at least one shakedown backpacking weekend with the equipment and boots the boys plan to take. Limit electronics in spite of withdrawal.

 

When possible we have our two crews work opposite directions (Team A goes North to South, Team B South to North) with our trailer parked in the middle as a resupply point so we don't have to carry 6 days of meals and give a chance to dump off unwanted gear. On the last day out instead of the last day home we try to stay overnight at a proper Hiker Hostel for a little R&R and some gorging.

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Well we are from Kansas and nobody here as far as I know has done the A.T. I just thought it would be a great high adventure trip.

 

Thing is from what your saying is its best to have people along who have already done it. For example this thing with the shelters. Plus I hear the AT can be pretty crowded at times and have quite a party culture.

 

Maybe we should try something else.

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Well we are from Kansas and nobody here as far as I know has done the A.T. I just thought it would be a great high adventure trip.

 

Thing is from what your saying is its best to have people along who have already done it. For example this thing with the shelters. Plus I hear the AT can be pretty crowded at times and have quite a party culture.

 

Maybe we should try something else.

 

Dear Fellow Flatlander ( ;)

 

Train, train, train before you go. Don't think that you can do 10 miles a day unless you've trained on similar terrain. It just won't happen. Take it easy and relax and enjoy. If you have to do 30 miles instead of 50, so be it.

 

If you've never been, get a guide or at least take time to know your route.

 

There are sections of the AT that are like US 95. There are others that are not. Last time I checked, NC was perhaps lesser traveled than those routes in the northeast.

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For those who prefer a flatter hike, we have the Ice Age Trail (1,000 miles in Wisconsin) and the North Country Trail (4,000 miles from Eastern New York to Central North Dakota)  Just a nice flatlander option so one doesn't need to worry about altitude adjustments.

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Kansas.  Hmmm.  Hills will be a problem; different muscles, different blisters, different speeds.  

Pop quiz: Is it easier to hike uphill or downhill?

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Kansas.  Hmmm.  Hills will be a problem; different muscles, different blisters, different speeds.  

Pop quiz: Is it easier to hike uphill or downhill?

With or without hiking poles?  

 

For me, the poles have the greatest impact braking on downhill portions - lessens loads on my ancient knees.

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