Sunday, May 10, 2015

Get to know the GET at the AT Biennial

For hikers planning to attend the 2015 Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference this July, consider taking some time to meet the GET.

The following hikes are on the Great Eastern Trail:

  • Hike #9, Basore's Ridge
  • Hike #17, Big Schloss GWNF
  • Hike #19, Paw Paw Tunnel C&O CNHP
  • Hike #25, Devils Nose SCWMA SPHP
  • Hike #29, Shockeys Knob SCWMA
  • Hike #37, Big Schloss and Tibbet Knob GWNF
The following presentations may be of interest:
  • W1944 - Great Eastern Trail (that's with me)
  • W2067 - Tuscarora Trail
Hope to see many of you there!  Early registration ends on May 31!

Tibbet Knob

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What is the GET season?

One question I get asked a lot by prospective GET thru-hikers is, "What time of the year should I start a GET thru-hike?"

My answer: Great question.

There are dozens of considerations when choosing between a northbound and southbound hike, but the biggest consideration of all, the weather window, is still untested.

Bart and I began the hike on January 10th, 2013. We had no idea how lucky we were.  We had three or four snowstorms for a couple weeks total of snow-hiking.  We had only five days of what I would consider dangerous weather conditions.  We also had five zero days (at least) due to snow/dangerous conditions.  All in all, that wasn't too bad -- but only because 2013's winter wasn't like 2015's.  If 2013's winter had been like 2015's, I don't think we would have made it.  Despite our dedication, I really think we would have had to bail.

Stuart and Taylor started February 1, 2014 and still ran into rough conditions - Kentucky in particular.  Kentucky seems to be the Smokies of the GET - with high elevations and being relatively far north, you can't hit Kentucky too early or it will be miserable.  (Will this assessment hold true, or was it just the four of us who ran into extreme weather in Kentucky?  Time will tell.)  Their start date was way smarter than ours, but still might be too early for most hikers.

The danger of waiting too long to start a northbound hike is that you're in the south for a longer time than, for example, on the AT, so it might become hard to out-hike the heat and stay in spring.

I was not amused with 102 degrees.
Mainly because it wasn't using Celsius.
There has been no southbound attempt so far, but this should be the year.  It will be interesting to see how the weather is!

When Bart and I hiked the western route of the GET (PA - MD) in June-July 2014, it was ridiculously hot, so an early summer southbound attempt is not for those skittish of heat.

I'd recommend a fall southbound attempt.  Assuming a four-month thruhike (your mileage may vary), it likely means an August start.  August in New York and Pennsylvania might be pretty hot.  So what's the magic date?  What date strikes a good balance?

Great question.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Map maildrops

There are far too many pounds of GET maps for thruhikers to carry all of them at once, so a few maildrops will be necessary.

Here are some post offices that might be good bets if you are just interested in sending yourself maps.  (If you are resupplying via post, you'll need to figure out more maildrops.)

Because many of these post offices are in small towns, they might be closed by now or have limited hours.  Most of this is from my memory, which may not be correct.  Don't trust me.  This list is just a starting point for your own research. :)

Cave Spring, GA: Very friendly post office, on route into town.

Chattanooga, TN: Be careful.  There are multiple post offices.  I'm not sure where general delivery packages go and it might be far out of your way.  

Wartburg, TN: The route into (or out of, for sobos) runs by or near the post office.

Cumberland Gap, TN: This is an ideal place to pick up Kentucky (nobo) or Tennessee (sobo) maps.   You might call The Cumberland Gap Inn and plead your case and send it there.  Plan to stay overnight or offer to pay for the service if you do get permission to use them as a maildrop.

Harlan, KY: The post office is not far off the route, but is 2 miles from the motel where most hikers are likely to stay.  (Harlan almost demands a night in a motel due to its location along an urban roadwalk - no stealth camping is possible.) Sobos can pick up their package on the way in, nobos will have to get it as they leave town.  Hikers might consider calling Mount Aire Motel and asking if they will hold a package.  Same etiquette protocol as Cumberland Gap, though you'd likely only need one or the other as they are relatively close.

Elkhorn City, KY: The post office is close to the route (and near a dollar store).  Would be a good idea to pick up West Virginia maps here if nobo.

Pineville, WV: The post office is just a couple of blocks off-trail.

Mullens, WV: The post office is on the route through town and is always decorated.

Hinton, WV: Whatever you do, don't mail a package here.  The post office is very far from the trail.

Narrows, VA: Post office is near the trail route.

White Sulphur Springs, WV: Post office is near the trail route.

Bergton, VA: The grocery/grill is also a post office.  Pretty tiny, not sure if they'd be down with holding a package or not. Definitely call ahead.  About 3/4 mile off-trail, but you might end up going there anyway because, you know, food.

Gore, VA: Post office on the trail route.  The little store has also held packages in the past, but you would have to call ahead and okay it.

Hancock, MD: The post office is several blocks from the trail, but the local hostel has accepted mail drops for me twice.  Contact the C&O Bike shop/hostel to get permission ahead of time. 

Everett, PA (west route): Easily-accessible post office.

Williamsburg, PA (west route): Pretty sure we walked right past the post office on our way out of town (sobo).

Three Springs, PA (east route): Post office close to route.

Woolrich, PA: Post office on route.  From here, it's probably not worth it to schedule a maildrop farther north.  The New York maps are so minimal.

Again, I want to stress that these are post offices I remember, some from over two years ago. I have no idea if they're all still open or if they're where I remember them.
AT boxes.  But the GET's were similar.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

GETA meeting

It was a productive Great Eastern Trail Association board meeting at Woodmont in Maryland last weekend.  GETA meets in person once per year (although many GET supporters end up visiting at other hiker gatherings during the year).  It was my fourth year in attendance.

 The lodge was gorgeous and had more bizarre taxidermy than I'd ever seen before. Many important people (besides GETA) have stayed at Woodmont.  We got to see a chair that six presidents sat in.  I was more interested in the views!
view from Woodmont
Of course no board meeting would be complete without making a break for it at the end of the day.  Woodmont is located just above the Great Eastern Trail's western route.
Hiking down to visit...

...the western route of the GET!