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Bear
2007-06-24, 17:51
My son is planning a thru hike on the AT after graduating from college next year. I am carrying over some vacation so I can join him for as long as I can before I have to return to work. We are going to do a north to south route so it will be less crowded plus time constrains since we wonít be able to start until June 1st.
These are my questions:
I have read that the trail in Maine wonít open until at least June 1st and maybe later than that due to weather and trail conditions. Should we wait until the middle or late June to start as opposed to getting there and possibly wasting a week or two in wait?

Are there fire pits along the trail and at shelters and if so how available is fire wood without the use of a small ax? We have a backpacking ax but if we donít need it I sure donít want the weight.

Amigi
2007-06-24, 20:02
I cant answer for that far north, my AT exp lies in the NJ to Virginia, and Georgia areas.
Some shelters have firepits, some dont. In NJ, you cant have any fires at all anywhere. But really, you're gonna be hiking in the warmer climes anyway, and the last thing you are gonna wanna do at night is chop frigging wood. There is plenty of wood lying around if you know where to look, but by the time you get to Virginia, you'll be meeting a lot of Nobo's, and then past that, all the fire wood that would be readily available will be used up by the ppl who started in Mar-Apr in GE. Scrap the axe, and the idea of sitting by a campfire telling stories at the shelters. It just doesnt happen much once it warms.
If you want, carry one of those folding saws. Home Depot sells a nice one made by Fiskars.
Do you two have a lot of LD hiking experience? Most SOBO's are previous NOBO's who are familiar with trail life. By starting in Maine, your gonna be introduced to the 100 mile wilderness pretty quick. If your mileage isnt up to say 15 miles per, your gonna spend an awful long time carrying a 50 lb pack with 7-12 days of food in it.
Weird Amigi side note, did you know Fiskars is the oldest continuously operated company in the world? Yup, they started out making swords, nails and farm tools in the 1649. They were actually a Dutch company, but did bidness near Helsinki.

Geo.
2007-06-24, 20:17
Hello Bear,
I don't know much about the AT and no doubt someone will come along with the knowledge. But re' the firewood, I would think that with the AT being such a popular trail, finding firewood could be quite a problem in some if not all areas. For cooking I'd be hauling a stove and not having to rely on firewood. Even if there is firewood around in places, you may be tired/wet at the end of a day and hunting around for suitable wood could be a pain. I've noted some comments elsewhere, that new saplings are getting dealt to in the quest for firewood in some spots, and I guess that's not too good.
I think I'd be dropping the axe and replacing the weight with a bit of stove fuel.
Just my opinion. ;)
Be interested in comments from those familiar with the trail.

deadeye
2007-06-24, 20:40
General rule all along the AT: use a stove. Although there are plenty of shelters with firepits, and fires are legal in many places, many of those places have been stripped bare of anything burnable. You can often tell when you're approaching those shelters - no undergrowth, no forest litter, no sticks on the ground, no branches on the trees below 8'. Moral of the story, enjoy a (legal) campfire on occassion, but rely on the stove for cooking.

Second moral of the story: you'll need to build a nice, smoky fire to help keep the bugs away if you're starting in Maine in June.

Ditch the axe and saw - most places where it's legal to burn, it's only legal to burn dead and downed wood. Use the weight you save for bug dope.

JAK
2007-06-24, 20:59
In New Brunswick when I hike in low traffic areas I use a Kelly Kettle or a small hobbo stove. For that I do not need a hatchet. Scraps of birch bark and small dead branches of the bottom of Spruce Trees are always in generous supply where I hike. I sometimes carry a small hatchet in winter for if I need a serious drying fire, or wish to practice some bushcraft. Within Fundy National Park they provide firewood by the cord for campfires. I might need a small hatchet or knife to whittle them down to size for my Kelly Kettle, but as they seem to be insisting that I do so, I have a real campfire when inside the park, in the firepits provided. If I ever do the AT I will likely do it with an alcohol stove as I expect it would be what I call high traffic.

If and when I do the AT however, I will likely start from up here and finish down there, because this is where I am from. I seem to do the Fundy Footpath in the away from home direction also. There and back trips are nice also, but for the AT that would be a bit much. I think I would do it whatever time of year I had the time available. Off season. Less people. But it's all good. For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose...

Bear
2007-06-25, 21:22
Thanks guys, that is pretty much what I figured about the ax, just need to convince my son it would be wasted weight. We have alcohol stoves for cooking and were looking at the wood thing for an evening camp fire. It is something we both enjoy very much. Nothing better than sitting around a nice camp fire and having those deep father son discussions. Well, a good drink to wash it all down would top it off but I am not carrying that weight either.:beer:

Amigi,
I know weíll be starting off in some rough country and we have only been able to do 3 day trips so far but we prepare for them well in advance. When preparing for a 3 day trip, I prepare at least 2 months in advance by going to the high school stadium and go around the track and up and down the stairs. I do this about 4 to 5 times a week. There are 8 rows with 33 steps. I build up until I can go up 100 rows without stopping then a few miles around the track. I also do some of this, just not so many rows, on a regular basis to stay in shape and keep the weight down. We also have a weight machine at work, believe it or not, and I am able to spend about 30 minutes a day 4 days a week on it. My son also works out regularly and prepares for our trips in much the same way.