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SNP planning help please.

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    • SNP planning help please.

      It looks like I'll be doing a short section in SNP in mid June. The plan is to drive down to VA near the north end of the park with my wife and her sister on day one. On the morning of day two they will drop me off at a trail head and I hike south for three days while the hang out at Big Meadows Lodge (they are not hikers). My daughter from NC will drive up to join them. I need to arrive at Big Meadows by the evening of day 4, spend the night at the lodge, and we all drive home the next morning. I dont think we will make it as far as Front Royal on day one (650 miles) so we will probably have to drive an hour or two on the morning of day two to get to a trail head. I could start at the 4H pool (closest trail head to the north border) or save myself that first climb an start at Compton Gap (first trail head on Skyline Drive in the park). Which would you do? How would you break this up (Good camp sites or shelters) to get to BM in three days? Will SNP be swarming with NOBO in mid June? I've been to SNP several times and stayed at BM once and backpacked to Old Rag 35 years ago but never hike the AT through the park. Any tips are appreciated.
    • I don't know what kind of mileage you usually do but from Compton Gap to Big Meadows Lodge is 41.1 miles, so you need to do about 10 miles a day. Going south from Compton Gap, Gravel Spring Hut is 9.6 miles. From there it is 13.1 miles to the Pass Mountain Hut. From there it is 4.4 miles to Byrd's Nest #3 Hut or 15.3 to Rock Spring Hut. From Rock Spring Hut it is only about 3.5 miles to the lodge at Big Meadows. There really aren't any camping spots between Skyland and Rock Spring Hut. I do remember seeing a spot or two between Elkwallow and Pass Mountain Hut and some between Pass Mtn and Skyland.
      There is a store at Elkwallow. There will be plenty of thru hikers in the park in June, but it will not be mobs, usually what I see is small groups of 2s, 3s and 4s. I was in the park today and saw 2 early thrus.
      I hope this helps.
      "Dazed and Confused"
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    • Actually I only have 3 days. My data book says 39.7 miles from Compton Gap to BM or 13.2 mpd. Unfortunately, I haven't backpacked enough to get a good feel for how many mpd is typical for me. I did 17 miles on a weekend trip last fall (felt good that day), but that was an easy trail following a river. Last summer I did 42 miles in 4 days (Pictured Rocks). That was pretty easy - was hiking with a slow partner so I spent much of my day waiting for him. Two years ago I did 12 mpd for 4 days on the AT in VA (NOBO ending at the Dragon's Tooth). That was tough, but there was a lot of big climbs in that section and I was carrying too much food and water. I'm optimistic I could do 13 mpd in SNP. In mid June I'll have long days and won't have to carry cold weather clothes (I don't think) or much food. If I divide it up in three parts I would need to camp near Range View Cabin the first night (12.7 mi). Any reasonably legal camping near there? The second night could be at Byrd Nest Hut (12.6 mi), leaving 14.4 mi for the last day. If I couldn't make it to Range View Cabin the first night, there doesn't seem to be a lot of options short of there. Can one camp on the saddle between the Hogback Peaks? Of course with a driver waiting at BM, I always have the option of bailing early if necessary. How's the cell phone reception up there?
    • cell phone service is non existent in that area. Near big meadows you will a little service. Once you get north of Loft mountain there is no service except just south of big meadows. I am sure there is possible camping outside that cabin.
      "Dazed and Confused"
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    • TrafficJam wrote:

      My map says the Byrd Nest huts are day use only (?)
      Bird's Nest # 3 is definitely a hikers's shelter. OMO your biggest climb will be up out of Thorton Gap past Mary's Rock ( take the side trail if you have time, great view) to Bird's Nest #3. I have not walked the trail in the park north of Elkwallow. There are camp sites along the trail every mile or so from Elkwallow until you get to Skyland. Then I remember there being nothing until right before Rock Spring Hut. From Rock Sprink Hut it is an easy walk to Big Meadows with a climb right before the campground. Big Meadows is a huge campground, It is a mile as the crow flies from the back of the campground to the wayside at the front. The lodge is near the back near Black Rock. My guides don't list any unofficial campsites between Compton and BM. If you're not sure about your mileage get dropped off at say Elkwallow.
      "Dazed and Confused"
      Recycle, re-use, re-purpose
      Plant a tree
      Take a kid hiking
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    • I was in pretty good hiking shape going through SNP and did some of my best mileage ever in that park.

      Started at Rte. 522, first night at Gravel Springs Hut. I could have gone a bit further but decided to stay. There was a loud snorer in the shelter and I ended up sleeping in front of the shelter.
      The next day I walked to Thornton Gap and a bit beyond, stayed at a "secret" spot up on Mary's Rock.
      Day three took me to Big Meadows. I soon realized that it's not really a campground for hikers, but for RVs and such. I lucked out when a friendly couple took pity on me and let me set up my tent on their campsite. They even fed me a great breakfast the next morning. I got their names and addresses and sent them a thank-you card after the hike was done.
    • jimmyjam wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      My map says the Byrd Nest huts are day use only (?)
      Bird's Nest # 3 is definitely a hikers's shelter. OMO your biggest climb will be up out of Thorton Gap past Mary's Rock ( take the side trail if you have time, great view) to Bird's Nest #3. I have not walked the trail in the park north of Elkwallow. There are camp sites along the trail every mile or so from Elkwallow until you get to Skyland. Then I remember there being nothing until right before Rock Spring Hut. From Rock Sprink Hut it is an easy walk to Big Meadows with a climb right before the campground. Big Meadows is a huge campground, It is a mile as the crow flies from the back of the campground to the wayside at the front. The lodge is near the back near Black Rock. My guides don't list any unofficial campsites between Compton and BM. If you're not sure about your mileage get dropped off at say Elkwallow.
      true I could start further up the road, but I don't want to sell myself short either. Is there a guide that lists unofficial camp sites?
    • My take on SNP, from my hike in '07 and last week's drive through (and short day hike) is that there are camping opportunities almost everywhere. Sort of the opposite of the White Mtns. where camping ops are few and far between. SNP is mostly hardwood forest and not as dense or full of scrub as we get up in NH and ME. You'll need to carry water to your camp. I don't recall any perfect campsites near flowing streams.
    • re unofficial sites: even though the snp requires a permit, you can camp anywhere that isn't posted "no camping" and you stay within the regulations, i.e., no camping XXX feet by water, XXX feet from a structure, XXX feet from a road, etc. and yes, no camping near the "day use" huts. and when you leave such a site you are required to have followed LNT. all these regs should be spelled out in the various guides.

      the northern half of the snp was the only place ticks attached themselves to my body. do that evening check.

      not having been in the snp since my thru i'm not qualified to offer any other info.

      my most vivid memory of the snp was the 2 cute european 20 something girls having a picnic in one of the meadows. topless. about 5 feet off the trail. :)
      2,000 miler
    • odd man out wrote:

      jimmyjam wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      My map says the Byrd Nest huts are day use only (?)
      Bird's Nest # 3 is definitely a hikers's shelter. OMO your biggest climb will be up out of Thorton Gap past Mary's Rock ( take the side trail if you have time, great view) to Bird's Nest #3. I have not walked the trail in the park north of Elkwallow. There are camp sites along the trail every mile or so from Elkwallow until you get to Skyland. Then I remember there being nothing until right before Rock Spring Hut. From Rock Sprink Hut it is an easy walk to Big Meadows with a climb right before the campground. Big Meadows is a huge campground, It is a mile as the crow flies from the back of the campground to the wayside at the front. The lodge is near the back near Black Rock. My guides don't list any unofficial campsites between Compton and BM. If you're not sure about your mileage get dropped off at say Elkwallow.
      true I could start further up the road, but I don't want to sell myself short either. Is there a guide that lists unofficial camp sites?
      Neither guide lists any camp sites other than at shelters for that area. But like I said earlier, I remember there being spots every where except between Skyland and Gravel Springs Hut- there may have been some, but I didn't see them and walked all the way to Big Meadows. Big Meadows does have sites just for tent campers (fee).
      "Dazed and Confused"
      Recycle, re-use, re-purpose
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    • OMO -- when you enter the park by car the friendly ranger will hand you a nice map of the park that clearly shows the many places where the AT crosses the parkway. So if you wanted to you could easily skip the climb from Front Royal (Rte. 522) up into the park.

      I'm looking at that map right now. If I read it right, the AT actually misses the northernmost 10 miles of the parkway within the park boundary. The AT meets the parkway at a point labeled "Compton Gap," a mile or so north of Jenkins Gap Overlook.

      Elkwallow is at mile 25, and Big Meadows is at mile 50. (Parkway miles, starting at the north end.)
    • Keep in mind that mid June could be hot and humid. People say SNP is easy but I had one of my shortest days there when it was very hot and humid. I also had an easy 16 mi day when it was overcast and drizzly.

      The nice thing about SNP is you can always bail if you run out of time. I suggest you make a sign prior to starting that says, "hiker to big meadows". I had trouble hitching in SNP and I don't look very threatening.
      In life there are no limitations. Except stupidity. If you're stupid, you're screwed.

      Stephan Pastis
    • max.patch wrote:

      re unofficial sites: even though the snp requires a permit, you can camp anywhere that isn't posted "no camping" and you stay within the regulations, i.e., no camping XXX feet by water, XXX feet from a structure, XXX feet from a road, etc. and yes, no camping near the "day use" huts. and when you leave such a site you are required to have followed LNT. all these regs should be spelled out in the various guides.

      the northern half of the snp was the only place ticks attached themselves to my body. do that evening check.

      not having been in the snp since my thru i'm not qualified to offer any other info.

      my most vivid memory of the snp was the 2 cute european 20 something girls having a picnic in one of the meadows. topless. about 5 feet off the trail. :)
      :thumbsup:
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    • TrafficJam wrote:

      Keep in mind that mid June could be hot and humid. People say SNP is easy but I had one of my shortest days there when it was very hot and humid. I also had an easy 16 mi day when it was overcast and drizzly.

      The nice thing about SNP is you can always bail if you run out of time. I suggest you make a sign prior to starting that says, "hiker to big meadows". I had trouble hitching in SNP and I don't look very threatening.
      Hitching is never easy when you're a mangy hiker and the occupants of the cars are tourists. Working stiffs will pick up hikers, tourists won't. I hadn't given much thought to the season -- I went through in early September, in near-perfect weather.
    • TrafficJam wrote:

      Keep in mind that mid June could be hot and humid. People say SNP is easy but I had one of my shortest days there when it was very hot and humid. I also had an easy 16 mi day when it was overcast and drizzly.

      The nice thing about SNP is you can always bail if you run out of time. I suggest you make a sign prior to starting that says, "hiker to big meadows". I had trouble hitching in SNP and I don't look very threatening.
      I am sorry to hear this TJ - a wonderful person and hiker boots and shorts cant get a ride... I give up what happened?
      Why question the intentions of a road-crossing chicken?
    • Thanks for all the input:

      I think I will definitely start at Compton's Gap and avoid the climb in. There are 9 places where the AT crosses over the next 12 trail miles. I can start anywhere in that stretch if I get a late start.

      I have already printed topo maps with an AT overlay. Getting lost shouldn't be a problem.

      I was thinking "Injured Hiker Needs Ride to Big Meadows" would be an effective sign.

      Sounds like camping won't be so much a problem. Won't need a campsite close to Big Meadows since I have a lodge room waiting for me when I get there. I have a printout of the park regulations.

      I was worried about water. I guess I better tank up on every occasion, especially if hot.

      For Christmas I got permethrin treated pants, shirt, and hat. We'll see how they work.

      I usually have been in the "sleep with food" camp, but I think Park Rules forbid that. Are there bear boxes/poles at the huts? Otherwise, do the "sleep with food" have a problem with that in SNP?

      As it turns out, day two of my trip will be hike naked day. So maybe all the cute European girls will be checking ME out?
    • Water was an issue for me on my 2nd last day in SNP, but that was at the southern end of the park. I was low on water the 2nd afternoon, got water from a spigot at the Panorama lodge before heading up to Mary's Rock. The waysides at SNP are wonderful that way, definitely check out the blackberry milkshakes!
    • odd man out wrote:

      I keep hearing about the blackberry shakes. Unfortunately if I make good time on day 1 I will probably get to the first wayside before they open. I can try Big Meadows on the last day.
      I loved the blackberry shakes and hamburgers. When hiking for an extended amount of time I really get a craving for lettuce and tomato. Usually no desire for French fries. Rather have a salad or second hamburger instead.
      The road to glory cannot be followed with much baggage.
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    • Wise Old Owl wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      Keep in mind that mid June could be hot and humid. People say SNP is easy but I had one of my shortest days there when it was very hot and humid. I also had an easy 16 mi day when it was overcast and drizzly.

      The nice thing about SNP is you can always bail if you run out of time. I suggest you make a sign prior to starting that says, "hiker to big meadows". I had trouble hitching in SNP and I don't look very threatening.
      I am sorry to hear this TJ - a wonderful person and hiker boots and shorts cant get a ride... I give up what happened?
      Maybe because I don't wear boots and shorts? :)
      In life there are no limitations. Except stupidity. If you're stupid, you're screwed.

      Stephan Pastis
    • WanderingStovie wrote:

      If you run into a mother bear with cubs, don't expect it to move off the trail for you. I bush-wacked out to Skyline Drive and made up that missed section of the trail later in the day on my return trip.
      I had to do the exact same thing just south of Black Rock Shelter.
      "Dazed and Confused"
      Recycle, re-use, re-purpose
      Plant a tree
      Take a kid hiking
      Make a difference
    • jimmyjam wrote:

      WanderingStovie wrote:

      If you run into a mother bear with cubs, don't expect it to move off the trail for you. I bush-wacked out to Skyline Drive and made up that missed section of the trail later in the day on my return trip.
      I had to do the exact same thing just south of Black Rock Shelter.
      I've had to wait for porcupines. Buggers just don't care that they're holding you up. They just don't care.
    • rafe wrote:

      jimmyjam wrote:

      WanderingStovie wrote:

      If you run into a mother bear with cubs, don't expect it to move off the trail for you. I bush-wacked out to Skyline Drive and made up that missed section of the trail later in the day on my return trip.
      I had to do the exact same thing just south of Black Rock Shelter.
      I've had to wait for porcupines. Buggers just don't care that they're holding you up. They just don't care.
      I followed a porcupine on the AT. I'm glad I wasn't in a hurry.
      I am human and I need to be loved - just like everybody else does
    • TrafficJam wrote:

      Keep in mind that mid June could be hot and humid. People say SNP is easy but I had one of my shortest days there when it was very hot and humid. I also had an easy 16 mi day when it was overcast and drizzly.

      The nice thing about SNP is you can always bail if you run out of time. I suggest you make a sign prior to starting that says, "hiker to big meadows". I had trouble hitching in SNP and I don't look very threatening.
      I caught this cute young lady coming up the trail and had her demonstrate her hitching technique.
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    • max.patch wrote:

      odd man out wrote:

      while we're at it you can help me plan my other section hike. In August I will be hiking 462 feet down in street in Hanover NH. Visiting a friend in grad school at Dartmouth.
      tarlin says the cowboy dirt cafe has the best Coffee on the trail. he should know.
      hanover is a great town.
      Oddly enough it's also the former home of a guy Tarlin loves to hate (Bill Bryson.) I've never spent much time in Hanover -- it was a starting point for a couple of my AT section hikes, so I never lingered there and didn't need the town's facilities.