Five (Final) Reasons to Flip-Flop your Thru-Hike
Once you go unconventional, you never go back.
It’s been encouraging to hear from so many flip-flopping thru hikers since I started posting my own reasons for going this unconventional route.
I’m starting in way southern Virginia–Grayson Highlands State Park–going north to Katadhin, then back to GHSP to end on Springer Mountain later in the fall.
These are my final five reasons to start in the middle and finish on Springer.
The Final Five
6. Avoiding the “Virginia Blues”
Virginia–day after day, week after week, grinding on for 500 miles, a full one quarter of the entire AT.
Virginia will take up a LOT of our time on the trail and NOBOs hit it just at the time the novelty of their thru-hike has worn off.
We read about it in Appalachian Trials.
We know that the Virginia Blues are a thing.
Now we have a way to avoid those blues. Yay!
7. Your knees will thank you when you get to New Hampshire.
We hiked a section of the White Mountains a few months ago over an eight day period. (Read about it here).
By the seventh night, my knees wouldn’t bend.
Seriously–Frankenstein knees. There are no words for how squishy and wrong they felt.
Starting 500 or 700 or 1000 miles into the trail means that when you get to the Whites, your knees will be (slightly) fresher, yet sufficiently trail-hardy, and still full of bend.
That’s what I’m hoping, anyway, since I’ll be celebrating my 54th birthday on the trail and I want my 54 year old knees to cooperate (and keep bending) through the hardest sections of the trail.
No more diving into the tent like a felled tree.
At least the view was good as I writhed straight-legged in the tent.
8. The Southern Appalachians in the fall!
Rather than going through my beautiful home turf when the trees are bare and everything is gray, a flip flop hike means returning to the Blue Ridge when it will be on fire with color (and, hopefully, not literally on fire).
Who would want to miss this show?
9. Wildlife abhors crowds.
I know I’m weird, but I can’t wait to see rattlesnakes and bears. Less weird…I’m praying for moose-sightings and I’ll be listening for loons.
Even chipmunks make my heart go pitter-patter.
I’m hoping I’ll see more critters by hiking outside the bubble.
Porcupine, reveal yourself!
10. Avoiding morons on the trail.
I love this course. (Full review coming soon!)
In one call, a thru-hiker said that after a few hundred miles, the “morons” leave the trail. She meant the partiers and the unprepared and the unserious and the people who never stood a chance.
I don’t know that I would have put it like that, but, okay.
Starting farther along the trail means I start the trail moron-free.
Starting farther along the trail means you start with serious hiker trash, the true bad asses who share one intention…to complete a thru-hike.
Once you’re convinced a flip-flop hike is for you, the final thing to consider is where to start your thru hike.
Harper’s Ferry is a popular starting point. It’s the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and it is the “psychological” half-way point on the Appalachian Trail at 1,023 miles in.
McAfee Knob is interesting because it’s such an iconic landmark along the trail. Every thru-hiker EVER has a picture of themselves on top of McAfee Knob. It’s 711 miles in and the closest town is Catawba, Virginia.
I’ve decided to start at Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. It is 500 miles in, about 30 miles north of Damascus.
Why Grayson Highlands?
As I’ve been planning my thru-hike, and reading tons of books, I’ve realized that the two-mile section of trail that goes through GHSP is the section I’m most excited about out of the entire 2,190 mile long trail.
Because the park is home to a herd of wild ponies and you know how I feel about critters. (See #9 above!)
Starting in GHSP in mid April means returning to GHSP later to finish my southern leg. So I get two chances to see the wild ponies.
And that just makes my critter-pattering heart leap straight out of my chest with excitement and anticipation.
(Also, I’d rather have fewer miles to cover to finish my southbound portion in case I’m less enthused about finishing after I’ve climbed Katahdin.)
So, Grayson Highlands it is!
If you want to see my roughed out itinerary, here you go.
It looks detailed, but I don’t plan to be slavish. It’s based on Steve Shuman’s analysis of average hiking rates.
Get in touch if you think our paths might cross somewhere out there on the trail!
Meanwhile, leave a comment…where will you be starting your hike and why?
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.
I am looking at a thru-hike in a few years when I retire. Recently I started looking into the option of flipflopping. I struggled with not doing it the “normal” NOBO route. I can say that your writings on the subject have helped me to decide to definitely flip-flop. Thanks for posting your itinerary, that will be the one thing that I will need to decide now: where to start NOBO. Good luck on your thru-hike.
My husband and I are starting in Bear Mountain, NY, April 30th. We decided to do the Modified Flip Flop Cool Breeze, heading south for the first leg. There are logistics challenges, but easier weather and hopefully less bugs. . Happy trails! Pam & Jay