Part 3: The Who, What, When, Where, and Whys?

When to go?

It’s hard to choose the perfect date to leave! If there weren’t any outside factors and responsibilities, I would leave tomorrow; but, there are many things to account for before leaving home for 4-6 months. I tossed up many different tentative dates, ranging from mid-February to June. There are a few key areas that are shaping my own starting date for the AT; some of these may be yours as well.

This five part series is a insight on how I am going about planning for my AT thru-hike coming up in 2018. If you haven’t gotten a chance to read the first two parts, please do! In Part 1, I identified different considerations for The Who? And in Part 2, I covered areas of gear, first-aid, and preparations to be made before leaving. In Part 3, I will be focusing on When to leave for a trip.

Let’s Play Darts…

Honestly that’s about how it has been for me picking a starting date; I may as well grab a dart and throw it at a calendar. Different factors have come into account in my decision to leave for the trip. The biggest contributor is college. I’m a current college student and I have two options, to take the semester off of college, or work out a Co-Op experience. I very much want to stay a current student, so I don’t have to reapply when i return home. In order to do a Co-Op, it needs to last at least (6 weeks and 100 hours); therefore, I will be back home until around March. This actually works out well because March is the sweet spot to start.

The other big factor in starting is getting to the trail. Fortunately, I’ve found out that after I revealed my plans to family and friends, I’ve had multiple people offer me a ride to Springer Mountain. I have a friend in the Air Force that lives in Georgia who I could fly to, and he would drive me up; and I also have a few family members that could take me in mid-march. It’s really nice having multiple people offer their help in this journey; finding a ride to the start of the AT (depending on where you live) could majorly dictate your starting date.

My last concern on the start date is when I will get back home. I think this is a probable factor for a lot of people. The worst thing to happen when hiking the AT (other than getting injured or quitting) is being rushed to finish. I want to be able to immerse myself in nature, meet other people, and be apart of the different communities; but, I have to be back before the fall semester of school! This date falls on August 27th. I’m figuring that if I leave on March 12-15, I would have about 22 weeks before I would need to be back in town for college. This gives me two weeks between the hike ending and school starting. To stay on course, I would need to average approximately 15 miles a day (maybe a little less). I think this is quite doable, and it doesn’t seem like it’s a rushed outline.

When it comes down to it…

I don’t want to over-plan going into this hike, I want to be able to be flexible in my choices to participate in different community events, or who I am hiking with; but, I also don’t want to leave opportunities behind and they are gone when I return–this tension calls for a little planning.

The different factors I’ve considered when picking a starting date include: opportunities I’m currently  finishing up, transportation to the AT, and opportunities when returning. Through hours of planning, and the help of others, I’ve come to narrow my starting date down to mid-march–most likely March 15th! Hopefully, Part 3 The When, will help other people plan their own starting date for thru/section hiking this next year.

On a side note

The one last factor that I didn’t discuss as being a factor for starting is weather! I didn’t go in-depth on this one because I plan on discussing it in Part 4 Where (Where to start). I also didn’t go into the topic of weather, because my schedule outside the AT is too tied up to let the weather majorly affect my plans on starting. Let’s just hope there are no crazy blizzards in mid-march; if there are, just keep on truckin’ (or in our case, hiking)!

Please comment your starting date below, and the different factors you’re dealing with when trying to plan out dates for an AT Thru Hike. Everyone have a wonderful Christmas!

“Photo courtesy Flickr/Old Rollei”

Affiliate Disclosure

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.

What Do You Think?