START: Sarver Hollow Shelter, VA
FINISH: Woods Hole Hostel, VA
DISTANCE: 54.4 miles (87.5 km)
DAILY AVERAGE: 27.2 miles (43.8 km)
TOTAL DISTANCE: 1564 (2516.5 km)
Southbounders…….heading north: Recently I have run into a handful of southbound AT hikers; the strange part is that most of them have been heading north carrying what appeared to be day packs. According to the AT definition of thru hiking; a hiker can flip flop (i.e. change hiking direction) and slackpack (i.e. carry only the food, water and clothes they need for the day before being collected at a trailhead) to their hearts content and still be considered “thru hiking.”
What’s my take? In the big picture it’s just different variations on the same theme. The important thing is simply that people are out hiking and enjoying the great outdoors.
Would I myself slackpack or flip flop? I have flipped only once, on the Superior Hiking Trail (the fifth of the 12 Long Walks), and that was so that I could make a pre-booked flight out of Minneapolis. In regards to slackpacking, it’s not really my thing. Why? Primarily it comes back to freedom. By carrying all my own equipment at all times I have the freedom to camp wherever and whenever I want; the freedom to tarry over a gorgeous vista; the freedom to sit on a mountaintop and spend a couple of hours chatting with strangers, who then become friends; if I slackpack I forfeit or at least compromise my ability to do these things because I have to be at a certain place at a certain time to meet my prearranged pickup. Additionally, in a worst case scenario in which I break an ankle or some other serious accident occurs, at all times I want to have the capability to make camp and/or be warm and safe until assistance arrives. Finally, in situations where friends have arranged to meet me at days end as happened on the AT in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, I will still take my full pack, not only because of the reasons mentioned above, but also because I derive a certain sense of satisfaction from knowing I have carried my entire kit from start to finish.
Woods Hole: A big thanks to Neville and Michael at the Woods Hole Hostel for their wonderful hospitality. Great place, great home cooked food and great company. One of my favourite stays on the AT. Lest I forget, a warm shout out to my fellow Woods Hole lodgers, Carry On and Eagle Eye. Congrats on finishing your AT hikes!