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Hiking the AT in Shenandoah Spring 2013
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Caleb Newbill
Hiking the AT in Shenandoah Spring 2013 on 11/30/2012 13:52:39 MST Print View

Hey guys, this spring (2013) I'm going to be hiking the length of the AT that resides in SNP. We are starting March 9, and planning on hiking 15 to 18 miles a day. My only concern right now is the cold weather and shoes. Right now I'm using New Balance All Terrain running shoes, I used these on a 5 day hike in Dolly Sods (October 5-9 Fall 2012), and they were comfortable and didn't cause any soreness in the feet.

The only thing is that we experienced constant rain, snow, sleet, and hail, and constantly hiking through mud and a couple of stream crossings. They held up great, except for when we stopped moving, my feet instantly became cold, which made camp chores a pain, especially trying to relax around camp when it wasn't raining. Although the cotton socks didn't help and I'm getting 2 pairs of smart wool socks for this hike.

So do you guys think these shoes and socks will be ok for the weeklong trip, with the cold weather? Do you guys have any other recommendations for shoes or how to help keep them dry in cold weather?



Caleb Newbill
One More Thing on 11/30/2012 13:59:36 MST Print View

This is a trip I'm going on with my college, they are requiring waterproof boots, preferably Gore-Tex, however, I don't really want to spend the money on boots I won't use very often. So I'm trying to figure out what will work and won't so I can talk to them about.

Thanks again!

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
SNP on 11/30/2012 14:21:33 MST Print View


I just hiked through the SNP last week. My son is thru-hiking SOBO and I caught up with him for the holiday.

With regards to the shoes, I think trail runners will be fine in Shenandoah. The trail is really in nice shape through that area. Its a lot of ridge top walking too, so you are not constantly crossing streams. Its really a pretty nice walk. Its prettier than I expected, and we were able to easily do more than 20 miles a day, even though there is only about 9 hours of daylight.

I really like wool socks too. Its the best place to keep the smell down. I keep one pair for hiking and one pair for sleeping. I usually wear the sleeping socks out on my last day.

I would avoid gore-tex if at all possible. I just think your feet are going to have more moisture on them if you have gore-tex. Light trail runners will dry off quickly.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: One More Thing on 11/30/2012 14:21:55 MST Print View

Get some neoprene or goretex socks with some warm wool socks to layer underneath. It will serve the same function of keeping your feet warm. Waterproof boots are completely inadequate and unreliable for keeping your feet dry and warm in the conditions you described.

If you explain to them that your footwear system will keep your feet warm and comfortable and is more reliable in doing that than a boot, then hopefully they will accept that. Unless your group leader is a stubborn idiot, then good luck with that.

Just make sure your footwear has good traction. Muddy and icy conditions can lead to some nasty slips.

Edited by justin_baker on 11/30/2012 14:23:39 MST.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
SNP on 11/30/2012 14:38:10 MST Print View

You may know the area better than me, but I would be surprised if you will need gore-tex or neoprene in the SNP in March. Look at your weather report before you go, but if its pretty normal, I don't think you're going to want either of those. I am just not remembering too many stream crossings either. Of course, its wetter in March, which would make me want to have breathable shoes instead of gore-tex or neoprene.

George Davis
(nsiderbam) - M

Locale: mid-Atlantic
SNP on 11/30/2012 19:40:09 MST Print View

I've done a couple 4-5 day trips in Shenandoah during the same time you're planning on going (early March) -- in fact, I might be there this spring as well. Water has always been plentiful, the weather gets nice in the afternoons, and I don't remember it getting any colder the the low-30s.

Your shoes should be fine. I haven't done the whole park, just most of it, but I never ran into mud or any stream/river crossings that could give your shoes/socks any problems.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
WP boots on 12/01/2012 11:08:59 MST Print View

I run into this same constraint with scout groups. Your argument to use trail runners needs to cover 2 things:
1. You have lightened your pack and developed sufficient ankle strength to carry a pack with low top shoes in rocky terrain for several days - and have tested that this is case on your week long Dolly Sods trip.
2. You have warm socks, and have tested that your feet tolerate damp socks while hiking several days with a pack getting blisters.

ps: I think your cold feet experience was due to wearing cotton socks. Winter / expedition weight Thorlo socks are warm.

If you bring 2 extra pairs of thick Thorlos, plus a pair of Gortex socks, and can get your guide to agree that low top hiking shoes are OK prior to asking if trail runners are also OK, I think you'll have a decent chance of convincing them...

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Just don't bring boots on 12/01/2012 12:10:51 MST Print View

Would it work to just show up with no boots and announce that trail runners are all you can afford? Might or might not be worth it. Some people would consider you a "rebel" and be annoyed with you the rest of the trip.

Even if I was forced to take boots I'd avoid goretex, just extra cost. One option might be softer military style jungle boots or desert boots. They aren't as stiff as other hiking boots. Or a minimalist style boot from a company like Innov8.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Innov8 on 12/01/2012 12:16:38 MST Print View

I just checked and Innov8 does carry light Goretex boots so if you have too you could work with those. I think its the Innov-8 Rocklite 286 GTX that Ryan Jordan likes for winter snow travel. If you "have" to buy boots that might be a good option. When you are done you could toss them in the closet and save them for any future winter trips.

Couple other things to watch for

1. Plan on carrying a lot of "group gear" that is not UL so make sure whatever pack you bring is able to handle some extra weight. And don't be surprised if you need/want to take some weight from someone else.

2. If you have complete noobs on the trip someone may have issues with their pack. You might have hiked 25 miles a day on your personal trips but you won't on this trip. Just enjoy it for what it is.

3. You'll have some "experts" and people who think they are experts along. I don't know how light you personally go but its probably not worth arguing much with these guys.

Have fun!

Edited by Cameron on 12/01/2012 12:24:56 MST.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
Merr on 12/01/2012 12:40:59 MST Print View

Check out the merrel mix master mids, real light and waterproof. .

Caleb Newbill
Thanks for the Help! on 12/01/2012 21:42:04 MST Print View

Thanks guys for the input and advice, I appreciate it.

Haha Luke, I like the way you think. I would do that if they didn't have a pre-trip gear inspection to make sure we have everything we need, we are in good enough shape to hike at least 15 miles a day, and that our boots are broken in. Although I could just have a used pair of boots, then 'forget' them, and bring my trail shoes. Haha, I did that with my tarp, After I help set up my groups tent, I set up my tarp, and just told them I was sleeping in this instead. They weren't too happy, but after some convincing, they let me. After that, I heard of people bringing tarps instead sleeping in a tent with 4 people, haha.

I'll talk to them and let you guys know how it goes!

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Thanks for the help on 12/01/2012 22:41:50 MST Print View

Yeah I do think like a rebel but its not always worth rocking the boat like that. More important then gear will be getting along with people so I think you're wise to take it slow, don't make them feel like you're a know it all or that you're a rebel. Just tell them you have a pair of trail runners that are really comfortable that you've been hiking in and you want to play it safe by using them and not something new that might give you blisters or hurt your feet. That sounds a lot more reasonable. Another excuse is "with my trekking poles I don't need ankle support."

Guy Trek
Point him to Skurka's book on 12/02/2012 14:23:36 MST Print View

Andrew Skurka's book has a great explanation of why your approach is better (shoes, no Gore-Tex). Gift it to your leader through the Kindle store and all your worries will be over!

Caleb Newbill
Re: Re Thanks for the help on 12/02/2012 22:40:55 MST Print View

Nothing is worse than coming off as the know it all. It really dampens the fun, and I'm going to be spending a week with these people, so I most definitely don't want to do that. I've found them to be pretty reasonable in the past with some of my ideas,haha, so hopefully they'll let me do this. Either way, its gonna be fun, and its gonna be my first hike over 100 miles, so this is gonna be exciting.

Caleb Newbill
Re: Point him to Skurka's book on 12/02/2012 22:42:10 MST Print View

Thanks for this, this will really help being able to quote an experienced hiker like Skurka. Thanks again!

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Another Option on 12/03/2012 15:37:24 MST Print View

I just thought of something. Do you have any resupply points? If so you could offer to have a pair of boots waiting at the resupply in case you "need" them.

Edit - You don't want to be a know it all but its also helpful if they have faith in your common sense. Remember when they make these conservative lists they are going to be worried about some "city slicker," the kind that will show up in flip flops, with blanket and a car of peanuts and say "I'm ready to hike" (this happened to a friend). Show them your shoes and that they are sturdy trail shoes no basketball shoes or fashion shoes. Use a sturdy pair of trail runners not five fingers. For one thing the leaders will feel better about it and second if you end up carrying a heavy pack they will be nice.

Edited by Cameron on 12/03/2012 15:42:11 MST.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
SNP Resupply on 12/03/2012 16:08:16 MST Print View

There's really no easy resupply on a thru-hike of SNP unless Skyland Lodge will hold a package for you. It is right on the trail. You could call and see if they will.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: SNP Resupply on 12/04/2012 06:50:00 MST Print View

Not much will be open in March along the trail in SNP. Skyland isn't open until the last weekend in March. During the summer, resupply and food is easy in the park -- not so much in late winter.

Your trail runners will be fine with wool socks. Bring a third set of wool sock reserved for sleeping, so you always have something dry on your feet in your bag at night.

Shenandoah is a nice hike. Enjoy it.