I started a northbound (nobo) hike in Georgia on the spring equinox, and hiked 114 miles before leaving the trail with an injury. I'm in physical therapy, healing fast, getting stronger every day, and have been considering my options to finish my thru-hike. At this point, it's reasonable to assume I can be ready to go some time in June - Maybe, possibly early June ...
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy's web site has all kinds of strategies listed beyond the traditional northbound thru hike. Flip-flops, southbound (sobo), leapfrogs, head starts ... All with their own pros and cons, and optimum starting times. A June start means I could flip-flop by starting at Harper's Ferry, WV, hiking to the northern terminus in Maine, hopping a train back to Harper's Ferry, then hiking south to Georgia. Or I could go for a more traditional southbound (sobo) hike.
The latter has a lot more appeal to me.
It's a more traditional trek. It's also a tougher start. A 5200' climb up Katahdin and back down is day one. On day two you're heading into the 100 Mile Wilderness for which one needs to be prepared with 8-10 days worth of food. Once thru Maine, New Hampshire is home of the White Mountains and the Presidential Range. It's a tough start.
Nobo's have to get to Maine before Baxter State Park closes in mid-October. Sobos have to wait for the park and the trails to be opened. The can open as early as May 15th, but the trails up Katahdin open when weather conditions are safe, and when the trail is dry and firm enough to prevent damage to both the treadway and to the vegetation alongside it.
So, when can one start? Based on data on recent trail openings recently posted by Teej on Whiteblaze.net, Jun 4th seems like a relatively safe bet for those making advanced airline/train/rental car reservations.
2010 May 25thThere are several web cams on which one can watch the snow melt:
2009 May 20th for both Hunt and Abol.
2008 May 29th (Park had canceled May 15th opening)
2007 May 31st
2006 May 18th (Abol May 15th)
2005 June 4th
2004 May 16th
2003 May 24th
2002 May 15th (Day hikers summited via Abol May 10th)
2001 Prior to May 20th
2000 Memorial Day Weekend
1999 May 18th (per South Walker '99)
http://www.neoc.com/webcam/twin-pine...am-camera1.phpBut to stay up to date with trail conditions and openings straight from the deciderers, keep your eyes on Baxter State Park's Trail Blog.
There are other factors to consider. June in Maine means infamous hordes of ferocious black flies, high water at stream crossings, and a wet and muddy trail. On the other hand, waiting for better conditions means looking forward to colder temperatures, snow and ice in the southern Appalachians. But then, Springer mountain never closes, leaving a sobo trek open-ended.
I'll be waiting a week or so to start locking in plans. I'm inclined to start as soon as possible in an effort to be home for Thanksgiving. If I'm ready to rock Katahdin on that first full week in June, then that's what I'll do.