"Sir-Packs-Alot" Update: A New Age of AT Weather
The "Winds of Change" ...
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has been discussing it for some time now - and regardless of political spin or no (see Mom - I'm not touching this :)) it's pretty obvious that within the last few years our weather patterns have gotten mighty unpredictable. YES - we've never been able to trust that Mother Nature wouldn't take us for an "unexpected spin" or spout a terrible volacano - but at least within recent time (100 years) - 2 things have changed for the Appalachian Trail: 1) TECHNOLOGY has made long distance hiking easier for millions of prospective long distance hikers and 2) WEATHER patterns have made it a bit sticky.
2015 brought record cold and snow to the southern Appalachians. 2016 brought a drought to the Appalachian Mountains not seen in 100 years. The 2016 AT was not only dry - it was even on fire many times. 2017 brought a hurricane season unlike any we had seen before - and even as far north as the Appalachian Trail in Georgia - Hurricane Irma took a heavy toll. 2017 was a such a wet year with so much snow out west that some Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers actually lost there lives.
It's ALWAYS been a good idea to NOT take weather for granted in the mountains - ESPECIALLY in early spring (all you northbounders) and late fall (all you southbounders, flip-floppers and fall section hikers). A hiker from Atlanta (in some situations) can find themselves in a scenario not unlike an entirely different season from the one they left behind that morning at home - once they get up on a ridge in the north Georgia mountains.
- AT shelters were built next to the most dependable water sources in the area - get water there as you pass them and don't necessarily believe that the "small spring" up ahead will actually exist.
- Be careful climbing around downed trees - some of them are precariously perched and ready to roll downhill (perhaps on you). If other hikers before you have beaten a path around the tree already - TAKE THE PATH - instead of the climb.
- Double check the accuracy of your weather forecast if you have any reason to doubt it (ie; other hikers nervously are getting off trail or the weather conditions are worsening more than expected). Compare notes with other hikers info and try using another search method via your phone to find the forecast for the town nearest you. If you are on trail - subtract 15 degrees from the high and low temps for that town and double the windspeed - and see what THAT scenario looks like. At the Top of Georgia Hiking Center in early spring we frequently have seen below zero temperatures for night time lows in February and March. We have experienced up to 6 inches of snow. We had a thru-hiker in Feb 2017 sent out in an ambulance with frostbite. As the saying goes "the mountain's make their own weather" - and that beautiful environment does NOT always conform to forecasts - nor consult with you or your weather app first :)
Have a happy and safe Fall hiking season !