Running the Appalachian Trail

Just over a month ago we did a blog post about Karl Meltzer, an ultra-runner from Utah, attempting to break the speed record for the Appalachian Trail. Well, guess what: he finished and broke the record! He arrived at Springer Mountain at 3:38 am on September 18. He completed the 2189 mile trail in 45 days, 22 hours and 38 minutes. For his final stretch, Karl ran 83 miles in 24 hours.

On Saturday the 17th, former AT thru-hike record holder Scott Jurek came into Mountain Crossings to check out the store -he didn’t get to stop by the year before because he was running the trail. Scott has been running with Karl for some sections, and he was happy his friend was going to break the record. Later that day, Karl’s support crew came by and prepared for his arrival. They were all very friendly and had enjoyed the journey from Maine. Karl came through Mountain Crossings around 6:30 pm and sat down for only 20 seconds before he was on his way again. Congratulations are in order to Karl for accomplishing this great feat!
   14322515_715438658596923_1525010223794558950_nKarl and support team finish on top of Springer Mountain

“Karl always told me he loved the Appalachian Trail.
We have spent many days on the AT. I only hike the trail; he runs over those rocks!
I always thought I just exposed him to the mountains; he stayed and made a life and career there.
He has taken me t
o the mountains, deserts and canyons, all because of this “running thing.”
-Karl’s Dad

What does ultra-running mean?

Technically, ultra-running is running a distance longer than a marathon, 26.2 miles, in one go. Races usually have a predetermined distance, but in some cases there is only a set time period. For example, there may be a 100 mile race, or a 24 hour race to see how far you can run. Ultra-running has become very popular the last twenty years, and there are numerous races around the globe.

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Speeds on the Appalachian Trail

There has been plenty of criticism about hiking the trail too fast, but a common phrase in trail culture is, “hike your own hike!” Karl wanted to break the speed record, so great for him. Plenty of other hikers want to really push their bodies every day and see how far they can go, and we should allow them to do that. They might not care about seeing every overlook or stopping in every town. Each person has their own goals and they should not be judged for them. If you don’t want to hike fast, then don’t! Don’t let other people pressure you to go faster than you want. Encouragement and pushing yourself can be good, but no need to go farther just to appease others.

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Karl and support crew taking a break at Mountain Crossings

Is Meltzer’s record already broken?

Kaiha Bertollini posted on Facebook just 13 hours later that she had finished the AT, unsupported, and about 12 hours faster than Meltzer. There has been some speculation surrounding her claims, so she is currently asking for verification from people who saw her along the way. Regardless of the outcome, great job to her as well as all others completing the trail this year.

A Reader’s Guide to Thru Hike Prep

It’s getting to be that time of year again. You can feel it in the breeze. You can see it on the edges of the early turning trees. Fall is coming! And soon behind it will come winter. There is little else in the world that makes me more content than laying in a hammock with a good book and a cool breeze rustling through the bright Autumn leaves, save for maybe curling up with a similarly good book and sipping on hot tea as snow falls outside. It’s the best time of year to start stacking up some good books to read. If you are planning a thru hike (or simply love all things AT) here is a list of some of my favorite Appalachian Trail centered books to help inspire you to thru hike and prepare you to hike in numerous different ways!

(click on any book title or image for a link to the book!)

First thing, first: GET INSPIRED!

As a former thru hiker and big time book worm, I’ve read a pretty good amount of Appalachian Trail memoirs. I find these to be the most inspiring; reading about the high ands lows of someone’s experience makes you excited to face the same things in the future. You place yourself in their shoes and know that when you are on trail many similar situations will arise. It gets butterflies churning through your stomach to think about. Here are my top memoir suggestions:

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

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This is one of the more inspiring memoirs of an AT thru hike I have ever read. It is actually written as a biography of Emma Gatewood, who at age 67 set out for her first thru hike in 1955. This was also the first thru hike recorded by a woman on her own. Grandma Gatewood traveled light, wearing Keds tennis shoes and carrying a satchel over her arm with a little bit of food and clothing and a plastic shower curtain for shelter. She not only thru hiked the AT in ’55, but again in ’60 and even section hiked it in ’63. This woman’s life was an incredible one and well worth reading about!

A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson

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This is by far the most popular memoir about the Appalachian Trail out there and has recently become even more popularized by the movie version released in 2015. Bill Bryson enlists an old buddy to take on the AT with him to satiate their need for adventure in life. The two quickly learn they have bitten off more than they can chew. The proceedings are hilarious but in no way an account of a true thru hike. The pair only makes it a short ways and then Bryson jumps up trail to get a better sense of the AT, but the character mapping is pretty on point for the AT. You just never know what you’re going to find around the next bend!

Just Passin’ Thru by Winton Porter

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This one is about a pretty cool little place (we may be a bit biased) that nearly every single Northbound thru hiker sees during their time on trail. Standing at mile 31.7, on day 3 for most hikers, is a funky little place called Mountain Crossings. This neat place sits right on the AT, along a remote mountain highway, and offers a  bit of solace to new hikers getting used to the idea of a six month outdoor expedition. You meet the interesting characters who run the place and the even more interesting characters who choose to hike the AT. This is a much different Mountain Crossings than the one that exists today, but then again, some things never change!

Next, GET PREPARED!!

After you’re pumped up on the stories of others and aching to go out and make your own, then you need to start getting ready to do just that! This next set of books will be a world of help preparing you for the trek ahead. Some focus on your gear, others on your route, and still others, on you yourself, the most important key to your success!

Trail Tested by Justin Lichter

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Justin Lichter, aka, Trauma, has hiked over 35,000 miles of trail all over the world and besides being a beast among men, he is also a really nice guy! We don’t push his book just because he is a friend, but because it is the most comprehensive gear guide we have ever seen! Not to mention the best visual guide, as well. Trauma not only goes over all the different gear possibilities for backpacking and their uses, but also goes into wilderness survival, reading the weather, tips and tricks for hiking in different climates and a ton of other things you wouldn’t even think to ask but will be sure to find all in this one book! Did I mention the pictures?! He makes it so easy to grasp complicated aspects to explain by using ample visual aide. This is the one stop shop book for preparing you for the trail and all things backpacking!

Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis

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This is the ONLY psychological and emotional guide I have ever seen to help guide you in thru hiking the AT and I absolutely encourage all prospective thru hikers to read this book just before setting out on trail! In fact, I am not sure how thru hiking and the Appalachian Trail got to be so popular before someone finally (thank goodness for the rest of us) thought to write this much needed book! You could have the best gear, the strongest body and perfect weather the whole time but none of these things will get you to Katahdin. Only you can do that! In Zach’s book, Appalachian Trials, he focuses on exactly that; all the many, exceedingly different and challenging trials you will face on the AT. He walks you through his own trials (and he had a fair amount of them, the poor guy) and goes over how he worked through them all. Besides being a super fun and enjoyable read, this also ended up saving me on my own thru hike. I followed his prompts in the book to safe guard myself against those tough days when quitting is easy. Zach encourages hikers make a series of lists, which will absolutely end up talking you out of quitting on a tough day if you take their creation seriously. DO IT! READ THIS BOOK AND DO IT!

AWOL’s Guide by David Miller

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While this isn’t exactly a book you’d curl up and read cover to cover, it will be one you will wear out cover to cover. I always like encouraging people to buy their AT Guide early and review it, learn how to use it. Most importantly, don’t waste your time with other guides if you’re going to thru hike. This has everything you need and nothing you don’t. Purchase this book as soon as it is available for your thru hiking year and start familiarizing yourself with it. Start planning the first few days on trail or go on a small section hike to get the hang of using it. It is incredible that this book stays so up to date from year to year and the hard work of those who keep it up to date is a blessing to all AT hikers!

O’Ree On The AT

It takes a lot of courage and drive to set out into the woods and just start following a trail. It is way easier to just drive around the mountains and stop at all the scenic overlooks. But as we can tell just by the existence of the AT and many great trails like it, this isn’t enough for some folks. O’Ree Crittenden is one of those people. He loves the outdoors, living an active lifestyle and wouldn’t change for anything. O’Ree may be a quadriplegic, but he isn’t using this as an excuse as to why he can’t hike the Georgia Section of the AT. That’s right. 78.6 miles from Springer Mountain to Bly Gap. With the help of a special wheelchair called a TrailRider and a crew of super awesome buddies from high school and the following years of his life, O’Ree is about half way there as I write!!

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O’Ree on the AT!

Before an accident that left O’Ree paralyzed, he was more active than he is currently. Currently, he is more active than most typical Americans. He recently was on a wheelchair rugby team called Shepard Smash and just last month went sky diving. He unknowingly became the poster child for independent disabled persons in his community by simply living a life true to himself. After the accident, the desire to get back on trail and continue backpacking was always strong. O’Ree loved watching his friend Lee and his family and keeping up with their outdoor adventures. One day, that dream to hike started to become a reality when O’Ree sent Lee a text: “Do you think you could get me out there?” Lee responded with an immediate and resounding “Yes!” Enter the TrailRider.

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Everything that is yellow (and a good bit more) is an addition or a change made by O’Ree and the crew.

A TrailRider is a specialized kind of rugged wheelchair that sits on one off-road tire and operates by one person pushing and another pulling along the trail (check out the video below). Lee says that there are about 117 TrailRiders in existence and estimates about 20 are in the US. This awesomely mobile wheelchair has been up Mt. Kilimanjaro and down into the Grand Canyon. But this is the first time a TrailRider has been on the Appalachian Trail! They aren’t the cheapest rig in the world but O’Ree and his band of most excellent buddies got to work on collecting up the funds to purchase one. Once they cleared that hurtle and had one in their possession, they began to tailor it for O’Ree’s specific needs. They changed the seat up and switched out the belting system with the same sort of belt O’Ree used for wheelchair rugby. They removed the foot plate and rigged up their own system. They changed the locations of the hand brakes for more versatile braking. Over several test hikes, the crew created the perfect all terrain wheelchair for the expedition.

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The crew outside the hostel at Mountian Crossings.

O’Ree and the crew rolled into Neel Gap late in the afternoon and took up camp in the hostel. They took a zero day the next day resting up and waiting on a spare tire for the TrailRider if the one should blow. They cooked hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill and hung out all day in the temperate weather somewhere between Summer and Fall. We snuck down as many times as we could just to hang out with them. We caught them in conversation anytime they came into the shop. It was just too great to have a group of such happy and fun people around!


But alas, the show must go on. O’Ree and the crew rolled out this morning. We can’t wait to continue watching them hike north!

By The Way:

When O’Ree isn’t out chasing after his dreams in the wilderness of North Gerogia, he works for a nonprofit in Columbus, GA called Access 2 Independence. He also sits on several boards and committees throughout the community to represent the disabled demographic. If you’re looking for inspiration to live a purpose and meaning filled life, look no further than O’Ree Crittenden.

Thru Hiker Communication at it’s Best

Despite being able to catch cell service on many mountain tops along the Appalachian Trail these days, there is still one form a communication between hikers that beats out all the others. The shelter registry or logbook is the king of information along the Appalachian Trail. It is nearly like browsing the internet for the latest news in your community. It is also like checking a social media page to see what your friends and acquaintances have been up to lately. It can even be a great source of entertainment as you wait out a rain storm in a shelter or drift off to sleep at night. The logbook is a crucial part of AT culture and can come in handy during your hike.

 

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Logbooks are usually spiral bound note books or composition note books left in a shelter by the folks who maintain that particular shelter. Once a logbook has filled up, the maintainers replace it with a new one.

Logbooks or registers are found in every shelter along the AT. Usually they are in a large zip lock bag with a pen or pencil, tucked away in a corner. They are also sometimes found in other randoms places along the AT, such as tucked away in the stone of the rock on Springer, in the breezeway at Mountain Crossings, or next to the hiker box in the outfitter at the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

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The pile of stones on top of Springer Mountain bearing the historical plaque has a small metal box built into the side of the rock pile. Within this metal box is the first official logbook on the Appalachian Trail. Hikers take time out of their first day of hiking to reflect on the journey ahead of them, jot down their thoughts and read the thoughts of hikers before them.

Trail registries are a great way for hikers to stay in the loop about a particular area or portion of trail. By reading the logbook at each shelter a hiker can find out about bear activity, trail conditions headed north or south, suspicious people along the trail and even water availability. Not to mention, a hiker can also see that their friends Blue Berry and Freckles are headed into town and surmise that they can catch up with them there.

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Salty and Waffles are headed into town and have been loving the wildflowers along the way!

Because of the sheer amount of people using and handling logbooks, they can sometimes become a hot bed for sickness. Most of the time, checking the logbook is a very smart and fun thing to do while on a hike. But in the event of an outbreak of Noro Virus, a common hiker stomach bug, avoid touching logbooks just as you would avoid sleeping at shelters and using privies. Overall, these little nuggets of thru hiking culture are a fun way to gain all sorts of important information from another. For such an outdated method of indirect communication, the logbooks along the AT are incredibly useful and wonderful tools! Be sure to check out the logbook while on your thru hiker, next section hike or day hike along the Appalachian Trail and help contribute to the colorful culture and information sharing on our beautiful trail!

Start Your Engines

Full blown thru hiker season is roughly six months away. That means many hikers attempting a thru in 2017 are readying themselves for the trail now. At least, if they’re smart they are! They are researching gear, building up their perfect gear combination and getting out on practice hikes. Some may be reading Trail Tested to learn more about different backpacking scenarios, gear, and how to use that gear in those scenarios. Others may already be reading Appalachian Trials to get their head in the right place for the life changing experience ahead of them. Regardless, the time for preperation for an Appalachian Trial thru hike is here! So consider taking your preperation even one step further and getting a Virtual Shakedown from Mountain Crossings.

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What is a Virtual Shakedown, you may be asking? A virtual shakedown is your best bet at saving yourself a lot of hassle throughout the first stretch of your thru hike!!

Many people find that they learn a lot (the hard way, unfortunately) about backpacking and what not to carry during the first three days of their trip. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect when you are embarking on a 6 month hike unless you are fortunate enough to have the guidance of a former thru hiker to assist you. Of course, each person if different in their needs, but the virtual shakedown is designed to help people who would like to avoid carrying extra weight and avoid paying shipping on sending items home to do just that. Why carry 10lbs. of gear you are going to spend $30 to send home on day three or four when you can avoid it all together?

Want a tiny pack like this that still has all the gear needed to keep you comfortable, safe and happy on trail?! Get a Virtual Shake Down!

Why carry a huge pack with too much stuff when you can have it easy from the get-go?!

Just as with a regular shakedown in store at Mountain Crossings, an experienced backpacker assists you in culling through your items and choosing what to keep, what to pitch and what to add, if needed. But with a Virtual Shakedown, you can do this process from your own home using a simple video conference technology called Google Hangout. The cost of a Virtual Shakedown is $100, but that is merely a rebate, meaning each and every piece of gear you scoop up from Mountain Crossings during your shakedown is free up to $100.

Whether you already have all your gear or need everything, the virtual shakedown is a wonderful way to make sure you are set for the trail before you leave.  Say you have everything but a sleeping bag. Think of the virtual shakedown as a personal crash course on thru hiking the Appalachian Trail and $100 towards a sleeping bag. If you have nothing, you not only get a chance to pick the brain of a gear guru and former thru hiker about what to purchase, you also get $100 towards those purchases!

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A Bit of Info on the Virtual Shake Down

  1. Anyone of any experience level or preparedness can participate in a Virtual Shake Down. (Whether you’re a former thru hiker looking to shed some pack weight or only have three pieces of gear, all are welcome!)
    2. A computer with video chat capabilities (built in or attached video camera and microphone) is needed for a Virtual Shakedown.
    3. Virtual Shake Downs happen over an application called Google Hangout. We will provide you with a dummy G-Mail account for use during the shake down.
    4. A Virtual Shake Down costs $100, but that cost is a 100% (absolutely full and total) rebate!!
    5. During the shake down you will have access to all the entire inventory of Mountain Crossings and we will help you locate the exact items you need to complete or update your gear set.
    6. After you have chosen what you need from the shop, you will have 48 hours to purchase these items and apply your $100 rebate towards your gear.

Big Agnes Sale Now Until August 10th

Big Agnes is one of our top selling brands and for good reason! They make quality products that you know you can count on. Two of their products take a slot as one of the most commonly used shelters on the Appalachian Trail for thru hikers. (Check out this fascinating article on Appalachian Trials about last years thru hiker gear stats!) That’s pretty crazy to have TWO different products that are so great, that many thru hikers use on or the other. And those who don’t use a Fly Creek or Copper Spur tent definitely know someone who does! Big agnes is a company that stands behind their products and their customers.

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What’s even more impressive is that Big Agnes has only been on the scene for about 15 years. That’s not a very long time in comparison to other top outdoor brands like Patagonia, North Face and REI, which have all been around since the 1960’s. Big Agnes has made major waves quickly.

But the Mother of Comfort is also the Mother of Invention and Big Agnes is constantly on the updating their excellent fleet of gear. Come thru hiker season next year, many items will be slightly different. That is why we are having a huge Big Agnes blow out sale this week!

ALL BIG AGNES IS 20% OFF ONLINE!!

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Every other day this week we will announce a featured product on Facebook and Instagram that gets and even deeper discount than the 20% off. Everything else remains to be 20% off, so you can buy the footprint for cheap even if a sleeping pad is on super sale that day. We are talking ALL Big Agnes, here. Tents, sleeping pads, sleeping bags, air pad pumps, MtnGlo lights, foot prints. Its ALL 20% off all week! Be sure to be looking for online updates about particular times on sale and scoop up those coupon codes to be used during check out. Don’t miss out on this incredible sale!

 

Another Summer, Another Speed Record Attempt!

About this time last year, we were presenting you with news of Scott Jurek breaking the supported speed record of the Appalachian Trail. If you don’t remember Scott’s journey, jog your memory with this blog post from last July celebrating the vegan ultra runner’s incredible feat of running the Appalachian Trail in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes. Narrowly securing the record by 3 hours from Jennifer Pharr Davis, the previous record holder.

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Karl Metzler: third time is the charm for AT speed record!

Now, the record is up for grabs again! Karl Metzler, yet another ultra runner, is setting out to take on the task beginning in August. Karl holds the most wins of 100 mile races of any human ever and has already run 2000+ miles twice before, once on the Pony Express from California to Missouri and once on the Appalachian Trail in 2008, though no record was set. He is well acquainted with and prepared for the days ahead, to say the least.

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Karl during his 2008 record attempt of the AT. He finished but did not set a new record.

Unlike Scott, who started at Springer Mountain in late May, Karl will be setting out in early to mid August to from Mount Katahdin, taking on the trail South Bound. He spent a few weeks running with Scott last summer, who a good buddy of his, and got a great feel for the world of fully supported hiking. He also has the benefit of being a full on omnivore and will be crushing steaks, ice cream and beer provided by his support team as he makes his way down trail. Not only this, but Karl is backed by Red Bull, which he claims to be sipping on nearly all day long when possible!

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Karl during a 2014 record attempt that didn’t work out.

His goal is to finish the trail in at least 46 days, once again shaving off the time of the record by just a few hours. If you want to follow along check out this website. Here you can learn more about Karl as an athlete and his diet on trail. Once he sets out, you can even track his progress and see his steps taken, calories burned, distance covered and much more! We found the “By The Numbers” portion very interesting: Karl will go through a new pair of shoes roughly every 2-3 days, have approximately 121 crashes over the course of the trail and listen to nearly 690 hours of the Grateful Dead and other tunes. We like this guys already!!

 

 

The Future of Resupplying?

One of the biggest hurdles of preparing for a thru hike of any long distance trail is to wrap your brain around “the hiker resupply”. Six months in the woods definitely doesn’t mean carrying six months worth of food, but how much do you carry? And what do you carry? Not to mention, how do you get that food? The answers to these questions vary greatly on the speed of the hiker, certain dietary restraints and preferred mode of resupplying.

You can carry as much or as many days worth of food as you’d like, skipping over towns or resupply points if desired. While on trail you can chow down on whatever foods tickle your fancy, even if that consists mostly of Oreos and Sour Patch Kids. But interestingly enough, there are only a few ways to actually go about the act of resupplying.

Traditionally, you either got off trail and found a decent place to purchase food locally or you had a pre-packed resupply box sent to you from back home and picked it up at a scheduled location. But these days, there is a new way! It combines the ease of having a box sent to you in town with the flexibility of choosing what you want to eat when you are currently craving it.

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Welcome, Zero Day Resupply! Made by and for thru hikers, this company has a vast amount of hiker favorite online that you can sift through and create your next resupply while on trail or in town, planning ahead. Then it is mailed to you up trail, to wherever you specify. What better way to take full advantage of a zero than actually being able to relax? Why walk up and down the aisles of Dollar General grimacing the prospects when you could be chillin’ in a hostel or motel, catching a midday matinée of The Goonies because you already picked up your resupply, which you ordered from your phone when you were relaxing on your last zero day. So easy and so simple.

This new way to resupply can even open up new possibilities in your hiking arrangements. Say you and your buddies are crushing sammies at the Appalachian Deli in Garrison, NY after scaling Bear Mountain and crossings the Hudson. It’s a great convenience store and you’ve picked a few good things because you’ve heard the resupply in Stormville, NY is a bit hit or miss. No worries! Hop on your phone and get on Zero Day Resupply and jot down a little order to have waiting for you in Stormville so you know for sure that you’re getting what you want! It’s Brilliant!

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What makes this service even more incredible is that it is nearly as cheap as buying food as you go, but you save so much time and hassle. Their items are generously well priced, even in the eyes of a thru hiker. And, in the end, you don’t have to worry about wasting time or not being able to find a full resupply in a crummy location. Because Zero Day Resupply is the brain child of a former thru hikers, the selection is smartly curated for the taste of long distance backpackers. You will surely find many of your favorite available on their site.

Not only does this site make finding your food take a lost less miles over six months, it also helps you calculate the weight and calorie count of your resupply! You can save lists of foods and start each resupply out with the old trusties before adding new foods and you can even set up a donations page where friends and family and send you a resupply box!

So the next time you are heading out for a long hike or even just for a section, remember that there are new ways to resupply in our modern world! Check out Zero Day Resupply for an easy and painless experience! (Take the “tour” to see all food varieties.)

Zero Day Resupply boxes stacked up and ready to be sent out to hikers all over!!

Zero Day Resupply boxes stacked up and ready to be sent out to hikers all over!!

 

The Pitfalls of “Hike Your Own Hike”

Hike Your Own Hike is a term beloved by thru hikers. It gives validation to many of our weird little quirks other hikers may not understand. If you want to take 2 zero days a week, do it. If you want to take a blue blaze around a section of trail, do it.  If you want to carry a Katana, do it. It’s a term that helps settle any and all disagreements over these petty differences. No matter the context, it seems as if dropping the term “Hike Your Own Hike” is the cue for both sides to drop it and just enjoy the scenery. In a community where every person has their own opinions of comfort, ruggedness and everything in between, this little catch all has gone far to remind us that we don’t always have to be right.

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Origins of the term are hotly debated among hikers but many agree it came around sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Today, as the AT community grows in size with the rising popularity of long distance backpacking, this term has began to see a metamorphosis as well. It is increasingly being referenced not only to justify individual styles of hiking, but also individual styles of treating the Appalachian Trail. When “Hike Your Own Hike” becomes a cop out for proper “Leave No Trace” ethics, we as a community have a problem.

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You know it’s big when they make t-shirts of it!

Leave To Trace is also a widely known term on the AT. It was brought about in the 1960’s by the US Forest Service as the use of and need for management of our public lands grew. Leave No Trace has grown from just a saying with great intentions behind it to a full fledge non-profit that works tirelessly to uphold it’s Seven Principles. In a time when we are fighting to both protect our precious land and introduce people to the wonderful affect of Mother Nature for mental and physical health, it is massively important that we do not allow these two hiker adages to work against one another.

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Hike Your Own Hike never means it’s okay to burn your trash if you don’t feel like packing it out.

Hike Your Own Hike never means you are exempt from digging a 6 inch cat hole if you don’t feel like it. 

Hike Your Own Hike never means you get a pass on being polite and courteous to other hikers. 

The rights given to you by the term Hike Your Own Hike end where they become detrimental to the land you are on and it’s natural inhabitants. When making decisions for yourself on trail, first and foremost, go by the Principles of Leave No Trace. Only secondly, go by Hike Your Own Hike. If you want there to continue to be a Hike worth Hiking, you will gladly do so.

The Battle of De-Feet

It’s summer time, which means that everyone every where is letting their toes hang out. What a great feeling! Those poor, forgotten little digits deserve to live it up during the warm months of the year. Ditch the wool socks and closed toe shoes and get a pair of something your feet can rock and roll in all summer long! The question is, what sort of sandal do you want to wear? There are so many out there and many are vastly different. Here is a break down of the pros and cons of two sandals carried by Mountain Crossings that may help you make the best choice for you!

At MTX we carry both the ever classic summer adventure sandal, Chacos, and the new kid on the block knocking out the competition, Xero Shoes. Both these sandals are designed for summer fun in mind. They aren’t going to flip and flop around. They aren’t going to trip you up. They will seamlessly transition from hiking to frolicking in a creek to wearing around town. They are both your one stop shop shoe for summer time! But despite these similarities, they are SO different! Just look at them!

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Chacos

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Xero Shoes

As you can see, these sandals share a lot of design features, but there is one that you can can’t help but notice the two don’t seem to agree on. The Sole! Every pair of Chacos has a nearly clunky sole with a high arch. Xero Shoes have barely any sole at all and no arch support. What is a purchaser to do? Decide what kind of arch you have and buy that pair? Surprisingly, no! Either shoe you choose will become the new best friend to your feet! But let’s go over some specifications of each shoe and learn how our feet react to the different designs.

All About Chacos

As soon as you put on a Chaco, you can feel the stability and support of the sole. It is sometimes concernedly prominent. The first time I put on a pair, I immediately declared that the arch was too high and didn’t look back for years. (In the meantime, I wasted tons of money and time on other sandals that didn’t hold up for longer than a month and never did quite serve the high action, outdoor purposes I needed.) The next time around, I wasn’t so impulsive. Sure, I wasn’t used to the feel of it, but I could tell the polyurethane sole wasn’t going to compress like other sandals. I had seen friends wear the same pair for years as I cycled through countless shoes made of less durable materials. As I continued to wear them, my feet began to really enjoy the curvature and arch of the sole. Chaco calls their design the LUVSEAT Footbed and I began to see why. My foot felt cradled by the shoe! As for the straps, you have two options, one with a strap for the big toe and one without a strap for the big toe. All Chocos are designed with the straps as one long piece of webbing, making both versions  fully adjustable so your foot is perfectly nestled on the LUVSEAT Footbed and held in place by the straps. An added bonus to Chacos is the brand’s dedication to repairs. They don’t want you to have to buy a new pair. They will fix and repair any shoes they can, which is perfect because you will fall in love with your Chacos and not want to give them up for a new pair anyway!

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A diagram for adjusting the two different strap designs.

All About Xero Shoes

Xero Shoes have stepped into the footwear world and brought us a shoe unlike many others. As adventure races and ultra running are gaining in popularity in the outdoor world, Xero Shoes have come in and helped up the game of barefoot running as well. Many extreme runners site barefoot running as the ultimate form of running; the healthiest shoe for your foot is no shoe, they say. But the reality of that isn’t so pretty. It’s actually really dirty and dusty, might include a few cuts and scraps and definitely a couple bruises. That’s where Xero Shoes step in. These minimalist shoes are designed to train your foot as if it were barefoot but give you that extra edge to keep your feet safe. Contrary to what most believe, the thin sole with zero arch support is not bad for your feet, it is actually better for them. A minimalist approach like Xero Shoes actually helps build the muscles in the foot and strengthen the foot. The thin sole allows the foot to bend and move in all the natural ways a foot is designed to move. Because of the zero drop design of the shoe, meaning there is no difference in the height of the heel and toe of the sandal, the foot is allowed to strike the ground in a more natural way as well. Xero Shoes are built around a strong belief that a bare foot is already a perfect design. Now there is something out there to make it better than barefoot.

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The Takeaway

Feet are incredible and we don’t give them enough credit. They are versatile, strong, resilient and adaptive. There are many routes we can take on the path to taking care of our feet. Chacos and Xero Shoes are each a different path towards healthy feet ready for a summer of fun. Don’t cast away a good shoe option just because first appearances are vastly different from what you have seen or felt on your foot before. Trying something new may just be the best thing you could choose for you feet!

For details on Chacos and Xero Shoes in store at Mountain Crossings, call us at 706-745-6095.