Squarl and Holly on the CDT

More MTX Staff is headed for the hills! This time the wonderful Squarl and Holly are headed out for the Continental Divide Trail. The CDT is approximately a whopping 3,000 miles long. I say approximately because, though it is an official National Scenic Trail, it is not fully completed. This gives is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” feel at some points. Countless nights of sorting through maps and guidebooks have landed Squarl and Holly with enough of a basic plan of their route, but they will surely wing it as they hike along America’s most rugged of the three big long distance trails!

For those of you who don’t personally know Squarl or Holly, here’s an introduction:

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Squarl and Holly are huge white water boaters. On any given weekend, you can find Squarl in a kayak and Holly in a canoe, crushing it!

Squarl has been a staple here at Mountain Crossings for about eight years! After thru hiking the Appalachian Trail after high school, he began his cycle of outdoor oriented jobs. When he’s not busting newbie thru hiker’s butts during a shakedown for carrying too much unneeded stuff, he’s either raft guiding or working at a ski mountain. His job often fluctuates with the seasons. The Appalachian Trail lead to a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, meaning that by the end of this fall, Squral will be a Triple Crowner!

Holly will be making her first entrance into long distance hiking on the CDT but she is not new to the outdoor lifestyle. She is a Black Fly sponsored open boat canoeist and has traveled extensively through her boating escapades. Holly is about as wild and untamed as the vast expanses of land they will traversing through so we aren’t worried about her falling into a rhythm in the wilderness. She’s got an excellent coach, an insanely upbeat attitude towards life and years of soaring through potentially bone crushing rapids to call on if the trials of adjusting to trail life do arise!

Naturally, before our friends set off for their great adventure, we had to have one last night hanging out. And what are friends for, if not for encouragement?!

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A cake that says “You’ll Never Make It” Squarl is not amused. Thankfully, Holly is always amused!

We have such faith in them that we can confiently hassle them! They leave May 1st and we hope to see them here at the gap again sometime in October! We wish the best of luck to Squarl and Holly and though we will miss them a ton, we are so stoked for their months on end of fun time!!

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Leave No Trace: Why It’s Important

Here at Mountain Crossings we have seen first hand what the misuse and abuse of the trail can lead to. In 2012, a camping restriction was placed on the five-mile stretch of trail south of Mountain Crossings requiring campers to carry a bear canister in order to stay over night between March 1 and June 1. Leading up to implementing this new rule, interactions between hikers and bears had spiked with the influx of thru hikers passing through the area. Bears in search of food in the early spring began to learn that they could count on the poor backcountry manners of thru hikers to supplement their diets. Without diligent efforts to uphold Leave No Trace practices, this began the first and only section of the Appalachian Trail to have a bear canister restriction.

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5 Mile section of trail from Jarrard Gap to Neels Gap where a bear canister is required to camp between March 1st and June 1st.

Leave No Trace is an outdoor ethics program that has formed a set of guidelines widely accepted by all as proper and responsible use of the outdoors. The most important of these for thru hikers would be camping on designated or durable surfaces, disposing of all trash and waste properly, lowering campfire impacts and respecting wildlife and other hikers.

Choosing a Campsite
During their time on the Trail, many hikers come across the need to “stealth camp” Stealth camping is pitching a tent or hanging a tent in a area that is not a pre-designated camping area, such as at a shelter or campsite. When this situation arises, it is very important for the camper to choose a spot in which the impact of camping will be as little as possible. A bed of pine straw is both comfortable and resilient in comparison to a patch of wildflowers. Be mindful in your campsite choices!

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MTX Staff’s favorite camp site. It’s a secret spot and we are set on cleaning it up every time well enough that it looks like no one has ever camped there. That’s how you keep your spot secret!

Proper Disposal of Waste and Trash
The proper disposal of waste and trash means packing out ALL trash. Burnables such a non-waxed paper and non-inked cardboard make a great fire starter but that does not extend to Ramen packages and candy wrappers. DO NOT burn your trash. Pack it all out. As for human waste, bury all solids in a six inch deep cat hole and pack out all toilet paper and hygiene products.

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The Duce of Spades is our favorite trowel on the market. These guys are SO light weight and we love that! They also come in excellent colors and make it super easy to get the proper cat hole depth.

Campfire Impacts
Many shelters and designated camping areas along the Appalachian Trail have a ring built for fires. Do not build a fire ring where one does not already exist. Do not burn anything in the fire besides firewood, If you are collecting wood, pull from a large area of land and only take dead, fallen branches. Always make sure to be aware of fire restrictions in your area when building a fire and be mindful of the surrounding wind conditions.

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This is what most campfire rings on the AT look like at shelters and other campsites. Be mindful of any dry brush around the fire ring and how big your fire is getting.

Respecting Wildlife and Others
One of the top ways to respect wildlife is to not intrude into their normal life. Do not touch or pick up animals found along the trail. Do not disturb nests or habitats of animals. Most importantly, properly hanging your food bag will deter bears and other mammals from coming into camp and getting a free snack. As for fellow humans, be conscientious of your surroundings and mindful of how your actions affect others. Be quiet when arriving to or leaving camp late or early. Do not cook inside of shelters. Do not take up excessive amount of space in shelters.

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A cute little cartoon depicting a good bear bag set up. But don’t leave your dishes out overnight!

In a nutshell, the Leave No Trace practices, known as LNT, are simply urging folks to be a respectful and mindful person when in the outdoors. It is a shared space and a precious and irreplaceable one at that. Think of how your actions effect the wilderness and those who also wish to enjoy it.

Pretzel is PCT Bound!

Meet Matt “Pretzel” Mason

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Pretzel rocking his PCT gear set up on a practice hike up Blood Mountain.

Pretzel hails from Illinois. After getting a degree in Outdoor Recreation, he thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2012. The AT lead to a thru hike of the Long Trail in 2013 and then the Colorado Trail in 2014. Three years after his first thru hike, he accidentally has about 3,000 trail miles under his belt. Now, he is setting off for another long haul!

Pretzel has only been with us here at Mountain Crossings since the end of February but even in that short amount of time, he has proven to be an irreplaceable member of the team. Unfortunately, we are loosing Pretzel to the PCT for a couple of months. We are super stoked to send him off into the wonderful, wild west, but we will miss him a ton! He has been bringing the heat on gear knowledge and perfecting his double and triple shakedown game throughout this hiker season. Pretzel is an ambassador for several top selling items in the shop here at Mountain Crossings inculding ULA Equipment, Point6 Socks and Superfeet.

We hate to see him go but we love to see our friends take off and have fun. Follow Pretzel on his PCT journey through his Instagram account. If you don’t use Instagram, you can still view his photos from the underlined link. If you are an Instagram user, follow @firexneck for excellent shots of the PCT popping up in your own feed!

Buy Local Extravaganza!!

The Buy Local Extravaganza is an event at the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce to showcase the local businesses in our area. Over 40 businesses will be in attendance! There will be door prizes, give aways and sample tastings from businesses who offer edible creations! Not to mention all the free business contacts that can be made within our very own community. Come spend and evening delving into and support your local economy!

Location:
Union County Community Center
129 Union County Recreation Rd
Blairsville, Ga
Date/Time Information:
Thursday, April 30, 2015
5pm – 7pm
Contact Information:
Blairsville – Union County Chamber of Commerce @ 706-745-5789

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Packing It Out!

Lots of people thru hike the Appalachian Trail. We see hundreds and hundreds pass through our shop each week during peak season. We love all our thru hikers who pass through but every now and then, there is an individual or a collection of individuals that really catches your attention. The fellas making up Pack It Out were just that sort. Meet Goose, Cap and Spice!

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Goose, Cap and Spice

When they passed through Mountain Crossings on a rainy morning, they had already collected up about 75lbs. of trash! That’s right, they are thru hiking the Appalachian Trail and focusing on packing out AS MUCH trash as they possibly can! How’s that for some Trail Karma?

I sat down and had a little mini interview with Cap. He and Goose had grown up together in Georgia and Cap had met Spice while sea kayak guiding in Wisconsin. When Cap decided to take on the beast that is an AT thru hike (along with the task of cleaning up the trail) both these buddies decided to jump in on the fun.

By the time they came rolling on into the shop here at Mountain Crossings, they had already collected about 75lbs. of trash! Thank goodness these guys don’t believe in being ultralight when it comes to packing out trash because too many folks seem to believe that leaving behind items simply because they over packed is an okay practice. Every day, each of them walks with a pair of grabbers and collects any piece of trash they can find. This is the result:

A photo of Cap and Spice snagged from their facebook.

A photo of Cap and Spice snagged from their facebook.

These guys are the real deal when it comes to loving on our beautiful natural landscapes! This is their mission statement from their Facebook:

Our mission is to inspire a sense of environmental stewardship within our communities by raising awareness for litter conditions along America’s trails.

Check out their Facebook Community HERE where you can share your own stories of Packing It Out and follow them on their AT journey on their blog HERE! Thank you Cap, Goose and Spice for taking on this huge project that means so much to those who love the Appalachian Trail. Folks like you and those who you inspire will be the ones responsible for keeping this lovely trail free and unregulated!