Inside A Walk in the Woods

As many fans of the Appalachian Trail are already aware, the release of Bill Bryson’s popular book A Walk in the Woods is just around the corner. Labor Day marks the premiere of the movie adaptation of one of the most well known books written about the AT. Though Bryson did not successfully thru hike the Appalachian Trail, in his book he excellently captured the spirit of the trail and the lives of thru hikers in a most hilarious way. In the making of the movie, the cast and crew went to great lengths to pay the proper homage and to bring to light those who keep the spirit of the AT bright and shining. Many iconic stops along the Appalachian Trail were used as filming locations including Amicaloa Lodge and Springer Mountain. Last summer, well over a year ago, the crew came up to Neel Gap to film the main characters passing through the breezeway, the only building through which the AT passes. That tells you just how long the AT community has been waiting for this film!

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Screen shot from the latest preview released of “A Walk in the Woods”.

Below is a clip recently posted by Backpacker Magazine that gives a little bit more information about the making of the movie. In this clip you can really see them highlight the local trail communities that bring life to the trail as well as larger groups like the ATC who help manage the Appalachian Trail in hopes of keeping it beautiful and open to the public even in a time of mass interest such as that created by the feature film.

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Backpacker Magazine has also conducted and interview with the author and with so-star Nick Nolte. Read that intreguiging little tidbit by clicking here. For those of you who have not read the book yet, it is 100% worth the read! Get it here and gobble it up before the movie comes out and then join the rest of us in the theaters!

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The numbers of hikers are expected to grow rapidly this next season as a result of the movie. We encourage 2016 thru hikers to familiarize themselves with Leave No Trace practices as to leave less of an impact. You may be go as far as to obtain a pack shakedown here at Mountain Crossings well before you leave for your hike in order to have the most manageable gear set while while also avoiding the crowds of March and April in Georgia. If you are not local, feel free to call in or email us for help at any time! We will be making an effort this winter to help 2016 thru hikers get the right gear, the first time, long before they hit the trail. stay tuned for more on that!

 

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How to Eat Well on Trail

When you are spending an entire day transporting everything you need to survive up and over mountains, food becomes amplified in importance. It is no longer just three meals a day;  it is the gasoline that fuels us forward; it is a currency; it is a reward as precious as a pot of gold for a long, hard day’s work! Thankfully for backpackers, you can’t over eat on the trail and, while some foods will take you farther than others, “unhealthy” foods hardly exist. If it has calories, you should eat it. The trick is maintaining enough creativity to keep you munching despite the limitations of a full kitchen. When on trail, there is no wrong way to eat. At the same time, it can be hard to get it right. The key is to simply keep eating!!

Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day they say. This is even more true when backpacking. Getting a good breakfast in you before a day of hiking will set a good tone for the day. It is easy to turn to quick fixes like Pop Tarts, Honey Buns and other pastries for quick energy but be prepared to snack often or struggle with low energy. Smothering your granola bar in peanut butter or adding a few spoonfuls into your oatmeal will provide you with a little more sustenance for big climbs.

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Breakfast Sampling: Honey Bun, Pop Tart, Cinnamon Roll Pastry, Instant Grits, Instant Oatmeal, Clif Bar, Clif Protein Bar

Lunch

Some hikers simply snack all day and never have a clean cut lunch. Others enjoy the extended, mid day break and the ability to whip up something a little bit more substantial than a snack allows. By taking a longer break, not only are you able to rejuvenate yourself more, you are also able to add more variety of foods into your diet. Meats and cheeses with sauces or condiments on some sort of bread are an easy way to add in a new food type into your hiking diet.

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Lunch Sampling: Tortillas, Salmon, Tuna, Cheese, Mayo, Peanut Butter

Dinner

Dinner is the best meal of the day when hiking! You’ve spent all day working up an appetite and all day thinking of eating food! This is the easiest meal to get creative with and help keep your meal rotation fresh and tasty. No one likes eating the same old thing and you shouldn’t have to, even while backpacking. Freeze Dried meals are a simple way to have a complete meal without doing much work. Macaroni and Cheese, Instant Mashed Potatoes and Knorr’s Pasta and Rice Sides make an excellent base for spicing up a meal with all sorts of additions. Adding in chicken, tuna, salmon or precooked ground beef brings more protein and flavor to a meal. Wrapping it in a tortilla and adding on a few slices of cheese transforms it into a whole different type of meal. Carrying a small amount of your favorite spices is a great way to get more flavor in a meal and a wider variety of flavor.

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Dinner Sampling: Mac and Cheese, Rice/Pasta Side, Instant Mashed Potatoes, Ramen, Freeze Dried Meal

Snacks

Snacking is a universal past time for hikers. Sometimes hikers don’t even stop in order to snack. What do you think those hip belt pockets are meant to hold, after all? Snacks are THE way to keep your fuel levels up when hiking. Whenever you begin cursing the mountain you are climbing, just stopping to take a quick snack break and bringing those energy levels back up, can change your entire outlook on the situation.

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Snack Sampling: Beef Jerky, Crackers, Peanuts, Granola Bar, Summer Sausage, Peanut Butter, Little Debbie/Hostess Pastry, Candy

Trail Recipes

If there is one thing all thru hikers and long distance backpackers always think about, it is food. We dream of it at night. We plan our our next resupply as our hitch rides us into town. We tease ourselves throughout a day of hiking by thinking of food we can’t have. So there is no wonder that so many crazy and interesting recipes have been thought up by hikers. You’ve surely made a few of your own and probably seen a few combinations out there made by others.

Check out this book of Lip Smackin’ Backpackin’ recipes.

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Check out this collection of trail recipes compiled by AT thru hikers.

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A Portal into History

A while back we had a visitor at the shop who had some interesting things to tell us. Dee, was his name, and he passed thru on a sunny weekday in late June. He lived with his family at the Walasi-Yi Inn and Restaurant from 1958 to 1964, he told us, and said he had not returned in many, many years. We spent a good while swapping stories and walking around the property listening to the way things used to be back when he was a child.

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Dee standing outside of the breezeway.

Dee lived on the mountain with his parents and his two brothers. They had several other family members that occasionally helped out in the Inn or Restaurant and a young girl named Margie who help out during the summer months. He told us that when the rooms filled up in the Inn, he and his family would clear out and make more room for visitors by staying at his grandmother’s house down the mountain in Blairsville.

We took Dee into the staff quarters and the hostel, which are now separated but were once what made up the entirety of the Inn. He told us how he remembered the lay out being and how he remembered it always smelling like lavender from the fresh linens. The Inn and Restaurant stayed open year round and Dee’s mother did all the cooking. When the season began to pick up, family members came to help out.

This is the Walasi-Yi Inn and Restaurant in 1954, four years before Dee's family took over.

This is the Walasi-Yi Inn and Restaurant in 1954, four years before Dee’s family took over.

Dee and his brothers had full run of Blood Mountain as children growing up. He said he remembers finding arrow heads of black obsidian around the areas of Neel Gap as they played in the woods. Just behind the stone building, today we see remains of a few cabins that housed men of the Civilian Conservation Corp during the its construction. Dee remembers a time when the first of the two cabins was still standing and was used as a shelter for hikers.

One of my personal favorite memories of Dee’s was of “a little old lady hiking the trail.” He said she didn’t carry much but she was a tough lady with lots of hiking experience. He was spekaing of none other than Emma “Grandma” Gatewood! She passed through Walasi-Yi the first time in 1955 on her legendary thru hike and then again twice more in 1960 and 1963 on two other AT thru hikes. During one of these two other times passing through, she apparently made a great impression upon young Dee.

Grandma Gatewood has an incredible story that was full detailed in Ben Mongomery's book shown here.

Grandma Gatewood has an incredible story that was full detailed in Ben Mongomery’s book shown here.

It was incredible to have a bit of living history among us and to learn more about what life was like at Walasi-Yi so long ago. If you or anyone you know have interesting history about Walasi-Yi, we’d love to know about it!

Tips for Backpacking with a Dog

Every hiker deserves a good hiking partner. When the going gets tough, the task of crushing miles on a day of constant down pours becomes less of a burden if you have a friend to share it with. Even when the going is good, sometimes just having someone there to share in the glory of the moment seems to make it all the more real. That’s why we have dogs!

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When Squarl and Holly left for their thru hike of the Continental Divide Trail, they left Lambeau, their pup, behind because the CDT is not nearly as dog friendly as the AT. Lambeau has since become our favorite hiking partner. Dogs make excellent hiking companions and the Appalachian Trail is a great place for hiking with your furry friends if you follow some basic guidelines!

Tips for Backpacking With A Dog

1. Make Sure Your Pup is up for it

Not all dogs are cut out to be trail dogs. While they are animals and are capable of more than we give them credit for, it is unfair to drag along young puppies, older dogs or very small dogs who are not cut out for the trail life. A dog with longer legs will enjoy itself much more than a dog of small stature.

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This is Corbin. He is an excellent size for hiking!

2. Obedience is Mandatory

It is very important that you have a strong command over your dog if you are going to be taking it out into the wilderness. It must be quick to respond to you and very amicable with other dogs, animals, people and children.

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Lambeau is excellent at taking commands from almost any human. Despite the fact that she is not his owner, Rachel was able to take Lambeau backpacking because she trusts he will listen to her.

3. Come Prepared

Make sure you have everything your dog needs because it is relying on you to pack its bags and check them twice. A doggy backpack is an excellent way to have your pup carry its own fair share of the weight, but don’t over load them. Often having them carry just their own food is enough to keep your own pack weight down. Make sure that their pack is properly fitted and that they are comfortable wearing it before you set out for your trek. Besides bringing enough food for a workin’ dog, they also need a water bowl and water, a collar and leash, their own sleeping pad and blanket or sleeping bag and a doggy jacket if it is cooler weather.

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A mother/daughter duo pick up their resupply box and you know there is some dog food in there!

4. Know Your Pooch

When you hike with another person, they’ve got no qualms about letting you know how they feel. The great thing about a hiking partner is that they’re stuck with you even when you’re complaining. But a dog doesn’t have the luxury of speaking their mind. It is important to anticipate their needs before problems arise. Check your dog’s feet daily to make sure there are no lacerations or wounds. Rest often if your dog is not in the best shape or if it is hot out. Make sure to carry enough food for the journey and consider them when you are collecting up water for the day. If you are long distance hiking with your dog, be careful to watch their weight as you go.

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Thru Hiker Hotwing is out with his two pups, Bacon and Wylie! Its not their first rodeo.

5. More Resources

Dig deeper into techniques for long distance hiking with dogs. There are all sorts of books out there and articles online. Check out this comprehensive article on Appalachian Trails about hiking with dogs. Also consider starting with day hikes to see how your pup takes to the trail. Look into this book for good day hikes for dogs in our area.

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