Patagonia: A Bandwagon Worth Jumping On

I truly think that it is a shame that the designs of Patagonia clothing products are so popular and fashionable among so many. Patagonia rip offs can be found throughout a wide spread of the clothing industry, including youth causal wear, sportswear and gift shops. The real deal has been one of the hottest selling clothing items purchased during the Christmas season for several years now! Stores can’t keep it in stock and imitators have jumped on the opportunity to make a buck on cheaper knock offs. It is true that Patagonia’s clothing has a simple, yet beautiful design and that they use a unique and varied color palette. It is also true that they are well made clothes and last a long time. But there is one feature of Patagonia products that should distinctly stand out as the number one reason why their clothes are so darn popular in our society. That is their commitment to sustainability and eco-friendliness that is applied as stringently as possible down the entire production line.

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The ridge line depicted in the Patagonia Logo is derived from a real mountain! It is Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia, on the border of Chile and Argentina!

Despite being a Fortune 500 company, Patagonia is one of the leaders in our nation for large scale sustainable practices in the clothing industry. They made a commitment early on as a company and have worked endlessly to make changes as they grew and find new ways of doing things that accommodate a larger scale production rather than simply falling in line with typical practices used by most other large producers. Here are but a few of the efforts Patagonia has in place that set it apart from other producers.

One Percent for the Planet

Patagonia invests 1% of the company’s yearly sales (not merely profit) back into the environment by doling it out to grass roots organizations fighting to persevere a land mass, stop the building of a dam, clean up an oil spill, or any of many other causes being fought for by locals across the US. In stead of swooping in and playing savior, Patagonia believes that those who are passionate and connected with an issue, living beside it day in and day out, are the ones best prepared to make a difference so they choose to fund them rather than interfere. This program is called 1% For the Planet and was founded by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard in 2002. Today, over 1,200 other companies are now also committing 1% of their annual sales as well, totaling in over $100 million that have been poured into environmental preservation.

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Blue Sign Approved

On Patagonia’s website, you can trace nearly every product back to the factory it was made in, wherever that may be. Many of Patagonia’s workers and factories are indeed abroad, but the company strives to make sure that working conditions are more than fair and that the production taking place is as sustainable as possible. Since 2000, Patagonia has been working with a company called Bluesign Technologies in order to achieve this more sustainable way of production and keep concern for workers in the fore front.

Bluesign technologies, based in Switzerland, works at each step in the textile supply chain to approve chemicals, processes, materials, and products that are safe for the environment, safe for workers, and safe for the end customers.

Can you imagine how much better off everyone involved in the entire supply chain would be if ALL companies even attempted to ensure something even similar as this?!

Traceable Down

As all hikers will agree, there is nothing like down when it comes to warm weather gear. Nothing gets you as warm and is so lightweight and small while doing it. But this comes at a cost to the animals whose feathers are used to produce our jackets, pants, booties, sleeping bags, quilts and more. In an effort to have a clear conscious in regard to every nook and cranny of their company, Patagonia has changed the way harvest do down. Instead of plucking a goose of its feathers and leaving it to die, as is typical, they found a way to pluck from geese already set to die by partnering with food companies. Harvesting the down feathers of geese used in the food industry means the goose will not die solely for it feathers, having the remains wasted.

But, Why?

Let’s be real. Patagonia would be an even more profitable company and all of their head honchos would be a lot more rich than they surely must be already if they would just cut some corners and produce their clothing the way most other companies do. It would be so much easier for them if they didn’t care to worry for animals or workers or about dumping waste and chemicals or about if the consumer got a long lasting, sustainably made article of clothing or not. So why do they do it!? Because they are one of us! They love to blow off work on a beautiful day and get outside and enjoy nature. They really want to have their beloved playground to be kept beautiful and open forever, just like we do, so they have committed to helping keep it that way! Thank God they are using their influence in such an honorable way!! I enjoy being able to respect the clothes I am wearing, knowing that they are worth the money both in quality and in doing the world a little bit of good. I just wish that was the true reason why Patagonia was so popular!

Want to Learn More?

The founder of Patagonia is a life long rock climber, mountaineer, and fly fisher. He wrote a book about the company he started and tells the story of how it turned from simply making better gear for himself and his friends to one of the top outdoor product companies out there. Let My People Go Surfing is both an intriguing story of adventure and an informative book about sustainable business. It is absolutely worth a read!

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Patagonia Fall Fashion Items For Sale At Mountain Crossings

 

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50 Years a Potter: Phil Mayhew & Walasi-Yi

By the time you read this, Phil Mayhew will have just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first pot he ever threw. Little did he know at the time that his life would one day be legacy of pots, mugs, bowls and other porcelain ceramic pieces of artwork.

It was the beginning of the summer in 1968. Phil had been to Walasi-yi several times before. As a ceramics student at UGA, he often fled Athens as the football games brought a commotion to the city and drove to the mountains for a respite. Often times he would stop at Neel Gap, sometimes hiking north to Leveland Mountain and other times going south up Blood Mountain. But he had never been inside until that May.

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Phil Mayhew and his wife Terri on the overlook.

It had been uninhabited for several years at the time and he quickly began building shelves to fill the dining area of the old restaurant as soon as he moved his family in. As a fresh graduate of UGA’s MFA program, he found himself to be the first caretaker of Georgia Mountain Arts, a small organization whose goal was to provide an outlet for craft art done by poor mountain people in the local area. This included knitted bonnets, sewn quilts, wood carvings, pottery and so much more. Phil passed by a well paying job teaching crafts for the Army in order to take the low paying job at Georgia Mountain Arts that placed  him in the heart of the mountains he loved so dearly.

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This Georgia Mountain Arts sign used to hang where the Mountain Crossings sign now hangs today.

When he wasn’t manning the little shop full of crafts at Neel Gap, Phil would stop by the small shacks and cabins of the artists he represented to collect more work to sell, using a small amount of money he was allotted to purchase works from local artisans. He would learn of these remotely located mountain men and women by inquiring at local country grocers. Just a few simple questions about carvers, weavers, whittlers and the such in the area and he would be on his way to hunt them down.

The program’s main aim was to put money in the hands of extremely poor people living in the mountains while at the same time recognizing their craftwork as art and bringing it the proper acclaim. Phil grew long lasting friendships with some of the artists as he went to visit them and watch them work, learning what he could from them.

Gerogia Mountain Arts also allowed several other artist to put their work on consignment in the shop. Among those was Phil, who has continued to sell his pottery at Walasi-Yi since then, 47 years ago! He now lives in Beersheba Springs, Tenneessee with Terri, who is also an artist and musician like Phil. Their lives work have a far and wide grasp. Their family like business, Beersheba Porcelain, encompasses their ceramic works and their jewelry. Several friends work with them but all are treated like family.

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Mugs, bowls and pitchers by Phil Mayhew, available at Mountain Crossings.

Georgia Mountain Arts only last a few years at Walasi-Yi yet it still made up some of the more colorful history of the building. Even then, Phil remembers inviting hikers to rest their weary heads as they hiked through. Several even sent him a letter in the mail to inform them of their success in reaching Katahdin. Phil went on to be a ceramics professor for several years until he decided to pursue pottery full time in 1973 and had been focusing solely on creating beautiful works since then! You can see a variety of his work on his website and find some for sale at Mountain Crossings!

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Bronson and Snaggles

Here are Mountain Crossings we take pride in our work; in every employee having a vast knowledge of the Appalachian Trail, in fitting boots and trail runners properly, in helping folks have fun and successful thru hike. We are renown for our pack shakedowns and we strive to always serve our customers as well as we can. Still, this is often times overlooked as a reason to come visit Mountain Crossings up against the furry faces of our feline pals, Bronson and Snaggles! It’s true. Many people come just for the fresh air and to see the cats. We can’t blame them. They add nicely to the scenery.

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This photograph of Snaggles has been turned into a postcard that is for sale inside the shop!

We often hear that our customers bring them snacks and many who don’t will inquire about their eating habits, wondering if they are getting fed well enough. As far as cats must be concerned, I can only imagine that they have got the life. Ample small critters roam the mountain for their hunting fun and feeding and in between they are supplied with dollops of tuna from kind hikers. When they are down on their hunting luck and the flow of visitors is low, these two smart little kitties are excellent at communicating their wants. Bronson will wait at the shop door for you to walk out, then run to his favorite fence post and start showing off his boxing skills. Then he will follow you into the breeze way and leap onto the window sill next to the apartment door and stare into your soul. The look only says one thing, “You’re going to bring out a bowl of Meow Mix, right?” Snaggles is more elusive and not as much of a show off. We know when ever he prances right up to us and begins to show affection that what he wants in return is food. Who could ever deny such cute actions?! Their food bowl may not always be full, but they sure do know how to fill it up again!

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This image of Bronson was taken by a hiker passing through quite a while ago. We love when folks share photos of our pets with us.

Bronson and Snaggles look like a pretty rugged duo because they have had free reign of the mountain for nearly a decade. They were the pets of the former owner, who left them contentedly on the mountain when the business transferred ownership. Snaggles’ long hair picks up leaves and debris wherever he goes. Bronson is a little cleaner looking by genetics and is often cited by customers to be pregnant because of his tubby figure. In the winter, these two buddies snuggle up on a bed of blankets in the warm laundry room. It isn’t uncommon to see one or the other lounging about by the heater in winter or soaking up the sun on a picnic table in the warmer months.

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Buddies snuggling together

Rain, Rain, Everywhere: How To Deal

Backpacking is an excellent practice in learning to deal with things beyond your control. Almost anyone who has done any amount of it has a story that pertains to such a lesson. Many times, it is the weather that leaves us at our wits end, wishing we could control the skies above. But as all backpackers also know, we can’t! That’s why we have come up with so many different ways to deal with rain! Below are several different ways you can make your life a little more enjoyable when hiking in the rain.

First, Let’s Cover Gear

Pack Cover

A pack cover is the most popular way in which to keep your gear dry. By keeping your pack cover in a readily accessible place such as an external pocket of your pack, you can whip it out at a moments notice and have your gear protected before the rain gets heavy. They are the lightest way to keep everything dry!

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Trash Bag Liner

Instead of using a pack cover, some backpackers line their pack with a heavy duty trash bag such as a compactor bag. These thick plastic bags act as a barrier between the rain and your gear. Remember that if you choose this method, you will be allowing your pack itself to get soaked and anything in any external pocket.

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Second, Wearable Rain Protection

Rain Jacket

Rain Jackets are the most common way folks keep themselves dry while hiking in the rain. When the temperatures are warn enough, some opt to not even use a rain jacket. But when it is chilly out or the winds pick up, a rain jacket is a welcomed piece of gear. Many times hikers find that they sweat when using a rain jacket. While many companies attempt to make a breathable Gore-tex shell, it can often times seems as if you are only exchanging wetness from rain for wetness from sweat. Still, when it is cold out, a rain jacket can be a life or death piece of gear. Even when it is not raining, a rain jacket is multi-purpose enough to be used as an insulation layer.

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Rain Pants

Rain Pants are not as essential as a rain jacket but many hikers like the ability to keep their legs and pants dry as well. Like a rain jacket, they make for an excellent, multi-purpose insulation layer. Many thru hikers opt to use their rain jacket and pants as a pair of clothes to wear while doing laundry on town days.

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Frogg Toggs

Frogg Toggs are a very lightweight, inexpensive alternative to a rain jacket and rain pants. They can easily be found at Wal-Mart and other like department stores. You get what you pay for, but they are a great option for rain gear that will d the job in a pinch.

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Backpacker Poncho

Backpacker Ponchos are an option to keep you and your gear dry at the same time! These over sized ponchos cover you and your pack, nearly covering the legs as well. They are not the lightest option but they serve well to handle a wet situation with as little pieces of gear as possible.

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Rain Skirt

The rain skirt is not the most popular method of protection from the wet, but for ultra light hikers, rain skirts made by companies such a zPacks are an excellent option because these versatile little guys also second as a ground cloth.

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Other Rainy Day Tips

  1. Don’t wear waterproof shoes if you’re going to be out for several days. Once waterproof shoes get wet (and they inevitably will get wet from the ankle if you’re walking through days of down pours) they take a long time to dry out again because they are doing their job in reverse, blocking moisture from escaping the shoe.
  2. Keep one set of dry clothes to wear in camp and keep putting on your wet clothes (if they haven’t dried) each day to hike.  If possible, do this with socks too if it doesn’t give you blisters. Having warm and dry clothes to switch into in camp can be the line between happiness and hypothermia if the temperatures drop low enough.
  3. If temperatures are dropping below freezing at night and your hiking shoes are wet, put each one in a bed bag or the pair of them in a big ziplock, and keep them in the foot box of your sleeping bag overnight to keep them from freezing. Be sure that they are tightly sealed and will not leak into your sleeping bag. In the morning they will be soaking wet, but at least you wont be forcing your sore foot into a frozen, solid shoe.

So the next time you have a chance to go hiking and the weather is not cooperating, just grab your rain gear and prep your mind to beat out Mother Nature’s weather whims!

Choosing the Right Map for Your Hike

One would think that something as simple as maps would be self explanatory. Just grab one depicting the area you’re in and go, right? It would seems so… until you see how many options you have! By choosing the correct map for your particular hike, you will be able to maximize the utility of your map and get the proper amount of information from it.

Blood Mountain Day Hike Map

This is a inexpensive little map we had made up of the Blood Mountain Day Hike. It is one of the more famous day hikes in Georgia and we decided it would be nice to have a map that depicted the Blood Mountain area for day hikers who only needed a small amount of information for a hike they may only do once. Drop into the shop before your hike to pick up one of these guys or order off the website in advance.

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This topographic map of Blood Mountain offers information on several different trails up the Mountain as well as tips for this particular hike.

North Georgia Area Day Hiking Map

Some folks are looking to do a lot of consecutive day hikes in the area or are local enough that they want a map that will cover a greater range of land for future return trips. National Geographic makes some excellent maps with a bit more detail that depict most well marked trails in the North Georgia area. Everything from large trails like the Appalachian Trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail and the Pinhoti Trail are marked along with many smaller spur trails. For the entirety of North Georgia, you can purchase the National Geographic Chattahoochee Map Pack.

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A very detailed map of the entire North Georgia area.

Section Hiking Map

Anti Gravity Gear makes very light weight Strip Maps that give you all the information you need for a longer Section Hike on the AT without having to carry the weight of a full data book. These waterproof strip maps give you the milage at major points along the trail, the location of water resources and shelters, as well as major road crossings and an elevation profile. They are sold by state so you can pick up which ever section you are looking to hike.  There is also a set of more detailed maps made by the ATC that are excellent for both section hiking and can be used for thru hiking.

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Lightweight, waterproof maps that give you just enough information for a long haul hike.

Thru Hiking Map

The most popular map used by thru hikers along the AT is AWOL’s Guide. This book is used mostly by thru hikers because it offers step by step milage points that include water resources, shelters, views, road crossings and much more. An elevation profile integrated into the data points makes it easy to collect all your needed information from one page. Each town along the AT is mapped out in detail with all the needs of hikers carefully noted and written out along side the town map. Many hikers use the guide book to take notes as they hike and often only carry one half at a time, sending the second half ahead to a point further down the trail. The second most popular maps for thru hikers are the ATC Maps. Hikers must purchase the set of maps before hand and send them ahead to set points. These maps also do not have town maps, though a data book is available to accompany the maps.

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AWOL is a former thru hiker whose Guide book has become the most popular and all inclusive guidebook on the trail.

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Along with the ATC Databook, the ATC Maps couple up to be a comprehensive, though heavier alternative to AWOL’s Guide.