Section Hiking Tips!

This time of year, we get a lot of section hikers passing through the shop. It’s the time of year when people either already have time off work or can more easily obtain time off of work. It is also one of the more forgiving times of year to be out in the mountains. For so many great reasons, summer time is peak section hiking season! Here are a few things to keep in mind for your section hike, whether on the AT or any trail!

Planning

Unexpected hiccups in your planning can sometimes lead to shattered expectations when backpacking, such as poor weather that the forecast didn’t quite pick up on or an injury. But still, a certain amount of it is needed to get you out there and on trail! Some folks get by with beginning and ending at major drop off and pick up points along the trail using information that can easily be found online. But if you are embarking on an extended section hike or if you are a serial section hiker and have a dream of piecing together a full AT hike, having access to all the ins and outs of the trail will be very beneficial! Purchase a guide book used by thru hikers to gain a continuous scope of the entire trail and to find potential jump off points that may otherwise be forgotten about. If your section hike is taking you past several trail towns, you will have all the information needed for a night of rest and resupply in the nearby town. You will also gain the benefit of all the information printed inside the guide book telling of local services that any and every hike may potentially find need for. Though a book like AWOL’s AT Guide is mostly carried by thru hikers, it works wonders for section hikers as well! Consider picking one up to help plan your next hike!

Shuttles

Nearly a third of all the phone calls we answer at Mountain Crossings is a hiker searching for shuttle driver numbers. Some folks are planning a hike and are looking to schedule a ride and others are currently standing at a road crossing on the trail, hoping a driver is currently available to come pick them up. No Matter which is your preferred method, it can be nice to already have a list of shuttle driver numbers ready and waiting. Many guide books, like the one mentioned above, will have a few shuttle drivers listed in their information sections about certain towns. You can also call up a local outfitter and receive even more phone numbers of local people looking to give rides to hikers.

When planning a shuttle for a section hike, many people will drive their own car to the destination that they plan to stop at and have a shuttle driver take them to their beginning point. This method of walking to your car allows you more freedom in your planning. If you try to get a ride from a shuttle driver at the end of your hike, you may have to wait several hours, if not more, for a shuttle driver to be available if you call them at the time you need a ride. If you plan to meet them at a certain time and date, many things can potentially go wrong and it at very least sets you on a firm time schedule you have to abide by. We always suggest giving yourself all the time in the world you may want so you can enjoy your hike and also making sure that you never leave a shuttle driver high and dry after planning a ride!

Pro Tip: Always carry a bit of extra cash for shuttle rides and unexpected cash only instances!

Some who have gotten shuttles in Georgia may recognize this car as belonging to one of the most reliable shuttle drivers around! Our section of trail has MANY great shuttle drivers who are very kind and knowledgeable people!

Exit Routes

Anytime you are going on a backpacking trip, it is good to have an exist strategy if needed. One of the things that keeps pulling us all outside is the unexpected nature of backpacking! If a problem arises, such as something back home, an unexpected injury or horrendously poor weather, having the phone numbers of several local shuttle drivers is a great way to make sure you are able to contact the correct person for a ride. Carrying a guide book with all the data points about road crossings, parking areas and side trails will also be crucial to helping you revise your plan if needed. Before setting out on trail, familiarize yourself with a few potential ways you can switch up your hike if you have to. Already having this bit of information in your mind will do wonders for helping you roll with the punches and not spoil your trip!

Knowing the gaps where you have a paved road crossing or even a Forest Service road crossing is important to your exit strategy!

Weather

One of the greatest things about section hiking is your ability to pick times of year or blocks of time with good weather. Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with our plans. Be sure you have done your research into local temperatures and weather in the area you are about to go hike in. Always keep in mind that mountain ranges create a lot of their own weather. If you are coming from Florida to hike in the Smoky Mountains in May, snow may seem like the last thing possible, when it is quite likely that those mountains may see snow into June even! Look for the weather in local towns and make sure to subtract roughly 5 degrees for every 1000ft of elevation you gain from town. You can also use websites such as Mountain Weather Forecast to help you get an accurate idea of the temps and weather on particular mountain tops. Regardless of what the weather man is telling you, always come prepared for wetter, colder, dryer, and hotter weather than you are expecting. A thin, extra layer in summertime can be a life saver on a tall mountain peak and a collapsable extra water bottle may save you in a particularly dry stretch.

A not so atypical view on the AT!

Mentality

We often times see section hikers come in very bummed out when their hike is not going as planned. And we totally get it! When you have a week off and all you want to do is hike and all the weather wants to do is dump rain on you, it sucks! Or maybe you’ve built up a bit of an injury and know its not smart to keep trekking on. It’s so much nicer to be able to enjoy good weather on your week (or more!) out into the woods and to be able to cruise through it without problems. But we always tell them, “You getting the true hiking experience now!” It is a sometimes futile attempt to help them feel better, but it is fun as a section hiker to have to make those tough calls like thru hikers have to time after time while on their thru hike. Do I muscle through the bad weather (rain, snow, storms, whatever it may be) or do I throw in the towel for a few days until it passes? Do I take a rest day or two to help my ankle (or knee, or blisters) heal? Sometimes for a section hiker this means giving up crucial hiking days hanging out in town or at a hostel when you only have a small window of time to hike, and that is a hard choice. But don’t let it ruin your trip. It is all part of being in the hiking community! We have all had to make those hard choices to stay put for comfort or push on and suffer through it. That is what makes backpackers so interesting! If you are section hiking and get rained out for days on end, or have to take unexpected days off to rest, take heart! You’ve been inducted into the backpacking family!

Taking care of your body and listening to its needs are as important as knowing the weather coming your way!

Water

Lastly, having a general idea about the water report in your area is key. If the area you are planning to go hiking in has had lots of rain recently, you are most likely going to find that the springs and water resources along the trail are running well. If it has been dry, there is a potential that finding water may be a problem. Local outfitters, as well as several websites, can give you an update on water. In our area, the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club has a list of all the GA water resources and their volunteers work to keep the list updated as much as possible. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy also has an ongoing list on Trail Updates that will inform you of any trail closings and major goings on along the AT. Be sure to always have the capacity to carry several liters of water if needed and drink up while at the water resource if you are hiking in a dry portion of trail!

This is what everyone longs to see after hoofing it up and over a big mountain!

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Help the ATC Fight the Mountain Valley Pipeline

DISCLAIMER: All hikers know that talking politics is one of the best ways to ruin a beautiful day of hiking. So lets make one thing clear; we write and post information related to the Appalachian Trail, not politics. Sometimes, those two things over lap. We are not here to sway anyone in any political direction or another, only to help spread the word and bolster support for the protection and preservation of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail now and in the future. 

If you have flipped on the TV or radio in the past few weeks, you are well aware that American leadership has chosen to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, an agreement between 195 nations to work towards sustainable development goals and slow the emission of green house gases causing climate change across the world. Whether this seems to you to be a good move or a bad move, it has staggering direct affects on the Appalachian Trail.

The alternative to diving headlong into sustainable and renewable energy is to continue on with mining coal and drilling for and transporting natural gas. Since the recent turn back towards these tactics, several states that the AT runs through have found themselves once again in danger. If you’ve hiked the AT, you know these states well. You’ve loved them, hated them, walked through the rain in them, ate the hardest earned burger in them, been parched under the summer sun in them and learned incredible life lessons in them. That’s all in a days work on the AT.

Sadly, there is currently a major threat to the Appalachian Trail leading through West Virginia and southwest Virginia, the Mountain Valley Pipeline. This pipeline travels south from Mobley, West Virginia to meet up with the Transcontinental Pipeline and will cross right over the Appalachian Trail, carving through the ancient landscape.

As many AT hikers know, the trail roughly follows parallel to I-81 heading north through Virginia. The pipeline will cross the AT just east of Roanoke.

For over a year, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has been trying to work the builders of the Mountain Valley Pipeline. They know that they can not slay the beast, so they have been focusing on working along side the builders as much as possible to find ways to lessen the environmental impact on the communities near the AT, on the trail itself and to help preserve the beauty of the trail for future hikers.

This superimposed image following the pipeline map shows what a view from the AT is likely to turn into once the pipeline has been finished.

The job of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is to protect and preserve the trail since its creation in 1925. Yes, thats 12 years before the trail was completed! These guys take their job seriously and we love them for it! As you can imagine, with a threat like this to their way of life, they aren’t too happy.

Directly from Conservancy: “The ATC does not take this position lightly — for months, we have attempted to find ways to minimize environmental and visual impacts through collaboration with Mountain Valley Pipeline officials and the project’s various partners, including the U.S. Forest Service. However, due to the massive impact the proposed project would have on the Appalachian Trail, the surrounding environment, and multiple communities and small businesses, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy strongly opposes the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, and we urge our members, the A.T. hiking community, outdoor lovers, and the citizens of Virginia and West Virginia to stand with us.”

Again, we aren’t starting a political debate here, but we can’t help but to agree with the ATC. We don’t like this because it is a threat to the things we love most: the Appalachian Trail, the beautiful natural landscape around us, and America’s most popular way to drop it all, re-learn to rely on ourselves and those around us, and reconnect us to nature all while whipping us into the best shape of our lives. We value the environment, protecting natural landscapes, the mental and physical health the trail offers, and mostly, the beautiful people that make up the AT Community.

The Mountain Vally Pipeline will cut right through the Appalachian mountains, crossings over the Appalachian Trail, scaring the landscape and immediately surrounding environment from its construction onward into the future.

We pity our nations complacency with reliance on fossil fuels when there is such a wash of negative effects on the surrounding community and landscape and feel a need to raise awareness and fight back when that reliance begins to rear is ugly head in our backyard.

So we ask, if you love the Appalachian Trail, (If you have thru hiked or section hiked, we don’t see how you could be in love with all 2,180+ miles of it! If you plan to thru hike or section hike, you should want it to be a beautiful of an experience as it has been in the past! And if you haven’t walked it all, that shouldn’t lessen the love in your heart!) please, please, please, help us and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in spreading the word and working as hard as we can to save the Appalachian Trail as we know it and to keep it as wild as we can. We know that every employee at Mountain Crossings has had their life transformed because of hiking the AT and we meet customers every day who feel the same. Please, let’s work together to allow that to keep happening for hikers for years to come.

 

CHECK OUT THE ATC’S FULL ARTICLE EXPLAINING THE IMACTS OF THE MOUNTAIN VALLEY PIPELINE IN THE AT AND WAYS TO TAKE ACTION TO HELP PROTECT AND PRESERVE THE AT!

Get Off The Grid Festival

Mark your calendars for August 18th, 19th, and 20th for an incredibly fun weekend full of music, during which you will be exposed to all sorts of wonderful and important ways of sustainable living in the mountains, as well as experience a total solar eclipse that you can tell others about for years to come!

Blairsville is very proud to be the host of a music, arts and culture festival called the Get Off The Grid Festival, a solar expo and fair centered around sustainability. This three day festival, powered entirely by renewable energy, is preceding a solar eclipse that passes through North Georgia on August 21st. Come up Friday, stay for the weekend for the music festival and stick around on Monday for a prime view of the eclipse of the sun from one of several events happening throughout the area.

This festival isn’t only your typical music fest, it is a declaration of a lifestyle that is growing across our country and will help shape a secure and healthy future here in America. The North Georgia News says, “The goal of Get Off The Grid Fest is to collaborate with renewable energy and sustainable living businesses and enthusiasts, performers, organizations and vendors by providing a gathering space where people share tools, ideas, workshops and stories about getting off the grid. Get Off The Grid Fest especially wants to highlight Union and surrounding counties’ organizations, businesses and vendors that incorporate renewable energy and aspects of sustainable living and environmental awareness into their daily interactions.”

As an outfitter situated along the Appalachian Trail, particularly in Georgia where the trail gets some of its heaviest use, we see the need for sustainable practices in relation to our environment in our everyday lives. We are elated to hear that our community is seeing the value in that as well! Please come out and enjoy Get Off The Grid Fest, support the movement towards renewable energy and sustainable methods of living in our North Georgia community!

Get Off The Grid Fest boasts great music like Donna the Buffalo, Copious Jones and so many more! There will be solar demonstrations by several different solar companies, talks by bee keepers, an individual who helped write some of Americas first renewable energy policies for presidents, presentations by local organizations working in various fields of environmentalism and sustainability.

Tickets for the festival at the Union County Arena are only $30 for the weekend and they include a CD! Come join us for an awesome weekend!