Have You Met Bill?

Because, if you haven’t, you’ve been missing out!

Bill Harris, or “Just Bill” as he will say if asked, came to be a Mountain Crossings employee at the beginning of the 2016 thru hiker season. It was an organic relationship. He had recently moved to the area, was an avid hiker and was used to hanging out in outfitters. To read further into that statement, he had recently moved just 7 miles down the road from Mountain Crossings from Damascus, Virginia, where he spent many years living along side the Creeper Trail, picking up trash, riding his bike, and working for Mt. Roger Outfitters. (Check out the video link below about that time in his life.) If you’ve hiked through Damascus, you know it is the most hiker centered town on the entire Appalachian Trail and you’ve probably been inside Mount Rogers Outfitters. You just may very well have talked to or walked past Bill, particularly if you’ve ever gotten a shuttle in the area!

When Bill moved to Blairsville, he came up to hike on the AT often and we got to know him well. It didn’t take long for Bill to start jumping in and helping customers when staff were busy. This became a habit. Bill would sell gear by simply talking to people about his experiences, telling them how he thinks something may or may not benefit them and then showing them something different that he thought may suit their needs better. All just because he’s a super friendly guy who wants to hear folk’s stories and loves gear, maybe a little bit too much! Eventually, it just made sense to put him on the payroll! Bill became the face of the Mountain Crossings Satellite store when it first opened up in March of 2016. The Mountain Crossings Satellite store is a temporary outfitter in Hiawassee, GA at Ron Haven’s Budget Inn that only opens in March and April while the Northbound thru hikers are coming through. Every year Bill mans the Satellite store and the rest of the year he is up at the shop at Neel Gap being the most helpful guy you have ever met in an outfitter.

Bill will fix your trekking poles if they are broken, he will sew your pack back together, he will fit you for the right size shoe (not the size you think you are!) and even teach you to properly tie your shoes depending on what is ailing your feet. If you are hurting, Bill will doctor you up with all natural remedies. No matter what it is that is needed, Bill can help!  He is actually the only employee at Mountain Crossings that has not thru hiked the Appalachian Trial, but we are pretty sure Bill has more miles on his feet than any of us and we know for a fact that he knows just as much, if not more, than the rest of us!

Sometimes in life you meet people, and you know it pretty quickly, that they’re are something special. Bill isn’t just a good friend, a helpful employee, a fun person. He is an experience. Just as hiking on the AT is an experience that shapes people and leaves an impression on them, so is Bill. I personally believe that is because he is a product of his environment. He has lived so simply, so completely, so well, for so long, that he emanates the serenity one finds from communing with the outdoors and holding it close to you heart.

Click the image above or this link to check out a beautiful video that delves further into the life and mind of Bill!

(Sorry ladies, Bill is NOT available! He is happily married to an awesome woman who is so great that he moved 436 miles down the Appalachian Trail and we are so happy about it!) 


Family Hiking Day 2017!!

Most of my favorite childhood memories have to do with the great outdoors and family trips spent hiking and camping. There is something magical about being exposed to the wild world of Mother Nature as a small child. It broadens your comfort zone, exposes you to the unfamiliar and emboldens your imagination and your sense of adventure. Best of all, maybe, it builds a platform at a young age on which a healthy lifestyle of physical activity and mental health can be lived out!

On Saturday, September 30th, join the Blairsville community for Family Hike Day, brought to our community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce, the Mountain High Hikers, Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, and the Benton MacKaye Trail Association. Wether you and your family are avid hikers, or just getting out together for the first time, come along for a great hike at the TVA Trail at Nottely Reservoir Trail Parking #2 off of Hwy 325, just 1.5 miles past the Nottely Lake Dam.

The hike will begin at 8:30am and will be led by George Owen. George, who is a father to two children and grandfather of four grandchildren, has in the past led hikes in Switzerland as a guide for ten years and also in parts of the USA. He is involved in several hiking clubs in the Southeast, two of them as both maintenance director and constructions director and two as president. He is a wealth of information about the local area and particularly these mountains!

We understand that sometimes it can be hard to wrangle the whole family together to meet at a specific place, at a specific time, on a specific day! If you are unable to join an official Family Hike Day event, you can still participate by hiking on the A.T. with your family on Saturday, September 30th or Sunday, October 1st and sharing a photo or video via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ATFamilyHike. Doing so will automatically enter you into a contest for a chance to win one of five Osprey Packs! Entires can also be emailed to soro@appalachiantrails.org and all winners will be announced on October 1st.

For more information on planning a family hike throughout the year and suggestions of family-friendly day hikes on the A.T., visit appalachiantrail.org/FamilyHike.

This awesome event is brought to you by these incredible groups:

Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce

Mountain High Hikers

Georgia Appalachian Trail Club

Benton MacKaye Trail Association

Hurricane Irma on the AT

While we love the cool air and color change that comes as summer fades into fall, it also means Hurricane Season. As many of your know, Hurricane Irma made landfall late Sunday/early Monday in Florida as a category 3 hurricane. By the time the leftovers hit the Appalachian Mountains, it had dropped down to the level of a Tropical Storm. The mountains and its inhabitants are no strangers to harsh weather and even high winds, but Tropical Storm Irma was enough to put a damper on some things for hikers and wilderness enthusiasts.

Over the weekend we had many people pull off trail to hunker down in the hostel and take refuge. Getting off trail and staying in town or in a hostel is always the smartest plan of action when are large and potentially dangerous storm is forecasted. Late Monday night and into Tuesday morning, the brunt of the storm hit the North Georgia area and the Chatahoochee National Forest with high winds and heavy rains.

Since then, we have received many calls about the conditions of the roads and the trails in the area. The paved roads and main highways and byways in the area are very well maintained and were cleared immediately upon the storm passing. The trails and the forest service roads and other dirt roads are sadly another story. Because of their remote location, it is very difficult to clear these areas and though there are many people working very diligently, time and patience is requires.

We have heard from many hikers who have come and gone from just north or south of us and they all have one resounding report: There are LOTS of trees down! Felled trees are a constant sight in the backcountry and after a huge storm as this, it is always expected that there will be many of them. If you are not prepared to walk around, under, through or over a felled tree, it is best to avoid the trails. If you are hiking and come across a tree laying across the trail, always proceed with absolute caution and make sure you assess the situation before you climb into a rickety tree waiting to collapse. When setting up camp or taking a break, avoid hanging out under leaning trees. We recommending staying off trail if you are not absolutely certain an area has been cleared.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy also has a report and recommendation for hikers in our area. It and others can be found on their Trail Updates webpage.

We have heard reports that USFS 42, the road used to get to Springer Mountain, has been shut down until it can be cleared. Amicalola Falls State Park has been without phones for quite some time and we have not been able to contact they yet, still. On their Facebook page, they announced that they shut down all of the trails in the area until the damage can be assessed and fallen trees can be cleared. This includes the Approach Trail up to Springer Mountain. Amicalola has yet to update their page, but you can follow along as see when the trails open back up on their facebook page.

We were very lucky not to sustain any damage here at Mountain Crossings, but we know this was a powerful storm. We had many visitors from Florida and south Georgia who were escaping the storm. We wish them the best as they travel back home and hope that find things in good order.