July Adventures

We love the summer here at Mountain Crossings. We have been getting outside whether we are on a trail, river, or in town! We wanted to share with you a few of our favorite adventures we recommend in the area.

Hiking and camping
If you are travelling with your family, or are just a beginner hiker, I recommend camping at Vogel State Park. It is right down the road from us and is a great place to hang out. The camping there is nestled in the woods and feels rustic. You can enjoy a morning stroll around the lake there and maybe swim in it in the afternoon. You can walk to the Bear Hair trail, Coosa Backcountry trail, and a short nature trail. The Coosa is for experienced hikers as it is the most difficult, but the Bear Hair Loop is around 6 miles and you get stunning views of the lake from a viewpoint. You aren’t a far drive from Helton Creek Falls, Blood  Mountain,  and Desoto Falls if those are also on your list. Take one of our Mountain Crossings Nalgenes with you to stay hydrated while you are on the trail!

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Vogel State Park

If you are looking for more of a backpacking adventure, get on the Benton Mackaye Trail! This trail is less travelled by far than the Appalachian Trail, yet you will still get stunning views and rivers. This trail  is around 300 miles and starts at Springer  Mountain and ends at the Northern end of the Smoky Mountains. It takes a different route than the AT so you will see different sites. Check out more information on their page here to find a section you might like to hike.

Click for Overview Map or right-click, 'Save Target As'

Benton Mackaye Trail overview map

Rafting
We have had several employees at the shop who are also raft guides on the Ocoee during the summer. They absolutely love rafting and meeting all the different people who seek adventure on the river. The Ocoee is located just North of the Georgia border in Tennessee. The middle section is the most popular and exciting.  There is also the upper section you can raft to make it a full day trip. Rafting just one section is only a couple of hours but can be relatively cheap starting around $35. This is one o f the most popular rivers in the Southeast because it is fun and easily accessible. There are over twenty companies that guide on the Ocoee so I’m sure you will be able to go rafting! Check out Whitewater Express and go rafting with our employee Holly!

The Chattooga is another great river located on the Georgia and South Carolina border near Clayton, GA. This is a Wild and Scenic River so you will not see any structures or other trips as you are rafting. There are two different sections III and IV. Section IV is definitely the scarier of the two as there are a series of rapids called the “Five Falls” that are pretty much little waterfalls. Each section is very fun and lasts all day. The trips are definitely pricier but the guides pack lunch for you and it is worth it for these full day trips. There are only three companies that guide on the Chattooga so you are sure to have more of a wilderness experience. Check out the NOC to learn more about trips on the Chattooga!

If you want to carry a few things with you on the river, get one of our Granite Gear Drysacks to keep your belongings dry on the raft!

Rafting on the Chattooga

Festivals
Blairsville is the closest town to us on the mountain. They have a few summer festivals usually held at Meeks Park in town. One coming up that we are excited about is the Butternut Creek Festival. The Butternut Creek Festival is one of the finest juried arts and crafts shows in the southeast. The two day festival showcases the work of 80 to 85 artists and craftsman in categories from basketry, candles & soap, fine art, fabric art, and decorative painting, to glass, jewelry, metal working, photography, pottery, scrimshaw, and woodturning. Held annually at Meeks Park in Blairsville, Georgia, Saturday 10AM to 5PM & Sunday 10AM to 4PM.  Free admission and free parking with shuttle service from the parking lots to the show site.

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Glass art at the Butternut Creek Festival

Dahlonega is South of us heading back towards Atlanta. The town is super cute and has a lot of great shops and restaurants. One activity we are looking forward to in Dahlonega this summer is their Movies Under the Stars. This event occurs in Hancock park near the square. Before settling down to enjoy the film at dusk, kick off your Friday evenings at 6 p.m. with activities the kids will love, like coloring and free giveaways. A Food Truck will be parked onsite for concessions. Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and low-back lawn chairs. The next movie they will be showing is Star Wars The Last  Jedi on July 20th.

If you can’t attend one of these festivals, at least stop by town and grab something to eat at one of the many restaurants and maybe look around at some shops!

We hope you come visit us and maybe do one of the activities we’ve recommended whether it be a hike, a paddle, or a walk around town!

 

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Blisters!

Who hasn’t had at least one blister in their life? Blisters are definitely no fun, especially when you are trying to hike all day every day and you’ve got one on your foot! We get a lot of hikers in the shop that have problems with blisters so we know a little bit about how to treat and prevent them. This blog post is going to talk all about blisters so I hope you stomach isn’t too full because there are going to be some interesting pictures of blisters.

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Take care of your feet to prevent blisters!

What are blisters?
A blister may form when the skin has been damaged by friction or rubbing, heat, cold or chemical exposure. Fluid collects between the epidermis—the upper layer of the skin—and the layers below. This fluid cushions the tissue underneath, protecting it from further damage and allowing it to heal. Friction is the most common cause for blisters while backpacking and is what we see in the shop. This kind of blister happens after walking long distances or by wearing old or poorly fitting shoes. Blisters form more easily on moist skin than on dry or soaked skin, and are more common in warm conditions.

In the shop, we help people with blisters all the time. There are a number of reasons hikers have blisters. The most common I would say is hikers wearing big stiff boots. Sure they may have “broken them in” a little bit, but to really break in shoes you need to have your full pack and hike in the mountains with them. If you just wear them around your flat neighborhood for a couple of days that won’t do the trick. Even if you’ve had them for a while, just the bulkiness and age of the shoe can cause friction and blisters. Another common reason is poorly fitting shoes. We have a lot of people that come in the shop with shoes that are too small and their toenails are already turning black, and also a good amount of people who buy shoes that are too big to anticipate foot swelling. This causes a lot of foot slippage in the shoe which in turn, causes blisters. Sometimes blisters can be inevitable if you’ve never done any hiking and your feet are just tender. You got to get out and hike more and build up some calluses to prevent blisters!

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Ouch!

Prevention
First off, you need to find shoes that fit you. Having a professional help you and show you how a shoe should fit is important. You need to find that sweet spot between too big and too small to prevent blisters. There are also a lot of different brands of shoes. Depending on what kind of foot you have, some brands will fit you better than others. Trail runners are becoming a more popular type of shoe on the trail. They are light weight and really don’t need much break in compared to boots. Boots will definitely be better though if you are hiking in the winter or have ankle issues. Again, just go try on a few pairs and see what feels right!

Choosing the right socks is the next step to prevent blisters. You want a sock that is going to keep your feet from getting too sweaty and a sock that will dry fast. Wool is the most popular material hiking socks are made from because it regulates temperature to keep your feet from getting sweaty and it provides cushioning. Be sure to get a sock with an appropriate amount of cushioning. A thick sock is not going to be good in the summer because it will make your feet sweat more. Try to keep your socks relatively clean on the trail. Have two pairs of socks to hike in so one can hang on the back of your pack and dry out while you wear the other pair. Try to wash your socks when you get to towns. Even if you just have a sink, rinsing them out and drying them in the sun or in front of a fan will make them so much better.

Even before a “hot” or irritated area on the foot is felt, taping a protective layer of padding or a friction-reducing interface between the affected area and the footwear can prevent the formation of a blister. Bandages, moleskin, and tapes generally must be applied to the foot daily on those hot spots. Other good tapes include Leukotape and KT tape. You can also use a lubricant such as Body Glide or Vaseline on the affected area to prevent more rubbing. Some people use powders suck as Gold Bond before they leave camp for the day and this helps soak up the moisture from your feet and help prevent friction.

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 A lot of taped up blisters!

Treatment
If somehow you have failed to prevent a blister and end up getting one, there are a few tips for treating the blister. It can be personal preference on what action to take while on the trail. I prefer to go ahead and pop the blister after I’m done hiking for the day. I make sure to get all the fluid out, then I apply an antibiotic ointment on it and keep it exposed to let it dry out and hopefully scab. If in the morning it is still sore, I’ll put some moleskin over it and duct tape the moleskin to my foot to make sure it stays in place. I remove the bandages that night and repeat the process. I have found that usually the skin reattaches to itself after one or two nights and then forms more of a callus.

Some other advice is to not pop the blister at all. When you do pop a blisters, you ricks infection if it gets dirty, so keeping it in its original form is a safe move. You can put a donut-shaped piece of moleskin on the blister to prevent further friction. If the blister gets worse or irritated, go ahead and pop it. Waiting till you get to a town is best so you can have soap and water and maybe stay off of it for a day or two.

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I would definitely get off trail for a while if I had these blisters

Conclusion
Blisters are no fun! Definitely come see us at Mountain Crossings, or go to your local outfitter to get expert advice on a pair of shoes for your hike. Be sure to go hiking in your new shoes on short day hikes and build your way up to bigger miles while carrying a pack. Have a small first aid kit with some moleskin, antibiotic ointment, and duct tape and that is all you need to treat a blister. And lastly, don’t be afraid to get off trail for a day or two if the blister really hurts. Hiking with really sore blisters puts a huge damper on the hike!