PSA: Eclipse Day Saftey!

This is a preview from an eclipse in Norway of what the sky looks like in the middle of the day when a Total Solar Eclipse sends the moon passing by the sun!

The Total Solar Eclipse on Monday, August 21st is just around the corner and it is ramping up to be an event like no other. Even local schools in are are opting to let out school for the day to extending the school day so children are not riding the bus at the time of the event. The Forest Service in are are are warning that our little home in the Chattahoochee National Forest may be quite the hotspot for viewing the event. As many visitors to Mountain Crossings know, we are located at the very top of the mountain as far as road traffic is concerned and the roads leading to us are steep and winding. These roads make for a wonderful drive through the mountains and are even part of several well known loops for motorcyclists and bicyclists. Add in being the closet point to Atlanta to view a Total Solar Eclipse that won’t happen for another several hundred years and you’ve got a recipe for some traffic!

For all who are driving towards Blairsville and Dahlonega to catch a glimpse of the moon passing over the sun (in totality for just shy of 2 minutes!) we urge you to be patient, plan ahead with a possible back up plan or two, and be thoughtful and considerate to others in where you choose to park a car and view the eclipse. In an estimation from the Forest Service, the already potentially treacherous roads carving through the Chattahoochee National Forest may be lined with cars wanting to catch a clear view of the Eclipse. There are many safe pull off areas on these roads, but the number of them are far less than the expected number of visitors. Please do not put yourself of other motorists at danger in choosing a spot to watch the eclipse.

There are many places that are hosting viewing parties where parking will be much safer than on the side of a road. Mountain Crossings is one of those places where you can safely watch the eclipse! We will have lunch and eclipse glasses, which are needed to view the eclipse without the danger of damaging your vision. In fact, there are plenty of places where you can catch a glimpse of this phenomena in our area! Union County is expecting to more than double its population for a day as 40,000 viewers are projected to find a places within the totality band to catch the eclipse.

Besides careful driving, the most important factor of safety on the day of the Eclipse is wearing the proper eye protection. While the sun will be no stronger than it is on a typical day, we typically are not staring at it waiting for a once in a lifetime event to occur! It is massively important that if you are planning on viewing the solar eclipse during the times it is entering and existing totality that you wear NASA Approved Solar Eclipse Glasses. Mountain Crossings will have glasses available for all who attend our event but we urge all viewers anywhere to make sure they are properly protecting their eyes against the strong UV rays of the sun. The retina of the eye does not feel pain, so you are unaware that you are damaging your eye sight until the harm is irreversible. Please be safe, wherever you choose to view the Eclipse!

Working for the ATC: An Inside View

At Mountain Crossings, supporting the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is very important to us because they are the ones who work endlessly to support the Appalachian Trail. They help round up volunteers and resources to maintain the trail. They seek to educate users of the AT in an effort to protect the future of the trail for all. And they work to solve the major problems facing the Appalachian Trail all along its nearly 2,200 mile length. What they do is absolutely amazing and understanding their work better is one step in supporting and appreciating this amazing group of individuals and all their associates (every volunteer up and down the trail!) Check out this Question and Answer below with the ATC’s Central and Southwest Virginia Regional Office Director to get a better sense of how this non-profit organization is keeping the Appalachian Trail alive.

In further support, Mountain Crossings will donate $1 to the ATC for each purchase of an ATC Topo T-Shirt. This synthetic hiking tee sports the old timey, original metal trail marker plaque with a topographic background and the AT slogan, “A Footpath For Those Who Seek Fellowship With The Wilderness”, all on the back and a small, simple version of the metal trail marker in the center of the chest on the front. 

Working at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy: A Question and Answer with Andy Downs

MTX: What is your job title for the ATC and what kind of work does that include?
Andy: I’m the Regional Director for ATC’s Central and Southwest Virginia Regional office. I personally work on land protection, external threats, volunteer development, trail design, visitor use management and sometimes rabid skunks, full privies, broken shelters, friendly bears, crazy hikers, etc. etc.

MTX: How does this compare to former positions at the ATC?
Andy: From 2007-2013 I worked in the Southern Region, mostly in the Smokies. My job at the time was about 65% in the field and I worked more closely with the Trail Crew Programs and the Ridgerunners.

MTX: How did you come about working for the ATC and what lead you there?
Andy: I went back to school at NC State with the specific intent of working for the ATC.

MTX: What was your experience with the Appalachian Trail before working at the ATC?
Andy: 2002 Thru-hike, numerous shorter sections but like most hikers, I had no idea who managed the trail or what it entailed.

MTX: Did you see yourself working for the ATC one day as you were thru hiking?
Andy: No, but I did soon after I started my first “real job” as an Archeologist.

MTX: What is your favorite thing about working for the ATC?
Andy: The Trail

MTX: What is the hardest part of working for the ATC?
Trying to explain to hikers when they are ruining the whole thing for everyone.

MTX: How have your feelings about the Appalachian Trail changed over time from when you were first acquainted with it, to now, after working to help protect it for years?
Andy: I love it more, much more than I ever have. Also, over the past couple of years I’ve come to realize how fragile the Trail experience is. We could lose the whole damn thing if were not careful. I mean, in 25 years, the A.T. will still exist BUT the kind of experiences that are available on the Trail could easily and irrevocably be limited through the actions of the people who love the trail the most. I don’t think most visitors know how close we are to that cliff’s edge.

MTX: Tell us one of your favorite stories from the years you have worked for the ATC:
Andy: I’ve told the story of the closest I’ve ever been to a bear a few times (which is very, very close) so maybe I’ll tell the story of the New River Relocation. I’d heard about this relocation since the first day I started with ATC, it had been on the books for about 25 years. It was the last major section of the entire Trail that was not protected, required land acquisition and about 6 miles of trail relocation. Along with the Rocky Fork project (which is another great story), the New River Relo was one of the last of the original big relocations.

About a month after taking the Regional Director job in Virginia, the word came down that the land owner, in this case the Celanese Corporation in Pearisburg, VA (yes, that factory) finally wanted to talk about providing an easement over their land for the long-preferred route up to Rice Fields. The catch was that we had to flag, clear and build about 3 miles of trail in just less than two months. I think volunteers came from around the state to help out on that project and the moment that sticks out to me was when all-star volunteer Trudy Phillips showed everyone the tuff stuff that she is made from. At the end of a hard summer day of clearing brush and trees from the trail route, at about 4pm, a group of guys sat on a log and started to take their gloves off. Trudy, at about 5 foot 1 and roughly 85 pounds immediately popped out of the woods in full chainsaw regalia – chaps, hardhat, long sleeves, earmuffs and went down the line like a General on a battle field, willing these tuckered out senior citizens onto their feet for one more shift. She banged her hands together and shouted, coercing every last ounce of energy out of the crew. The sight of Trudy, after she’d run a chainsaw all day in the 90 degree heat marching down the front lines and pulling the crew back into the woods for one more push will always stick with me.

We finished that relocation and, although it’s not the prettiest section of the trail, no one can put a fence across it and shut down the whole thing.

Mountian Crossings would like to extend a HUGE thanks to Andy Downs, the Regional Director for the Central and Southwest Virginia Regional Office for agreeing to help out with this blog post and taking time out of his day to participate! We would also like to thank ALL staff at the ATC, ALL the members who keep making contributions, ALL the ATC volunteers and ALL the trail crews and clubs to help maintain and protect the AT as we know it! THANK YOU!

Solar Eclipse Viewing Party at Mountain Crossings

You would nearly have to be living in outer space to have not heard the news of the upcoming solar eclipse that will be passing right over the southeast! On Monday, August 21st, the skies will go dark for just a few minutes in the early afternoon as the moon passes over the sun in the first total solar eclipse to cross the entire United States since 1918. The eclipse of August 21st will begin its journey over the U.S. in the north west corner of the country and pass by down through the south east and Mountain Crossings is directly in the line of the Total Solar Eclipse! Join us for the spectacular event!

The darkened area represents all the places where you can catch a total solar eclipse and Mountain Crossings is the yellow star fully submerged in the path of the eclipse!

We will begin at 12pm on Monday, August 21st, by grilling hot dogs for lunch. There will be fun for the kiddos and music playing for all to enjoy. The eclipse will take place fully at 2:35pm in the Blairsville area and will last for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. We will all be crowding the over looks and the parking lot at Mountain Crossings to get a good look! We will provide eclipse glasses for a small donation so that everyone can safely view the sun as the moon passes by it and makes the sky go dark. There will also be commemorative stickers and mugs while supplies last!

See what the Eclipse will look at where you will be! Use this Eclipse Simulator to input your location and get a preview of the eclipse in your area. The image below shows what Blairsville will see.

Blairsville will see the solar eclipse in all its glory as the moon passes directly over the sun, darkening the sky!

Fun Eclipse Facts:

  • During a total solar eclipse, the shadow of the moon on the Earth is relatively small. The Earth typically continues to receive 92% of the usual sunlight it sees.
  • It is very dangerous to attempt to view an eclipse without proper eye protection. Even just a few seconds spent staring directly into the sun can damage the retina of the eye from the visible and invisible radiation of the sun. The retina does not feel pain and damage can take hours to take effect, meaning you have no way of knowing you are damaging the retina until it is too late.
  • It is safe to view a solar eclipse with out eye protection during Totality. This is when the moon is completely covering the sun and only a ring of light is illuminating the diameter of the moon.
  • Regular sunglasses are not appropriate for viewing a solar eclipse. Eclipse specific glasses a required to remain safe, as these glasses are specially made to filter out the harmful radiation of the sun.
  • Total solar eclipses occur somewhere on the planet about once ever 18 months on average. On the other hand, they occur at one given place only every 360 to 410 years!
  • A total solar eclipse can only last for up to a few minutes because the moon is moving at a rate of approximately 1700km/h past the sun.
  • The eclipse on August 21st will only be visible in totality through a narrow 70 mile corridor.
  • The eclipse will be visible in totality only in 14 states, but it will be partially visible from many more states.

 

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!

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!

Introducing Mystery Ranch

At the beginning of 2017, Mountain Crossings brought in a “new” pack brand called Mystery Ranch. We put quotations around the word new because they are neither new to the pack making game nor newly on the market. Mystery Ranch packs are the brain child of famed pack builders Dana Gleason and Renee Sippel-Baker, creators of Dana Design packs. If this sounds familiar, it’s because Dana Design’s packs were the hottest packs on the market in the 1990’s! These quality made packs were the first to carry heavy loads comfortably. They were the pack to have at the time and even today you will hear folks talk lovingly of their old Dana Design packs. In fact, we still see a few of them pass through the shop every now and then! How’s that for long lasting quality.

Mystery Ranch pack vs. Dana Design pack

Mystery Ranch was born in 2000. This was only 5 years after Dana Gleason and Renee Sippel-Baker sold Dana Designs, with thoughts of retirement, to a corporation. But as it always seems to go with ambitious, outdoorsmen and women, they missed being in the pack game and jumped on the opportunity to build something new. Mystery Ranch packs and products soon caught the eye of Navy SEALS, who swayed Mystery Ranch into doing direct sales to only US Military and Special Force. This gave Mystery Ranch a unique clientele who used and abused their packs to their fullest extent and then return to the company with great insight to make an even better pack.  As time went on, Mystery Ranch soon began to sell to firefighter crews too, their packs being a favorite of hot shot crews on wild land fire fighting teams.

With a basis in rugged and extreme use, Mystery Ranch just recently has come back around to offering their packs to the civilian population via direct to customer sales and through select retailers, Mountain Crossings being one. We carry their “Mountain” line of packs for backpacking and several of their “Everyday” packs and bags. We understand that not all backpackers are ready for or even interested in going ultralight. Bringing in Mystery Ranch products rounds out our pack selection nicely by offering customers a heavier duty, more built out pack with all the bells and whistles. Just like the other pack brands we carry, Mystery Ranch makes packs that are up to our standards as backpackers ourselves.

Check out this impressive line up below. It is but a simply of what we currently have in store at Mountain Crossings. For greater detail on these packs and to check on our inventory status, call the shop at 706-745-6095 or email us at info@mountaincrossings.com. Come in and check out these awesome packs for yourself!

 

Stein 62

Specs:
Liters: 62
Weight: 4.7 lbs
Price: $299.00
Use: Long Distance Backpacking

Scree

Specs:
Liters: 32
Weight: 3.1 lbs
Price:$179.00
Use: Weekend Backpacking, Day Hiking, Climbing

Hardscrabble

Specs:
Liters: 22
Weight: 2.3 lbs
Price: $125.00
Use: Day Hiking, Climbing

Streetfighter

Specs:
Liters: 16
Weight: 2.6 lbs
Price: $149.00
Use: Day Hiking, Everyday Carry

 

Agile

Specs:
Liters: 7
Weight: .8 lbs
Price: $55.00
Use: Short Day Hike, Everyday Carry

Mountain Crossings Employee’s Off on Adventures!

The large majority of Northbound thru hikers have passed by us here at Neel Gap and it is the time of year that a Mountain Crossings Employee or two jumps into a new adventure. During the thick of hiker season, we are heavily staffed and yet still all of our employees are working long hours to help serve the hikers as they begin their hike. We wait all year for hiker season and it is by far the most fun time of the year for us, but it is always nice to get a chance to get outside and go play after watching thousands of folks pass through the shop beginning their own epic adventures!

This year, Leigh, aka Star Crunch, is headed west to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail! She thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2014 and was a Ridge Runner in Georgia for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy during 2015. Even after jumping on staff here at Mountain Crossings in the summer of 2016, Leigh continued to work as a Trail Ambassador, helping educate hikers about the local area and Leave No Trace practices.

At the beginning of this week, Leigh set foot on the PCT at the border of Mexico and the United States! She is taking on this new adventure with her boyfriend, Andrew, who is the Resident Naturalist for our good neighbors down at the Hike Inn. Together they have spent the last few months paring down gear and making selections for their thru hike. Now they are making their way north through the desert!

Be sure to keep up with occasional blog posts and newsletter updates to follow along with Leigh and Andrew as they hike the PCT.

Leigh PCT.jpg

Leigh, known on trail as Star Crunch, at the southern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail!

After hiker season slowed down, Matt, aka Pretzel, also left for a fun new adventure. He recently landed a seasonal wildland firefighter position in Boise National Forest in Idaho. Pretzel is not new to physically demanding jobs that help protect or promote beautiful wild places. He has spent time working on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s S.W.E.A.T. Crew in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park building and maintaining remote trails, as well as helping do the same in Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Moving into the realm of a wildland firefighter is a step up in terms of specialized skill and training.  Matt is used to living in the field and having to work with hand tools packed in on his own back, but the ante has been up-ed. His job will be to work on a small crew to help create fire lines around wildfires in an effort to keep them from spreading. The location of his crew changes with the needs of the National Forest.

Matt will be working on the crew during the prime time of wildfire season, at which time he will (we hope!) return to Mountain Crossing in the fall to help us with second busiest time of the year!

Capture

Matt, aka Pretzel, on his first trail run in his new home in Boise National Forest.

At Mountain Crossings, we are lucky to have such incredible employees who’s lives reflect their love of the outdoors!

What Do You Do While You Hike?

Hiking all day, every day, can get pretty monotonous. I have had people ask me if I get bored, and the answer is actually, not really. Here are some things you can do while you hike to prevent yourself from getting bored.

Appreciate nature
I hike alone a lot and I mostly just appreciate my surroundings and let my mind wander. I think this is the best pastime while hiking. You can hear things rustling in the trees, you can focus on the trail ahead of you, and just think about whatever pops in your head. There are so many exciting things on the trail from plants, animals, and people, that I feel I don’t need anything else usually. When I start to feel tired or weary, I take a break and refuel to continue on the next stretch. There are many forms of technology now and we always seem to have something we are listening to, or watching, that taking a break from it is nice. That being said, I do occasionally appreciate technology.

Headphones
I do have a tiny little Nano iPod that I carry and there are a few things I like to listen to if I am just really needing a boost. Music is always nice. I only have a few of my favorite albums that I play and I listen to them while I’m hiking to town. I am usually anxious to get a nice meal and shower so having some tunes helps me not think about town too much.

Audiobooks are great to make the time fly by. I listened to a few on the trail and the day just seemed to disappear. It really distracted me from the monotony of hiking and I enjoyed the books. Be careful though because I know there was at least one good view I missed out on because I was enthralled in my book. Only have a few on your device so you don’t get carried away just focusing on books while hiking. Audiobooks can be expensive, so downloading an App like Audible can cut down on price of audiobooks with a subscription.

I recently discovered Podcasts and find them very interesting. They are shorter than an Audiobook so you can listen to them if you are waiting for a shuttle, or just need a quick 30 minute break. Podcasts are free if you have an iTunes account so you can download a bunch ahead of time and just have them on hand if you want them. I recommend Serial, S-Town, This American Life, and Up and Vanished. These are the ones I have listened to and I think anyone would enjoy them.

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Hiking with headphones

Social
Grab a friend and hike with them! Even if you plan to be alone, hiking with someone for just a few hours can be really fun. You can meet so many interesting people on the trail and everyone becomes an instant friend. Sometimes you like people so much you decide to just keep hiking together and you become a little family. It is hard to find someone that hikes your exact pace, but slowing down to talk with someone for a bit can be nice. You can also just plan to meet up for lunch and snacks throughout the day.

If you run out of things to talk about, there are other activities you can do. On trail trivia is fun. If you know more about say State Capitals, you can quiz everyone else. You can hum music tunes and have everyone else guess that song. I like playing “Who Am I?” where you think of a person, and everyone has to figure out who it is by asking yes or no questions. There are a zillion games out there! You can make up your own!

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Hiking with friends

Everybody is different. Do what you like the most while hiking whether it’s alone, with music, or with people. Enjoy the trail in whatever way you like!

AT to PCT

This is my final week at Mountain Crossings before I head out to California to start the Pacific Crest Trail! This post is going to tell you about some differences between the AT and the PCT. I will also give you my gear list so you can see how it compares to what you might take on the AT.

Appalachian Trail vs. Pacific Crest Trail
Mileage is the first big difference. The AT is close to 2200 miles, whereas the PCT is 2650 miles. The AT travels through 14 states but the PCT only goes through three, California, Oregon, and Washington. Another big difference is the terrain. The AT is deciduous forest pretty much the whole way. “The green tunnel” is how some people refer to the trail. Rolling mountains and covered in trees, there aren’t too many changes along the way. Once you get up into Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, there are more extreme mountains and exposed ridges, but the forest is similar. Out West, you start in the desert, with cacti, little water, and heat! After around 700 miles of desert, you ascend into the Sierra Mountain Range, where there is usually snow. Snow melt also means larger stream crossings, which can be tricky especially for a big snow year like this year. Once you  hit Oregon and Washington you enter into the Cascade Mountains, which are considered a temperate rainforest. This change in the landscape also contributes to the change in the temperature and weather. The AT has very little climate change. Of course it depends on when you start and finish, and there can be crazy cold days, but for the most part, you have similar gear and clothing the whole time. It does rain more and will be more humid, but in the warmer months, rain will be welcomed. On the PCT, you definitely start off with less, but you  need more sent to you at Kennedy Meadows before the Sierras.

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PCT in Oregon

Even though the PCT is longer, and the mountains are taller, it takes about the same time as a thru hike on the AT. The trails on he PCT are graded for horses and pack mules, so even though you are climbing a tall mountain, the trail gradually ascends the mountain rather than going straight up and down like it would on the AT.

Permits
The AT doesn’t have many permit requirements. There is voluntary thru hiker registrations on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s website, but you do not legally need a permit for the trail. You will need to acquire a Smoky Mountain National Park permit before you enter the Smokies. You can do this at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. You will also need to fill out a form right as you enter the Shenandoah National Park, but this is free and easy to do. New this year is a the Katahdin permit. They have plenty of permits set aside for thru hikers and again, they are free.

The PCT has a few more requirements. You need to apply for a thru hiker permit. They only issue 40 a day and the registration date opened in January. When I applied for mine, the website kept going down and it would show the date I chose had filled up. After refreshing the page over and over, it finally worked. It seemed a lot of people wanted to secure their permit so everyone was trying at the same time. You will also need a permit for entering Canada. There is an application online for you to fill out and carry with you. There are several other areas where you will need a permit such as a side trip to climb Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the continental US. These areas you can get permits on the trail a little ahead of time. As long as you have your thru hiker permit, you will be fine going through the John Muir Trail and other areas.

Town stops
The AT and the PCT have great communities that want to help hikers and provide trail magic or hiker feeds. That community might be slightly larger on the AT just because the trail is so accessible. There are also more towns along the AT than on the PCT. You can pretty much go the whole way on the AT without any mail drops. On the PCT you will definitely need to look ahead and send yourself a few along the way because some stops won’t have any sort of store or a very limited selection.

Hitchhiking is popular on the AT but sometimes you walk straight through a town, or within a few miles where you could just walk to town. You will definitely need to hitchhike on the PCT to go to town. Towns will be more spread out and farther away from the trail. Calling a shuttle service might work if you aren’t able to get a hitch.

I will have Halfmile Maps on my phone. It’s an app that has all the points of interest on the trail. This will help me determine when to go to town.

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Hitchhiking!

Gear list
I’ll just give a brief overview of my gear list for the PCT so you can get an idea of what to expect out there. I will be carrying the ULA Circuit pack.

Sleep system – ThermaRest Z-Lite pad, Western Mountaineering Alpinlite sleeping bag, ZPacks Duplex tarp.

I prefer the foam sleeping pads because they are easier to set up and they are light weight. I’m taking a 20 degree bag because the desert can still get chilly at night, and I can have a liner sent to me before the Sierras in case it gets colder. I will be hiking the trail with my boyfriend so we will share the tarp.

Clothing – I will hike in shorts, t-shirt, injinji socks, and one sports bra. I will be wearing Altra Lone Peak trail runners with small gaiters to keep the dirt out. I will sleep in MontBell merino wool long underwear pants and shirt, and one pair of sleep socks. Other clothes will be a rain jacket (windbreaker), and a fleece. My camp shoes will be Teva sandals and I will have two bandanas, one as an all purpose rag, the other as a pee rag.

Cook system – Pocket Rocket 2, 900 ml Toaks pot, 4 oz fuel canister, titanium spork.

My boyfriend and I will share the actual stove but will each have our own pots so we can keep our meals to ourselves.

Hydration – Sawyer Squeeze, two 1-liter Smartwater bottles, one 2-liter Platypus with a hose, one 2-liter Platypus.

This is six liters total. Hopefully, I won’t have to carry that much at once but it’s precautionary for the desert. I will likely send the 2-liter bladder home at Kennedy Meadows.

Toiletries – toothbrush, paste, floss, retainer (I know), sunscreen, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, trowel and small hairbrush (I have very long hair).

First Aid – moleskin, Advil, Benadryl, duct tape, tweezers, Neosporin, athletic tape, gauze.

Miscellaneous – Umbrella, headlamp, external battery charger with cord, phone charger, phone, pocket knife, trash compactor bag (to line my pack), ThermaRest seat pad, notepad and pen, sunglasses.

Kennedy Meadows Box – I will have my winter hiking boots, tall gaiters, thicker hiking pants, thicker socks, Microspikes, ice axe, hat, gloves (two pair), puffy jacket, trekking poles, and bear canister.

Hopefully this gives you an idea of the differences between the two trails! I know the AT is awesome from experience, but now I can be a part of the PCT. I can’t wait! Thank you to Mountain Crossings for being so awesome this past year.