Dog Days of Summer

We’ve officially ended the “dog days of summer,” those hottest days of the year that test the limits of even the most enthusiastic warm weather fanatics. And while we’ve all heard about the “dog days”  (especially here in the south), we can’t help but ask: what exactly are the dog days of summer?

Big surprise here, the dog days have absolutely nothing to do with dogs, not really. Historically speaking, the dog days of summer are the days that fall between in the dead of summer when the dog star Sirius falls in a specific alignment in relation to the sun. A term coined by the Ancient Greeks and Romans, the “dog days” are when Sirius can be spotted just before the sun, which happens through mid-August.

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Night sky during the dog days of summer

According to the Farmers Almanac, the “dog days” begin around July 3 and come to a close around August 11, just after the Summer Solstice. This period can vary from year to year, and differs depending on the location’s latitude in relation to when the dog star rises. In the Northern Hemisphere, the dog days are typically in July and August, which are considered to be the hottest months of the year.

The original meaning of the “dog days” has been lost in translation over time. In fact, the translation from Latin to English was over 500 years ago. Since then, the term has taken on a completely different meaning, referencing the warmest, laziest days of the year when all you want to do is float down a nice, cold stream.

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Beautiful summer day by the lake

Thankfully (and hopefully), this year’s dog days are behind us, and the promise of cooler weather is in the air. We hope you made the most of those days, though, spending some quality time surrounded by plenty of cool rivers, streams, and waterfalls!

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Hiking with your Dog!

Our furry friends can be great companions on the trail. Many people struggle whether or not they should take their dog on a hike with them. Here are a few tips for taking your dog hiking with you.

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Tired pup on a long hike

First things first
The first important piece of information for taking your dog hiking with you, is make sure they are on a leash. Even if they are very obedient and love everyone, not everyone loves them. Other people may get scared if they see a dog not on a leash, and they would prefer not to get near the dog. There are also other dogs and animals you could run into. Sometimes a dog that’s friendly with other dogs can be spooked when approached by a dog bumbling off leash down the trail. Not all other dogs are friendly, and wild animals can send your dog running into the woods. Keeping your dog on a leash can make all the difference in your dog’s safety when out on the trail.

When deciding to take your pal out with you for the first time, be sure to choose a shorter, less popular hike to start out with your dog. If a dog is only used to walking around in a neighborhood, they could behave totally different on the trail because it is unfamiliar to them. Limiting the amount of people you might see, and just going out for an hour will be a good way to start out. You can build up from there and work your way up to overnight hikes as well!

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Hiking with your best friend can be great!

Overnight hiking
The next step after day hikes, is overnight hikes. It can be a good idea to camp in the backyard, or car camp for the first night out with your dog. Again, the dog may not be used to sleeping outside, or in a tent, so it’s good to do a few test runs before you go backpacking with them.

Once you decide to go backpacking, make sure your dog has all the right equipment to spend the night in the woods. In colder weather, you will want a small pad, and sleeping bag for your dog. They get cold too! Dogs can carry their supplies too so don’t get worried about the extra weight. A small pack for your dog is great for their food, water, and sleeping items. You can also just snuggle up with your dog if you are used to that.

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Hiking dog with his own pack!

Another not so pleasant thing you need to do with dogs is leave no trace. Just as humans need to dig a cathole to go to the bathroom in, dogs need to have their business in a cathole as well. Dogs are our pets. We feed them dog food and they live with us. They do not live in the woods or mountains and they do not eat wild plants. Their feces do not belong in the wilderness just like humans. You may not be able to control where the dog goes to the bathroom, but wherever it is, it’s best to dig a cathole next to it and just shove it in the hole with a stick. I know it may sound gross but it really isn’t so bad! And you are keeping the wilderness more wild.

Be sure to listen to your dog. If the dog is getting too tired, be sure to take plenty of breaks, or even stop early for the day. Some dogs get more worn out on long hikes than the people do. Depending on the terrain and the time of year, check your dog everyday. Their feet might get more worn out and maybe even cut up if you are walking on rocks. The dog will likely pick up some ticks or other insects during the summer in the Appalachians. Just be aware of where you are, and your surroundings because dogs can get injured too just as people can.

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Watch your surroundings to protect your dog

Lastly, if you go on a few trial hikes and things aren’t working out for you or your dog, then don’t bring them! It is ok to leave a dog with a friend or board them while you take a few days to hike. A dog is a big responsibility on the trail so it is understandable to not want to take them sometimes.

I hope this post helps! Be sure to leave no trace and enjoy hiking with your dog!

Snakes in North Georgia

Snakes are a common concern for hikers on the trail. We wanted to tell you a little bit about the snakes you might see while hiking in North Georgia and what you should prepare for.

There are six venomous snake species found in Georgia and thirty-nine non-venomous snake species. Both venomous and non-venomous snakes do not see you as prey. They know they can’t eat you, and they just want to get away from you, or at least not be noticed by you. If they bite you it’s because they think they are being attacked, because biting something as big as you is sheer suicide for them.

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Non Venomous Snakes
These are the most common you will see. While snakes aren’t everyone’s favorite creature, the non venomous ones are mostly harmless. In fact, they are great for eating small rodents such as those shelter mice we all hate. Some common snakes include the Black Rat Snake, the Garter Snake, Eastern Kingsnake, Worm Snake, and Rough Green Snake. Studying pictures and descriptions of snakes can be your best friend. Deciphering between the good and the bad can calm your nerves and make you aware of the wildlife around you.

 

Venomous Snakes
According to this article written by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, in North Georgia, there are really only two venomous snakes you need to keep in mind. Be sure to read the article and the map if you live in a different region of Georgia to determine what venomous snakes you might see in your backyard. The first snake is the Copperhead. They are medium-sized snakes reaching a maximum length of about 4.5 feet, but most are less than 3 feet. The background coloration is usually light brown or gray, but individuals range from rusty orange to pinkish to nearly black. This species is easily identifiable by a pattern of 10-21 dark-brown, hourglass or saddle-shaped crossbands, which are wider at the sides of the body and become narrower along the back. They occur in most forested habitats but are particularly common on rocky wooded hillsides in the mountains and swamp and river edges in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. Habitats with abundant logs, leaf litter, and rocks for cover are favored, while open habitats such as old fields and agricultural areas are generally avoided.

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Copperhead

The next snake you might see up in the mountains is the Timber Rattlesnake. Large, heavy-bodied from 3-5 feet in length. The background color ranges through various shades of pink, yellow, tan, gray, brown and olive to velvety black. A series of brown to black chevron-shaped crossbands (15-34) typically cross the body. The tail is black and tipped by a segmented rattle. Very dark or solid black individuals are common in higher mountains of the northeastern part of the state but are rare elsewhere. Common in much of the heavily wooded country of the Coastal Plain, but in more open areas these snakes are primarily limited to wooded stream corridors. In the Piedmont, distribution is highly fragmented due to habitat loss and Timber Rattlesnakes are primarily associated
with heavily wooded stream corridors and small, isolated mountains. In the Georgia mountains, the distribution is somewhat localized around suitable denning sites (including root and stump holes, mammal burrows, old home sites and debris piles, and – especially in upland regions – rock crevices).

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Timber Rattlesnake

The Reality
The truth is, only about five people die from a snake bite in the entire United States each year. When you look at homicides in the city of Atlanta, or deaths from a car accident, those numbers are significantly higher. There is a homicide in Atlanta every other day! Most of the deaths from a venomous snake are actually situations where these snakes are kept as pets and the handler becomes careless. So if you are going on a hike, be aware but don’t let snakes deter you from going on an adventure.

Some would say that there is an increase in snake bites each year. This could be a result from warmer winters which bring the snakes out earlier. It could also be that hiking and getting outside is becoming more of a desired activity for people, so with more people on the trail, more will be at risk of encountering a snake. According to a wildlife biologist for the Department o f Natural Resources in Georgia, he believes the snake population is actually declining because of the growing suburbs and human population.The increase in people seeking outdoor adventures however is why there might be an increase in snake bites.

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Harmless snake right on the trail!

Don’t get confused!
Any snakes can have similar markings, so people get afraid they are seeing a venomous snake when really, it is a harmless snake. One of the most commonly confused snake species is the water moccasin, also known as cottonmouths. Why? Probably because there is no uniquely distinctive pattern or markings. Also, people assume any snake in the water is a water moccasin, because that’s the species we hear about most often. If you’re in the water, especially in the North Georgia Mountains, and you see a snake – it’s probably a non-venomous water snake.

If you do get bit by a snake, most likely, it is not venomous. If it is, you will know. A venomous bite will feel like a sting and you can even feel the venom starting to spread. You will see the markings from the fangs. A non venomous snake will just feel like a normal bite. The non venomous snakes have hundreds of tiny teeth and do not have fangs. If you do get bit by a venomous snake, just head to the hospital! Don’t take any painkillers, or apply pressure or ice to the bite. Try to keep it elevated above your heart and leave the rest to the professionals.

We hope this article clears a few things up about snakes in North Georgia! Please don’t hesitate to go out for a hike or swim this summer because of snakes. They are mostly harmless. Enjoy the rest of summer! Continue reading

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.

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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!

 

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!

Top 5 Things We Help Beginner Backpackers With

Yesterday a nice young man came in to the shop and wanted to know some of the basics of backpacking. We are known for helping backpackers and giving pack shakedowns, but what about someone who doesn’t know anything about backpacking? This blog post is going to reveal some of the most basic things we help beginner backpackers with. These things will also be covered in our backpacking class the weekend of June 2nd. If any of these topics interest you, or backpacking in general interests you, you should definitely sign up for our class!

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What to put in your pack
You can Google all day long about backpacking and gear, but it helps to have a one on one session with an expert who can show you how things work and why they are important. For example, I have met several people who never even thought about bringing a water filter because they didn’t think they needed one. A water filter on the Appalachian Trail is super important. It is also good to know what a person’s goal is going to be on the trail. Are they just wanting to go out for one night? Are they hiking in the Summer or Winter? There are many different gear options and not everyone is going to enjoy the same pieces of equipment. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “ultralight” before. This has become almost an obsession for long distance hikers. It is not wise for a beginner backpacker to try to get ultralight gear right away. It takes skills and knowledge to learn the ways of ultralight backpacking and it’s not for everyone.

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How to pack your pack
Packing a pack is somewhat of an art. You may know the general recommendations for packing a pack, but it really helps having someone show you. Generally, you’ll want lighter items on the bottom, such as sleeping bag and clothes. In the middle, close to your back, you’ll want heavier items, like food and your stove. On the top, I like to keep food so I can access it easily throughout the day.

How to adjust your pack
Many hikers come into the shop and right off the bat, you can tell if their pack is adjusted properly. Packs have  many different straps and buckles, and it can be confusing trying to make it fit. We are familiar with all kinds of packs and know how to adjust the various straps to make a pack fit a person well. If you do not have a pack, we can fit you and help you pick a pack that is going to be the most comfortable for you. A pack is something you really need to try on before buying.

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Fitting shoes
Again, this is something you definitely  need to try on before buying. We have all kinds of shoe brands and we know how each of them are supposed to fit. Whether you have wide feet, small feet, or sore feet, we can show you what shoes will work best for you. We also know a few other tricks with socks, laces, and inserts that can help you. We also know the pains of blisters and we have a few recommendation to avoid them, and take care of them. Your feet are so important while hiking and we want to make sure you take care of your own feet!

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Hiking logistics
The staff here have all done quite a bit of hiking. Most of us have thru hiked at least the Appalachian Trail and some other long distance trails! We have experienced firsthand what long distance hiking is all about. We can help other beginner hikers with logistics of the trail. Whether it be how many days of food you should carry or how to do a mail drop. We know all the options and can help you figure out your options as well.

The best thing to do to prepare for a beginner hike is to just come up to the shop and say hey. We love helping beginner hikers with gear for their first trip. Our backpacking class will definitely be a good time to get started with hiking, or maybe just to learn a few new things. We will not only give each person one on one time with figuring out gear and questions, but we will also have a presentation that covers basics of backpacking, what to expect, leave no trace principles, and more! If you can’t make it to the class, definitely come by another time because we would love to help you!

National Trails Act 50th Anniversary

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act of 1968. The National Trails System Act of 1968 was the direct result of the Trails for America report. It established three different types of trails: National Scenic Trails, National Recreation Trails, and Connecting and Side Trails. As the Act stands today, as amended, National Scenic Trails are described as extended trails of more than 100 miles in length that provide for outdoor recreation and “for the conservation and enjoyment of the nationally significant scenic, historic, natural, or cultural qualities of the areas through which such trails may pass.” Of course, we love our National Scenic Trails because we are located on one!

Benefits
Green infrastructure like trails and parks are true economic engines and provide for the economic vitality of a community—and a nation. Well-managed and funded parks and trails makes strong, economic sense and are job-creating enterprises for the economic vitality of communities and their surrounding regions.  Trails are an integral part of the outdoor recreation experience in America and stimulate business creation, influence corporate location decisions, increase property values, reduce medical costs by encouraging exercise, and generate tax dollars.  Trails also provide low or no-cost recreation opportunities and transportation options to the public.

Being outdoors, and hiking is becoming a popular activity. Having established trails such as the Appalachian Trail, encourages people to get outside and go for a hike! It benefits their health and mood to be outdoors and the trails help get them there.

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Ways to get involved
The National Trails System has a lot of ways you can get involved this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Of course, you can volunteer every year on one of your favorite National Scenic Trails. But this year, there is an event map of all the trails and events nearby. It is a great tool to see what other trails are established by the National Trails Act, and to see where you can get involved. They are also having a photo contest, and you can submit your story about being on a National Scenic Trail. Be sure to check out your local hiking community to get involved and volunteer on a trail!

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National Scenic and Historic Trails

Mountain Crossings Hike School

I’m sure you’ve seen our event on Facebook and on our website for Mountain Crossings Hike School Backpacking Class. We decided to try out our own backpacking class to help prepare people for whatever adventure they have in their future. The staff here has a lot of experience helping people with their gear and questions about backpacking. We are all experienced backpackers so that gives us even more credibility. This blog post will go over details about our backpacking class and who should join.

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Former hike school at Mountain Crossings

When is it and how much?
The class begins Friday, June 1st at 7pm and ends Saturday, June 2nd when everyone gets finished with gear and questions, sometime in the afternoon. The class is $50 up front, but that turns into a voucher for the store during the class.

What happens in this Hike School?
There will be a presentation Friday night, and then all the classmates will sleep in our hostel. The next day, we will help each person one on one with gear and questions. The presentation Friday will cover the basics of backpacking. We will go over how to plan your hike, leave no trace principles, what to expect out on the trail, and much more! On Saturday, we will be doing more hands on learning. We will help fit you for a pack and gather any gear you might need. If you have your own gear, we can do a pack shakedown and give you recommendations on what to keep, and what to get rid of. We will show you how to pack your pack, and how to adjust your pack each time you put it on. We can show you how each piece of gear works such as a stove, water filter, tent, etc. We will also make sure you have good shoes and make sure the fit is right. Pretty much, we will go over anything you need help with! We will have all hands on deck that day so that each person gets one on one attention. We want to make sure you are as prepared as you can be before you go out on your backpacking trip.

We know that a lot of people are unprepared when they start the trail and end up dropping even more money on gear and shoes because they didn’t get it right the first time around. We want to avoid this problem! We also want to make sure you can avoid small mistakes with some of your gear due to improper use. No matter who you are or what questions you have we will help you out!

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Ryan doing a pack fitting

Who should come?
Honestly, anyone can come! If you have never been hiking before, you can certainly learn a lot from the class. Even if you’ve been on a few trips and want to learn more about gear and hiking, you can learn a lot too. If you consider yourself a backpacking expert, you might be able to pick up a thing or two from the class as well or just enjoy meeting other people and seeing what kind of gear they have. The great thing about this class is it is only $50 to sign up, and that $50 becomes a voucher for the store! So if you are an experienced backpacker and are needing a new Sawyer, pot, jacket, anything, you can come to the class and learn something you didn’t know, and get the gear you need.

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Matt doing a shakedown

What do you bring?
We encourage you to bring the gear you already have so we can help you optimize it, or make sure everything works properly for you. If you do not have any gear, this class will help you buy your gear once and to buy it right the first time. Our hostel has mattresses, but you need to bring your own sleeping bag and pillow. Be sure to bring all your nightly essentials for a sleepover. Other than that, just bring a list of questions for us and we will answer them!

Contact
If you want to sign up, go to our website here to purchase your voucher. If you have any questions regarding the class, contact jason@mountaincrossings.com. Thanks and we hope to see you there!

Appalachian Trail Passport

The Appalachian Trail Passport is becoming a more exciting item to carry on the trail. It acts like a real passport in that you can get stamps each place you stop. It is a fun souvenir to carry with you on the trail and look back on all the places you have been after the trail.

The idea originated in Spain on the Camino de Santiago. On the Camino, hikers carry a “passport” that would be stamped at each hostel to show where they stayed and to prove their pilgrimage of the trail. On the Appalachian Trail, most places you can stop along the trail have acquired their own stamp to stamp the AT Passports. Hostels, outfitters,  hotels,  shuttle drivers, and other points of interest carry their own stamps. The passport only weighs one ounce so it hardly takes up any weight! But of course, ounces make pounds. A benefit to purchasing a passport is all the proceeds are donated to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to help further protect the trail. Check out the passports here to buy yours today! We also sell them in the store if you want to stop by the shop on your way through.

Locations
Here is the official list of locations to get your passport stamped. The Southernmost place to get a stamp is at Amicalola Falls State Park, and the Northernmost spot is at Baxter State Park, right before you climb Katahdin. There are hundreds of spots in between the start and finish where you can stop and get your passport stamped. It would be hard to visit every single place but I’m sure someone out there has done it!

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Mountain Crossings Stamp

My Experience
It is personal preference whether or not you want to carry a passport. I didn’t carry one because I knew I would forget about it and just be carrying dead weight around. I also enjoy looking back through my journals and pictures and figured that would be enough for memories. I definitely considered it though! It would be fun to carry around a passport of all the places you’ve been and be able to show others.

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I hope you decide to carry this AT Passport but if you don’t, that’s ok too. Hike your own hike and have fun out there!

Bear Canisters

Proper food storage is a very important concept on the Appalachian Trail and any other trails or camping areas. There are several methods for proper food storage such as hanging food, bear boxes, and bear canisters. The most common method has been hanging food in a waterproof sack from a tree branch. It is recommended to hang your bag at least 6 feet from the tree trunk, and 12 feet above the ground. While this method is good for deterring bears from your food, it does not always work. Bears have gotten smart when it comes to food and have been known to get in bags that are hanging. Throwing the line to hang your food can also be tricky, especially in treeless areas. Bears aren’t the only issue, rodents and small animals are known to tear through your bag. I swear some of those animals are acrobats because I have no idea how they got in to my food when it was hanging so high on a small bear line!

Bear canisters are becoming a more popular food storage container so we wanted to tell you a little bit about them and our experience with them.

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Grizzly Bear can’t get into a bear can (note: no Grizzly Bears are on the AT)

Bear Canister Basics
Canisters are hard plastic containers that are portable. They are not scent proof, but since they are durable, no animals can get inside of the canisters. Anything you carry that has a scent, should ideally be stored in your bear can at night. Items such as food, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer should to go into the bear can. The canister is supposed to be set down at least 100 feet from your campsite. You want to try to wedge it in between some rocks or trees because while the bear won’t be able to get into it, they can roll it away.

Bear cans can weigh a few pounds and they are bulky. Since they remain the same shape all the time, it can be difficult to finagle it into your pack. But once you start to eat more food, you can always stuff other items in your bear can such as stove, or first aid kit. The plus side of carrying a bear can is the convenience. You don’t need to worry about hanging your food, and you can even sit on the bear can as a seat!

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BearVault 500 on left, 450 on right

Bear Canister Requirements
The only place on the entire Appalachian Trail that has a bear canister requirement is the five mile section South of us here at Neel Gap, to Jarrard Gap. There have been issues with bears in the past, so this regulation is to protect the bears and the hikers. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy recommends hikers to use a bear can from Springer Mountain, to Damascus. The trail is just very crowded and bears are likely to hang around camping areas. Storing food in bear cans protects the bears from tasting human food, and it protects people to keep the bears away from them. There are many more bear canister requirements throughout the United States, so it is important to do your research for your hike beforehand to know if you need one or not. Here is a brief list of the bear canister requirements.

  • Yosemite National Park
  • Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Rocky Mountain National Park
  • North Cascades National Park
  • Olympic National Park
  • Denali National Park
  • Glacier Bay National Park
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park
  • Inyo National Forest, eastern and central Sierra Nevada, California
  • Eastern High Peaks Wilderness Area, Adirondack Mountains, New York

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My experience
I was a Ridge Runner for the ATC a few years ago and was required to carry a bear canister to show hikers and lead by example. I really didn’t mind carrying it! I had one of the smaller ones, the BearVault 450, and it carried about 4 days of food for me. I did run into an issue with a bear rolling my bear can off the side of Tray Mountain. It took me and several other hikers to find it about a quarter of a mile down and it was severely scratched up! The bear never got into it and I was still able to eat all my food! Crisis averted.

I also carried a bear canister in the Sierra Nevadas on the Pacific Crest Trail. I carried the BearVault 500 which is the larger one. The food carries in the Sierras were a bit longer, and I had been hiking for over a month, so my appetite was pretty strong. I will admit that I couldn’t even fit all my food in my bear canister because I ate so much! The bear canister was fairly heavy when it was fully loaded, but it fit fine in my pack and wasn’t  uncomfortable. Yes my pack was bigger, but it really wasn’t too bad. I was following the rules of the National Park, and I felt safe from bears getting into my food.

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My bear canister all scratched up!

All in all, the bear canister is bigger and heavier, but it helps keep your food safe from bears and other animals. It is important to not let bears taste human food because once they do, they will become habituated and constantly search for that food. We want to protect the bears and keep them safe and wild for years to come!