New Year, New Thru Hike!

Happy New Year! It is officially 2017. This New Year brings new adventures for many of you. This could be the year you have planned to thru hike, or it could be the year you decide you want to in the future. Either way, at Mountain Crossings, we love thru hikers and we love to help them in any way we can. All of us are experienced AT thru hikers and we are here to give advice, and encouragement for you this year. This blog is going to talk about some of the stages of deciding to thru hike, and beginning to plan. In the weeks to follow, we will also feature blogs related to what you might need on your thru hike, and what you will encounter out there.

IMG_6178.JPG

Deciding to thru hike
This might be the biggest step to planning your hike. For some, they’ve wanted to do it all their lives and have been planning for it for years. Others may just not have anything going on so they decide to hit the trail, and others may be recovering from past traumas. Whatever your reason, it can be a tough decision with many sacrifices.

For me, I had always wanted to hike the AT. It wasn’t until I was living and working in the corporate world in the city that I really decided I wanted to pursue my dreams. I quit my job, moved out of my apartment, and hit the trail! The decision was super tough because I was comfortable in my current situation. I just knew if I didn’t decide to hike the trail now, then in ten years or so I would look back and regret it. That is the advice I give to anyone considering a thru hike, how will you look  upon this time in your life, will you regret not exploring? Six months really isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things. A lot of people do have obligations such as family, career, or house. If you don’t feel you could leave these things behind, don’t go. But if you know they will be waiting for you when you get back, then don’t use them as excuses not to pursue a thru hike. Try to weigh the positives and negatives of this six month journey.

IMG_6177.JPG

Contemplating the trail

Telling family and friends
This part can be easy, or difficult, depending on who are your loved ones. People will think you are crazy, or awesome, or maybe both. The important thing is, try not to let what anyone else thinks affect your decision. It helps to have some support back home, in case you need someone to send you different gear you already have. Having the encouragement from home also helps. If you know that whoever might be waiting for you is proud of you, and wants you to finish, it can make the hike better. When others are missing you and telling you to finish up and come home, it can make you anxious. Try to let others know that all you want is support and understanding.

Be sure to tell your work, or whoever you may have obligations with about your hike. I told my work a few months in advance so I could help hire a replacement. They were appreciative and excited for me. Not everyone is in the best work situation, but still try to think about how leaving may effect the business. If you are paying bills, living with others, etc, then let them know and figure things out before you leave. This may seem like a given, but when you’re anxious, you can make rash decisions.

low-res-family-confrontation

Mental Preparation
Of course, you want to make sure you have all the right gear, but we aren’t going to get in to that right now. You need to prepare yourself mentally more than anything. The first thing you need to do is go out for an overnight test hike. Even if you don’t have the best gear yet, make sure you at least like to backpack. I’ve met many people who start thru hiking without any previous experience and they quit early on. Some of these people end up loving it and go the whole way but why risk it? Get yourself out there one weekend and make sure you’re into it before you try to hike 2000 plus miles.

unnamed-10

2000 miles is a lot!

Know that the trail is not going to be easy. You will have aches and sores, it will be sunny and cold, it will rain, you will be tired. You may not know ahead of time whether or not these things will wear you down. Mentally prepare for this and try to have the mindset that it isn’t going to just be fun and games. You are able to stop in town as often as you want to recharge yourself.

Keep your motivation in mind while preparing for your hike. If you decided to thru hike because you are unhappy in your current situation, keep reminding yourself that. You will constantly have to remind yourself on trail of your purpose out there as well. Once you lose your reason to be out there, you will find yourself wanting to quit.

img_6175

The trail is not easy!

Online Preparation
This is probably the biggest way people are preparing nowadays. Reading this blog could be one way you are prepping for your hike. There are numerous other blogs to read and watch and they can be super helpful. Try not to get too involved with reading things online. Everyone is going to have their own opinion about gear, about the trail, yada yada yada. You really need to get out there and experience it for yourself. It helps to read reviews and experiences, but don’t take them all to heart.

I found myself on a hiker forum called White Blaze. This can be very informative and fun to read! But, it stressed me out. People would sometimes get in arguments, there were conflicting views on everything, I didn’t know what to believe! I definitely found some information helpful, but I also decided to just go with what I knew and I would figure some things out along the way.

There are some great books we recommend. Read our previous blog post on books to get you inspired, and prepare you for the trail!

Physical Preparation
Getting out on the trail for one or more shakedown hikes is important. You can see what it’s like, and how your body responds. Of course it is really hard to prepare your body to hike over 2000 miles, but being in some kind of shape helps. More importantly, making sure your shoes are right, and knowing some basic, pre-workout stretches. You wouldn’t believe how much stretching while on the trail helps your body. Your feet are very important. Blisters are no fun and you do not want to get them. Whatever shoes you decide to get, make sure they fit right, and they are  broken in. You should be wearing them fairly frequently before the trail to make sure they are right for your feet.

Financial Preparation
Even though you are living in the woods, you still need money. To hike the trail comfortably, I would say having $1,000 a month is good. Of course you can swing it either way. You can save more and be able to stay in town more, or you can get by with a lot less. It all depends on how often you want to stay in a hotel/hostel, and go out to eat. I will say, it is fairly easy to go into town. Even if you planned to stay on trail more and not spend money on town stops, it can be tempting. Have yourself a little extra for just in case stops and possible emergencies.

Resupply food is a must always, and you might need to spend some money on more gear such as shoes, or new water filter. Just be sure you know what kind of hike you want to have and save accordingly!

1216_cash-dollars_650x455

Check back next week! We will be discussing some important gear choices that you will need and other experiences you might have on the trail.

New Year’s Resolutions

It’s almost the New Year, and you know what that means, New Year’s resolutions! A lot of people like to make resolutions which is great! It can really help a person do something they might not normally do. But you don’t have to get too ahead of yourself. Sometimes you have to start with something small. At Mountain Crossings, we are all about the outdoors. We would like to encourage you to make some resolutions to get outside and do some hiking!

sun_fw.jpg

Hiking is good for the body
Exercising more and getting healthier seems to be one of the most popular resolutions. It is a good one. Especially after the holidays when you eat like a pig. Instead of going to a gym, try getting outside for some exercise! I know that not everyone is close to the mountains, but you would be surprised at the amount of trails you can find even in the city. It can be much more enjoyable to be outside rather than working out in a row of people looking at a TV. You might find yourself outside exercising for longer because it is easier to lose track of time. You could even head to a local park and do some exercises in the grass such as push ups, and squats. Living in the mountains is a bonus, because you can get a great workout just walking up mountains. If you don’t live in the mountains, I encourage you to take your weekends to find a good hike. The mountains can be just a short drive from cities, and are a great way to spend a day off from work. But no matter where you are, city, country, mountains, you can always find some place to get outside and exercise!

3

Strong hiking legs

Hiking is good for the brain
This might not be as obvious as the physical benefits of hiking, but if you’ve gone outside and enjoyed the outdoors for a day, you understand. Previous research has shown that just a 50-minute walk in nature can improve your mood, decrease your anxiety and even improve your memory. Our world is becoming more and more urban and urbanization is linked to depression and other forms of mental illness. Simply removing us from an urban environment to spend time outdoors where there are fewer mental stressors, less noise, and fewer distractions can be advantageous for our mental health. It is also important to disconnect from technology for a little bit during a hike. We have become so connected to our phones and other electronics. Freeing ourselves from these devices can open up your mind to the world around you and encourage creative thinking. This Earth is around us to enjoy and experience!

IMG_6119.JPG

Happy hikers enjoying the day

New Year’s hikes
We’ve got some hiking recommendations for you in North Georgia! The most popular one by us is Blood Mountain. It is a 4.5 miles hike, out and back, or 6.5 mile loop. There are stunning rock outcroppings at the top with great views. Woody gap is another great spot. If you go North on the AT from there you hit Preacher’s Rock, also known as Big Cedar Mountain, and get a nice view from there. It’s only a mile to the top so it is definitely a shorter hike. From there if you want to add some miles, you can go south on the AT and go to Ramrock Mountain which is another 2 miles from Woody gap. If you want something more challenging, the Coosa Backcountry trail is a 12 mile loop out of Vogel State Park and is fairly difficult, but awesome.

If you’re looking for maybe some easier trails with waterfalls, we’ve got a few more suggestions. Desoto Falls is right down the road from us. There is a lower, and upper falls that total about 2.5 miles. Raven Cliff Falls is another popular waterfall in the area. It is about 5 miles and the waterfall cascades through a 40-foot-tall, towering cliff. Long Creek Falls is the last one I will mention. This is a little trickier to get to by road. It is along forest service road 42 so you might need to check out directions ahead of time. Once you get to the Three Forks area,  it is a one mile hike to the falls. If you are feeling ambitions you could also drive over to Big Stamp Gap and hike the mile up to the summit of Springer Mountain for a nice view, and the start of the Appalachian Trail!

These links are from http://www.atlantatrails.com/, which is a great site containing detailed information on trails in Georgia. The trail reviews include trail info, trail maps, elevation profiles, inspiring photography and driving directions. They aim to inspire Atlanta residents and visitors to get active outside and to find a great Georgia hiking, backpacking or running adventure.

IMG_6118.JPG

Blood Mountain in winter time

Basic equipment for day hiking
The first item on the list, is a small daypack. We’ve got several in the store that are perfect for just a few items on  your day hike. We have Osprey, Granite Gear, and Outdoor Reasearch day packs.  A water bottle or a bladder with a hose is a must. You’ve got to stay hydrated out there! Even when it’s freezing outside, be sure to drink your water. Most people don’t because it’s too cold but you can still become dehydrated in the cold. Pack layers! Especially in this cold weather, having a jacket can really make a difference. If the weather has even the slightest chance of rain, a rain jacket or poncho is good to bring as well. Check out some of our clothing options here to help on your hike. Pack a map so you know where you are going. Cell reception is poor in the mountains so do not rely on a phone GPS for your location. Maps are fun too because you can find many different trails in an area you may want to explore. For example, Blood Mountain is the more popular hike right by us, but if you look at the map, you will see other connecting trails that are equally as beautiful. Lastly, pack food. Even if you are out for just a short hike, you may need that fuel to help you along.

Hope this has inspired you to make your New Year’s resolution and get you into hiking! You can start small and work your way up to some overnight hikes, or even a thru hike! Check back next week to learn about the steps to preparing a thru hike.

Congratulations 2016 Thru Hikers!

This past week I did a social media post calling all 2016 thru hikers to send me their pictures. Mountain Crossings wants to congratulate all ya’ll on your awesome journey! Thanks to all who sent in pictures, it has been fun looking through them. Now let’s take a look shall we?

brightside

“Brightside” NOBO 3/7 – 7/27

dirty-bowl

“Dirty Bowl” NOBO 4/15 – 8/11

hannah-and-danielle

Hannah and Danielle NOBO ? – 8/21, They raised nearly $11,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention throughout their journey.

headshot

“Headshot” NOBO 4/8 – 9/7

hoot-and-padfoot

“Hoot and Padfoot” NOBO 4/12 – 10/15

goat

Clockwise from the guy in the yellow vest, “Goat, Verge, Sweets, Jingle, Mountain Goat, Princess Peach, Training Wheels, Legs” NOBO various – 8/25

ninja

“Ninja” NOBO

stephanie

“Stephanie” NOBO

sweets

“Sweets” NOBO 3/20 – 8/25

the-kid

“The Kid” NOBO 4/4 – 9/2

tripper-and-slipper

“Slipper and Tripper” NOBO

wankles

“Wankles” NOBO Early March – 9/21

hold-diver-and-ghost

“Holy Diver and Ghost” NOBO 4/7 – 9/15 Holy Diver is now a Mountain Crossings employee 🙂 

stich-sonic-and-lavendar

“Stitch, Sonic and Lavender” SOBO 6/1 – 10/9

Wow what a crew! Now we have a deal for those wanting to give their thru hiker a special gift this year. We will take 16% off the thru hiker medals pictured below. It is a great commemorative medal, great for showing their accomplishment. Plus you can make them wear it and take pictures of them 🙂 Order yours today!

atmedal-3

For those thru hikers who may not want to give themselves a medal, we will take 16% off your item of choice in our AT gift section! You need something tangible you can see and use to remind you of your hike. Check it out here and pick something for yourself!

Use  code “Classof16%Off” to get your deal today!

Cumberland Island National Seashore

This past week, me and another Mountain Crossings employee took a trip with some friends down to Cumberland Island. The Island is located off the coast of Georgia near St. Mary’s and is only accessible by boat. It is the largest of the barrier islands and contains 9,800 acres of Congressionally designated Wilderness. There is much to do, and see on the island. It is rich with history and has several structures open to visitors where you can learn about former inhabitants of the island. You can hike, bike, take a van tour, or just sit on the beach. The island is your playground!

cumberland-island-map-mediumthumb

Map of Cumberland Island

History
Many people have lived on the Island over the past few centuries. Some believed to date back to indigenous people 4,000 years ago. There are various Native American artifacts found around the island that are now in the Ice House Museum. The museum is a great place to learn about the history on the Island. There are other awesome places of history you can see on the Island.

The first place would be Dungeness. These are ruins located on the southern tip of the Island and was the site of homes of several families through the decades. James Oglethorpe, Henry Lee, Nathaniel Greene, and most recently, Thomas Carnegie. The Carnegies  moved out in 1925 and the mansion burned down in 1959. It is preserved now by the National Park Service.

dungeness2_cumb_big.jpg

Dungeness ruins

Plum Orchard is the more famous site of the Carnegies. Plum Orchard is an 1898 Georgian Revival mansion building by Lucy Carnegie for her son, George and his wife, Margaret Thaw. This mansion was donated to the National Park Foundation by the Carnegie family in 1971. The contribution of Plum Orchard helped achieve congressional approval for establishing Cumberland Island National Seashore. Tours to the Plum Orchard Mansion are conducted daily as part of the Lands and Legacies Tours.

6e37788d-2210-4e54-ab52-709b035e252c

Plum Orchard

On the northernmost part of the island, there is a small church called the First African Baptist Church. In the 1890s the site was established for African American workers. There was no more slavery, but many of the African Americans stayed behind and continued to work as free people for the Carnegies and other families. Most recently, the church was the site of the September 1996 wedding of John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette.

church

First African Baptist Church

Sea Camp
This is the most popular site for campers on the island. It is a short distance from the docks and there are carts you can rent to take your belongings there, so it is basically car camping. People get very comfortable there with large tents and tarps, grills, coolers full of delicious food, and whatever luxuries they want. There are bathrooms and cold showers there as well as potable water. The beach is right next to it and is a great place for a sunrise.

IMG_6090.JPG

Sunrise from the Sea Camp boardwalk

Our group definitely took some luxury items, mostly good food, but we are all hikers and campers so we carried smaller tents, fewer clothes, and I don’t think any of us took a shower. :/ The tent I carried was the Big Agnes Fly Creek. It is a great tent ranging from one person, to three person sizes and is comfortable. I kept all my belongings in there with me and was able to backpack with it for a night. Hanging around the fire at night was a popular pastime. These Helinox chairs were comfortable and the perfect height to sit around and talk. Sea Camp is great for those who don’t want to get too dirty. It makes it easy for anyone to enjoy the Island.

maxresdefault.jpg

Campsite at Sea Camp

Hiking
There are many hiking trails on the island. The island is more narrow at the south end and widens as you go further to the top. It’s about 17 miles if you walk from Dungeness up to the Settlement. There are many small connecting trails you can take to get from one end to the other. The dirt road is the most direct, but not as fun as you might run into vehicles and bikes. The parallel trail is a popular one as many people like to also camp at Stafford beach, just 3.5 miles from Sea Camp. I hiked through a series of trails up to Brickhill Bluff campsite. It was a beautiful site on the West side of the island right on the water. Hiking 11 miles to this spot led me through a beautiful Palmetto and Live Oak forest. At times I came across various ponds and marshes in the middle of the island. Wildlife was everywhere. Armadillos are the most abundant, but I also saw deer, horses, hogs, and squirrels. Even though it is December, it was still fairly warm and buggy down there! The mosquitos were out and I was glad to have some lightweight long underwear to keep them from biting. Since I was walking on sand a good bit, having camp shoes at night was a must to let my feet breathe after getting sandy and sweat. These Xero camp shoes are super lightweight and comfortable. I was a little sore after hiking 23 miles, but I was happy to see more of the Island.

Recent news
The day after I returned from the Island,  a subdivision was approved to be built on the island. There are still several private residences there and they are free to divide 88 acres of  property to build more homes for their families. In 1972 when the island was given to the National Park Service, the families that lived there were able to negotiate to keep their properties and continue to pass it down to their families. The land, which stretches from the marshlands to the beach, currently carries a “conservation preservation” zoning. The families are trying to get the county to waive the zone so they can build. Even though more than 5,000 citizens and other Environmental groups signed a petition to prevent this from happening. There is still a chance to stop the development. Organizations and individuals have a 30-day window to appeal the planning board’s decision. Once that appeal is filed, the matter will go before the Camden County Commissioners. Help out and sign this petition to stop the development on the Island!

10275915_10203637037596606_880427263729060654_n

Feral horses on Cumberland Island 

 

Holiday Gift Guide

Happy Holidays! There is just something about this time of year that is so special. A chill is in the air, holiday lights are all around, you can snuggle up by the fire with hot cocoa and a good Christmas movie. There is also lots of quality time with loved ones. We hope you are planning to spend time with family and friends and possibly get outside and go for a hike! We’ve put together a list of some great gift items for this holiday season. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or not, we’ve got something for everyone.

unwanted-christmas-presents-ebay-sell-gumtree.jpg

Stocking Stuffers
Let’s start with the small stuff. If you’re planning on hiking this winter, hand and toe warmers are a must. They last up to 10 hours and will keep your hands and feet toasty if you’re a bit colder than anticipated. Mini sticks of body glide are very useful for chafing. Whether it’s your feet, or upper thigh, this stuff will help prevent blisters and rashes from occurring. Lastly, we have Tenacious Tape, and Seam Sealer. Tenacious Tape is good for any  rip or tear along the trail. Use it for tents, pants, or whatever and it will hold everything together! Seam Sealer is important for tents, tarps, and backpacks. Put it along the seams and it will waterproof them. Check here for both tenacious tape and seam sealer.

For those that may not want to go hiking, we’ve got other great little items for your stocking. Our loose neck little turtles are so cute and hand painted! We also have tons of stickers, patches, and magnets, which make great stocking stuffers.

Clothing
We have all kinds of clothing from t-shirts to down jackets. T-shirts tend to be the most popular item because they are cheaper and people wear t-shirts all the time. We have some more humorous shirts, and also typical Appalachian Trail or Blood Mountain shirts. Check some select few online here and stop by the store for even more options.

There is a wall full of various hats, scarves, and gloves here in the store. We have all kinds of brands from Patagonia, to Marmot, to North Face. You could definitely find the perfect one for a friend or family member. Jackets are also plentiful here. We have some on our 30% off sale rack as well as more throughout the store.  We have Patagonia, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, Montbell and more. We also have custom Mountain Crossings jackets and pullovers that are comfortable and more affordable than some of the brand name jackets. Check out our online selection here or come by the store for more options.

Home
Although we are known for being an outfitter for hikers, we have a surprising amount of gift items. One of the favorite items is our AT and Mountain Crossings mugs. We have many different colors and styles to choose from. You can order then online here. We also have glasses made out of recycled wine bottles. They have the AT logo and are really neat. Our last glass item I want to mention is hanging glass terrariums. We have a great selection in the store and they are very beautiful. You can put a flower or plant in them, and hang a few to make a neat decoration.

Backpacking Gear
Let’s move on to some bigger ticket items. Of course we have packs, tents, sleeping bags, etc. If your loved one knows what they want, go ahead and get it for them. We’ve got our backpacking gear here. We have some special sales in the store on some larger tickets items such as Big Agnes tents, and select trekking pole. We also have some deals on thermals and other hiking clothing online here as well as in the store.

IMG_5921.JPG

Check out a blog post we did a few months back about books that can help inspire you for a trip. There are some great memoirs about thru hikers as well as some more informational books to help you figure out what you need to do to get ready for your hike. Stuff sacks and dry bags are another good cheaper option to give to your hiking friend. Even a water filter, bottle, or bag would make a great gift. We have an awesome glow in the dark Nalgene bottle that anyone would love.

This is only a taste of items we have. Come on by to see even more and get your holiday shopping done!

Thanksgiving on the Trail

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, we have heard the plans of many folks who are looking to be backpacking over Thanksgiving. Sounds like a great way to avoid the masses in the grocery store and do away with Black Friday altogether! We have compiled a few trail friendly Thanksgiving Day Recipes that may come in handy this Thursday for those who will be out backpacking! Enjoy!

 

The Main Course: Thanksgiving Stuffing by Ian Mangiardi and Andy Laub (shared trail name: The Dusty Camel), New York, NY
thanksgivingIngredients:
1 packet of Stove Top brand stuffing
1 7-ounce pouch chicken
1 cup dried cranberries

Directions: Boil 1 1/2 cups water, then stir in stuffing. Add chicken and cranberries. Serves two.

 

The Side: Mashed Potatoes with Gravy

turkeyday1

Ingredients:
1 Package Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes
1/2 Package McCormick Brown Gravy Mix

Directions: Prepare potatoes by adding 2 cups hot water. Stir until all water has spread thoroughly throughout. In another pot, gradually add water into gravy mix, stirring as you go. Boil gravy over low heat and let sit until it has thickened. Pour over mashed potatoes.

 

The Bread: Campfire Biscuits on a Stick (Recipe adapted from Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’, by Tim and Christine Conners)

1164732

Ingredients:
1 cup Bisquick
1/3 cup water

Directions: Pack Bisquick in a zip-top bag. In camp First, build a fire. Next, find a good cooking stick—think a sturdy, marshmallow-roasting stick. Add water to the bag, seal it, and squish with your hands to mix. Add dribbles of water until dough develops a moist (but not runny) texture. Cut off the corner of the bag and carefully squeeze dough onto the end of your stick, twirling the stick until the dough is firmly stuck on. Bake over the campfire (or coals), rotating until the biscuit is golden brown. –

 

 

The Dessert: Pumpkin Pie Muffins (Recipe by By Tanya Krezevska )

pumpkin-pie-muffins
Ingredients: 
1 cup dry muffin mix
2 tablespoons pumpkin powder or 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 silicone or paper muffin cups

Directions: When at home, mix all dry ingredients in a zip-lock bag and put oil into a leak-proof bottle.Once  on the trail, pour olive oil and 1/4 cup water into the bag with dry baking mixture. Close the bag and knead until smooth. Cut off a corner of the bag and squeeze batter into the muffin cups (or cook pot/ whatever.) Bake until dough is cooked through.

 

For those of you who will be out backpacking over this Thanksgiving, we salute you! May these recipes make you a merry feast!

It’s Cold Outside! What Now?

Brrrrr it’s starting to get cold on the mountain! Many people shy away from hiking in the Fall and Winter because of the cold weather. What most people don’t know is this can be a great time to go hiking. There are less people on the trail, the leaves are off the trees so you can see out further, and snow and ice can be beautiful! We want to encourage ya’ll to take a chance on the cold and go for a hike!

IMG_5815.JPG

View from Springer Mountain in the winter

Preparing
Checking the weather before your hike is key. It can be difficult to get an accurate report for the mountains. Checking towns nearby can work. Whatever the temperature in town is, know that for every 1,000ft elevation gain, in the South it will be about 5 degrees cooler because of the humidity. Somewhere out West where it is dryer, would be about 3 degrees difference. Check out Mountain Crossings for example. Going to weather.gov gives us the weather conditions for Blairsville with some good detailed information. It shows the elevation there is around 1600ft, whereas Mountain Crossings is at 3100ft. Subtract about 8 degrees to get a more accurate temperature for Mountain Crossings. Another great site is atweather.org. This has more specific weather for particular shelters on the Appalachian Trail.

Know your exit strategies. If you are on a trail that could cross roads, or other connecting trails, make sure you note these and have possible shuttle drivers on hand. Cold weather camping isn’t for everyone and if you realize this halfway through your hike, go a head and get out of there. If the weather turns worse than you expect, know how to get out of there. Better to be safe than sorry!

IMG_5818.JPG

Unexpected snow on the Appalachian Trail

Gear
I’m not going to go into gear too much. There are so many reviews online about clothes and gear that are very useful. Just remember to be smart and pack accordingly. Jeans may not be the best choice if it looks like it might snow.  A fleece sleeping bag may not keep you the warmest in 15 degree weather. For cold weather camping, you will have to drop some money for quality gear and clothing.

I do have a few recommendations. I know my finger and toes tend to get the coldest. Invest in some warm, waterproof mittens for your hands. Having your fingers all together helps keep them warmer. I do have to take them off to do some tasks but they warm up right away in the mittens. The feet get special treatment. At camp, I will wear wool socks, down socks, and down booties. This keeps my feet super warm and everyone else at camp jealous. Nothing beats a great down jacket either. It keeps you warm and you can use it as a pillow when you go to sleep.

We have included our winter gear list winter-gear-list-2015 to help you get started!

IMG_5820.JPG

Hikers staying warm in the snow

Tricks
After experiencing some cold weather camping myself, I’ve learned a few things to help keep me warm, and prevent my things from freezing. Your sleeping bag at night is your friend. You need to keep several items in there to keep them from freezing and keep yourself warm. I put my hiking clothes in the bottom of the bag to dry them out if they are damp, and to keep them warm. There is nothing worse than putting cold clothes on in the morning! I will also boil water before bed and put it in a Nalgene bottle and throw that at the bottom of my bag. Keeps me and my toes nice and warm. You will also have some drinking water for in the night. You don’t want to keep water out during the night if it is going to get below freezing. I keep water in my pot so even though it freezes, you fire up the stove the next morning and it melts. The water filter should also go in the bag. If it freezes, you won’t be able to filter water. If you use fuel canisters, that also needs to go in the bag. The fuel wouldn’t actually freeze, but water will boil faster if the fuel is warmer. So your sleeping bag is nice and full, but you will be happy in the morning.

Drinking hot liquids and eating hot food will keep you warm. Hand and toe warmers can also help but should really only be carried in case of an emergency. If you are well prepared with your gear and clothing, you should be warm enough to not need the warmers.

TJ-Purity-Spring-sleeping-bag.jpg

We hope this post has encouraged you to go ahead and take a trip this winter. You can stop by the store for some more recommendations on warm clothing and gear. We hope to see you out there!

PSA: Help Prevent Wildfires

As many may know by now, there are an alarming amount of forest fires burning in North Georgia, North Carolina and East Tennessee. Over the last few weeks, hundreds of fires have broken out throughout the area. The dry summer and lack of usual rain in Autumn has turned our woods into a tinder box. The Chattahoochee National Forest, which envelopes the entire AT in Georgia, has had a camp fire ban placed on it until mid January of 2017. It is now illegal to build or maintain a fire due to the extremely likely possibility that it can get out of control. Camp stoves are excluded from these restrictions but it is still massively important that these guidelines are followed for the safety of recreational area users and our forests.

cw1sh34wgaac1kr

The Rough Ridge fire in the Cohutta Wilderness has burned more that 10,000 acres of forest so far.

High winds have been aggravating the fires as of late, causing them to grow in size and send their smoke as far and wide as Atlanta. Some fires were started by lightening, some were started by the wind picking up embers and spreading an existing fire. Sadly, many are started unintentional by careless humans. Please, please, be mindful of the rules put in place. Respect that while they may damper your personal plans, they are for the betterment of all users.

If you come across trail closures in a section of trail you intended to hike, please, for your own safety, do not try to hike through that portion of trail. Even if fires are not an immediate threat, smoke inhalation is damaging and hiking in thick smoke can lead to disorientation and getting lost. For info on AT closures, check out the ATC’s site.

Union County, where Mountain Crossings is located, and 24 other counties across the states mentioned above are currently under a complete fire ban. This ban includes the use of charcoal grills, as well as open fires, and is punishable by large fines.

For a sobering view of just how dire the situation is, look into this interactive map for current fires burning in our area.

Guthook’s Trail Guide App

The latest question we have been getting at Mountain Crossings is “What is the water like out there?” The staff here love hiking in the area and we can check out water sources  periodically, but we don’t always have the free time. There is a smartphone app called Guthook’s Trail Guide for the Appalachian Trail and it is a great resource to receive updates about the conditions of the trail.

1200x630bf

About the App
We have been recommending this app for people across the board. The app has over 3,500 waypoints such as shelters, tent sites, water sources (along with historical dependability), trail junctions, road crossings, peaks, views, etc. Each waypoint has a separate page with supporting data such as elevation, and distance to next shelter/water source. The app organizes the AT in 9 geographic trail sections, including the Approach Trail. The base map options include road map, satellite or a combination. Each section can be purchased for $8.99 or you can purchase all 9 sections for $59.99.

There are several features to the app. The first is the actual map. It gives an overview of what is along the trail. You can click the icons to learn more about some of the points such as water, shelter, or viewpoint.

Another useful component is the elevation profile. It is pretty straightforward. It shows the elevation for a specific section.

The information is what will help you with water sources. You can learn about campsites and shelters and it is updated from people on the trail. If you notice water is dry at a certain water source you can write that in there for others to see. There is a Recent User Comments section with the latest comment of the area you are interested in, and if you click on a certain waypoint, you can see the comments for that particular spot.

What is amazing about the app is the GPS . Even when you are in airplane mode, your GPS system will still work and it will not use your data. All smartphones have what is called Assisted GPS, which means they have a true GPS receiver, and they also use cell tower triangulation when possible to increase accuracy and speed up the time it takes to get a lock on your location. It may take some time for it to find your location but the accuracy is fairly good. If you thought you might have passed the shelter you wanted to stop at, turn on Guthook and it will show you where you are on the trail. This is super helpful especially when you get in the “hiking zone” and aren’t really paying attention.

12448331-Touchscreen-smartphone-with-GPS-navigation-Stock-Vector-navigation-travel-mobile.jpg

Here is an overview of the best aspects of the app:
-Zero added weight – if you already intend on bringing a smart phone.
-Pictures of locations – At first blush, it seems this would only be helpful for virtual hiking. But, it’s helpful in verifying that this creek is actually that creek on the map.
Descriptions – This is great to receive more information about shelters (how many they sleep) and capacity/amenities at each shelter. It will also give an estimated tent capacity, too.
-To/from distances – This is a help in deciding if you want to move on to the next waypoint.
-Active feedback from other hikers – Although it can be sporadic, information is useful especially in the case of scarce water.
-Excellent support – The app was designed by 3 people and they are on top of things. If you contact them with a question or concern, they respond quickly and are happy to help.
-GPS – Provides near exact location on the trail map and elevation through gps function –

This app is pretty solid when it comes to the trail, but with any technology, you need to be careful. You should not solely rely on your smartphone because it could die, break, or just fail. Remember this when you are planning your hike and carry a small map or guide as backup.

To download the app for your iPhone or Android, go here. They have guides for numerous trails in the United States including the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide trail and many more!

Wherever you may go whether is is a backpacking trip, or just a day hike, this app will definitely help you find water. Good luck out there!

Appalachian Trail Stories

There have been some great trail stories lately that Mountain Crossings would like to highlight this week. We have pulled the stories from other blogs and given brief summaries about them below. The links for the original blogs are included so check them out!

AT Story Contest
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is holding a contest related to your stories on the Appalachian Trail. The Appalachian Trail has changed many lives and people who venture along the trail will likely have a wonderful story. There are several categories for the contest that include; audio, video, written, and physical works. They are accepting submissions from October 4, 2016 – January 31, 2017. You can find more information regarding the contest and where to submit your story here.

at story.PNG

myATstory contest through the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Trail Brothers
The most recent trail story from the ATC’s contest is called “Trail Brothers.” It is a short video about two brothers from New York City who hiked from the City to the Appalachian Trail. One brother thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2012 and wanted to share a little of his experience with his brother. They talk about wanting to get out of the busy city and into the woods. They highlight some of the difficulties of hiking, I think all of us can relate to and they share some encouraging words. Check out the video below and thanks to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for hosting this awesome contest. Keep your eyes out for the stories in the upcoming months!

Paul’s Boots
This past year, a woman named M’Lynn contacted the Dirtbag Diaries, which is a podcast dedicated to stories out in the wild. M’Lynn’s husband, Paul, had a dream to hike the Appalachian Trail. He passed away before he could make his dream come true but his wife thought maybe his boots could make the whole journey instead. The Dirtbag Diaries started this adventure to get hikers to carry his boots and it quickly gained ground with other bloggers and companies. The goal was to encourage others to make their dreams come true while they can. It also highlights the hiking community and inspiring hikers that were excited to carry the boots and make Paul’s dream come true. We had “Daddy Long Legs” come by Mountain Crossings back in early April of this thru hiker season carrying the boots. They made it the whole way and a fantastic documentary about the experience was released last week. Check it out here to see more of the adventures of Paul’s boots.

unnamed-5

“Daddy Long Legs” at Mountain Crossings with Paul’s boots

Mountain Crossings Stories
We get great stories here at Mountain Crossings as well! Every day we get day hikers, section hikers, and thru hikers. Each person has a unique experience out on the trail and we love to hear each one. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story with us!

unnamed (6).jpg

Fun hikers out for the day