The Pitfalls of “Hike Your Own Hike”

Hike Your Own Hike is a term beloved by thru hikers. It gives validation to many of our weird little quirks other hikers may not understand. If you want to take 2 zero days a week, do it. If you want to take a blue blaze around a section of trail, do it.  If you want to carry a Katana, do it. It’s a term that helps settle any and all disagreements over these petty differences. No matter the context, it seems as if dropping the term “Hike Your Own Hike” is the cue for both sides to drop it and just enjoy the scenery. In a community where every person has their own opinions of comfort, ruggedness and everything in between, this little catch all has gone far to remind us that we don’t always have to be right.

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Origins of the term are hotly debated among hikers but many agree it came around sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s. Today, as the AT community grows in size with the rising popularity of long distance backpacking, this term has began to see a metamorphosis as well. It is increasingly being referenced not only to justify individual styles of hiking, but also individual styles of treating the Appalachian Trail. When “Hike Your Own Hike” becomes a cop out for proper “Leave No Trace” ethics, we as a community have a problem.

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You know it’s big when they make t-shirts of it!

Leave To Trace is also a widely known term on the AT. It was brought about in the 1960’s by the US Forest Service as the use of and need for management of our public lands grew. Leave No Trace has grown from just a saying with great intentions behind it to a full fledge non-profit that works tirelessly to uphold it’s Seven Principles. In a time when we are fighting to both protect our precious land and introduce people to the wonderful affect of Mother Nature for mental and physical health, it is massively important that we do not allow these two hiker adages to work against one another.

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Hike Your Own Hike never means it’s okay to burn your trash if you don’t feel like packing it out.

Hike Your Own Hike never means you are exempt from digging a 6 inch cat hole if you don’t feel like it. 

Hike Your Own Hike never means you get a pass on being polite and courteous to other hikers. 

The rights given to you by the term Hike Your Own Hike end where they become detrimental to the land you are on and it’s natural inhabitants. When making decisions for yourself on trail, first and foremost, go by the Principles of Leave No Trace. Only secondly, go by Hike Your Own Hike. If you want there to continue to be a Hike worth Hiking, you will gladly do so.

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The Battle of De-Feet

It’s summer time, which means that everyone every where is letting their toes hang out. What a great feeling! Those poor, forgotten little digits deserve to live it up during the warm months of the year. Ditch the wool socks and closed toe shoes and get a pair of something your feet can rock and roll in all summer long! The question is, what sort of sandal do you want to wear? There are so many out there and many are vastly different. Here is a break down of the pros and cons of two sandals carried by Mountain Crossings that may help you make the best choice for you!

At MTX we carry both the ever classic summer adventure sandal, Chacos, and the new kid on the block knocking out the competition, Xero Shoes. Both these sandals are designed for summer fun in mind. They aren’t going to flip and flop around. They aren’t going to trip you up. They will seamlessly transition from hiking to frolicking in a creek to wearing around town. They are both your one stop shop shoe for summer time! But despite these similarities, they are SO different! Just look at them!

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Chacos

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Xero Shoes

As you can see, these sandals share a lot of design features, but there is one that you can can’t help but notice the two don’t seem to agree on. The Sole! Every pair of Chacos has a nearly clunky sole with a high arch. Xero Shoes have barely any sole at all and no arch support. What is a purchaser to do? Decide what kind of arch you have and buy that pair? Surprisingly, no! Either shoe you choose will become the new best friend to your feet! But let’s go over some specifications of each shoe and learn how our feet react to the different designs.

All About Chacos

As soon as you put on a Chaco, you can feel the stability and support of the sole. It is sometimes concernedly prominent. The first time I put on a pair, I immediately declared that the arch was too high and didn’t look back for years. (In the meantime, I wasted tons of money and time on other sandals that didn’t hold up for longer than a month and never did quite serve the high action, outdoor purposes I needed.) The next time around, I wasn’t so impulsive. Sure, I wasn’t used to the feel of it, but I could tell the polyurethane sole wasn’t going to compress like other sandals. I had seen friends wear the same pair for years as I cycled through countless shoes made of less durable materials. As I continued to wear them, my feet began to really enjoy the curvature and arch of the sole. Chaco calls their design the LUVSEAT Footbed and I began to see why. My foot felt cradled by the shoe! As for the straps, you have two options, one with a strap for the big toe and one without a strap for the big toe. All Chocos are designed with the straps as one long piece of webbing, making both versions  fully adjustable so your foot is perfectly nestled on the LUVSEAT Footbed and held in place by the straps. An added bonus to Chacos is the brand’s dedication to repairs. They don’t want you to have to buy a new pair. They will fix and repair any shoes they can, which is perfect because you will fall in love with your Chacos and not want to give them up for a new pair anyway!

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A diagram for adjusting the two different strap designs.

All About Xero Shoes

Xero Shoes have stepped into the footwear world and brought us a shoe unlike many others. As adventure races and ultra running are gaining in popularity in the outdoor world, Xero Shoes have come in and helped up the game of barefoot running as well. Many extreme runners site barefoot running as the ultimate form of running; the healthiest shoe for your foot is no shoe, they say. But the reality of that isn’t so pretty. It’s actually really dirty and dusty, might include a few cuts and scraps and definitely a couple bruises. That’s where Xero Shoes step in. These minimalist shoes are designed to train your foot as if it were barefoot but give you that extra edge to keep your feet safe. Contrary to what most believe, the thin sole with zero arch support is not bad for your feet, it is actually better for them. A minimalist approach like Xero Shoes actually helps build the muscles in the foot and strengthen the foot. The thin sole allows the foot to bend and move in all the natural ways a foot is designed to move. Because of the zero drop design of the shoe, meaning there is no difference in the height of the heel and toe of the sandal, the foot is allowed to strike the ground in a more natural way as well. Xero Shoes are built around a strong belief that a bare foot is already a perfect design. Now there is something out there to make it better than barefoot.

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The Takeaway

Feet are incredible and we don’t give them enough credit. They are versatile, strong, resilient and adaptive. There are many routes we can take on the path to taking care of our feet. Chacos and Xero Shoes are each a different path towards healthy feet ready for a summer of fun. Don’t cast away a good shoe option just because first appearances are vastly different from what you have seen or felt on your foot before. Trying something new may just be the best thing you could choose for you feet!

For details on Chacos and Xero Shoes in store at Mountain Crossings, call us at 706-745-6095.

Fix It Man and The Flying Pig Trailer

There are two things that all thru hikers love: Gear and Free Stuff! And while free gear may seem like the pinnacle of thru hiker existence, there is actually something else, something even better than free gear, that all hikers eventually need and always love. A free fix!

When you live out of a pack, or in a tent or inside a jacket on trail, you come to love it so much that when it fails, it nearly breaks your heart. Replacing it is not only financially painful, but emotionally painful, as if you are giving up a good friend. Thankfully, there is a man for this sort of thing and this man has a trailer and a mission. Fix It Man, with his Flying Pig Trailer, aims to repair any piece of gear a hiker may have and do it FOR FREE!

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Fit It Man at work in his Trailer.

Allyn Morton unknowingly began laying the ground work for his lifelong hobby and service of fixing gear when he was only 15 years old. He began working with leather; creating custom pieces and repairing leather goods. Thirty years ago, at the first annual Trail Days in Damascus, Virginia, Allyn set up a small operation doing small fixes for hikers like replacing broken buckles and sewing fraying straps back together.

Three decades later, he travels a circuit of trail festivals and fixes gear out of his Flying Pig Trailer that he can both live and work out of. Dubbed Fit It Man by hikers in the late 80’s or early 90’s, Allyn now has a heavy duty industrial sewing machine that can stitch through tough fabrics like they are butter. His current day armory consists of gear parts like buckles and zippers and fabric types for gear such tents, jackets and packs.

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Fit It Man (on the left) with other gear reps at a hiker festival in front of his gear repair station.

When asked why and how he commits so much time and energy to providing s free service like this to hikers, Allyn simply replies that he does it for the hikers, for the dealers/outfitters who host him and for the several gear companies he represents. It’s a gift he realizes he has and enjoys, so why not share the joy and benefit of it?!

Give Fix It Man five minutes to evaluate the damage of your gear and then he will get to work on repairing it, for FREE!  If you don’t have anything that needs mending, just stop by the trailer for a chat. His advice is as free as his sewing skills and he’s got lots of it, having worked for decades in the outdoor industry as a rep for companies like Big Agnes, Helinox, Anti Gravity Gear, Granite Gear, Garmont and Point6 Socks. He has a wealth of knowledge about some of long distance backpacking’s greatest gear companies.

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Fit It Man performing his duties as a gear rep by introducing the latest from Granite Gear and Big Agnes to Mountain Crossings owner, Logan.

You can catch Fix It Man and his Flying Pig Trailer at Mountain Crossings Thru Hiker Kick Off Party on Saturday Feb. 27th and he will be staying until Monday Feb. 29th. Then further up trail at later days at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, Uncle Johnny’s in Erwin, TN and finally at the 30th Annual Trail Days in Damascus, VA!

3 Ways to Avoid Gear Failure

As a gear shop along the Appalachian Trail, we have folks pop in all the time to ask about a failed piece of gear. “Can it be fixed? If it can’t, what can I get that will be more reliable this time?” We always do our best (and a few of us are actually really decent at and enjoy trying) to fix whatever may land in front of us. Trekking poles are common and typically are straight forward. They are either broken for good or most likely just need a deep cleaning to function properly. Packs are common as well and the culprit is usually a faulty buckle or strap. We do our best to come up with a mate for it and have even gone as far as to sew it on for folks.

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Many times, a trekking pole that will no longer lock tight just needs to be taken apart and cleaned of any dust, rust and debris that has collected inside of it.

But if we are realistic, we hate seeing these failures. Sometimes it is the result of overly loved items that are coming by their failure due to honest use. Every now and then the failure is due to misuse of the item, like putting far too much weight into a pack, causing strain and stress on key structural points. Other times it is a result of plain, old, cheap gear. This is the most upsetting sort of gear failure because the owner feels as if they did not get the expected life of the product out of it before it left them hanging out to dry somewhere along the trail.

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Putting too much weight into your backpack can cause certain points of the pack to start taking too much pressure and strain, resulting in a failure of the pack.

Thankfully for avid backpackers everywhere, there are a few ways to easily avoid gear failure. There is nothing worse than when you are days away from your next town stop and a majorly important piece of gear like a pack or tent fails on you. When backpacking, you are so reliant on the gear you carry. Not to mention that fixing items with just what you have in your pack can sometimes be difficult. Here are a few ways to avoid gear failure and be prepared for it if it does arise.

1. Buy High Quality Gear

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The easiest way to avoid unwarranted gear failure is to buy a good product to begin with. The backpacking gear world is full of small businesses creating gear for the love of living an outdoor lifestyle, not for a quick buck. Some of these companies have become mammoths in the eyes of thru hikers and avid backpackers because they make a such good product. Think Big Agnes, the most popular tent on all of the AT; ULA, the second most popular pack on all of the AT, every pack of which is hand sewn in America! (No wonder they hold up so well!) But no one or nothing is absolutely perfect. When one of these companies does have a reported failure, they stand behind that product and act in a timely manner to help out the customer. Working in the outdoor industry and being big time backpackers ourselves, we hear the occasional stories of broken packs and tents or parts from these companies (and several others) where hikers have been mailed replacement parts or replacement gear while on trail! So be smart and help set yourself up for success by investing smartly in your gear. The old adage “You Get What You Pay For!” has never been so true as in a sport where you consistently execute major wear and tear on your gear everyday.

2. Treat Your Gear Well

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Once you have saved your money, done your research and purchased that high quality piece of gear that will become the basis of your survival on trail, you must commit to treating it well. If the fabric of your sleeping bag gets stuck in the zipper, don’t yank it out, gingerly extract it. When setting up your tent, be sure to pick a good area, not a patch of rocky land or a cluster of thistle and briars. Make sure you are aware of the recommended base weight for your backpack and the max load it is meant to carry. Going over this rating becomes more of a recipe for disaster as time passes. Check the floor of a shelter for protruding nails or other sharp debris before placing an inflatable sleeping pad down. Generally speaking, be responsible and think about your gear and what is best for it! Just a little bit of forethought can save you so much grief on trail.

3. Use Preventative Measures

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Over a 6 month, 2,000+ mile trail, things will definitely begin to breakdown a little bit. Replacing or fixing gear is just a part of thru hiking. You will probably go through several pairs of shoes and multiple shirts but you should’t have to go through several packs or tents or pads. These are items that should last you throughout the hike and they will if you take care of them and give them just a little TLC. Carrying a small amount of thread or floss with a few needles means you can reinforce an area of your pack if it begins to show signs of stress or excess strain. Carrying a small amount of Tenacious Tape will assist you in fixing holes in a sleeping bag, down jacket or tent. Some people carry the patch kit to their sleeping pad in hopes of being able to find the hole while on trail to fix the pad. Waterproofing your rain jacket and tarp/rain fly with Seam Sealer before setting out on trail also helps insure their ability to keep you dry. Being able to stop small problems from becoming big problems is the key to keeping your gear functional for longer and extending its life to match the length of your thru hike.

 

NOTE: If you have a piece of gear fail on you, be sure to truthfully note why. Was it something you did? Was it a mistake or misuse of the item? If you are going to ask a gear manufacturer to replace a piece of gear for you, be sure that you are coming by that new gear honestly. Trail Karma is real!

Escape to the Mountains: Route 2

Just because it is winter doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! And at the same time, we understand that hiking and backpacking in cold weather isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. This is a neat idea for spending a day off in the mountains that is much more cold weather friendly. You owe it to your sanity to break free of that cabin fever and we’ve got just the trek you need! Here is the second of two driving routes up into the mountains and out of Atlanta that can help you escape and offer fun things to do along the way!

The Eastern Route: I-85/GA-400/US-19

This route takes you out of Atlanta through the North Atlanta suburbs. It is the most direct route for anyone in East or South Atlanta and suburbs such as Conyers, Covington, Lawrenceville, Buford, Cumming, Roswell and Alpharetta. This route covers approximately 150 miles of road and takes just about 3.5 hours of drive time (from Atlanta). Of course, you will want to jump out of the car every now and then and check out some cool little mountain towns, neat country stores, beautiful waterfalls and gorgeous mountain views! They’re all along this route!

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Your route in it’s entirety

Step One: Get out of the City

If you live in or south of the center of Atlanta, get to I-85 and go North! Follow signs for GA-400 N and US-19 N. Alternatively, if you live North or further West of Downtown Atlanta, work your way to GA-400 N. After a while, the city will begin to fade away and GA-400 will loose its limited access and become US-19. Follow Signs for Dahlonega and join up with GA-60 N into town. Dahlonega is a great town to top off the gas tank and grab some lunch if you need.

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Step Two: Start Seeing Cool Things

As noted before, Dahlonega is isa great place to stop and get acclimated to the mountains. Grab lunch at the Picnic Cafe, also known as the Dahlonega Dessertery, or at The Crimson Moon (which has live music on weekends if you want to shop by for dinner and tunes on the way home) and walk around the square for a while. Check out the General Store for some old time candy and ready yourself for a day of fun!

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Follow signs out of town for US-19 N and stay right at Stone Pile Gap, splitting ways with GA-60N. When the road T’s at Turner’s Corner, take a left on US-129N. As you crest the top of the winding mountains, you will see Mountain Crossings on your right. This stone building houses a gear outfitter and gift shop and the view off of the overlook is incredible. Take some time to stretch your legs or even go for a hike up Blood Mountain, 2.2 miles up the Appalachian Trail.

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Take a right out of the Mountain Crossings’ parking lot and start heading down the mountain. Five miles down the way, you will come across Vogel State Park on your left. Swing into the park for some great views over Lake Trahlyta. You can hike around the lake and on the far end check out the falls.

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After leaving Vogel, take a left out of the park onto US-19N/US-129N. In a few miles, take a right on GA-180 and follow signs for Brasstown Bald Visitor’s Center. Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia and offer spectacular views. It is advisable to check in with the Visitor’s Center before committing to the drive up to the peak if it is wintertime. The road up to Brasstown Bald, GA-180 spur, is incredible steep and is the first road in all of Georgia to be shut down during inclement weather. But, if the weather during your visit allows, the crystal clear winter views from the top of Brasstown Bald on the tower are breath taking.

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Backtrack down the steep GA-180 Spur and take a right to retrace your steps on GA-180 until you see GA-348 on your left and turn left. This is the second most likely road to be closed in Georgia during inclement weather but as you will see with Brasstown Bald, this also means it offers the best views in Georgia. This road will criss cross you over the Appalachian Trail in two places. The first will be Tesnatee Gap on your right. If you pull off into this parking area and begin walking on the AT to your right, it will bring you to Cow Rock in 1 mile. It is a steep climb, but a great hike to warm you up, get your blood flowing and give your some great views of the mountains. If you aren’t in the mood for a hike, continue driving a short ways to Hog Pen Gap. You may see people Ice Climbing if it is the middle of Winter and you can catch from great views without having to leave the car. The third pull over (the first of them to be on your right and the one that is past the AT) will provide you with the ability to swoop through in your car and snap some grandiose photos.

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If you continue down GA-348 you will soon come across several chances to view waterfalls. Once you have descended from the high mountains, on your right you will seen signs for the Dukes Creek Falls Recreation Area nearly immediately followed by Raven Cliff Falls Recreation Area. Dukes Creek is approximately 1 mile out and 1 mile back to view the falls and Raven Cliff is 3.5 miles out and 3.5 miles back but both hikes are relatively east. Raven Cliff in particular has little to no elevation gain.

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After getting your fill of the falls, keep on GA-348 until it T’s into GA-75A. Turn right onto GA-75 Alternate and follow it to GA-129 N, taking another right. In no time this will loop you back to Turner’s Corner, where you will take a left back onto US-19S towards Dahlonega. Retrace your steps back to town for dinner or to get back to 400 and head home. This is a great little route to show you some new places to have fun in the mountains, even in the winter!

Find This Route On Google Maps!

Escape to the Mountains: Route 1

Just because it is winter doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! And at the same time, we understand that hiking and backpacking in cold weather isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. This is a neat idea for spending a day off in the mountains that is much more cold weather friendly. You owe it to your sanity to break free of that cabin fever and we’ve got just the trek you need! Here is the first of two driving routes up into the mountains and out of Atlanta that can help you escape and offer fun things to do along the way! Stay tuned for Route 2 next week!

The Western Route: I-75/I-575/GA-515

This route takes you out of Atlanta through the North Atlanta suburbs. It is the most direct route for anyone in West or South Atlanta and suburbs such as Canton, Marietta, Kennesaw, Dallas, Douglasville, Newnan and McDonough. This route covers approximately 190 miles of road and takes just about 4 hours of drive time (from Atlanta). Of course, you will want to jump out of the car every now and then and check out some cool little mountain towns, neat country stores, beautiful waterfalls and gorgeous mountain views! They’re all along this route!

Your route in it's entirety

Your route in it’s entirety

Step One: Get out of the City

Get to I-75 and go North! Follow Signs for I-575N after passing Marietta and continue on as I-575N turns from a limited access interstate to state highway GA-515. The drive from Atlanta to Blue Ridge takes approximately 1hr and 3omin and gets progressively more beautiful after you get past Canton. By the time you make it to blue ridge, you may want to stretch your legs. Blue Ridge has an excellent little down town area for shopping and eating.

Here is each stop along the route and a break down of things to do there.

Here is each stop along the route and a break down of things to do there.

Step Two: Start Seeing Cool Things

As said before, Blue Ridge is a great little mountain town for shopping and eating. There are tons of mom ‘n’ pop shops and restaurants to choose from, all within an easy walking distance from one another. If you want to see something a little bit more unique in the area, head over to Mercier’s Orchards. Just a few minutes ride up GA-5, out of Blue Ridge, this place is hopping during the Fall when people flock to the mountains to buy apples but this time of year you can leisurely take your time to stroll this large country store and pick up all manner of wonderful fruits, pastries, baking mixes, ciders, wines and much, much more.

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Backtrack south on GA-5 from Mercier’s down to Blue Ridge again and take a left on GA-76 E towards Blairsville. This will take you to another mountain town of great shops and dining options. Take the ramp off of GA-76 towards downtown and grab a Cup o’ Joe at the Cabin Coffee Company in the town square or try out a few hard to find brews at Bearding Bottle Shop.

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From the center of town, take the roundabout and follow signs for Cleveland, GA and GA-129 S/US-19 S. In just a few miles, as you begin to wind up into the mountains, you will see Sunrise Grocery on your right. This little family owned country store has been a staple of this region since the 1920’s. You can find all manner of local goods and camp needs.

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Continue on up into the mountains and down GA-129 S/US-19 S and be on the look out for a road sign on your left called Helton Creek Rd. For the more adventurous, this will lead you to a great surprise. The road will take you through a little cabin community and turn into a dirt path. Keep following this road until you find yourself at a parking lot. A sign will direct you to Helton Creek Falls, one of the best in the area. You can see the falls well enough from the car, but even if it is a chilly day, the walk to the bottom of the falls for an up and close look is very short.

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After checking out Helton Creek Falls or opting out of adventure, continue on GA-129 S/US-19 S until you hit the peak of the roadway. Here you will find the historic old building that houses Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi. It sits at Neel Gap along the Appalachian Trail and is an outfitter and gift shop. Stop and stretch your legs again and check out the view from the over look of the building’s patio. If you’re ready to brave the weather, take a hike up to Blood Mountain, the highest peak on the AT in the state of Georgia.

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After getting your dose of fresh Mountain air, hop back into the car and keep heading south. In approximately 2 miles you will come to another waterfall viewing possibility, though this one requires more of a hike to reach than Helton Creek Falls. Take a right into DeSoto Falls Recreation Area off of GA-129 S/US-19 S and you can choose wether to go to the upper or lower DeSoto Falls or both!

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If you’re over waterfalls, continue on GA-129 S/US-19 S and take a right onto GA-60. You will soon come to the aptly named  Stone Pile Gap. Be sure to veer right to continue on GA-60. In about 5 miles you will cross back over the Appalachian Trail at Woody Gap. If you park on the left side of the road you will have great views down from the mountains out into Dahlonega. If you park on the right side of the road, you can take the one mile, relatively easy hike up to Preacher’s Rock, which offers a beautiful vista out over the mountain scape.

11335558_1115461315134753_1411027285_nBy the time you get back to the car, you may be a bit beat. If you took advantage of all the area has to offer, you’ve done a lot in one day!! Keep on heading north of GA-60 and enjoy one of the prettiest stretches of highway in the great state on Georgia! This will roll you right back into Blue Ridge, a perfect spot for dinner if you didn’t eat earlier. From there, take US-76 W/GA-515 S and follow signs for Atlanta.

All it takes is a day off and a little bit of gas money to get you out of the city and into the mountains for an enjoyable day of experiencing a quieter side of life and getting out into the vast openness of the wilderness. Be mindful of weather conditions and come prepared. Check the weather in Blairsville or Blue Ridge and then add 5 degrees for your mountain temps. Snow may also be a possibility if the right mix of low temperatures and precipitation happen at the right time. Bring an extra layer and if you come across snow, either drive carefully or pull over and enjoy something that doesn’t happen as much further south at lower elevations!

Find this Route on Google Maps

Stay tuned for another route coming out of Atlanta from the East side of the city!

In Case You Missed It – The MTX Tour!

Our little town of Blairsville has seen some interesting technological influx in the last few months. Google has been offering to do high resolution, virtual tours through Google Maps all throughout the local area. Since Mountain Crossings is such an intriguing historical location, we were readily on the list and willing to participate!

Just as when you see those funny little cars with strange domes protecting cameras driving down the street, Google now has smaller, more mobile versions of those that sit on a tripod. A representative from Google came out and we made a plan for what all was going to be photographed.

If you have never seen a tour on Google Maps, you are in for a treat. They are 360° Virtual Tours of a location with immaculate resolution and clarity. You can go see Yellowstone National Park. You can go see Stone Henge. And now you can go see Mountain Crossings!

On the tour, you can walk through the breezeway and then jump down to look into the hostel. Then you can walk up to the over look for a quick view and then check out the inside of the shop. Have fun!

Reinventing the Shake Down!

Mountain Crossings has been well known for the gear shake down for many decades. Each thru hiker season, hundreds, now thousands, of hikers pass through the shop to dump what they have found they don’t want and to pick up what they didn’t know they needed.

Want a tiny pack like this that still has all the gear needed to keep you comfortable, safe and happy on trail?! Get a Virtual Shake Down!

Want a tiny pack like this that still has all the gear needed to keep you comfortable, safe and happy on trail?! Get a Virtual Shake Down!

Traditionally, hikers do this on their thru hike, about the 3rd or 4th day into their extended stroll. In recent years, more and more prospective thru hikers who are relatively local to the shop (Atlanta, Chattanooga, Greenville, Huntsville and even beyond) have been making a trip to Mountain Crossings to have a shake down before hitting the trail. The result makes their first few days on trail radically more comfortable in two major ways. One is physical: their pack is lighter due to not carrying unnecessary items and they also don’t find themselves lacking something important. The second is mental: they have asked all the questions they can and talked with experts about what to expect. The over all experience of the first few days is better. Plus, when they arrive at the shop all they have to do it eat, shower and relax instead of wait in line with tons of other hikers for a much needed shake down.

Full gear layout as see

A typical day during hiker season at MTX looks like 3 or 4 (way less organized) pack explosions like this one! It can get messy, but it’s fun!

As the shake down becomes more popular, section hikers, weekenders, and even boy scout troops are opting to receive this helpful service. It is beneficial to all backpackers, not only thru hikers!

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A Bit of Info on the Virtual Shake Down

  1. Anyone of any experience level or preparedness can participate in a Virtual Shake Down. (Whether you’re a former thru hiker looking to shed some pack weight or only have three pieces of gear, all are welcome!)
  2. A computer with video chat capabilities (built in or attached video camera and microphone) is needed for a Virtual Shakedown.
  3. Virtual Shake Downs happen over an application called Google Hangout. We will provide you with a dummy G-Mail account for use during the shake down.
  4. A Virtual Shake Down costs $100, but that cost is a 100% (absolutely full and total) rebate!!
  5. During the shake down you will have access to all the entire inventory of Mountain Crossings and we will help you locate the exact items you need to complete or update your gear set.
  6. After you have chosen what you need from that shop, you will have 48 hours to purchase these items and apply your $100 rebate towards your gear.
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Mountain Crossings’ Holiday Gift Guide

Alright folks, so wether you are one of the prepared of if this is your first realization that Christmas is just a short ways away, we’ve got some things here that will help you out! It can be so tough to think of the perfect gift for everyone on your list so we’ve gone ahead and taken care of the outdoor loving, AT hiking friend or family member! Just get them anything off this list and they will dig it!

Click on any image to link to the product on Mountain Crossings website. Prices listed do not include shipping or sale tax.

Start Small: Little Gifts/Stocking Stuffers

Appalachian Trail National Scenic Trail Magnet

ATLogoMag-2

$4.95

This is the same image of the official National Scenic Trail plaque that one finds nailed to trees along the Appalachian Trail, except this is a magnet! It spruces up any refrigerator or large, magnetic faced kitchen appliance. It has a low profile so it stays on cars even during a car wash.

Official Appalachian Trail Logo Patch

AT 300-2

$4.50

The official, copy written, Appalachian Trail Maine to Georgia patch is an excellent gift for any backpacker who is looking to decorate their pack or commemorate a hike.

Landmark Project’s Retro Appalachian Trail Sticker

LMP-sticker-2

$2.59

We think this sticker made by the Landmark Project out of Greenville, SC is one of the coolest Appalachian Trail stickers we have seen to date. Give a little AT flair to a friend or family member to represent a beautiful trail on their car, Nalgene, notebook or whatever they’d like!

Appalachian Trail Shot Glass

AT-SG-2

$5.99

Everybody has a souvenir shot glass from some random beach town but what about one of America’s long distance hiking trails?! That’s way more worthy of a toast!

Movin’ On Up: Stand Alone Gifts

Appalachian Trail Pint Glass

ATpint-2

$9.99

We think that there is no better time to drink a beer than right after a great hike! It’s the most satisfying a beer can possibly be. But unfortunately, it’s not always possible to be fresh off the trail. No fear! Drinking your beer out of an Appalachian Trail pint glass often gives similar effects!

Blood Mountain Trucker Hat

BM-TRUCKER-HAT-2T

$18.99

This Blood Mountain trucker hat not only has an awesome design featuring the tallest mountain in Georgia on the AppalachianTrail, it also comes in three great colors! Blood Mountain is quite possibly the most popular day hike in Georgia and if you’ve ever been the the summit, it’s not hard to imagine why.

 

Glow in the Dark Silicone Pint Glass with Mountain Crossings’ Logo

MTX-Sili-Glow-2T

$13.95

This pint glass is the only pint glass your friend or family member will ever need again!! (Except for re-buying it in all the colors possible!) This Silicone pint glass depicting Mountain Crossing’s logo is made by a company called SiliPint. They manufacture pint glasses that are unbreakable, dish washer safe, microwave safe, freezer safe, and BPA free. Owning one of these cups make its easier to cut down on your possessions because you only want to use this one cup all the time! Oh, also, THEY GLOW IN THE DARK!!!

Sawyer Mini Water Filter

SWF-Mini-2$24.99

The Sawyer Mini Water Filter is still the lightest weight filtration system on the market for backpacking coming in at just 3 ounces. Besides being the go to way to filter water for backpackers, they make an excellent addition to a day pack for those just in case situation. Your day hiking buddy won’t even know its in there, but it could end up saving them from a long day of no water if the event ever arises.

A Walk In The Woods

AT 520-2

$15.95

The Appalachian Trail community is abuzz with talk of the recent release of the feature length film adaptation of Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods. But we all know that the book is better than the movie! Give the reader on your list the original memoir that over took the AT community so solidly that it over took Hollywood as well!

Assorted Appalachian Trail Ceramic Mug

mug
$25.99

Another thing many hikers love as much as beer is coffee! These awesome ceramic Appalachian Trail mugs are perfect for transporting someone back to the peace and serenity of Nature while enjoying a cup of coffee or tea. They also come in so many colors and glazes that everyone is sure to be pleased!

Getting Serious: They’ll Love You Forever!

Woolrich Appalachian Trail Blanket

AT-Wool-2
$185.00

This is hands down the coolest gift you can give someone who loves the Appalachian Trail! Every hiker has fond memories of their times on trail, so why not personify the warmth of the memories with a blanket! It’s so nice to wrap up in a wool blanket on a chilly day and when it is not in use, this particular blankets makes a wonderful accent piece of an AT lover!

Helinox Ground Chair

HnoxGC-2

$109.95

This chair is not only light enough to be carried on any backpacking or camping trips, but it is also comfortable enough to be used on a regular basis around home! It weighs in at only one and a half pounds, packs away into a tiny zippered case, and is super easy to put together. It is perfect to keep around the house for extra seating or stow away in the back of your car for just in case purposes.

For the Love of Layers

It’s that time of year in the great outdoors. It’s both beautiful out, making you want to spend as much time in the mountains as possible, and it is also nearly impossible to gage what to wear each day! When the sun is out, your soaking up the rays until your saturated in sweat. When the clouds take over, you’re chilled to the bone with the dampness in the air. How do you prepare for a backpacking trip when you have no idea how to dress for the weather?! Layers!

In the fashion world, layers are all the rage in Autumn. It doesn’t happen very often, but it turns out that this time the fashionistas are on to something that those of us with more functional desires can grab a hold of. By dressing in and making sure to pack our layers on a trip, it is easy to be comfortable in whatever weather situation may arise. Here is a breakdown of several types of layers and how the work best.228421_11835_XL

Under Garmets: Staying Dry

Thats right, even your undies matter here, at least for comfort. Cotton underwear and bras are comfortable in daily life but they are sure to end up swampy when you begin sweating. Synthetic materials such as Polyester are quick drying. Avoiding cotton is the name of the game. When caught in the rain or working up a hard sweat, cotton is sure to leave you uncomfortable. It clings to you went wet, drys very slowly, and is not able to retain its warming capabilities.thignfdkld

Layer One: Base Layer

Your first actual layer, or base layer, is best when make of Merino wool or a thicker synthetic material. A long sleeve and pant is the next level of a well built and functional outfit for hiking. Some times it is a good idea to wear a t-shirt under your base layer if you wish to be a bit cooler. This base layer cuts the wind and gives you that extra little bit of warmth on a day with a bit of chill in the air. Merino wool is not as quick drying as it’s synthetic pal but it does excellent in retaining warmth when or if it gets wet.

Three example of thin, long sleeve shirts that make excellent base layers.

Layer Two: Light Insulation

This time of year, temps can easy fluctuate between wide ranges once the sun sinks behind the trees. Sometimes having a mid layer is an easy way to tailor your comfort to an even tighter degree. A material like fleece makes a popular mid layer for light insulation. Popping on a fleece over your long sleeve base layer will help retain any body heat radiating off you. Some hikers opt to even carry a light bottom insulation layer as well, though an article of clothing like fleece pants is both bulky and heavy. Simply pulling on your base layer bottoms over shorts or pulling a pair of Nylon hiking pants on over your base layers is the best option. The benefit of a fleece top is much more worth its weight than bottoms are because less body warmth is lost through your legs than your torso. A wool or fleece hat is also an excellent way to retain body heat at this level of chill. mountain-hardwear-microchill-fleece-pullover-jacket-zip-neck-long-sleeve-for-women-in-ocean-blue-p-6902j_17-1500.2

Layer Three: Soft Shell Insulation

Your soft shell insulation layer is where the real warmth comes in play. While hiking, it is best not to even wear this layer. But when you reach camp, this is the heavy duty insulation layer that becomes your best friend and makes hanging out in camp manageable. For most hikers, this layer consists of a down jacket. These guys build up and store all of the body heat you are creating and even second as a great pillow once you crawl into your sleeping bag at night. They are excellent to wear for warmth in any situation where you are not working up a sweat or exposed to rain. 84711_SUMR

Layer Four: Rain Shell

A rain shell is the last layer to finish off the perfect layer hiking outfit. The rain shell will protect your down jacket layer and keep it dry, which is important. No matter which layer you throw your rain jacket on over, it will trap your body heat and also cut wind, making it and excellent emergency warmth layer.

©Earl Harper

Whenever you go out into the elements, there are tons of weather possibilities. Likewise, there are tons of layering possibilities. With knowledge of the different types of layers and how they work together, you can estimate what will be best for you in the area you will be hiking. Remember that to have an extra light layer you don’t use is safer and more enjoyable than being unprepared and facing a bad situation. Yet still, like all gear, consider the weight and packability of your clothing items.