Meet Zack!

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Zack at the Taccoa River Bridge while backpacking on the BMT.

This is our good friend, Zack! He is more than just our good friend, he has been a valuable employee with us for about six months. He has been a good friend for even longer. In fact, when Zack started working for us this summer, we weren’t even looking to hire anyone. He was just a quick study and kind of had to keep jumping in and helping on busy summer days at the shop. Plus, he’s got that kind of personality that you’d rather have around than not!

Zack was born and raised in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee and you can see that the influence of such an iconic town runs deep in him. He’s a good ol’ southern boy with a big heart but you may not think it just by looking at him. We he rolls up on his Harley, arms covered in tattoos, you may not think he was such an affinity for the Appalachian Trail either!

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Besides an adorable mutt named Romper that he saved from a roadside ditch, this is Zack’s other baby!

In 2011, Zack transformed into ‘Blueyes’ on his thru hike of the AT, a trail name that he comes by with striking honesty. Like most hikers, he fell in love with the trail and had to find a way back soon after his hike. This desire to stay connected with the trail brought him to Virginia, where he worked with the Konnarock Trail Crew along the AT. The next year he upped his connection between trail and job even more by becoming a ridge runner in both Pennsylvania and Georgia, where our friendship began. When it came time for a hot meal and to get a shower, Blueyes would have a stay in the hostel at Mountain Crossings during his regular patrol.

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Trail work with the Konnarock Trail Crew in Virginia.

Zack then found a less nomadic role on the AT when he took a job at the Hike Inn on the Approach Trail. Besides offering a unique backcountry experience focused on sustainability, the Hike Inn also offers nightly educational classes on varying topics. On his off days, Zack would come up to Mountain Crossings and hang out until we began to put him to work in place of several of our own staff who were thru hiking. For quite a while, he worked at both until moving over to the mountain full time to help with the busy fall and spring seasons!

What in the World is a Lasher?!

Each year thousands of NoBo thru hikers set out for Katahdin from Springer Mountain and hundreds of SoBo thru hikers set out for Springer Mountain from Katahdin. We all know that these descriptions, NoBo and SoBo, tell us which direction a hiker travels, whether it be North Bound or South Bound. We all have also heard of section hikers who tackle the trail in smaller, more manageable chunks. But there is another kind of hiker out there that has just in the recent years past come to have a name of their very own.

Lasher is a relative new term in the culture of long distance hiking. Lashers are essentially the perfect mix between a full blow thru hiker and a section hiker. The term  is actually an acronym that captures the good humor of hikers everywhere: L.A.S.H-er stands for Long Ass Section Hiker.

As where section hikers take a week or two of vacation to knock out the trail in small pieces, a Lasher is out for months at a time and falls into the long term habits, customs and mentalities of traditional thru hikers. They are indistinguishable from thru hikers besides their itinerary.

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This is Rain. He is from Texas and has been hiking south from Harpers Ferry. Next summer he will begin to hike northward to Katahdin. He is the very definition of a Lasher!

Lashers are a fairly new breed of hikers who may not be able to commit to the full six or so months to thru hike, but they get out a use up every moment of what time they do have! As the popularity of long distance backpacking grows, more and more folks are falling into this new style of hiking. If you are one of the many out there who dream of hiking the AT in full but can’t find the time, take a look into this unique way of hiking!

A Thru Hiker’s Gear: In Photographs

Prospective thru hikers are always asking us what sort of gear we suggest, what we would bring and what we would leave behind. We have a little document sitting on the computer desktop at work which we can print out and it explains a lot of it. But not everyone is able to make it to the shop before their hike and sometimes its just so much more helpful to see an actual, visual example of a piece of gear rather than read about it. So this is intended to be a visual guide to assist you in being able to spy a good piece of gear that will serve you well on your thru hike.

BIG FOUR

Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering : 20°
A Western Bag is a big investment but it is one that will last you decades if you take care of it. Some of the lightest, smallest compressing, most accurately rated bags out there.WM ALP-2

Sleeping Pad: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir
The absolute happy medium between comfort and weight. At 2.5 inches thick but only 12 oz. in weight, this is a piece of gear that makes everyone happy.CD-NAXL-2

Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1
Big Agnes makes some of the most popular tents used on the AT. The Fly Creek UL 1 is the lightest of them all. The footprint, fly and tent body all compress down to the size of a football. It can be pitched in a “fast fly” manner that allows for getting out of the rain quicker when pitching and staying in the sleeping bag longer when breaking down.

Don’t Forget Your Rain FlyFly Creek UL 1 Tent with Fly 2-zm

Backpack: ULA Catalyst
At approximately 70 liters, the Catalyst is on the upper end of desired capacity for a thru hiking pack but it is still incredibly lightweight. With two water bottle pockets, a joey pocket, a shock cord attachment, trekking pole holders, a comfortable hip belt with pockets and load lifters, this pack is very “everything you need and nothing you don’t”.catalyst-300x300

CLOTHING

Rain Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic
Lightweight rain shell. All of them will have you sweating in no time but that is favorable over hypothermia, so just find the lightest, most comfortable one you can.OM5957_015_f

Down Jacket: Mont Bell UL Down Parka
Very lightweight and compressible down jacket. Not recommended for wearing while hiking, mostly for wearing around camp. Always wear a rain shell over it in rain or snow. Down jackets second wonderfully as a pillow.z_2301237_rbl

Gloves & Hat: North Face Power Stretch Gloves, Mouse Works Rolled Beanie
Make sure not to go overboard on the thickness of the gloves because you still want dexterity in your hands. Windproof gloves end up being the most worm. For hats, don’t over think it, just get a warm hat.COMBO

Nylon Hiking Pant: Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, MontBell and many others
Lightweight, comfortable, nylon hiking pants are a must in Winter and early Spring unless you carry rain pants. Hiking pants are quick drying, seconding well enough as a rain pant, but can also be converted in to shorts, making them three times over multi-use.B69300_7203_w_lobo_cnvtpnt 0011

Midweight Pullover: Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Patagonia, and others
Wether it is fleece, wool, or some synthetic material, having a long sleeve pull over as an extra layer is nice when its cold. It also gives you a long sleeve layer to hike in with out fear of sweating though it and damaging the warming qualities like down.B83310_4336_alpinist_hlfzp 0001

Light Weight Base Layer: Patagonia Daily (Capilene 1)
Lightweight, synthetic layer to pull on over shorts to wear under pants. Makes an excellent sleep layer.download

Synthetic Running Shorts: Department stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, Wal-Mart and Target have cheap active wear
Any synthetic, quick drying material will do. Some hikers prefer a built in liner over underwear. Make sure to be conscious of the waist band because it has the most potential to cause problems. Wear them with a fully loaded pack before leaving to truly test out the band.umbro-printed-double-layer-track-workout-shorts-womens-size-large-pink

Quick Drying T-Shirt: Department stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, Wal-Mart and Target have cheap active wear
Any synthetic, quick drying t-shirt will do. You’re just trying to avoid cotton. Lighter colors will become dirtier than you ever expected but you will probably throw it away due to smell long before you need a new shirt.317xg6R+VZL._UX466_

FOOTWEAR

Shoes: Brooks (Cascadia 9 depicted), Montrail, Salomon, all good brands.
Trail Runners have taken the lead over boots as the most popular style of footwear on long distance trails today. They are way lighter weight, they let your foot bend and move in a more fluid, natural way, and they dry more quickly that any boots if they are not waterproof coated.120181_485_a_ZM

Socks: Darn Tough (depicted) and Point 6
Darn Tough Socks are made in Vermont and boast one of the most unbelievable guarantees in the outdoor industry with a product that is so good most people never have to use it. Point6 Socks are made in Chattanooga, TN and hold one of the higher wool counts found in wool socks. Because of this, it takes them longer to begin to smell. Unavoidable on a thru hike, but cool for the rest of us.41lfRcv5jtL._SY355_

Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters
Gaiters are just one extra thing to carry that you can absolutely live with out. If you are going to get some, make them a pair of Dirty Girl’s. They are cheap, they are insanely light and they come in a million awesome patterns.images

COOKING/WATER TREATMENT

Cook Pot: Snow Peak Trek 700ml Titanium Pot
Small, lightweight pot that holds approximately 3 cups of water, an excellent size when cooking many meals that require 2 cups or less. Can store small canister of fuel and small stove inside. Also will double as a cup or a mug when needed.
440Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket
A small lightweight canister stove with varying flame intensities. Connects up with any brand of fuel canister. Along with the canister needed to fuel it, this stove can fit into a pot the size of the Snow Peak mentioned above.msr_pocket_rocket_1 (1)

Canister Fuel: MSR Canister Fuel
Any brand of canister is compatible with a canister stove. The smaller canisters will last approximately an hour but it is good to pay attention to your cooking habits and learn how much fuel you are using so you can estimate when to purchase a new canister. The smaller canisters are also able to fit in a pot the size of the Snow Peak mentioned above along with an MSR Pocket Rocket.imgres

Water Filter: Sawyer Classic Water Filter
The perfect meld between lightest and fastest flowing water filter. Takes more effort and time than larger, heavier pump water filters.images-1Chemical Treatment: AquaMira Chemical Treatment
A lightweight, lazy way to treat water. Two parts, mixed together, 7 drops of each per liter of water. Won’t freeze like a ceramic filter.url

MISCELLANEOUS

Pocket Knife: Voctorynox Classic Swiss Army Knife
A tiny pocket knife that is all you need! Blade will slice cheese and summer sausage. Scissors will open packages. Comes with tweezers built in.url-1
Bandana: Regular ole bandana.
One, maybe two, is all  you need. Serves as a hankie when sweating, a towel when showering, a mop when you track mud and water into your tent.bandana

Data Book: Awol’s AT Guide
The most favored and detailed of all the guide books for thru hikers. Most end up cutting it in half, mailing the second half ahead, and taping the spine so that it does not fall apart. ATG-2013NOBOFront-Cover-MARKETING-ONLY

Pack Cover: Etowah Gear Pack Cover
Very light weight sil nylon pack cover designed to keep the water out of your pack. They come in sizes ranging from XS to L that are made for packs of varying liter capacity.1408653904_110157

Water Bladder: Playpus Big Zip 3L Water Bladder
If you choose to use a bladder over multiple water bottles, a 3 liter is recommended just so that you have the ability to carry large amounts of water, even if you only use it a few times while on trail. These are great because they offer hands free drinking while hiking. If you find you have problems keeping track of how much water you have left, store it in an external side pocket so you can periodically check your supply. Doing this also makes refilling the bladder more simple as it is easier to get to.url-2

Water Bottles: 1L Smart Water Bottle
Super light and inexpensive. Can be found at almost any gas station along the trial.url-3

Couple Lighters: Bic Lighter
One for everyday use and one for back up. Don’t go over board. You can always pickup another at a gas station.url-4

Waterproof Stuff Sacks: Sea to Summit or Granite Gear
Good for organizing your gear based off of colored bags and helps keep everything dry.stuff sack

FIRST AID

Band-Aids: Not too many! Most injuries are tiny scratches and don’t even require a bandaid. 22698611_xl-bandaidsChap Stick: You will regret not having it if you are starting early.url-5

Mole Skin/Blister Treatment: Blisters are pretty common injuries on trail. Best to be prepared!url-6

Body Glide/Anti-Chaffing Product: Some people need it, other don’t. It’s good to have starting off if you’re not sure which your are. url-7

Duct Tape: Just a little, wrapped around a water bottle, trekking pole or lighter.duct-tape

This is a fairly comprehensive gear list for the beginning thru hiker. Some folks want to carry more, some folks want to carry less. We strongly encourage hikers to gather their gear with ample time to go out on practice hikes in order to learn how gear works and what may or may not be of use to you. Nearly all the items you see on this list (or something very comparable) are available at Mountain Crossings. 

Choosing the Right Map for Your Hike

One would think that something as simple as maps would be self explanatory. Just grab one depicting the area you’re in and go, right? It would seems so… until you see how many options you have! By choosing the correct map for your particular hike, you will be able to maximize the utility of your map and get the proper amount of information from it.

Blood Mountain Day Hike Map

This is a inexpensive little map we had made up of the Blood Mountain Day Hike. It is one of the more famous day hikes in Georgia and we decided it would be nice to have a map that depicted the Blood Mountain area for day hikers who only needed a small amount of information for a hike they may only do once. Drop into the shop before your hike to pick up one of these guys or order off the website in advance.

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This topographic map of Blood Mountain offers information on several different trails up the Mountain as well as tips for this particular hike.

North Georgia Area Day Hiking Map

Some folks are looking to do a lot of consecutive day hikes in the area or are local enough that they want a map that will cover a greater range of land for future return trips. National Geographic makes some excellent maps with a bit more detail that depict most well marked trails in the North Georgia area. Everything from large trails like the Appalachian Trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail and the Pinhoti Trail are marked along with many smaller spur trails. For the entirety of North Georgia, you can purchase the National Geographic Chattahoochee Map Pack.

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A very detailed map of the entire North Georgia area.

Section Hiking Map

Anti Gravity Gear makes very light weight Strip Maps that give you all the information you need for a longer Section Hike on the AT without having to carry the weight of a full data book. These waterproof strip maps give you the milage at major points along the trail, the location of water resources and shelters, as well as major road crossings and an elevation profile. They are sold by state so you can pick up which ever section you are looking to hike.  There is also a set of more detailed maps made by the ATC that are excellent for both section hiking and can be used for thru hiking.

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Lightweight, waterproof maps that give you just enough information for a long haul hike.

Thru Hiking Map

The most popular map used by thru hikers along the AT is AWOL’s Guide. This book is used mostly by thru hikers because it offers step by step milage points that include water resources, shelters, views, road crossings and much more. An elevation profile integrated into the data points makes it easy to collect all your needed information from one page. Each town along the AT is mapped out in detail with all the needs of hikers carefully noted and written out along side the town map. Many hikers use the guide book to take notes as they hike and often only carry one half at a time, sending the second half ahead to a point further down the trail. The second most popular maps for thru hikers are the ATC Maps. Hikers must purchase the set of maps before hand and send them ahead to set points. These maps also do not have town maps, though a data book is available to accompany the maps.

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AWOL is a former thru hiker whose Guide book has become the most popular and all inclusive guidebook on the trail.

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Along with the ATC Databook, the ATC Maps couple up to be a comprehensive, though heavier alternative to AWOL’s Guide.

Squarl and Holly on the CDT

More MTX Staff is headed for the hills! This time the wonderful Squarl and Holly are headed out for the Continental Divide Trail. The CDT is approximately a whopping 3,000 miles long. I say approximately because, though it is an official National Scenic Trail, it is not fully completed. This gives is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” feel at some points. Countless nights of sorting through maps and guidebooks have landed Squarl and Holly with enough of a basic plan of their route, but they will surely wing it as they hike along America’s most rugged of the three big long distance trails!

For those of you who don’t personally know Squarl or Holly, here’s an introduction:

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Squarl and Holly are huge white water boaters. On any given weekend, you can find Squarl in a kayak and Holly in a canoe, crushing it!

Squarl has been a staple here at Mountain Crossings for about eight years! After thru hiking the Appalachian Trail after high school, he began his cycle of outdoor oriented jobs. When he’s not busting newbie thru hiker’s butts during a shakedown for carrying too much unneeded stuff, he’s either raft guiding or working at a ski mountain. His job often fluctuates with the seasons. The Appalachian Trail lead to a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, meaning that by the end of this fall, Squral will be a Triple Crowner!

Holly will be making her first entrance into long distance hiking on the CDT but she is not new to the outdoor lifestyle. She is a Black Fly sponsored open boat canoeist and has traveled extensively through her boating escapades. Holly is about as wild and untamed as the vast expanses of land they will traversing through so we aren’t worried about her falling into a rhythm in the wilderness. She’s got an excellent coach, an insanely upbeat attitude towards life and years of soaring through potentially bone crushing rapids to call on if the trials of adjusting to trail life do arise!

Naturally, before our friends set off for their great adventure, we had to have one last night hanging out. And what are friends for, if not for encouragement?!

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A cake that says “You’ll Never Make It” Squarl is not amused. Thankfully, Holly is always amused!

We have such faith in them that we can confiently hassle them! They leave May 1st and we hope to see them here at the gap again sometime in October! We wish the best of luck to Squarl and Holly and though we will miss them a ton, we are so stoked for their months on end of fun time!!

Pretzel is PCT Bound!

Meet Matt “Pretzel” Mason

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Pretzel rocking his PCT gear set up on a practice hike up Blood Mountain.

Pretzel hails from Illinois. After getting a degree in Outdoor Recreation, he thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2012. The AT lead to a thru hike of the Long Trail in 2013 and then the Colorado Trail in 2014. Three years after his first thru hike, he accidentally has about 3,000 trail miles under his belt. Now, he is setting off for another long haul!

Pretzel has only been with us here at Mountain Crossings since the end of February but even in that short amount of time, he has proven to be an irreplaceable member of the team. Unfortunately, we are loosing Pretzel to the PCT for a couple of months. We are super stoked to send him off into the wonderful, wild west, but we will miss him a ton! He has been bringing the heat on gear knowledge and perfecting his double and triple shakedown game throughout this hiker season. Pretzel is an ambassador for several top selling items in the shop here at Mountain Crossings inculding ULA Equipment, Point6 Socks and Superfeet.

We hate to see him go but we love to see our friends take off and have fun. Follow Pretzel on his PCT journey through his Instagram account. If you don’t use Instagram, you can still view his photos from the underlined link. If you are an Instagram user, follow @firexneck for excellent shots of the PCT popping up in your own feed!

Packing It Out!

Lots of people thru hike the Appalachian Trail. We see hundreds and hundreds pass through our shop each week during peak season. We love all our thru hikers who pass through but every now and then, there is an individual or a collection of individuals that really catches your attention. The fellas making up Pack It Out were just that sort. Meet Goose, Cap and Spice!

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Goose, Cap and Spice

When they passed through Mountain Crossings on a rainy morning, they had already collected up about 75lbs. of trash! That’s right, they are thru hiking the Appalachian Trail and focusing on packing out AS MUCH trash as they possibly can! How’s that for some Trail Karma?

I sat down and had a little mini interview with Cap. He and Goose had grown up together in Georgia and Cap had met Spice while sea kayak guiding in Wisconsin. When Cap decided to take on the beast that is an AT thru hike (along with the task of cleaning up the trail) both these buddies decided to jump in on the fun.

By the time they came rolling on into the shop here at Mountain Crossings, they had already collected about 75lbs. of trash! Thank goodness these guys don’t believe in being ultralight when it comes to packing out trash because too many folks seem to believe that leaving behind items simply because they over packed is an okay practice. Every day, each of them walks with a pair of grabbers and collects any piece of trash they can find. This is the result:

A photo of Cap and Spice snagged from their facebook.

A photo of Cap and Spice snagged from their facebook.

These guys are the real deal when it comes to loving on our beautiful natural landscapes! This is their mission statement from their Facebook:

Our mission is to inspire a sense of environmental stewardship within our communities by raising awareness for litter conditions along America’s trails.

Check out their Facebook Community HERE where you can share your own stories of Packing It Out and follow them on their AT journey on their blog HERE! Thank you Cap, Goose and Spice for taking on this huge project that means so much to those who love the Appalachian Trail. Folks like you and those who you inspire will be the ones responsible for keeping this lovely trail free and unregulated!

Georganna & Logan Seamon

Georganna & Logan Seamon

As of October, 2013 We are the proud new owners of Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi!

After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2009 as a couple we found a home and a couple great jobs here at Walasi-yi. When the previous owner, Winton Porter, decided it was time to move on we were honored to take over.

Though we may technically now ‘own’ Mountain Crossings we know that no one can really ‘own’ a place as well loved as this. Being on mile 30 of the Appalachian Trail, this place is part of many thousands of journeys and memories.  We are proud to be a part of the Appalachian Trail community and hope that you’ll come visit us, and keep coming back as we strive to improve upon this special place.

-George and Logan Seamon