A Month on the Mountain

I have been working at Mountain Crossings for a month now and I've concluded that I can't rightfully call it working. I get paid to sit in the shop all day for four days a week, but I but I can't say that talking to thru hikers, helping them rethink gear, work out a plan for the next few days or any of my down time tasks seem like something called work. I am a chosen one in the world to be paid to do something I love so much that it doesn't feel like work.

Mountain Crossings in nestled in Neels Gap at mile 31.7 on the Appalachian Trail
The feeling of it being work will be kicking in any day now. With all the snow and ice we had over the past two weeks, hikers got bottled up for a while, but they are now flowing into the shop and hostel in droves. It is that time of year any way. From March through April, we will be slammed with soggy, snowy and sweaty hikers.

The days start off slow. We open the shop at 8:30. Making coffee is always a priority, shortly followed by building a fire in the wood burning stove if it is a cold morning. Hikers who have stayed the night in the hostel are often waiting at the door to get in. I am reminded of all the old men hikers on my own thru hike who would be packed up and walking by 5:30 every morning. We try to open in peace. It's mostly flipping switched and booting the computer so it only takes moments. Still they are sometimes trying to slip in before you even get the door open. It calms down after the hostel folks leave and there is a short break before they start coming off of Blood Mountain.

Before we got 8" or so of snow, we got 2" or so of ice. It made for a lot of busting ass but it also made for great photos of encased trees once the skies cleared up. 
Once those few arrive, they stream in all day from south on the trail. Blood Mountain shelter first, followed by Woods Hole Shelter, then Jarrard Gap, Lance Creek, Woody Gap and even a few will make it from Gooch Gap. Most come in so worn out and disorientated that it takes them a moment to get themselves together. Others immediately sling down their soaking wet packs in the door way and begin barking out their needs. A few walk in smiling and ask where to set their pack and being checking out the food and gear in the shop.

We check them into their hostel. We show there where the resupply food is. We do a pack shakedown for the ones who are way over loaded and need to send some things home. We help them get rides or make plans or trouble shoot through some problem that has arisen. Before the hostel started filling up every night, we wold go down at night and play cards or board games and laugh and drink until the hikers were to tired to stay up any longer. Now, with 16 bodies bouncing around in the hostel, its too crowded for such things.

Life on the mountain is all I could want. I saddest part of leaving home and being somewhere else is that I feel strikingly not sad about it. My bedroom window and my front door both open up on the Appalachian Trail itself. I think Jason and I may be the only people in the world who can claim both of those things (that actually live in a solid structure). I was a couple of feet to work and some times I stand at the bay window and look out over the shop's porch and down into the valley.

After our big snow, which was after our little snow, which was after our major ice over, the sky broke for just a moment and I snapped this photo. 

When I go into town, I pass the iconic places of my childhood that we always visited on family camping trips. We camped at Vogel State Park once or twice a year more most of my childhood. We would stop by Sunrise Grocery to buy apples and Pappy's to buy fudge. My brother and dad would spend an obnoxious amount of time in the Owltown Baseball Card Shop. All of these things I see on my way to Blairsville for groceries. Every time I am reminded of what a privileged childhood I had to experience such a place and am consequently reminded of what a privileged adulthood I've led thus far as to be able to have thru hiked the AT and then return to work and live in the childhood stomping grounds that birthed the dream.

My life feel too good to be true. I left a lot behind in coming here, but in the past, when I have done the same, such sacrifice (always of people and relationships with them it seems) has always offered up such great return. Once again, it has happened. And it may happen again very, very soon.

This is what Mountain Crossings employees do on their day off. Unfortunately, I was working and didn't get to join in on the fun. 


  1. Hello!
    I was pleased to see you have a Mariposa pack. I am considering it or the Gorilla. I wonder if you could tell me which size you have. I'm 5'9" which is the cutoff for M or L. Can you give me your opinion on if I should size up to a L or down to a M?
    Thanks so much,


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