Black Creek Outfitters Guru Session: Outdoor Gear


Jack Stucki led a great discussion on new gear coming into Black Creek Outfitters. He also fielded questions on general gear options based on conditions, time on trail and durability. These are bullet item highlights of the discussion.

The Guru Discussions occur every Wednesday evening, with pauses in the series based on availability as well as breaks for planning and actual outdoor adventuring. If you are in the Jacksonville area and would like a session dedicated to a specific topic you can reach out to me or ask for Jack when you visit the store.

 

  • Footwear is the most important when it comes to fit.
  • People who wear boots tend to be older folk (Jacks notes on trail he sees people his age in boots.)
  • 40 lbs or more, consider a boot (though Jack considers 40 lbs a reason to question how the hiker has packed.)
  • Boots are good for ankle support along with snow conditions. Most boots will be water proof. Hard to find ones which aren’t. Warmth and structure are your gains.
  • Jack noted day hikes in low top shoes didn’t impact his ankles or knees so he knew the problem was weight. (Lowa boot was the session example)
  • Salomon X D is the recommended low top show.
  • They need no break-in (I can attest to that).
  • Vibram is the standard for sole, however Salomon does not use Vibram.
  • They’d prefer to not use Goretex but their contract with REI requires it.
  • Jack showed how the Salomon has a high degree of tortional rigidity: as much as the boot.
  • Climashield is Salomon’s proprietary waterproofing.
  • If Goretex gets wet on the inside, it takes a while to dry. Note that.
  • Jack has over 1,000 miles on his Salomon shoes. Salomon doesn’t promise they’ll last that long.
  • Hiker, trekker and PHD. Those are your Smartwool options. Your version is based on your environment.
  • FITS makes a light, medium and rugged sock. The mill that makes FITS used to make Smartwool. When Smartwool went to China, the mill made FITS.
  • You can’t go wrong with FITS or Smartwool.
  • But Darn Tough may be the best sock out there.
  • Jack sharing Outdoor Research Backcountry Boardshorts. Great, light weight hiking short. Feather light with some give.
  • Jack is wearing Vissla on the Wonderland Trail. Super light weight with great stretch, and quick drying.
  • 150 weight Merino wool icebreaker shirt is his go to shirt. No SPF.
  • The shirt has a tag with a number. Go to the site. Put in the number. You’ll get the location and sheep that shirt came from.
  • ExOfficio 91% polyester shirt is also a solid option. But polyester is petroleum based, if you are concerned.
  • 200 weight Merino wool Icebreaker 3/4 zip is a solid long sleeve base layer.
  • 200 weight Merino wool Icebreaker “long johns” pants are the complete package.
  • Comparing fleece anything to the Arc’Teryx Atom jacket. Spend the extra money and go with the Atom.
  • OR rain gear from 2 weeks ago was our example of the rain proof outer layer.
  • Looking at OR Versaliner gloves. Cool zipper for glove rain cover.

Vogel State Park, Blood Mountain and the Appalachian Trail


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Living in Jacksonville, FL affords wonderful access to many water based activities, but time on the Appalachian Trail cannot be had without at least a 14 hour round trip (unless of course airfare and a rental car fits into the budget). So it was with great joy that the May 17th weekend became totally open for both me and my daughter, Sara. My goal was to get her on the AT for the first time, and for me to experience a new section the famous trail.

Of course my dog Roxy was required company. She loves trail.

Initially Grayson Highland State Park was the destination. Cresting “God’s Stairmaster” to see an open field of wild horses is quite memorable. Mother Nature, however, had other ideas. Vogel State Park was option number two, and even if wet and cold became reality it wouldn’t be too severe for my daughter’s tastes. The horses will have to wait until October, hopefully.

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The Benton MacKaye Trail


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A 2015 goal will be to hike the Benton MacKaye Trail. At just under 300 miles, the adventure will hopefully entail no more than two weeks away from wife and work. The key will be coordinating it such that the memory will have, at the very least, my son as a trail companion. Should time and opportunity be more kind the AT/BMT loop will be tackled, which would allow for 500+ miles of trail time.

There is a great deal of information about the BMT (noted below is the link to the association which manages the trail), but I would like to share this link as a place to start. Tim Homan’s book comes highly recommended, and has found a place on my to-do list. The problem…it’s out of print. On Amazon’s site you can find used versions for around $30.

If most of what I have read is true, it is a less traveled AT. This link will take you directly to a map of the hike.

All information following is shared with full credit to the Benton MacKaye Trail Association (BMTA). (Source)

The Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT) is a footpath of nearly 300 miles (480 km) through the Appalachian mountains of the southeastern United States. It is designed for foot travel in the tradition of the Appalachian Trail (AT).

Running from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Big Creek Campground on the northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the Smokies), the BMT passes through some of the most remote backcountry in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, including eight federally designated Wilderness and Wilderness Study Areas. For further information on the trail, visit the BMT Vital Info page.

There are numerous access points and trailheads along the BMT route creating many options for one-way and loop hikes, and several more in combination with local trails. Longer hikes are possible on the BMT by doing a partial or full thru-hike. And the longest walks are done by also using the three major intersecting trails, the Pinhoti, the AT, and the 900-plus mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Because the BMT intersects the AT at each terminus and in the middle, three large hikable loops are formed in a figure 8: a lower circle of 364 miles, an upper Smokies-only walk of 158 miles, and ‘The BMT Loop’ – a complete circuit hike of over 500 miles. The Georgia Loop, “toughest hike in Georgia”, is a 55-mile triangle of the BMT, the AT and the Duncan Ridge Trail. In the Eastern Continental Trail; the 4400-plus mile route from Key West, Florida to Cape Gaspe, Quebec, Canada; the BMT connects the Pinhoti and Appalachian Trails. For more hiker information, check the Hiker Resources page.