Black Creek Outfitters Guru Session – Hiking the White Mountains


Jack telling us about The Whites.
Jack telling us about The Whites.

On August 27th Black Creek Outfitters hosted a Guru Session led by Jack Stucki. The subject matter was “Hiking the White Mountains” of New Hampshire. The range consists of 48 peaks which exceed 4,000 feet known as the 4000’ers. It includes Mt. Washington, which at 6,288 feet is the highest mountain in the Northeast.

But it’s more than just numbers and names. “The Whites” are a destination for college students, adventure seekers and families.

Jack’s memories of this section of the AT are varied and happy. The kindness of the people in trail towns, the pristine upkeep of the trail and most of all the amazing views. If this is not on your bucket list it should be. The irony is that my family will be in this area for our Christmas trip. While winter in The Whites can be dangerous Jack assured us that there are still sites aplenty.

While there are many areas to hike The Whites, Jack focused on the section which he traversed while hiking the AT. Therefore the mentions, for example the notches, are not fully inclusive of all The Whites.

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.

If you see anything which you feel is incorrect I always appreciate feedback on how to improve upon, or further elaborate, the information conveyed. I have also tried to include more informative links to items noted in the session.

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Black Creek Outfitters Guru Session – Shenandoah National Park Section Hike


On August 20th Black Creek Outfitters hosted a Guru Session led by Jack Stucki. The subject matter was “Section Hiking the Shenandoah Nation Park”. Jack believes the Shenandoah section of the AT is a great hike for beginners due to the relatively level terrain. Add to that welcoming lodges with full service facilities (dining, pool, sauna, etc.) and you have a place the whole family can enjoy.

What makes this trip a welcoming temptress are the fine folks willing to shuttle you to any put-in. Oh, and then there is a great mountain a bit south of the southern terminus. But you will have to read on for that.

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.

If you see anything which you feel is incorrect I always appreciate feedback on how to improve upon, or further elaborate, the information conveyed.

 

  • Jack states the Shenandoah Valley is an easy hike, compared to other sections on the AT, and one of the most beautiful. 
  • Many side trails that lead to places to sleep and more vistas. 
  • 103.3 mi – Rock Fish Gap to Front Royal VA. 
  • Add 4 miles of walking to leave the trail for the closest town. 
  • Elevation stays between 2 and 4 thousand feet. 
  • Very well manicured. 
  • Best time of year – Autumn. 
  • Got into the teens during Jack’s time in late September/early October. 
  • Blazes change from white to markers noting your location.  
  • You’ll see bears and deer. The wildlife is robust. 
  • Bears have been humanized, so be mindful. 
  • That said Jack’s experience with a mother bear and her cubs was benign. 
  • Bears Den Hostile – owned by AT Conservancy in the Shenandoah Valley. 
  • Permits – pretty easy to get a permit. You self register in the kiosk just inside the valley, coming north and south. No charge. 
  • You will be fined heavily if you do not get a permit. 
  • You can stay any place for a max of 2 nights. 
  • You can reserve spots, but they are not shelters. 
  • Shelters are first come first serve. 
  • Picnic pavilions are considered shelters. 
  • Camping shelters are called “huts”. There are 8 in the park. 
  • Most campsites have showers. 
  • The park embraces stealth camping. 
  • 50 yards from another party and 10 yards from water. 
  • Cabins are free, but they can be reserved. They’re located just off the AT. 
  • You have to be a member of the PATC – Potomac Appalachian Trail Club – to reserve a cabin. 
  • Big Meadows, in the southern part, has a resort next to it. 
  • Waysides – three of them. Here you can replenish your gear. Think of them as a convenience store. 
  • In theory you could limit the food you carry in and supply on trail. 
  • They also have kitchens. 
  • Your supposed to camp a 1/4 mile from a wayside. But knowing there are hot meals, good luck with that. 
  • Two national park lodges in the park – one 1/3 of the way from the north and south points. 
  • Four trail towns close to the park: southern end Waynesboro, 50 miles south of Waynesboro is Buena Vista, Front Royal at top, Luray just south of Front Royal. 
  • Shuttle services – Mountain Valley Shuttle Service in Lorray from Duncannan to Daleville VA 
  • Rockfish Gap Outfitters in Waynesboro will shuttle you to Royal 
  • Ironically Jack suggests the following – Rockfish Gap to Cow Camp Gap (about 50 miles) gets you over 3 Ridges Mountain. You’ll hit a mountain called The Priest. A top 3 place on the AT for Jack. 
  • Jack recommends staying on top of the mountain. It’s just above a water supply. 
  • Good place to solo hike. 
  • Jack recommends checking in at every journal. 
  • Jack noted there was sufficient natural water supply points. 
  • June, July and August are wicked hot. Memorial Day and Labor Day are crowded. As is late October to watch the leaves change. 
  • Early spring is nice – no bugs. 
  • Mid-April is when the thru hikers start to come through. 
  • You can also kayak the Valley. 
  • Most AT miles are in VA. 
  • No campfires allowed. 

 

 

Mt and Valley Shuttle Service 

Duncannan, PA – Daleville, VA 

877.789.3210 

 

Rockfish Gap Outfitters 

.8m from Waynesborough 

540.943.1461 

Trail Angel Network 

Black Creek Outfitters Guru Session – Pitching a Tent


On August 7th Black Creek Outfitters hosted a Guru Session led by Jack Stucki. The subject matter was “Pitching a Tent”. A strong proponent of minimalist hiking, Jack focused less on tent manufacturers and more on proper selection and use based on the type of hiker one is. He did offer some great advice on how to handle foul weather and dark conditions. As usual he also shared some entertaining stories which enhance the education element.

Minimalist hiking is not cheap, but if you plan and save you will find the money you spend is priceless when it comes to the weight you’ll save. Before making any purchase do your research. Go to your local outfitter and let them take you through the variety of gear at your disposal.

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.

  • Our tent for this evening is the MSR Experience Series Hubba. Best names ever. Check out their site:
  • Know your trek. Car camping vs. section/through hiking. Jack’s focus is minimalist hiking, hence a minimalist style tent. Costs more, but if you’re packing it you’re getting value through less weight.
  • Todays tents are silicone impregnated nylon, significantly lighter than the days of military grade pop up tents.
  • Tents have gone from sleeves to ringlets to clips
  • Increased ground claws will allow for more space. Design idea.
  • When rain comes, find a place to wait out the weather. Taking a tent down in the rain is less a problem.
  • Suggestion: pack tent assembled so when the rain comes you have a quick setup. This is specific to fly only. Full tent enclosure is a different story.
  • Inventory your tent and perform multiple pitch and take down excercises. Be efficient before trail.
  • Prepare for the unexpected to a greater degree…do it in the dark. Don’t expect a light source.
  • Jack and his daughter set used the week before trail to practice setting up the tent twice a day.
  • “Fast fly” is the term used for pre setup.
  • Big Agnes and Marmot have this capability.
  • A bug bivy sack is an alternative to a tent if the weather is warm and you know you’ll have coverage if needed.
  • Jack warned of hiking the AT that Lyme Disease is a danger between the months of mid-June through mid-September, going from VA to VT. Make sure you have a tent with coverage for weather and insects.
  • Jack noted that buying a minimalist pack before buying the gear might not be the best idea. Minimalist packs are meant to carry minimalist gear. Whatever tent you buy consider how you’re going to carry it.
  • Set the tent up in the store before purchasing it. Completely understand the pieces and space. Where will you put your wet gear and your pack? It comes down to personal preference.
  • If you ask Jack, the best tent begins and ends with Big Agnes.

Two Tuesday Quotes: MacKaye and Clarke


But unlike the railway the trailway must preserve (and develop) a certain environment. Otherwise its whole point is lost. The railway “opens up” a country as a site for civilization; the trailway should “open up” a country as an escape from civilization…The path of the trailway should be as “pathless” as possible; it should be the minimum consistent with practical accessibility.

Benton MacKaye, founding meeting of the Appalachian Trail Conference, March 2-3, 1925

In few regions of the world, certainly nowhere else in the United States, are found such a varied and priceless collection of the sculptured masterpieces of nature as adorn, strung like pearls, the mountain ranges of Washington, Oregon and California. The Pacific Crest Trailway is the cord that binds this necklace.

Clinton Clarke

Discover a bit more about these men below.

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Clear Sky Friday – Seeing Good 17/01


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Last night my son was part of a two-man presentation at our local outdoor store where he works, Black Creek Outfitters. Along with Jack Stucki they spent a good two hours detailing their respective adventures on the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trail. The presentation topics included gear, food and mindset. On a personal note it was a proud moment through which I observed my son sharing his passion in a professional atmosphere.

One comment that Jack made stood out, and it greatly serves Clear Sky Friday, was inspired/taken from Zach Davis’s book Appalachian Trials. Part of Jack’s closing comments to the audience centered around why one might commit themselves to months on trail, a question Mr. Davis writes about as being elemental to answering if one is to best maximize the adventure. With my longest section hike being four days, the “why” of an extended hike had never been considered beyond the answer “I just like to hike”.

Both Jack and Evan, when speaking of memories, found that the community of hikers was a grand emotional monolith. From Trail Angels to a simple person willing to give a tired hiker a ride, the basic good you find while on trail is special. Being a hopeful cynic, this is what my “why” would be. To see the good in humanity. Yes it exists apart from trail, but the quiet of the hike along with the kindness of strangers amplifies it.

With that in mind, here is an article which reminds us that good is all around us if we just look for it. Link courtesy of Sustainable Man via Facebook.

http://www.world-actuality.com/index.php/people/671-these-20-photos-are-going-to-make-you-cry-but-you-ll-see-why-it-s-totally-worth-it

A January Weekend at South Carolina’s Mountain Bridge – The Inspiration


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Last December I took my dog Roxy on a road trip. My destination was roughly unknown but the original idea was to spend time around Springer Mountain, the southern start of the Appalachian Trial, or the mountains near Asheville, NC. As my wife can attest to I love taking alternate routes or changing the agenda on a moments notice. Being with only a dog finally allowed me that level of freedom so with that spirit as my guide I took I-95 into South Carolina, stopped by Charleston, SC, ate a great hot dog with Jeff Wheeler at Perfectly Frank’s and opted to take his advise on hiking.

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