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 – Footwear


On August 13th Black Creek Outfitters hosted a Guru Session led by Evan Fullford. The subject matter was “Selecting the Best Footwear for a Long Distance Hike”. A strong proponent of minimalist hiking, Evan went from sandals to shoes to boots. In spite of the title focusing on long distance hiking, Evan fielded questions relative to a variety of trail time from a simple run to a through hike.

An unexpected benefit of the session was Evan explaining the importance of arch support and how people strike the ground. Use a skeletal foot he detailed how shoes can assist impact points.

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.

  • Boots, hiking shoes, trail running shoes and sandals
  • First example was the Keen (the one I own)
  • Salomon Tech Amphibian
  • Evan pointed out the weight difference and concern over rocks and sticks
  • Obviously good for warmer weather or if you know you’ll be spending time in water
  • A shoe will need to dry
  • Compared the hiking and trail running shoes
  • Trail running shoes are much more flexible
  • Example was the Salomon S-lab
  • Trail hiking shoes maintain rigidity for true hiking stability
  • Trail running shoes are usually lighter
  • More tread on a trail running shoe due to faster travel, and more resistance
  • Trail hiking shoes tend to have a thicker sole
  • Trail running shoes can be geared for the type of strike (heel or forefront)
  • When walking you tend to heel strike
  • Boot example was Lowa and Vasque
  • Heavier hikers or heavier packs may require boots for better support
  • Evan reminded us that concern over ankle support tends to be over stated, noting that hiking in shoes will strengthen the ankle
  • However if you have weak ankles there is no reason to go without support
  • Evan noted the difference between water resistance and water repellant. Unless there are no access points for the water the interior will get wet regardless of the coating.
  • Be mindful that all leather vs. leather/mesh with Gore-Tex might give you the same degree of water protection.
  • Big negative with Gore-Tex: the interior will take longer to dry
  • If you can carry the weight, carry the sandals with you for water crossings. Personal preference.
  • Do not wear cotton socks when hiking. If they get wet they hold the water, and your shoes/boots will take longer to dry.
  • Leather, however, is more durable.
  • Evan shared his Salomon love: better arch support, lighter and simply better construction.
  • Discussed the importance of knowing about arch support.
  • Defined pronating http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pronating and supinating http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/supinating?s=t.
  • Naturally your foot doesn’t need arch support, per Evan’s sources. This is something being debated by physicians.
  • Those who support minimalist shoes note we’ve simply become accustomed to arches.
  • Street running will kill the tread of a trail shoe. A street shoe does not have the best foot plate for trail comfort.
  • For hiking, your shoe should not fit like a glove. Compensate for swelling.
  • Also, when on trail you tend to consume more salt and you’ll retain water.
  • When hiking downhill you don’t want your toe slamming against the front of the shoe.
  • Go a half size above your normal, but consider it more different sizing.
  • Discussed different insoles. Superfeet was our example. Make sure it suits your shoe.
  • Some inserts can tear Gore-Tex.
  • Your ideal hiking shoe bends where your foot is supposed to bend. Sounds obvious, but folks forget.
  • Your price range for shoes/boots/sandals is $75 to $160 based on general public. These are still good quality, but as with anything you can get higher quality at a higher price. Fully understand the environment they’ll be used in. No reason to overpay because you’re romanced by features and technology you don’t need.