Mountain Crossings Hosts AT Prep Course

Avoiding a Meltdown in the First 30 Miles

Hiking the Appalachian Trail is  a dream for many people. Those that can fulfill this dream will have an experience of a lifetime. But what if you are not a seasoned backpacker? How do you learn the ways of the trail and have a successful hike right from the start? At Mountain Crossings, an outfitter and hostel located at mile 31 of the AT, we educate people on the trail, offer pack shakedowns, and help outfit hikers with gear.

If you’ve experienced one of our famous Pack Shakedowns, you know we go through hikers’ packs and show them what they should—or should not be—carrying on the trail. Last year, we had the pleasure of doing one with Scott and Ariane of This pair has been teaching in the outdoors for 10 years and decided to bring their class to Mountain Crossings this year. We are thrilled to be hosting this couple at our store!

The class is a two-night, three-day hands-on course run over four different weekends in November, December, January, and February.  It will include a stay at Mountain Crossings, plus an overnight backpacking trip nearby. You can find more about the class below, or check it out here.

Scott and Ariane travel the country in their 1976 Airstream Argosy, inspiring and motivating people to adventure outdoors. Both are experienced backpackers and have extensive knowledge on long-distance hiking. Scott completed his AT Thru-Hike in 2003 and Ariane completed 300 miles of the AT in 2017. Both practice lightweight backpacking.

Below are a few tips we pulled from Scott and Ariane, and what you can expect from this AT prep course.

Getting Started: Expectations of the Trail

If you have decided to attempt a thru-hike ,you’ve likely realized it won’t be an easy walk in the woods. While the physical aspect makes up a big part of this journey, it can be more the mental challenges encountered on the trail. You never truly appreciate the comforts of home until you are stuck in the freezing rain in the middle of the woods. Going out for shakedown hikes before you decide to thru-hike is a must. Do you like backpacking? Or do you just like the idea of it?

While your mental prep is arguably as important as your gear, having the right gear is is still critical for both your wallet and your body. You don’t want to carry too much weight, and you also want to spend money on only one set of gear you know will last the trail. Many hikers make the mistake of investing a little money in cheaper gear. When they get to Mountain Crossings, they expect to buy better gear, usually because they purchased gear not right for them, but they’ve already wasted good money on the wrong setup. It is important to do the research ahead of time. Going to a prep class is a great way to see the gear in person and learn from  professionals.

The AT Culture: Social Vs Solo

You might have heard, but the AT is crowded! It’s great to meet  interesting people along the way, but you need to figure out if that’s what you want out of your hike. If you leave from Georgia any time between mid-March and mid-April, expect to see crowds. You can avoid some of this by choosing established campsites besides shelters, but no matter what, you will see people throughout the day. If you want a more secluded hike, we recommend  alternate routes such as SOBO or Flip-Flop.

Being around a lot of people can also add  pressure to the hike. Don’t let others influence your decisions on the trail. Listening to yourself is the most important thing you can do. When hikers push themselves, or slow down to hang out with certain people, it can cause tension. I promise, if you want to hike with people, there will be plenty of opportunities and others that will hike around your same pace.

How to Overcome Hard Days on the Trail

This can be different for everyone. Again, shakedown hikes before the real deal can help you figure out how you want to handle a hard day. For some, it may be stopping in town and getting a hotel room for a night; others may want to talk to some friends for motivation. It is important to recognize those hard times and overcome them.

Unexpected issues can occur. Whether it is a physical ailment, separating from a friend group, or running low on money, it is important not to let these issues get you down. Know ahead of time that unexpected things will occur, and mentally preparing yourself for these is important before the trail. You also need to listen to yourself. If you really don’t like the trail as much as you thought you would, or if physically you feel you can’t make it, listen to yourself. No one is going to judge you for getting off the trail, it is entirely up to you.

The trail will always be there for us to use and enjoy. Whether you thru-hike, section-hike, or enjoy it for the day, remember to have fun and always respect the trail through Leave No Trace practices.

The AT Prep Course

If you feel any of these points speaks to you, this prep course is for you. The course occurs over four different weekends in November, December, January, and February. The class begins Friday afternoon and ends on Sunday afternoon.

The first day will cover trail basics and will include dinner, and a night in the Mountain Crossings hostel. Day two will be mostly about gear. There will be pack shakedowns, and an overnight hike. Day three, you will return from the hike and finish out the day with Q&A for a former thru-hiker. If you want to look at purchasing a ticket for this course, go here for pricing and dates. If you have any further questions for Scott and Ariane, you can email them at [email protected].

We look forward to hosting this event and meeting aspiring thru-hikers!

About the Author: My name is Leigh “Starcrunch” Rothermel. After hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2015, I decided to stay on the trail and do a few seasonal jobs and other hikes, including being a Ridge Runner for the ATC in 2016, and heading out West to hike the PCT in 2017. More recently, I’ve been working at Mountain Crossings, an outfitter and hostel at mile 31 of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. The AT passes right through the building and is a welcomed site for all hikers!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 1

  • Slack Packhiker : Nov 17th

    Spectacular deal!

    Forever and always I’ll remember Jason @ MC who deftly and kindly enlightened me, a noob senior woman, beat down but ecstatic after 31 miles on the AT. Plus the stairs, gotta count the stairs pre Springer.

    He corrected the fit of my pack and I learned how to do it myself. I found that no, I really didn’t need another extra caribiner, “just in case”.

    There’s more, but all of this was done while stopping by then moving on. The value of this event simply cannot be measured.
    Any and all new hikers will attend, if they’re lucky to have the time and money. Those of us who’ve hiked a bit on the AT just might crash this gig for the fun to be had and the additional knowledge. It’s gonna be a blast.

    CWilson/Lucy on the trail


What Do You Think?