In addition to my gear education, we also discussed running, an interest that I discovered Winton shares with me. Amid the hiking discussion, the running discussion, and the gear discussion, time zoomed by. Not really wanting to purchase either the pack or sleeping bag without doing a bit more research, I finally declared to Winton that since I had taken so much of his time that I felt obligated to buy something. He suggested an autographed copy of his award winning book, Just Passin’ Thru. Even though I appreciated Winton’s suggestion, I still felt like a more substantial order was warranted. Since the hiking poles I have been using are both cheap and in poor condition, I purchased a pair of Leki corklite poles for my upcoming thru-hike attempt. These should suit me well.
Before leaving Mountain Crossings I chatted briefly with another employee, George, a thru-hiker from 2009. Three south bounders, who were planning to complete their venture in the next two days, were also relaxing out front. As the afternoon waned, I wondered how I would feel with only two days remaining of a five month adventure. Like so many, I look forward to passing through the stone arch as I walk toward Maine next March.
If you’re within a few hours’ drive of the famous structure at Neel’s Gap, I would recommend a visit prior to your hike. Winton and all of his employees possess a wealth of hiking knowledge that they will gladly share with all who ask. And by the way, I did pick up a copy of Winton’s book. It has proved to be both enlightening and entertaining. I would call it a must read for anyone contemplating a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail.