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Meet the real-life characters of the Appalachian Trail
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Book signing
What: Event for the release of "Just Passin’ Thru: A Vintage Store, The Appalachian Trail and a Cast of Unforgettable Characters"
When: 1-2 p.m., 3-4 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Mountain Crossings, 9710 Gainesville Highway, Blairsville
More info: Live music by The Possums, drum circles and storytelling into the night

You’ve got the doctors, lawyers, the unemployed, people trying to find themselves and people who are just out to lose themselves for a while.

All of them come together on the Appalachian Trail.

Even the city slickers who show up at the trailhead with their Louis Vuitton purses, hoping for a glance into the world of the great outdoors. These are the groupies, says Mountain Crossings owner and avid hiker Winton Porter.

Porter’s new book, "Just Passin’ Thru: A Vintage Store, The Appalachian Trail and a Cast of Unforgettable Characters," offers a glimpse of all these characters and more, since Porter has had eight years of observing and writing about all of the interesting people who have trekked through the doors of Mountain Crossings. The store and hostel is the only structure located on the Appalachian Trail; hence, it sees a lot of foot traffic.

"I’ve been journaling since I was about 16 years old," Porter said. "When I moved here in 2001, it essentially takes eight years of journals and the characters in my life to blend it into a story."

The situations are real, he said, and the people in the stories are real. As the writer, Porter blends the stories together into a revolving door of comedy — with a little sadness, too.

"As you can imagine, (Mountain Crossings is) a virtual sitcom," he said. While there are lots of books about personal experiences on the Appalachian Trail, Porter said, this book introduces the characters who come through the store.

"Then we have a 15-bunk hostel, and you have people who are here for a day or a week."

Porter has been hiking the Appalachian Trail since he was 7. A native of the Morningside area of Atlanta, Porter said his main purpose with the book was to make people laugh.

A book signing on Saturday also will feature some of the characters in the book. Although, Porter doesn’t expect too many "groupies" to be there — the wannabe hikers who drive a Mercedes-Benz to go hiking on the AT.

"They want a backstage pass; we get groupies," he said of the people entrenched in the hiking culture. "People will come up here to hang out, and the groupies can be just as funny as some of the others we get up here."

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