Mountains-to-Sea Trail – Still in the Balsams

Starting with 236.8 miles, 33,000 ft. ascent

Old Bald MP 433.9 to Bear Pen Gap MP 427.6


13.9 miles, 1,900 ft. Ascent

Sharon and I drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway from Canton on NC 215, a narrow, twisty road. This time, we had no problem finding Old Bald access. By 8:30 A.M., we were on the trail. The day started blustery but the wind died down once we were in the woods.

Our first stop was in an idyllic pasture, an open area we didn’t expect in the mountains – see above.

The day was mostly on flat roadbeds which made the walking quick and easy.MST7-Day1Hoodsinthewoods1

We met a group of teenage boys, all wearing orange sweatshirts camping below from the trail. They were obviously a group of “boys in care”, otherwise known as “hoods in the woods”.

One warned us about the rocks on the trail and said “Be careful. It gets very technical.” We surmised later that he was referring to the rocky trail in sections.MST7-Day1Hoodsinthewoods2

This area had been heavily logged and it was obvious that ATVs and maybe four-wheel drive vehicles still used it. I found a manual for a 1999 Toyota truck. We felt we didn’t have time to stop for flowers but the Vasey’s trilliums were irresistible. No pictures because with their drooping heads, it’s hard to photograph.  

“How to get people on the trail” seems to be an evolving  discussion between Sharon and me. Sharon emphasizes that “you have to give people a good experience and they’ll come back”. But I also want to tell newbies that it’s OK to be hot and sweaty. Experienced people also get hot, tired and sweaty – and we all go to the toilet in the woods.

We came out of the woods at 3:45 P.M. but couldn’t take off our boots. We were going to be interviewed for a documentary on the Blue Ridge Parkway 75th anniversary. Clay Johnson and Jay, his camera man, from WRAL-TV met us at the Bearpen Overlook and filmed us going up and down the blue-blazed access trail. They got our boots, our butts, even our faces, we hope.

Then we moved to an overlook with the right lighting where we sat down at a picnic table to be interviewed. Sharon and I had discussed what we wanted to emphasize. A PR person will tell you that you need to have three points that you need to repeat over and over again in different ways.

1.  We are walking the MST, not the Blue Ridge Parkway. We need to finish this trail.
2.  Volunteers maintain the trails – in this case Carolina Mountain Club.
3.  Anyone can come out and walk a piece of the MST.

MST7-Day1ClaytonandJayThis documentary will be 30 minutes long and will air on June 29 in Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington. In that time, they need to talk about the history of the Parkway and its state today. They’ve talked to cyclists, motorcyclists, motorists, families picnicking so we’ll get, maybe, 30 seconds. I hope they show more than our butts.  

Cumulative after Day 20 250.7 miles, 34,900 ft. ascent

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