MST – Starting a new project

MST Clingmans Dome - 4

Last week, Sharon (Smoky Scout) and I started walking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The MST is a 1,000 mile trail through North Carolina. It starts at Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, goes up to the Virginia border and eventually out to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. It’s a long way but we’re doing it in sections. Much of the trail is not finished and is on roads. It will not be finished in our lifetime, so there’s no point waiting for it to be finished. We’re doing it.

MST - Sharon and Danny starting

We couldn’t have picked a better day as we dropped a car at Smokemont and drove to Clingmans Dome, shown above. The sun was out and the air was clear. Lots of picture taking but then we had to start walking on the A.T. for a couple of miles.

I hadn’t backpacked in over a year and I was concerned about how I would do. Not so much the walking since I’m a real plodder – walk up and down until I get there – but the management and organization of backpacking. I did fine though I was quite tired after the first day.

There was snow on the ground as we climbed up Mt. Collins on the A.T. Finally, we reached Clingmans Dome Road, crossed it and started down on Fork Ridge Trail. Down –  that was the word I liked. Just because the trail goes from the mountains to the sea does not mean that it’s all downhill. But right now it was.

MST - Meeting father and sonsWe met two groups doing the MST, including a father and two sons team that get together every year for a family backpack.

After 5 miles, we reached Deep Creek. The guys stopped at the first campsite on Deep Creek because they were doing the Smokies MST section in two nights but we plunged on. Literally.

MST - Sharon crossing Deep CreekCrossing Deep Creek, Sharon took off her boots and put on her Crocks.

Is that how you spell it? I don’t even know how to spell it; I’m certainly not going to walk in them. I plunged right in the water with my boots on. I like to protect my feet.

Yes, my boots were wet the rest of the trip, but that was OK.


Deep Creek Trail was deep in the valley. We had to cross several side streams as well. Finally we reached our destination, campsite #57, Horace Kephart’s last campsite.

MST - Horace KephartHorace Kephart moved to Bryson City and the “back of beyond” in the
early 1900s; he was a great advocate of making the Smokies a national

Campsite #57 is a horse camp but we were the only ones there.

It was a cold night for me. I put on everything I owned and crawled into my sleeping bag and new liner and I was still cold. I’ve never backpacked so late in the season and I’m not fond of the dark so early in the evening.

MST - Kephart millstoneWe took a short walk to the Kephart Millstone. This was put up by the Boy Scouts months after Kephart died in 1931 in a car accident, supposedly going to his bootlegger.


So to wrap up day 1 – 13.4 miles, up and down but mostly down.


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