It doesn’t seem very much when you’re
trying to walk about 1,000 miles through North Carolina from Clingmans Dome to the
Atlantic Ocean on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. But when the 25 miles happen to
be in Watauga County and South Ashe County and that’s the section you’re hiking
next, it’s huge. The section goes from Bamboo Gap to NC 16, generally north of Blowing Rock and south of Doughton
On Saturday (October 2), over 150 people
gathered in E.B. Jeffress Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway to dedicate these new
miles and walk on them officially for the first time. Jeffress Park at milepost
272 is a long way from Asheville but I was one of those folks who participated.
Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends
of the MST, explained the importance of this dedication.
“Not only is it a
beautiful section of trail but it means that the MST is almost done in the
The MC of the program was Liz King, Board
Secretary of the Friends of the MST.
Monika Mayr, Deputy Superintendent of the
Blue Ridge Parkway spoke about the expanding recreational opportunities on the
Parkway. It’s fitting that this was done during the 75th anniversary
celebrations of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Jim Hallsey and John Lanman, Volunteer Task
Force Leader for South Ashe and Watauga respectively, were the stars of the
show. They were the guys who led troops of volunteers to dig, saw, and prepare
the trail for hikers.
Jim gave us some “fun facts” that were quite
These 25 miles involved 150 volunteers who worked 6,700 hours in
730 work days. This comes out to a value of $75,000.
The two task force leaders
presented the trail to people for generations to come.
The South Ashe section was declared finished. The Watauga section still has
three miles to go which will replace seven miles of road walk on the Parkway.
Carol Tingley, Deputy Director of NC
Division of Parks and Recreation, reminded the audience that the MST is a linear
state park. “And we’re more than half-way there.”
Then the actual ribbon cutting. They had
fashioned a ribbon held by groups of trail tools. Representatives of both task
forces, including John and Jim’s grandchildren, did the actual cutting.
We sat down at picnic tables and enjoyed
a wonderful buffet of covered dishes brought by the participants. I brought a
colorful cole slaw of cabbage, carrots and apples with craisins and sliced
At 1 P.M., we broke up for hikes. I chose
to go with Allen De Hart because his hike started from Jeffress Park and didn’t
require a shuttle. We went west on the MST and passed a cabin and church and then climbed
Diana Dagenhart, a member of the Watauga County task force said “I love
hiking. I hiked the MST in the Outer Banks. I participated in the trail building because
I wanted to be part of something wonderful.”
The job’s not done until the paperwork is
Well, the 25 miles are not quite
There was no official documentation of these new 25 miles.
How is a
hiker supposed to walk them and know where to spot cars? How about intermediate mileage and where does it come back to the Parkway?
John gave me his rough
notes which I greatly appreciated while Jim drew a sketch on a white board for
the hikes to follow. I photographed this and will use it for planning. Arthur Kelley has posted maps of the MST.
hike this section later this fall, I’ll GPS it and post it on my website.