Starting with 651.7 miles, 90,200 ft. ascent
West Point on the Eno to E. Geer St.
10.8 miles, 500 ft. ascent
We drive past Durham so I can put my car at the end of E. Geer St. Janet has been very helpful in finding the way to E. Geer St. in Durham, my destination.
We drop my car at the end of E. Geer St. Janet takes me to West Point on the Eno where we finished yesterday and heads home back to Asheville.
I cross N. Roxboro Rd., a very busy street with many businesses, and walk briskly. Along with the gas stations, dry cleaners and fast food restaurants, there’s still empty land. No indication of who owns this land.
I turn on Monk Rd., a residential street with small, poorly kept houses. Then past massive churches, small storefront churches and new apartment complexes.
This area is so fresh that Google Maps hasn’t caught up with all the new street names.
The MST goes through a public housing project where I have a snack on a bench.
This is Durham, North Carolina so public housing consists of one-story houses, not the massive projects I lived in for a while as a child in Newark, New Jersey. Children are already in school for the day so the area is quiet.
When I turn onto E. Club Blvd., I pass a huge Mobil Station on the corner, which looks like Nirvana to me. It has outside tables and a well-stocked store and grill inside. With my hiking poles and backpack, I look, well, different and a middle-age man keeps eyeing me. He turns out to be the owner.
“You must be wondering what I’m doing,” I say. “I’m walking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail which goes right past your gas station. A 1,000 miles through North Carolina”.
And I hand him a card. When I started the MST project, I had taken book cards from my second hiking guide and on the address part, I stuck a label which reads:
From Clingmans Dome to Jockeys Ridge State Park
Walking 1,000 miles through North Carolina
It’s a cheap solution which explains the MST, and even advertises my book.
I buy a cup of coffee but the owner waves my money away. “Would you like a piece of fried chicken?” He asks.
“No, thank you.” But wait until Scot comes through here again. He’ll take everything you offer him.
E. Club St. holds Durham’s infrastructure. I pass a firefighter academy complete with a burned brick building which they use for practice. Then onto the transfer and recycling station and the Durham County Animal Shelter.
Finally E. Geer St.
I have 4.4 miles on this road but I feel the excitement of being close to my goal. Lots of small houses, tiny churches, and random businesses.
Two guys hanging around a tire store ask me if I’m lost, then offer me a Pepsi. I pass a Hell’s Angels club with a fierce looking dog behind the fence. I had been fixated about possible dog encounters on E. Geer St. but I am pleasantly surprised. The few dogs barking obsessively are behind a fence or chained. Thank You!!
I pass the “dead end” sign as the road becomes more rural. I hear someone yelling out “Jungle Jane”, from the front-yard of what will turn out to be the last house on the left on E. Geer St.
Don introduces himself and asks the usual trail questions – but with a twist. When he learns that the MST starts at Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, he says “My wife’s grandfather was John Davis. His house is at the Mountain Farm Museum in the Park.”
“Wow! I know that name well since I volunteered at Oconaluftee Visitor Center this past year.”
Don grins. “You have to meet my wife.” Linda comes out. She’s a lot shyer than her husband but is happy that I know all about her grandfather. Here we are outside of Durham – what are the chances of that?
He wants to show me all his history books about North Carolina. He’s built a library off his garage chock full of books and memorabilia.
“You know the road ends right here,” Don warns me.
“Yes, but if you walk past the road and around the fence, you’ll continue on the MST. There’s a trail there that goes around Falls Lake.” I no longer feel foolish telling locals about trails right in their neighborhood.
A few more minutes of walking and I pass Lake Ridge Airport, a small airport, and get to my car. I take off my boots and realize how much my feet hurt. They are going to need serious attention and a rest.
Cumulative after Day 55, 662.5 miles, 90,700 ft. ascent