Mountains-to-Sea Trail – Crossing the Neuse River

Starting with 780.5 miles, 93,550 ft.

Through Reelsboro – 10.7 miles

Into New Bern – 4.1 miles


This is my ninth straight day on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It’s become so flat that I’m no longer setting my altimeter.

So far, my feet have held up well because I’m putting band-aids and moleskin on every day. My poison ivy is under control as I slather on lotions and potions on my skin.

This is the day I’m scheduled to walk on the bridge over the Neuse River. The road, US 17, is a limited access highway.MST22J-Route17bridge2

The instructions are to walk on the take-off ramp going against traffic and walk on the bridge in the space between the white line and the side of the bridge. There’s no pedestrian walkway.

Lenny and I drive separately over the bridge to place one car at the end of our section. As I go on the bridge, I keep looking at the other side. There are three lanes in each direction, with traffic going way over the 55 MPH limit.

Walking the bridge is risk taking behavior I do not need. I know that at least 20 people have done it because that’s the current number of MST completers but I’m not going to do it.

I was never one to do something because “everyone else is doing it” though on the MST “everyone else” is a small number. Though it is not technically illegal, drivers are not expecting pedestrians – it is unsafe and it has nothing to do with hiking.

This reminds me of the river crossing on the Kennebec River in Maine on the Appalachian Trail. This was a very challenging crossing that was legend. Years ago, a hiker drowned crossing the river. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy hired a boatman to ferry hikers across the river. When we crossed it in 1996, I remember it as costing five dollars. It’s now free. I do not expect Friends of the MST to provide a ferry or a shuttle across the bridge. Maybe they can say that driving over the bridge or taking a taxi is OK.

When we get to our end point, at Scotts Town Rd., I tell Lenny that “I’m not doing it. If I don’t get my MST certificate because I didn’t walk over the bridge, so be it, but this is crazy.”

“Are you sure? It’s Sunday morning and the quietest time.”

“I know. Let’s start at the Handy Mart on NC 55.” And we do. NC 55 is a busy four-lane road but the grassy sides are wide.

MST22J-NeuseRd We turn on Neuse Rd., passing large tree farms owned by Weyerhauser and crossing swampy areas. An occasional car passes us.

We get to our destination – New Bethlehem Original Free Will Baptist Church -quite early so we move on to a section MST west of New Bern that I was going to do later.MST22J-Churchsign

Four miles on Old 70 which we do very quickly.

We can’t figure out how we would have crossed the bridge and it bothers Lenny. He wants to explore the various exits. It’s obvious how we would have gotten on the bridge but how to get off?

We drive back on the bridge and start exploring. Every time we think we have a way to get off, we end up getting back on the bridge. Back and forth, back and forth until finally Lenny sees the way. “It’s a good thing it wasn’t a toll bridge,” Lenny says.

“You can do another 1.5 miles,” he says. “I got to keep you honest.”  That’s what we’re going to add to tomorrow’s agenda. We go to the  Cow Cafe for a snack.MST22J-Cowcafe


Cumulative after 63 days, 790.5 miles, 93,550 ft.

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