Mountains-to-Sea Trail – Summiting Jockey’s Ridge

Starting with 928.9 miles, 94,550 ft. ascent


Summiting Jockey’s Ridge

12.4 miles, 300 ft. ascent

My legs are like a layer cake, pale at the ankles where they’re covered by socks, dark calves punctuated by red heat rash. My left leg is pale again at the knee because of my knee brace. Then the legs gradually revert back to pale as they get closer to the bottom of my shorts.

Today is the big day where Sharon and I will summit at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the end of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. [Yes, I know I still have a few days of road walking.]

Sharon is eager to drive home today so we get a shuttle. Dayna, who just graduated high school, is going to college at Western Carolina University, the other end of the state. She works for her grandmother’s motel but she’s happy to get up early to make a few extra dollars.

We start at ORV#2 and walk on the beach. Sharon takes off her shoes and socks to walk on the beach. I don’t want to expose all my band-aids and duct tape to sand, salt and water. But soon we see buildings and figure we’re no longer in Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Good bye Cape Hatteras, hello Nag’s Head – what a difference.

MST238-houses22A long row of houses that were built too close to the ocean are now derelict and condemned.

They were built on stilts and needed long and steep staircases to get to the front door. The quickest way to show that they are no longer habitable, besides a condemnation sign, is to knock off the bottom part of the staircase.

MST238-houses25 Some are tilted and we walk between those houses and the ones further back that are still occupied.
I keep looking at these houses fascinated and horrified, like watching a train wreck.

“This is just plain vanity,” I say to Sharon. “But no different from those who build on steep slopes in the mountains.”

We’re in town and pass two fishing piers and get on NC-12, now a city street called Beach Road.
We cross US 158, the bypass with all the fast food restaurants and beach stores, to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. It’s a small state park (426 acres) but has the tallest natural sand dune in the Eastern U.S.

We stop at the Visitor Center and meet Superintendent Debo Cox, who is so happy to see us and makes a fuss. We sign the MST visitor book, a book that only has four entries in 2011 before us – Scot Ward who started his fourth trip here, Heidi, and two guys whose name I don’t recognize.

Are we ready for the finale? We pick up four sparkling apple juice containers (no alcohol in state parks) and some dark chocolate truffles from my car that we had placed here overnight and start the climb up.

The trail starts with a boardwalk but soon leaves us on a sand dune which is the highest thing we’ve seen since Hanging Rock State Park, miles and months back.

We drudge up on the soft sand with the wind and sand blowing in our faces.MST238-ondunes Laura Arrington, a park employee, is waiting up to take our pictures with one of her volunteers.

This place looks like the Sahara Desert; even the brochure calls it that. Technically, the ridge is an example of a medano – a huge hill of shifting sand without vegetation.

We take pictures and have pictures taken of us but I know we’re nearing the end of an adventure. Sharon leaves for home. I have three more days of road walking which I’ll do next week.

When I’m officially done, I’ll try to summarize the MST adventure. In the meantime, I’m staying here to check out the rest of the sights.  

Cumulative after 75 days, 940.1 miles, 94,850 ft. ascent 

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