I’m in Chapel Hill after a long day at the Friends of the MST Annual meeting. Over 185 people gathered at Saxapahaw. You’ve never heard of Saxapahaw? Well, I hope I never have to pronounce it in public but it’s a small village restored around an old mill.
It would disingenuous if I didn’t admit that the highlight of the meeting was getting my Completer’s plaque. Eight people completed the MST in 2011; six showed up at the meeting and we all got a lovely, personalized plaques. We participated on a panel where we talked about out experiences. The highlights for me were the people I met on the trail – both those I passed and those who walked with me.
Kate Dixon, ED of the organization, went through the 2011 highlights – the photo contest, more hikers on the trail, more trail on the ground. Next year over 80 new miles is predicted, which would put the trail at over 600 miles. A 65-foot bridge over a section of the Falls of the Neuse recreation area was also a major milestone.
Kate also touted the new NC licence plate. We’ve now sold 115 plates, over a 1/3 of the way there.
But there are still challenges. The route of the MST out of the Smokies has been a discussion since the trail started and it’s still not solved. At the “open mike” session, I spoke passionately (I hope) about staying in the Park as long as possible. It was amazing that others called the park too rugged and remote. That’s hiking, folks.
The other challenge is how to get from Raleigh to New Bern without walking on roads for 150 miles. There is no public land there or a conservation ethic. It’s an agricultural area that floods. The land values are low and there’s no incentive to sell. So the State Park system has been asked to come up with a new route.
Lewis Ledford, head of the State Parks system, may not have been the Keynote Speaker, officially, but he was the highlight for me. We have one of the best state parks system in the country, one that will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016. It’s going to be a tough one to celebrate since it will compete with the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
I reconnected with friends and met some old FB friends face to face. A good meeting with good outcomes.
The message is “Come on out and walk the trail.”