OMG – Oh My Gosh…
I looked up to the marquee on the abandoned movie theater and there was my name. Elkin was advertising the Mountains-to-Sea Trail talk that I was giving last night. I almost fell over when I saw it. Now there’s a new experience and one I’ll never have again.
I’ve been all over the state talking about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It’s a new experience for me every time. Of course, I show the same four videos but what I read and emphasize are different. But nowhere have I seen as much enthusiam as in Elkin, close to Stone Mountain State Park.
The Elkin Valley Trail Association is building trail from Stone Mountain State Park to Elkin and beyond. They’ve connected with private landowners and gotten permanent land easements. They’ve learned from the Sauratown Trail Association and gone beyond in their thinking.
“If we’re going to build a trail,” says Denise, one of the Association leaders, “we want it to be permanent.” In my humble estimation, this is the way of the future for the MST.
In my book, The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina, I wrote about taking the concept of trail towns from the Appalachian Trail and applying it to the MST. Long-distance hikers look for places to stop, spend a day, eat a meal out, take a good shower and do their laundry. Ideally, they want the town to be right on the trail. Think of Hot Springs, NC and Damascus, VA.
I chose Elkin as my candidate for a trail town in the Piedmont. It’s small, enthusiastic and has all the right services. Almost all the right services.
I suggested that a hostel would really attract hikers and other visitors. When Americans think about hostels, they think about young people traveling through Europe on the cheap but that’s only one model.
See Hostelling International but many hostels don’t belong to HI. Here’s a good start to what a hostel is. A hostel would definitely put Elkin on the map for international visitors who are used to staying in hostels.
Challenge or Idea?
EVTA’s work with landowners is groundbreaking.
I suggested that they pass their knowledge forward. When they are finished with their major trail building, they should work with Friends of the MST folks in the Coastal Plains (between Raleigh and the Ocracoke Ferry). There’s so little public land there that if you want to get the trail off the road, it’s going to have to be on private land.
This idea could snowball. Friends of the MST, are you listening?