The MST in the Mountains- Alternatives

On Sunday, I went on a CMC hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. No, not up to Mt. Mitchell but I’m bringing back this picture.mtmitchell.jpg

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail has been named the best hiking trail in Western North Carolina. That’s not surprising. It’s off the Blue Ridge Parkway, visible, well-marked and well-maintained by Carolina Mountain Club.

But a small section is still being debated. Right now, the trail come out of Great Smoky Mountains National Park at Mingus Mill. But that will soon change.

When Sharon and I walked the trail years ago, we chose to stay in the Smokies for an extra couple of days and walk out on Heintooga Road. Now this route is going to become one of the recommended routes.

OK, technically that hasn’t happened yet. North Carolina State Parks wants to hear from you and are accepting comments until Friday,
September 6, 2013
. I hope you’ll take time to review the plan and submit
your comments online.

The draft plan can be downloaded here off the
website of the Southwestern Commission.  It’s 53 pages, filled with maps
of existing and proposed trails in the seven most western counties of North
Carolina. The Southwestern Commission who wrote the report really wants the MST to go through their small towns and communities. That would bring in more visitors and potentially more dollars.

Chapter 6 (pages 32-37) of the
draft describes four possible routes for the MST and then recommends a course
of action that State Parks could follow to designate one or dual routes for the
MST.

Friends of the MST is supporting a dual route
option that will give MST hikers a choice of a “Great Smoky Route”
(Option 1 in the plan) following existing trails through the national park and
a “River Valley Route” (Option 3 in the plan) along the Tuckaseegee
River past mountain farms and small towns.

After you have reviewed the
plan, submit online comments about
the proposed MST routes and other trail issues in the seven western NC counties
covered in the plan.  The online survey is short with only five
questions.  Question four (4) allows you to easily share your ideas about
the MST route or other issues.

I personally favor the Smokies route. If the MST is supposed to show off the best of North Carolina, it should stay in the Smokies another couple of days. And no, contrary to what the report states, it’s not “lengthy, remote or challenging”. It’s in the most visited national park in the country.

But you make up your mind and submit comments.

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