Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail had the best annual meeting ever.
About 225 (or was it 227) members showed up to learn the latest about the MST, renew friendships, and get tips on how to hike the trail.
Mike Murphy, head of the NC State Parks system, invited us all to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the state park system.
Yes, I know, that I’ve been mentioning the 100th anniversary of the National Park System but it’s also a big year for state parks. I think we can keep them straight. There will be major celebrations at Mt. Mitchell, the first NC park, and Fort Macon, the second. We are becoming the Great Trail State.
State Parks, with lots of help, is working on a master plan for the MST. The Statewide Master Plan will create the foundation needed to complete a continuous off-road hiking trail across North Carolina. The trail may also include paddle and biking alternatives. The hired firm that is actually writing the master plan will need input from MST enthusiasts like us. See their website.
Tom Earnhardt, writer and host of UNC-TV’s Exploring North Carolina, was the guest speaker. You’ve all seen him on Thursday nights. Tom is as enthusiastic in person as he is on TV. A lawyer by training and profession, he’s turned into a avid naturalist, a real renaissance man.
Tom started by praising walking. “Walking is the most noble form of transportation.” OK. He grabbed me from the beginning. He spoke about the importance of ground truthing. Maps and GPS are important but you have to get out there. You have to see and feel the ground: cold, wet, smell and feeling that you get by actually being in the place you describe.
He recalled his 10 to 12 year old self. No skepticism, no cynicism, no politics. His father took him to the Eastern Continental Divide around Bearwallow Mountain and explained that here half the water went to the Atlantic Ocean and half went to the Gulf of Mexico. That captured Tom’s imagination. The next thing he did was to bring all his 10 to 12 year old pals and they all peed to send their liquid both ways.
But most of his presentation was about the wonders of North Carolina. He threw out a lot of numbers, but you didn’t have to catch them all to understand why our state is so diverse biologically.
I had the privilege of moderating a panel of MST Completers.
Nine hikers finished the MST in 2014 and seven participated on the panel. They were a diverse lot. Two university students felt that it was a perfect trail for students because you could do it in a summer.
Two veterans scouted out the MST to see if it could be used for the Warrior Hike project. The hike is set for September.
The panel discussed what they thought the best part of the trail was. Almost everyone said “the people”. They loved walking the road because it brought them through small towns where they met locals. There were the usual practical questions about where to stay and how heavy were their packs.
I hope the panel and the whole annual meeting convinced a few more people to get on the trail. Because at the end, you have to ground truth the MST.