It was the first week-end in February, time for the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Annual Meeting. Over 240 members came from near and far (Sylva to the Outer Banks) and out-of-state as well to celebrate the 18th annual meeting.
Just as a comparison, Jeff Brewer, the first president of FMST, said that the first meeting had twenty participants.
A few highlights:
Kate Dixon, the Executive Director, gave a progress report, which included:
*The FMST website now has trail guides for all the trail sections. Whoopee! You can now follow the trail from Clingmans Dome to Jockey’s Ridge and know that you’ve got the best turn-by-turn directions and information on what’s on the trail.
* You can paddle the Neuse River, if you want a multi-modal experience. You can! I like my feet firmly on the ground. In certain sections, you can also do the MST on a bike or on a horse.
I had the pleasure of introducing our keynote speaker, Sharon “mama goose” Smith, who talked about the importance of Warrior Hikes on transitioning veterans back to civilian life. They need to walk off the war.
One of the points she made that resonated with me was that in the old days, soldiers marched home from war and had the chance to process their experiences. Now veterans can have a traumatic experience on the battlefield on Saturday and be home with their families on Monday.
Sharon will be organizing a group of veterans to walk the MST in the fall. Shorter trails that may just go through one state keep the hiker-veterans close to home and give families a chance to visit with them from time to time.
Another highlight of the meeting
Three Carolina Mountain Club maintenance members came to present their achievement on the Waterrock Knob piece of the MST. So proud of them. From left to right, they are Skip Sheldon, Tom Weaver and Pete Petersen.
This piece of trail, high in the Blue Ridge Mountains, was such a challenge that it took six years to complete-all with volunteer labor.
Various speakers talked about the importance of the North Carolina bond issue vote which comes up on March 15. We need to pass this bond issue, because some money eventually will trickle down to the MST and other NC trails.
Kimberly Crest Books (that’s Lenny and me) was a exhibitor at the meeting, along with much bigger groups such as REI, Great Outdoor Provision Company and the Elkin Valley Association. They had many people staffing their areas, while it was just me. Still, I was glad of the opportunity to talk to people about the National Park Centennial.
When I donated a couple of books to the raffle, I asked “How many national park units does the MST go through? No one jumped up with the answer, so here it is.
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Blue Ridge Parkway
- Guilford Courthouse National Military Park
- Moores Creek National Battlefield
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore