We assembled at Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a day of hiking, trail maintaining and most important, celebration. We celebrated the official opening of twenty miles of MST trail west of Balsam Gap.
Before the celebration ceremony, CMC did what it does best – hike and maintain trail. About 30 volunteers, led by Les Love, walked up to Waterrock Knob to work on the Parkway trail for the morning. Meanwhile, I led a large group of hikers from Waterrock Knob to Soco Gap – 4.2 miles – all downhill to show off a new section of trail.
When we all came back to the parking lot, there was a large event tent and chairs set up and waiting for the speeches to start. North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation hosted the festivities. REI/Asheville had set up a refreshment tent with wonderful desserts, and cake. What’s a celebration without cake!
The lineup of speakers, as they are in the photo, was impressive:
Scott Crocker, Superintendent of State Trails, NC Division of Parks and Recreation
Brian Strong, Chief of Planning and Natural Resources at NC Division of Parks and Recreation
Mark Woods, Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway
Steve Metcalf, President of the Board of Friends of the MST
Larry Blythe, Former Vice Chief of Eastern Band of Cherokee
Barbara Morgan, President of Carolina Mountain Club
Brian Strong, the emcee, presented each speaker with a plaque.
The theme of all the remarks was similar:
This was a partnership of so many agencies and groups. CMC built the trail on what is probably the most challenging section of the MST. Waterrock Knob – the name accurately describes the terrain, full of rocks, water, roots, and sheer rock face. As Steve Metcalf said:
“We know there wouldn’t be an MST without CMC.”
Larry Blythe was instrumental in encouraging the Cherokee Council to allow the MST to go through Cherokee land. By using logging roads, they felt that it wouldn’t affect the residents in Cherokee.
Barbara Morgan pointed out that CMC has more volunteer hours than any other group on the Parkway. CMC also has more volunteers hours than any other task force on the MST, as well.
“No mechanized equipment other than chain saws was used,” Morgan said.
Superintendent Mark Woods remembered the contributions of Allen de Hart, the granddaddy of the MST and one of the first two people to hike the whole trail in 1996. Woods quoted the NPS Mission Statement.
“We’re in the Futures Business,” Woods said.
And after that, we hiked of course. Barbara Morgan led us down the MST to Fork Ridge Overlook to see more new trail.
Thank you to all. But the work isn’t done. CMC still has to maintain all the trails it builds. So there’s plenty of volunteer opportunities for all of us.