Category Archives: Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Fall on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Chestnut tree

Are you ready for fall? It’s only the end of July but on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at 5,000 feet, you can see the signs of fall.

Yesterday, Marcia B. led an easy downhill hike from Grassy Ridge Mine Overlook (5,250 ft.) to Balsam Gap. We parked a couple of cars at the maintenance yard, drove to the overlook and started hiking.

Nine Carolina Mountain Club hikers walked in a line. The trail was damp and green, with trees, vines and flowers in abundance. The trick was to observe the trees (and flowers) for the forest.

Some hikers were new to the environment, some were (literally) professionals. So there was a lot of discussion of the land around us.

Were the small, scrawny trees we saw entangle with others, chestnut oaks or real chestnuts? I have it on good authority that we saw real chestnuts. Chestnut oaks have scalloped ends while chestnuts have pointy ends. See the first picture on the left.

Indian pipes

Marcia, our leader, was pretty sure that the Indian pipes doubled as periscope. Fairies and other underground creatures were watching hikers and trail maintainers as they passed through.

But who did they report to and what did they do with their information? Marcia had not fleshed out her story well enough to make it credible.

Mushroom, AKA f airy baths

Then we had the fungus, mushrooms that were used as fairy baths by the underground fairies.

They had everything they needed in the woods. Still they stay hidden, but must come out sometime for a bath. When nine hikers walk on a well-marked, downhill trail, the imagination can get going.

Trillium berries

Other signs of falls – doll’s eyes, the seed from the white baneberry. No one notices the baneberry flower in the spring because it has so much competition but doll’s eyes are different.

Red trillium berries – those three large leaves are unmistakable.

Plenty of white and red bee balm, without bees – thank goodness – but with butterflies drinking in their nectar.

Bridge on MST

Black cohosh – I couldn’t tell this tall, foamy, white flower from others but Linda B. could. One of the benefits of walking with a group.

Once we got to about 3,500 feet, the vegetation changed. No more flowers, just vines and trees. We crossed a wooden bridge, erected by the Carolina Mountain Club trail crew and reached Balsam Gap.

Thanks, Marcia, for leading this hike!

 

 

MST in a Day – Have you signed up?

Have you signed up for MST in a Day?

On Saturday, September 9, hikers and paddlers will complete the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in one day.

In honor of the trail’s 40th anniversary, we will walk, run or paddle the whole trail. Each leg is quite short – three to five miles – allowing everyone to participate. Imagine hiking the whole trail, 1,175 miles, with hundreds of your best friends, through 36 North Carolina Counties.

Jennifer Pharr Davis

Everyone who’s anyone in the outdoor world will be there.

That includes Jennifer Pharr Davis, A.T. record holder and National Geographic Adventure of the Year, Mark Woods, retired Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Dolly McLean of REI, and Anna Zanetti and Marielle DeJong of Friends of the Smokies.

How do you sign up? First join Meetup at Meetup.com, if you’re not already a member. Yes, it requires a login and password … but it’s how it all works now. Make sure you can remember your password.

Carolina Mountain Club is responsible for two segments.

Segment 2 runs from Waterrock Knob to the Pisgah Inn. Segment 3 runs from Pisgah Inn to the Black Mountain Campground, which is just east of Mt. Mitchell.

To get started, go to the FMST website.

From Piet’s bench

Now that you’ve joined Meetup, find the Meetup for MST Segment 2 or MST Segment 3. Each portion, or leg, has its own meetup under the general Segment 2 or Segment 3 listing. Find a hike (termed Leg) you want to walk, and RSVP that you plan to hike that leg.

If the one you’ve chosen already has several hikers, perhaps you can move on to a different leg. Later, those choosing the same hike will coordinate to carpool and set up shuttles.
There’s valuable information about this event available right now on the FMST website.

Check it out! Don’t miss this event on Saturday September 9. That’s where all the hikers are going to be.

Friends of the MST Celebrates 40 years!

This past weekend, Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail celebrated its 40th anniversary in Elkin, North Carolina with a gala, meeting and lots of activities. The evening gala attracted about 260 members, the meeting about 290. Here are a few highlights.

Howard Lee and Doris Hammett

Friday evening went back to the past. In 1977, Howard Lee, then Secretary of the NC Department of Natural Resources and Community Development, announced that there would be a hiking trail through North Carolina. Howard, now on the board of Friends of the MST, was at the meeting. So was Dr. Doris Hammett who had chaired the Fourth National Trails Conference where Howard spoke. Doris was also a leader in the trail building Task Force in Haywood County.

Saturday was all about the future. What would the trail look like in the next 40 years, in 2057? Each table brainstormed the future of the MST. Our table came up with:

  1.  One million hikers have completed the trail.
  2. The MST is all on footpath
  3. Hostels and campsites will enable hikers to hike the whole trail smoothly.

Even I won’t be around in 40 years to see this happen but these are important goals.

Kate Dixon and her award

Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends of the MST since 2008, received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, a major, major award in North Carolina. Pretty impressive.

Here’s a little information about this award.

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society
Among the most prestigious awards conferred by the Governor of North Carolina is The Order of the Long Leaf Pine. It is awarded to persons for exemplary service to the State of North Carolina and their communities that is above and beyond the call of duty and which has made a significant impact and strengthened North Carolina.

Jennifer Pharr Davis, who we all know as the past record holder of the fastest person on the Appalachian Trail, was the keynote speaker.

Jennifer Pharr Davis

She will walk the MST starting in August to publicize the trail and encourage everyone to get out there. Her husband, Brew, will handle the logistics for Jennifer’s hike. It takes support of all kinds to walk the MST.

Jennifer will hold events in the communities around the MST and will invite hikers to walk with her. She emphasized the healing and uplifting power of nature.

No, Jennifer won’t be running. This is a different kind of project. I managed to take a picture of her with Gus, her younger child.

To my amazement, I received recognition for my involvement on the MST.  I received a beautifully framed print of the certificate now given out to MST completers.

Kate and me with a plaque

In my thank you remarks, I emphasized that in our efforts to get the MST off the road, we don’t forget that the MST is more than a walk between two sets of trees.

I hope we don’t lose the history of our state that we can now see on the road – the mills, cabins, tobacco barns, historic plaques, hamlets, old advertising – and major reminders of the American Revolution and even a little of the Civil War. 

Speaking of history, the photo at the top of the blog post is of an American Revolution encampment in Elkin set up for the weekend. The town is the eastern end of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail and very proud of its part in the Revolutionary War.

It’s going to be difficult to top this meeting. So let’s just get on the trail.