Category Archives: Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Giving Tuesday – Who are you supporting?

Today is Giving Tuesday. You know that because you’ve been inundated with requests from nonprofits all across the country.

Poster campaign at OVC
Poster campaign at OVC

Right now, Western North Carolina needs your money more than ever. At no time is this poster more appropriate.

Our public lands are burning. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now closed. The park folks have closed everything because of the wild fires. I don’t know if they’ve ever done this before. Even Park Headquarters is without power and phone service.

But we’re all interconnected here. The Appalachian Trail travels for over seventy miles through the Smokies. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina starts on Clingmans Dome in the Smokies. All of these lands need our help.

At this point our Congress doesn’t even have a budget past December 9. So it’s not going to put any extra money into our public lands. I’m just hoping that Congress will go back to work and pass a budget.

But we’re not helpless. We need to support Friends groups that support the trail. There are so many of them in our area. Choose one and donate your money today. Plan to donate your time and effort on a regular basis.

Don’t wait until the end of the year. Yes, you’ll get a tax deduction but that’s not a reason to support a cause.

Here goes:

Friends of the SmokiesLogoFOTS – which assists Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I lead monthly hikes for the group.


Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail logofmst– which champions the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina


Great Smoky Mountains AssociationLogoGSMA – which assists the Smokies by managing the bookstores and publishing awesome books and maps.


Allen DeHart, a real outdoor hero

Allen DeHart
Allen DeHart

Sometimes, outdoor heroes don’t just exist in books and legends. Sometimes, they’ve lived, hiked and wrote within my lifetime. You discuss and even argue issues with them and you celebrate victories with them.

Allen DeHart, who died recently, was the granddad of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Though he wasn’t the dreamer who conceptualized the MST, he was the doer. He designed much of the route, was one of the first two people to hike the MST, helped to build the trail, wrote the first guidebook, and started Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

His day job was as a history professor at Louisburg College, a private two-year college northeast of Raleigh. His drive and energy led him to hike the Appalachian Trail, and write North Carolina Hiking Trails over 35 years ago. The book, still in print, is a classic. Yes, there are classic hiking books.

But his greatest accomplishment is the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. When I interviewed Allen for the Carolina Mountain Club eNews and for my book, The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina in 2010, I also spoke to Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends of the MST. She said:
Without Allen, there would be no Mountains-to-Sea Trail today. Since 1977 when the trail was first proposed, Allen became its fiercest advocate. When progress slowed almost to a standstill in the 1990s, he devised a route and set off hiking with a friend to rebuild enthusiasm and show that the dream could be made real.

He wrote a book which allowed others to follow in his footsteps. He founded Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Through his passion and knowledge of trail building, he has recruited and trained many of the trail builders and maintainers who care for more than 400 miles of trail and extend it forward every day.

The only change Kate would make now is to increase the number of miles on footpath to almost 700 miles. As I’ve said repeatedly, many hikers are on the MST throughout the state. Almost 60 hikers have done the whole trail, and enjoy the miles on backroads as much as the trail between two sets of trees.

Allen will be forever remembered as the backbone of the MST. May he rest in peace!

Waterrock Knob with a Writer

How many times can I blog about Waterrock Knob?

Purple aster
Purple aster

As many times as I want, I guess, since this is my blog.

How many times can I go to Waterrock Knob? As many times as I want to or need to.

Look at the picture above. This is the view of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from Piet’s Bench as far as the eye can see. On Friday, at 5,500 feet above sea level, with perfect autumn weather, the view was magnificent.

John Manuel
John Manuel

But I was there on business. I was guiding John Manuel, an outdoor writer, doing a three-part story on the MST. He writes for Wildlife in North Carolina, the magazine of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. He wanted to see the fantastic trail around Waterrock Knob and I was recommended.

John is obviously a hiker and outdoor person. But this wasn’t about hiking; it was about seeing the trail, the flora and fauna, and getting his questions answered. It is very difficult to hike and take notes at the same time. And don’t even think about using a voice recorder unless you have to take notes so precisely that you’re quoting people.

So we walked. I talked and I gave him time to take notes his way.

Mountain ash
Mountain ash

He had walked some of the MST around Asheville with Becky S., another Carolina Mountain Club member. She really knows her flora. But the vegetation this high is much different.

Purple asters are everywhere in the fall but not mountain ash. Here in North Carolina, it grows at high altitude only, so it’s unlikely that John would have seen it in Asheville.

I really emphasized that CMC volunteers built this whole trail – not participated or helped or cooperated – but built it all. That’s why it took six years, but look at it now.

I’m not done with Waterrock Knob. On Sunday October 16, I’m going to lead a CMC hike which takes in the whole new CMC section. Look at our schedule and come on out.