Tag 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.

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!