Tag Archives: Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Scouting for MST in a Day

I’ve done the whole Mountains-to-Sea Trail but there are parts of the trail that I go back to over and over again. These sections are close, easy and can work in many circumstances.

So I was thrilled when Kate D. and Betsy B. of Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail asked me to lead a “celebrity” hike for MST-in-a-Day on Saturday September 9 – this coming Saturday. We’re going from the Folk Art Center to the Visitor Center and back.

You may wonder what a celebrity is – so did I. We’ve invited Carolyn Ward of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Brad Cave of Eastern National, John Slaughter, the current acting superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and several retired superintendents. I don’t know who will show up but I know I will – rain or shine.

No matter how many times I do a hike, I scout it before I lead it again. So a couple of days ago, I drove to the Folk Art Center and walked MST-west to the Visitor Center – 2.9 miles or so.

The trail was manicured, as you would expect since it is a popular section. On a Saturday morning, there were lots of runners, dog walkers and three hikers who recognized me.

The photographer, Jennifer Mesk,runs the website Humans of Asheville  and she interviewed me a while back.

“You’re the one with the book,” she said.

“Yeah, several..”


Fall flowers abound: hearts-a-Bustin also known as strawberry bush, bowman’s root, goldenrod and jewel weed. Spring flowers may be more popular when we come out of winter but fall flowers are just as fascinating.

But the most surprising were the cows in the pasture under the Blue Ridge Parkway. See the picture above.

Twenty cows blocking the trail were intimidating but they moved and mooed as soon as I approached.

Swannanoa River

The trail crossed the Swannanoa River and climbed up past a house or two and eventually reached the Visitor Center. After chatting to Eastern National employees and having a snack, I retraced my steps.

I will be at the Folk Art Center by 9 am. The hike will start promptly at 9:30am.

Please come and join me. Let’s see what celebrities show up.

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.