07 September 2010

Mountains to Sea Trail

I've been thinking about hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) since last year, when I was still thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. I've not been motivated about much since I returned home from Maine last September, but all summer I've been looking forward to thru-hiking the MST.

The MST reaches 900+ miles from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee/North Carolina border in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey's Ridge State Park near Nags Head on the Outer Banks. It climbs two state high-points, (Clingmans Dome in TN and Mount Mitchell in NC) and ends on Jockey's Ridge, the highest sand dune on the east coast.

While the Appalachian Trail is very much a social trail with a large community of hikers and trail-angels supporting the yearly parade of thru-hikers, the MST is still in its infancy. It was first proposed in the 1970s and the first thru-hike was in 1997. Today, fewer than 20 people have hiked the entire trail. This lack in popularity is mostly due to the fact that the actual footpath is still only 50% complete. Much of the current official route through the Piedmont and Coastal Plain is on state bicycle routes and back roads.

But it won't be like that forever. Trail construction is progressing steadily to link established footpaths together. On my journey, I plan to veer from the official route on back roads to use trails that have already been built but are not yet officially designated as part of the MST system.

I hope to raise awareness of the trail in the communities near it, so that they may help to protect the trail and help it to grow.

To learn more about the MST, visit the Friends of the MST website at: http://www.ncmst.org

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