MST’s 40th Anniversary: Mark Your Calendars

IMG_4428Got your calendar handy? Good. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is celebrating 40 years of existence and the Friends of the MST have quite a year of celebrating on tap.

March 24 to 26: Gathering of Friends. In corporate circles, this would be known as an annual meeting. Unlike your typical Amalgamated Widget annual meeting, though, people clamor for a spot at the gathering. A string of SRO gatherings has forced the GOF to relocate again, this time to the trail town of Elkin (on the MST between Stone Mountain and Pilot Mountain). The weekend gathering kicks off with a Hiking Boot Gala, “an evening of fellowship and recognition of the accomplishments of the first 40 years.” Saturday’s annual membership meeting includes a keynote address by recored-setting long-hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis (more about Jennifer in a moment), plus a look at where the trail is headed and goals over the next 40 years. And because folks who like trails don’t cotton to sitting in chairs for extended periods, the host Elkin Valley Trail Association is organizing hikes, paddle trips and bike rides to winery and bike tours, among other activities.

Jennifer Pharr Davis, at Springer Mountain, Ga.

Jennifer Pharr Davis, at Springer Mountain, Ga.

August through November: Jennifer Pharr Davis thru-hike. The aforementioned Jennifer Pharr Davis will thru-hike the 1,175-mile MST. Now, those of you familiar with Jennifer and her record-breaking 46 day, 11 hour, 20-minute thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2011 (chronicled in her book “Called Again,” and since broken by Scott Jurek in 2015), may be wondering if she’s out to break Diane Van Deren’s 2012 record of 22 days, 5 hours and 3 minutes, the answer, says Friends of the MST Executive Director Kate Dixon, is no.

“She’ll be helping us promote the trail,” says Dixon.

That will include a variety of events, including eight days when select members of the public will be invited to spend the day on the trail with Jennifer. Details to be announced.

September 9, MST in a Day. The goal is simple: every foot — roughly 6.2 million — of the MST will be hiked in a day. For the event, the trail will be divided into 22 segments, with each of those segments further divided into 3- to 5-mile stretches (somewhere between 235 and 391). Hikers will sign up to hike a stretch (or two or three). Team captains, of sorts, for each of the 22 segments will be responsible for making sure each stretch in their segment gets signed up for and hiked. September 9 is a Saturday, btw.

Elkin Valley Trails Association, blazing trail between Stone Mountain and Elkin.

Elkin Valley Trails Association, blazing trail between Stone Mountain and Elkin.

Ongoing, Workdays. These aren’t new: the trail is the result of nearly all volunteer efforts (the Friends of the MST has two full-time, two part-time members; in 2015, 700 volunteers contributed about 30,000 hours to the trail’s growth and maintenance). In March, for instance, workdays are scheduled in the Pisgah National Forest, Sauratown section, Upper Haw River, Eno River (as well as at South Mountain State Park, which doesn’t host a stretch of the MST, but needs some love after the fall forest fires). Learn about upcoming workdays and sign up, here.

Ongoing, Hikes. And, of course, what’s the point of having a hiking trail if it isn’t hiked. Group hikes will be happening on the trail throughout the year. Special 40th anniversary hikes will be sponsored by the Friends of the MST and organized through their Meetup group. In addition, Hike NC!, the BlueCross and BlueShield of North Carolina hiking initiative launched last year, will host at least three MST hikes this spring. Watch GoHikeNC.com for details on those hikes. And, our own GetHiking! Program will be in on the action as well. Details as they emerge on GetHiking! Charlotte, GetHiking! Triad and GetHiking! Triangle, and GetExploring! Greenville.

Fore more information on Mountains-to-Sea Trail 40th Anniversary events, go here.