This fall, we’re holding a series of Tuesday evening Pints & Paths programs with GetGoingNC.com. We spend the the first part of the evening socializing and enjoying a pour from Big Boss Brewing Co. Then, we help you launch the epic hike of your dreams by hearing a hiker who has done one (sometimes more) of the nation’s long hikes (see below for a rundown of trails and presenters). In this space, we recap the hiker’s presentation, focusing on particularly pertinent (and entertaining) advice. Today: Jerry Barker, who completed his section hike of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in March 2017.
The trail Mountains-to-Sea, 1,175 miles running the width of North Carolina, from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee line to Jockey’s Ridge on the coast.
The hiker Jerry Barker
When 2014 through March 2017
His story (briefly) Jerry actually began his hike of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in 1991, hiking a section of the MST also known as the Corridor Trail at Pilot Mountain State Park. He began his section hike in earnest in 2014, and finished this past March, becoming only the 81st person to hike the entire trail. Jerry’s commitment to the trail goes beyond hiking; his six-year term as a member of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail comes to an end in January (we served as president during that time), and it was Jerry who came up with the idea of MST in a Day, the seemingly far-fetched idea to have hikers hike the entire MST in one Day — which they did, this past September 9.
10 things we learned from Jerry about the MST and prepping for a long hike
- The MST is ideal for section hiking. “Just about no matter where you are, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is ideal for section hiking because it’s so close to home,” says Jerry. “You can hop in your car and knock off a section here and there. I did mostly day trips and weekend trips.” Also: “If it’s raining, just stay home. Why hike when you can wait?”
- Next time, I’d avoid … . Crossing the Bonner Bridge on a leg up the Outer Banks in the morning. “The guardrail is only about this high,” he said, marking his knee with his right hand. “When the wind kicks up … .” He let the thought linger with a smile.
- You’re paddling with who? Jerry opted to take the paddle option for his route to the coast from Raleigh, which necessitated spending five days and four nights on the Neuse River. Fortunately, while hiking he found a paddle buddy for a river stretch that shouldn’t be attempted solo. “When I told my wife I’d be paddling for five days with a 25-year-old woman, she wasn’t happy.” He mentioned this to his paddle buddy, who replied, “Well, you should have heard what my husband said when I told him I’d be paddling for five days with a 70-year-old man.”
- Trail breakdown: Jerry paddled 160 miles of the trail, biked 100 miles and hiked the remaining 1,030 miles.
- Camping is less of an issue. Not long ago, camping along the trail was a significant issue. That’s less true today, says Jerry. “From Hillsborough down to the Falls dam,” he says, you can now stay at the Rollingview and Shinleaf campgrounds, and at three dedicated backpack sites. You can camp the whole way.”
- Shuttles. Jerry said his solo hiking days were aided some by friends along the way who game him rides back to his car, but that the MST guidebooks also include the names of people who provide shuttle service.
- The MST Guides. Another big plus for planning, says Jerry, are the three guidebooks published by the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that provide detailed directions of all the trail. The guides are divided by Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain and Outer Banks, and are available both in print form and online.
- Embrace the road sections. The trail is currently 1,175 miles long. However, only about 680 miles of that total is actual hiking trail, the rest is temporarily routed on roads. “Don’t dismiss the road sections,” advises Jerry. “They’re a great way to meet people and visit towns along the way.”
- Daily average? Jerry averaged 13.9 miles per day on the days he hiked.
- Tender feet. The hardest part of the hike? “It was my feet, at first,” says Jerry. “But they toughen up. Gradually.”
The Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, especially their website and trail guides. The guides provide an overview of each section (Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plain / Outer Banks) as well as detailed directions for following the trail, where to find camping and lodging, as well as key amenities. Start your planning here.
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Pints & Paths Schedule
- September 19 Bartram Trail, Joe Miller
- September 26 Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Jerry Barker
- October 3 Appalachian Trail, Susan Levy
- October 10 Colorado Trail, Kate Rice
- October 17 John Muir Trail, Marya McNeish
- November 7 Foothills Trail, Scott Hicks, Bill Downey Jr., Bonner Ballinger