Dear Victory Crew,
You started down the trail at the stroke of midnight and didn’t stop until it was dark again. You hiked, you ran, you paddled. You were surprised by bull elk, marveled at bald eagles, wondered what the message that vulture circling above was trying to send. Many of you hiked with friends, many of you made new friends along the way.
You were part of the best 40th anniversary celebration ever! Rubies? Give me 1,600 trail enthusiasts intent on having the entire Mountains-to-Sea Trail hiked in one day, any day. And now that we’ve had a chance to hear from you, to check off the 300 legs of trail that comprised the 1,175-mile MST on this special day, we’re pleased to announce …
We did it!
Late Sunday afternoon, we were able to confirm that more than 1,600 people working together completed 100 percent of the MST hiking route, from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee line to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast. (Three legs of the paddle route – all on the Neuse River — were not completed due to paddlers being called away to prepare for Hurricane Irma.)
Three years ago I had the idea of having boots on the entire 1,175 miles of trail in a single day. At first, I was humored by my fellow Friends. Then, when our 40th
anniversary season rolled around, our executive director, Kate Dixon, relented. “Oh, why not.”
More than 1,600 of you agreed: Why not?
Do you remember where you were 40 years ago on September 9? Howard Lee, who hiked 5.1 miles on Leg 5 of Segment 13B (Jones Lake State Park) does. He was in Waynesville, speaking as NC Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development to the National Trails Symposium. Here’s an idea, he said in his speech: “How about we build a trail that runs all the way across North Carolina, from Clingmans Dome in the Smokies to Jockey’s Ridge on the coast?”
Turns out I wasn’t the first to have a crazy idea about trails.
Your day on the trail Saturday was a day of superlatives. Your comments on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and on our website were dominated by three words:
“Great weather! Great day!” wrote Tina and Ed Sanderford, who hiked nearly 10 miles on country roads through the coastal plain. “The road hiking was better than expected.”
“Beautiful weather, great company,” wrote Paige, who paddled eleven and a half miles on our paddle trail option, on the Neuse River. “And two bald eagles!”
“Amazing! Absolutely beautiful and very challenging,” wrote Danelle Hallenbeck, who tackled one of the longest (14.3 miles) and most demanding stretches of the day, from the Smokemont Campground to Round Bottom in the Smokies.
Some of you hiked. Some of you paddled. Some of you took a hybrid approach.
“We used Standup Paddleboards on the Northeast Cape Fear River,” wrote Klem, whose 5.1-mile leg required a 4.6-mile paddle. “Loved it!”
Donna Perry, walking a road section north of Greensboro, encountered editorial comment from above: “I was startled by a vulture on Eckerson Road. It noisily came out of a wooded area, perched on a nearby tree and watched me for a bit. I didn’t think I was moving THAT slowly!”
For some, the hike marked a personal milestone as well: “Earned a virtual special event badge with my NC 100 Challenge!” wrote Angela Noffsinger, who hiked with husband Bob. “Fun and beautiful hike.”
You hit the trail early: “We started at midnight Saturday morning!” wrote Brandon Hicks, who hiked with 16 members of GetHiking! Triangle along Falls Lake.
Some of you not only hit the trail early but finished late as well: “I got a beautiful sunrise at Clingmans before setting out at 8 a.m.,” wrote William Rushin. “Beautiful hike down Fork Ridge and along Deep Creek. Got a nice swim in Deep Creek before climbing up Newton Bald. Descended down to Smokemont and finished before dark at 7:30. My Gaia GPS track clocked it at 25.15 miles.”
We welcomed newcomers: “It was my first time hiking the MST and I was glad I got to share it with a good friend and my toddler,” wrote Ariella Anderson, hiking along Falls Lake. “He loved looking at the trees and the birds and got a little time to explore on his own.”
We remembered long-timers: “Thought about Allen de Hart — “Earth Daddy” as he asked my grandchildren to call him — as I had spent a few days marking this section of the trail with him,” wrote Dolly Rose of the Friends of the MST founder, who passed away last year. “He would be smiling today to see all his old and new friends, and those he never met, hiking and loving this trail of which he was such a huge part.”
You battled through gear problems: “About a quarter mile into the trail Kelly’s sole came off her hiking shoe, wrote Claudia Fulshaw of a hiking friend’s mishap along the Eno River. “She pulled off the remains and kept on going” — for five miles.”
You dealt with challenges that apparently weren’t challenges to you but would be to the rest of us.
“My children loved it!, wrote Kate Kennedy Rizzuto. “My husband and his seeing-eye-dog did great.”
So many great stories, so many memorable moments. Such commitment by you, our hiking and paddling friends. To quote Kate: “I’d say that is an astounding, wonderful, over-the-moon accomplishment! Congratulations and thank you!
Thank you so much!
Friends of the MST Board member