Last Thursday I wrote to you with guidelines for the MST during the COVID-19 outbreak. One of those guidelines was “The MST is open!” Today much of the MST is still open, but there are parts of it that are closing because of very heavy use. Access to many North Carolina beaches is restricted, and State Parks has closed several parks – including some that the MST runs through – because social distancing is impossible with so many people using the trails. Unfortunately, this kind of use is also very hard on natural trails – particularly if people walk off the trail to avoid being close to others as they pass.

I expect we will hear of more closings soon.

Yesterday, the New York Times published an essay by Margaret Renkl, a naturalist from Tennessee. The essay is titled “The Beautiful World Beside the Broken One,” and in it she writes “And the natural world is everywhere, not just on my half-acre lot in suburbia, and not just on my favorite trails at the local parks. You can find it during a walk on city streets and in the potted plants on city balconies. It’s in the branches of the sidewalk trees as they begin to split open and change the grayscape green. It’s in the sparrows and the starlings taking nesting materials into the cracks around the windows and doorways of commercial buildings. It’s in a sky full of drifting clouds, and in the wild geese crying as they fly.”

I have found the sounds, smells and sights of Spring so comforting and newly miraculous this last week – even at my home about a mile from NC State in Raleigh. Just the other night, and then again the next morning, I heard an owl hooting outside my home.

So, I hope you have natural trails to visit still. But if not, I hope you will still get out to see Spring unfold close to home, in the “beautiful world beside the broken one.”

Be safe, and head outdoors to enjoy Spring!

Kate Dixon, Friends’ Executive Director

(Photo of a screech owl sheltering in Elkin, courtesy of Joe Mickey)