March 19, 2020
Updated May 21, 2020
The highest priority of Friends of the MST during this outbreak of COVID-19 is the health and well-being of our volunteers, staff and users of the MST.
Like you, we are doing our best to follow closely the recommendations of health and government officials. We are providing the following guidelines as a way to protect the MST community.
1. For All of Us
- To the extent possible, stay at home or in the outdoors where it is easy to be at least six feet from people you do not live with.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before and after you are in contact with people or surfaces which could host the virus.
- If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 and believe you have had contact with anyone in the MST community, please notify me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-698-9024 so I can help you let others who may have been in the area know.
2. Guidance for Volunteers and Trail Angels
- Many of our most dedicated and involved volunteers are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
- We strongly recommend that all group trail workdays or other events be cancelled until we update these guidelines.
- We strongly urge Trail Angels to suspend offers of shuttles or homestays to long-distance MST hikers. We are also strongly advising current thru-hikers and those who tell us they are planning a long-distance hike soon to postpone until the COVID-19 outbreak is over.
- While trail workdays are cancelled, our volunteer leaders may have tasks that solo workers could undertake such as trimming vegetation, picking up trash or reporting on other issues. Contact the crew leader in your area if you can help in this way.
- If you have questions about these guidelines, please contact me at email@example.com or 919-698-9024.
3. Staff Schedules and Availability
- Our Raleigh office is closed to the public, and our staff are working almost entirely from home.
- Hiker resources are available on our website, and printed copies of our trail guides and new day-hike guide may be purchased through our online store.
- Despite working from home, the staff still love to hear from you and are happy to respond to your questions via e-mail, phone and Facebook and Instagram. Staff contact information is available on the website.
- The main office phone of 919-825-0297 and general e-mail account of firstname.lastname@example.org are also being monitored.
4. Gathering of Friends
- The Gathering in Surf City has been cancelled, and we are processing refunds for all registrants who have asked for them. We are sorry to miss seeing so many good friends at that time, and we greatly appreciate how generous and supportive our hosts, Surf City and Pender County, have been. In the coming weeks, we will be e-mailing our planned “State of the Trail” report to the entire MST community.
5. Day Hiking and Backpacking on the MST
- Although nearly all of the MST has reopened to day hiking, many facilities and access areas remain closed. A list of currently known closures or limitations due to COVID-19 concerns that affect the MST is available here. If you are aware of other closures not on this list, please let us know at email@example.com
- Camping is still prohibited on many portions of the MST. Combined with the lack of available Trail Angel support, this means that long-distance hikes are still infeasible. Short backpacking trips, up to a couple of nights, are possible in certain areas.
- We continue to ask that hikers follow proper social distancing practices, and discourage group hikes and gatherings on the trail.
- However, we hope you will use the trail by yourself or with family members you live with. Slow down. Listen to the birds. Feel the breeze.
- Stay at least six feet from other people at trail heads and when passing on the trail.
- Drive yourself (do not carpool).
- Try to avoid the most popular locations on the MST, and use this time as a chance to explore a less-visited segment you haven’t hiked before.
- Download trail guides from each segment page or use the interactive google map.
- Need more help? Purchase a trail guide or the new day-hike guide from our online store. And keep an eye out for our upcoming series of e-mails/posts about those day hikes. We hope to inspire you to see new parts of the MST and even undertake the 40 Hike Challenge.
- If you have symptoms of COVID-19, have tested positive, or have been in contact with anyone else who has symptoms/tested positive, please refrain from using the MST.
- Remember that there are risks associated with traveling in the backcountry. If you get sick or injured, medical care may be more difficult to obtain and you will stress possibly over-taxed health systems. If you get infected, you could unwittingly transmit the virus to new areas. Now is not the time to push your limits or engage in high-risk activities.
- Keep your dog leashed, and make sure it does not jump on other people. Do not pet dogs other than your own. Dogs may carry the virus on their fur, and it is better to err on the side of caution rather than transmit it after petting them.
- The people and communities along the MST are our vital supporters. Do your best to prevent any possible infections through responsible and hygienic interactions. Follow Leave No Trace practices whenever you use the trail.
Thank you for your love and support of the MST. It is comforting to all of the staff and board to be part of such a strong, diverse and caring community.
The MST was built for times like these.
Stay safe, and enjoy the trail.
Kate Dixon, Executive Director