We are eagerly counting the days until we gather the MST community in person again at Lake Junaluska. In this era of continued uncertainty, our responsibility is to provide a safe gathering space, indoors and out.

To do so, the staff and Board of the Friends of the MST have determined that all Gathering attendees must be vaccinated, and if eligible, up-to-date with currently available boosters. By arriving at the Gathering up-to-date on Covid-19 vaccinations, you are helping to protect the MST community, the staff at Lake Junaluska and neighbors in the surrounding communities. Vaccinations and boosters should be completed before March 24th to accommodate the 2-week post-vaccination waiting period. Vaccination cards or a digital copy should be brought to the Gathering as some of the indoor excursions will be checking for them.

The Gathering brings together people from all over the state of North Carolina and beyond, and, quite honestly, many of our attendees are of the “vigorous retiree” age. These factors combined with recommendations for large in-person indoor events are compelling enough for us to require up-to-date vaccinations, in an effort to safeguard the MST Community and the areas that we are visiting. The MST is all about inclusivity, connecting people and communities, and right now that comes with a level of responsibility to our communal well-being. Please email us directly to share any concerns or talk about your individual situation – info@mountainstoseatrail.org

We also ask that you don’t attend if you are sick. Lake Junaluska has a generous cancellation policy for accommodation reservations (full refund 15 days in advance, less $15 fee; loss of deposit only if cancelled within 15 days of reservation.) We will offer registration fee refunds up to 72 hours prior to the event (less a $15 processing charge to cover our administrative costs.)

During all indoor events outside of individual guest rooms, properly fitting masks are to be worn, covering both nose and mouth. All indoor locations at Lake Junaluska require masks, except while eating and drinking, and their staff will be masked. If you carpool with people outside of your household, please wear a mask. During off-site indoor excursions, we request that you wear a mask, even if the host site doesn’t require it, further protecting our community. We will provide hand sanitizer stations on-site for frequent use and encourage you to bring your own stash to use when you are out and about.

While we love the energy that our youngest hikers bring to the Gathering, but perhaps this is the year to leave children who cannot be vaccinated at home. If that doesn’t work for your family, unvaccinated children should not attend any of the indoor events.

And please use common sense about other people’s comfort. Respect others and their social distancing needs. We are a courteous and respectful crew, and we know you will treat each other with kindness and understanding, even from six feet away!

Lastly, the situation remains fluid. We can’t anticipate the future and our desire for a normal Gathering won’t override the wellbeing of the group. If there are changes to be made, we will communicate them as soon as we can. We have options to move into a larger indoor space if that seems most prudent, too.

Thank you for understanding the precarious nature of planning an event in the time of Covid. Reach out to Betsy Brown if you have any comments or questions about attending.