The farthest I’ve ever hiked in a day is 50 miles. It started west of Pilot Mountain at 4:30 one May morning seven years ago and ended at midnight in Danbury, at the base of Hanging Rock. I was acting as a trail guide for Diane Van Deren in her 2012 quest to hike the MST faster than anyone had to date (which she did, finishing the trail atop Jockey’s Ridge on May 31, 22 days, 5 hours and 3 minutes after setting off from Clingman’s Dome). It was a long day.
This weekend, I’m expecting another couple of long days leading the MST 42-Mile Challenge as part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail’s 42nd birthday celebration. We’re only doing 42 miles, and that’s split into two 21-mile days. But the challenge will be real for all 13 of us involved: 11 hikers who are taking the Challenge (and raising $10 for every mile hiked along the way), and assistant hike leader Alison Watta and myself.
Now, 42 miles in two days isn’t for everyone. That’s why the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail has come up with two other ways you can help celebrate the trail’s 42 years this weekend.
- On one of 27 guided hikes statewide. Twenty-seven? Well, that was the plan until Dorian invited himself to the party. As of midday Wednesday, three of the coastal hikes were either canceled or postponed, and more are likely depending upon Dorian’s whims. So let’s go with 24 guided hikes. Actually, make that 20, since four of the hikes have already reached capacity. A lot of good hikes remain, however, and you can check them out here.
- On a hike of your own choosing. With nearly 700 miles of the MST complete, there are lots of options for taking your own hike, at your own time. You can check out some of our favorite options on this blog we wrote for our friends at Great Outdoor Provision Co. Or, you can peruse the MST’s online hiking guides and craft a hike of your own. Check those guides out here, then learn how to make your personal birthday hike count for the MST, here.
Why the hikes? To help raise the profile of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Though it dates back to 1977 (42 years!), it’s not as well known as you might expect. Hardcore hikers know about it, sure: nearly 90 hikers have hiked the entire trail (roughly 1,175 miles, including temporary routes on roads). But considering that the trail passes through more than a third of North Carolina counties (37 of 100), and passes through 10 state parks and three national forests, it should be in even the most casual North Carolina hiker’s repertoire. Thus, the Friends of the MST have strived since the trail turned 40 to make the trail’s birthday a special event.
As an additional enticement to get you on the trail, the MST is holding a photo contest. Competition is in three categories, with the top three photos earning Great Outdoor Provision Co. gift cards. Participation is easy; find details here.
Finally, odd as it sounds with a Hurricane headed toward North Carolina, the weekend forecast is promising, especially if you live west of Raleigh. Greensboro, for instance, is looking at temperatures in the mid to upper 80s this weekend, under sunny skies.
Fall hiking season is officially underway. What better way to launch your personal version of the season that with a birthday hike on the MST?