On a crisp afternoon in November 2009 I was hiking along Pretty Hollow Creek in the Great Smokies when I heard voices up ahead. I looked up to see three backpackers, two on the far side of the creek, a third, wearing a jester’s hat, tiptoeing her way over the creek atop a downed hemlock. The two who had successfully made the passage were offering their … encouragement to the one in transit. Then, one yelled about the last two words I was expecting to hear.
I squinted. It was fellow adventure guide writer Danny Bernstein.
Danny, it turned out, was just beginning her latest adventure: a section hike of the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail. She introduced me to her hiking mates, Carolyn Hoopes and Sharon “Smoky Scout” McCarthy, who was also attempting the entire MST. (Both would complete the trail in 2011, joining an elite group of hikers.)
We chatted for a few minutes, but they needed to get to camp four miles down the trail, I needed to get back to my car, another six miles down the line and we were rapidly losing Standard Time sunlight. We parted without my getting a chance to ask about her latest project.
She’s up to something, I was pretty sure.
What she was up to was “The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina: Walking a Thousand Miles through Wildness, Culture and History,” just released by Natural History Press.
Danny’s latest book is, as the subtitle suggests, a walk through the history, the culture and the wildness that you’ll find along the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, from it’s western end atop Clingman’s Dome on the Tennessee line to its sandy eastern conclusion at Jockey’s Ridge on the Atlantic. It’s an account of the 950-mile trail that is a little over half completed, and it makes a compelling case for why anyone might want to hike the part that isn’t, the part that follows a temporary route on mostly backroads, mostly in the eastern part of the state.
You have two options to learn more about Danny and her adventure. One, of course, is to buy the book. The other is to swing by Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh this Friday evening at 7:30, where she’ll be telling her story and selling her book.
Danny gives us a tease of what to expect, with this RQ5QI (Really Quick Five Question Interview). Read more in her author Q&A at Natural History Press.
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Really Quick Five Question Interview
1. What section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail would you recommend someone hike to give them a true sense of what the trail is about?
Danny Bernstein: I would recommend the Sauratown TraIL, the 20-miles between Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock. It’s the only section of private land on the MST. I would have hoped that this would be an example for other sections of the MST, but so far no go.
DB: I loved walking the road. I loved meeting people, seeing how they live, seeing the cotton and tobacco fields. The roadside cemeteries puzzled me. Why bury your family on private land?
3. Did you have the idea for this particular book — to tell the story of the MST from a historical and cultural perspective — from the outset, or did the notion occur to you along the way?
DB: When I started the MST, I knew that I would finish it. I’ve done many hiking challenges but this is the first hiking challenge where I knew before I started that I would complete. [On the others like the AT, I decided to complete it after doing many miles just for vacations.] I decided to blog about every day on the MST and those were my starting notes. Then I researched where I was going, especially once I got out of the mountains. Of course, there was a lot of serendipity, as well. I certainly couldn’t predict all that I saw.
4. Did you have a favorite day on the trail, one of those days you say to yourself, “I can’t believe I’m doing this”?
DB: Not easy. But if I had to choose, I loved walking into Eno River State Park. After miles of road walking into Durham, I slip into the park and start seeing white circles again. I wondered how many people knew what the white circles were for.
5. Again, in your Natural History Press author’s Q&A you said you hiked the entire MST, save for two bridges which you thought were too dangerous. Which bridges were they? (I’ll guess on one: Oregon Inlet.)
DB: The bridge over the Neuse River as I came out of New Bern. Six-lane divided highway and cars were zipping at 70 MPH. And yes, the Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. There, my hiking partner (Sharon) and I talked to the wildlife refuge guys and they really discouraged us.
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What: Reading from her latest book, “The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina: Walking a thousand Miles through Wilderness, Culture & History,” Natural History Press, 2013.
When: Friday, April 5, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Quail Ridge Books & Music, 3522 Wade Ave., Raleigh. 919.828.7912
Co-sponsored by Friends of the Mountain-to-Sea Trail and Great Outdoor Provision Co.
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