State Parks on the MST

Jones LakeSP
Jones Lake SP

“Where on earth am I?” is not a great way to start a conversation at a gas station.

But that’s what I kept asking people as I searched for two parks in the Sandhills of North Carolina.

I was on my way to Wilmington and looking for two state parks: Jones Lake and Singletary. You will be forgiven if you’ve never heard of them but they are now on the Coastal Crescent route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Once I left the familiar exits of  I-40, I relied on my GPS and hoped it knew more than I did. It didn’t. Finally I found myself in Bladen Lakes State Forest but still no Jones Lake SP. I corralled a forest ranger, probably on his lunch break, and he directed me.

For a state park that is so difficult to find, Jones Lake was quite busy. Visitors were fishing, swimming, picnicking and boating. Range Lane Garner knew all about the MST and told me that it followed their bay trail. So in the blazing sun, I walked the four mile trail around the lake.

Lake – Jones and Singletary Lakes are not lakes like Fontana Lake outside of Bryson City or Lake Lure near Chimney Rock. They are shallow oval depressions; Jones Lake in particular is only 8.7 feet deep. The big practical difference is that these Carolina bays, as they are called, aren’t fed by streams or springs but depend on rain. The water is tea colored.

Bay Trail
Bay Trail

Still, it’s perfectly fine to swim or fish in Jones Lake. I should have done something around the water. Instead I walked and was attacked by mosquitoes. The worst was a bite on my ankle which is still red and swollen. I will be scratching fore-e-ver.

Singletary Lake SP was much easier to find and quicker to deal with. The public can only go into the park when they aren’t used by nonprofit groups. There’s not even a visitor center, just a park office. So I asked how I could see the lake.

“You can’t go in now” the park office manager said. “We have two groups camping.”

“What if I just leave my car in the lot and just walk?” I asked.

The answer was still no. But she was perfectly happy to stamp my NC park passport.

So where does the MST go? She really knew about the MST.

“The route is on the road, passing the park entrance,” she said. “And it’s the alternate route of the MST.”

Yes, she was right. Since State Parks hasn’t yet approved this route, it’s an alternate route. I was just happy that she knew about the details of the MST.

So that’s why I don’t have a single picture of Singletary Lake.

From the MST off Waterrock Knob

Mountains-to-Sea Trail book is back

Look what I just received in my inbox from Amazon –

MST guide front coverBased on your recent activity, we thought you might be interested in this.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Mountains-To-Sea Trail: Profiles and Maps from the Great Smokies to Mount Mitchell and Beyond
by Walt Weber

Price: $14.95

This is the second edition, now in color, of the popular guide to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) in Western North Carolina. It includes topographical maps and trail elevation profiles, making it easy to … Read More

And they’re right. I am interested in this book and already have a copy.

The book details the 140 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from Fork Ridge Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Black Mountain Campground. Carolina Mountain Club has maintained these 140 miles for a long time. Now our maintenance responsibilities have been extended to Heintooga Rd.

Mileage to Folk Art Center
Mileage to Folk Art Center

The book has been the standard for MST guides.  It has detailed color maps and Walt Weber’s lively discussion of the history along the trail. Hikers have credited finding the book as their way into hiking in the Western North Carolina Mountains and Carolina Mountain Club.

Trail runners use the book to discover MST sections that they might want to run. Altitude gain and losses are more important to runners than to hikers.

This copy is new in several ways.

All trail distances and elevations have been rechecked since the first edition using a combination of GPS technology, a measuring wheel, and altimeter readings.

Just as important, CMC has retrieved control over the book. After a stint with a local publisher who couldn’t keep the book in print, CMC is again the publisher. Lenny Bernstein spent countless hours with Doug Gibson, a local book designer. He then dealt with all the stuff needed to get the book printed and also online. Thank you, Lenny.

So you can get this new version locally at Diamond Brand Outdoors, Jus’ Running, and in the Blue Ridge Parkway stores. Les Love, a CMC member, is our informal distributor. Thanks to Les for getting the book in stores.

And yes, it’s available on Amazon. And wherever you bought the book, please put a review on Amazon. Thank you!

View from A.T.

Revisiting a section of the Appalachian Trail

Beth at Devils Fork Gap
Beth at Devils Fork Gap

Trails change constantly.

Nowhere is this truer than on the Appalachian Trail. For years, Lenny and I have maintained a piece of the A.T. from Devils Fork Gap to Rice Gap on the North Carolina/Tennessee border.

We went up there at least four times a year to clip, clean and paint blazes. I have blogged and written about  tr ail maintenance so many times.

Yesterday, Beth R. and I walked the A.T from Devils Fork to Rice Gap  and back to see what had happened to it. It was not the same. As we went over a stile after we parked, we saw the first sign for trail magic.

“Call me to stay  in a hostel for free”,  the sign said. Now there are plenty of places that offer this kind of hospitality. But never before on this section?

Hikers Paradise
Hikers Paradise

The next sign was for the Hiker Paradise on Rector Laurel Rd. This turned out to be a pizza and soda pop place. We saw quite a few hikers on the trail yesterday, but none at the snack bar.

More signs about losing local dogs who prefer to follow hikers.

Wow! After years of benign disinterest, Flag Pond, Tennessee residents have discovered that they live close to the A.T. and that they might make good use of it.

While we were maintaining the trail, we had tried to clear the A.T. of two fallen-down cabin parts. We removed a toilet and a couple of cabinet pieces but couldn’t handle the old beams. Somehow the current maintainers managed to get rid of those pieces – good for them.


The US Forest Service had opened a wildlife management cut about ten years ago. But they never kept it up and trees and bushes are now threatening to cover up the view again.

Not too many flowers until we got over Frozen Knob, the high point.

Once we started down to Rice Gap, the trail was lush with blooming spiderworts and firepinks and white budding flowers that I couldn’t recognize.

The latter may have been doll’s eyes, white baneberry, without the eyes yet. It’s not easy to recognize this plant unless it has the dark central spot, the eye.

I got to keep track of that plant before the eyes come out. I never saw this flower before. Another change on this section.