Starting with 790.5 miles, 93,550 ft. ascent
12 miles to the Minnesott ferry
1.5 extra from the blueberry farm to Handy Mart
Today's goal on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is clear; walking to the Minnesott Ferry which goes across the Neuse River.
It’s 12 miles from where we left off yesterday. It’s cold and wet. The rain was supposed to hold off until the afternoon but it starts raining almost as soon as we leave the church parking lot.
If you missed the sign on the photo yesterday, the New Bethlehem Original Freewill Baptist Church had a sign on its marquee:
Honk if you love Jesus
Text while driving if you want to meet him
The area is poor, rural and isolated. A hawk is perched in the trees and a bald eagle flies overhead. I can’t believe it; a bald eagle in eastern North Carolina.
Most of the fields we pass were planted in cotton and now only the stumps are left.
It turns out that the U.S. is the third largest grower of cotton after China and India. Most of the southern states grow cotton and we export almost half of the cotton we grow. These fields look small, barely worth bothering with. But they do.
The trail takes us through the town of Arapahoe, population 434; the name sounds Maori to me but Lenny says it’s really an Indian name.
Arapahoe was founded a few years after New Bern by settlers leaving the New Bern colony.
This area was settled on the old Indian trail from the big bend in the river heading west to Core Point. The community was called “Bethany Crossroads”. That Indian trail is still in use today in the form of NC 306.
In 1886 Bob Hardison and his friend Bob Bowden decided to apply to the U.S. Postal Department for a Post office to be located at “Bethany Crossroads” in Pamlico County. They filled out an application and both signed it.
When it was returned to them it was addressed to “Bob’s Town”, since there was already a “Bethany Crossroads” near Fayetteville. Neither of the Bobs liked “Bob’s Town” so they came up with a different name - Arapahoe, named after one of the Bob's horse.
Arapahoe in Pamlico County has a supermarket, a new Charter school and, of course, several churches.
It looks like they closed their conventional school and replaced it with a charter school. The picture is of their closed school building.
NC 306, the main road, is one lane today because the community's water pipes are being upgraded. These utility guys look bored so I can’t resist telling them about the MST.
Arapahoe flows right into Minnesott Beach, the last town before the ferry.
Minnesott Beach is located at the site of an old Indian settlement which was thought to be one of the largest Indian trading centers in the South Atlantic states.
The city fathers recognize that their time is past. Here's what they say on their website:
Back in the 1930s through 1950s, in our heyday, we were a thriving vacation destination. Today we have settled into a quiet golfing, sailing, and retirement community which offers an 18-hole golf course, marina, and world class boys' camp.
We pass the entrance to the subdivision. It looks quite upmarket. I wonder what kind of people it attracts. It is so far from any services or entertainment.
We reach the ferry landing and have our picnic lunch there. There are a few picnic tables under cover, which is good since it is cold and wet. Several cars are waiting in line. A ferry comes in and quickly goes back out. Right now the ferry is free, though it is supposed to start charging next month.
We go in the ferry building and talk to the guy in the office. He hasn’t heard of the MST and I give him a Friends of the MTS pamphlet.
We now need to go back toward the US 17 bridge so I can walk the extra 1.5 miles east of the bridge that we checked out yesterday.
The route essentially takes us from US 17, which takes traffic off the bridge to NC 55. It doesn’t take us long to walk the back roads. We pass a blueberry farm, very dormant now.
This is Lenny’s last MST hiking day. Time for a shift change tomorrow.
Cumulative after 64 days, 804 miles, 93,550 ft. ascent
Starting with 780.5 miles, 93,550 ft. ascent
Through Reelsboro - 10.7 miles
Into New Bern - 4.1 miles
This is my ninth straight day on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. It's become so flat that I'm no longer setting my altimeter.
So far, my feet have held up well because I’m putting band-aids and moleskin on every day. My poison ivy is under control as I slather on lotions and potions on my skin.
This is the day I’m scheduled to walk on the bridge over the Neuse River. The road, US 17, is a limited access highway.
The instructions are to walk on the take-off ramp going against traffic and walk on the bridge in the space between the white line and the side of the bridge. There’s no pedestrian walkway.
Lenny and I drive separately over the bridge to place one car at the end of our section. As I go on the bridge, I keep looking at the other side. There are three lanes in each direction, with traffic going way over the 55 MPH limit.
Walking the bridge is risk taking behavior I do not need. I know that at least 20 people have done it because that’s the current number of MST completers but I’m not going to do it.
I was never one to do something because “everyone else is doing it” though on the MST “everyone else" is a small number. Though it is not technically illegal, drivers are not expecting pedestrians – it is unsafe and it has nothing to do with hiking.
This reminds me of the river crossing on the Kennebec River in Maine on the Appalachian Trail. This was a very challenging crossing that was legend. Years ago, a hiker drowned crossing the river. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy hired a boatman to ferry hikers across the river. When we crossed it in 1996, I remember it as costing five dollars. It's now free. I do not expect Friends of the MST to provide a ferry or a shuttle across the bridge. Maybe they can say that driving over the bridge or taking a taxi is OK.
When we get to our end point, at Scotts Town Rd., I tell Lenny that “I’m not doing it. If I don’t get my MST certificate because I didn't walk over the bridge, so be it, but this is crazy.”
“Are you sure? It’s Sunday morning and the quietest time.”
“I know. Let’s start at the Handy Mart on NC 55.” And we do. NC 55 is a busy four-lane road but the grassy sides are wide.
We turn on Neuse Rd., passing large tree farms owned by Weyerhauser and crossing swampy areas. An occasional car passes us.
We get to our destination - New Bethlehem Original Free Will Baptist Church -quite early so we move on to a section MST west of New Bern that I was going to do later.
Four miles on Old 70 which we do very quickly.
We can’t figure out how we would have crossed the bridge and it bothers Lenny. He wants to explore the various exits. It’s obvious how we would have gotten on the bridge but how to get off?
We drive back on the bridge and start exploring. Every time we think we have a way to get off, we end up getting back on the bridge. Back and forth, back and forth until finally Lenny sees the way. “It’s a good thing it wasn’t a toll bridge,” Lenny says.
“You can do another 1.5 miles,” he says. “I got to keep you honest.” That’s what we’re going to add to tomorrow’s agenda. We go to the Cow Cafe for a snack.
Cumulative after 63 days, 790.5 miles, 93,550 ft.
Starting with 765.2 miles, 93,400 ft. ascent
1. Norwood to Elijah Loftin Crossing
2. Into New Bern
15.3 miles, 150 ft. ascent
Today we broke up the day in two on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
It’s cold - colder than it’s been so far. I’m wearing long pants, a thermal top and a rain jacket. But the dogwood is in bloom and it’s definitely spring. The trail takes us south of Kinston. The farms seem smaller and less prosperous.
One field still has stalks of cotton which has not been plowed under.
We pass a couple of home based businesses like firearm service but there are no gas stations or shops. We arrive at our first destination before lunch time.
In New Bern
I am eager to get to New Bern.
We drive to New Bern on Old 70 and set up cars so we’ll walk much of NC 55 in New Bern and end up at the take off point for the US 17 bridge over the Neuse River.
I’ve been looking forward to New Bern for a long time. It is the largest city that the MST goes through.
New Bern was founded in 1710 and they just celebrated their 300 anniversary. The city was settled by Baron Christopher de Graffenried from Bern, Switzerland. Bern, in German, means bear. Painted bear sculptures stand all over the city.
The big attraction in New Bern is Tryon Palace. See the picture above.
The palace was the residence of the Royal Governor William Tryon. It was the capitol of the Colony of North Carolina. After the Revolutionary War, the Palace became the first capitol of the state of North Carolina.
The MST comes into New Bern via NC 55, a four-lane commercial road with fast food restaurants, a laundromat, auto repair shops and the Craven County medical complex.
We walk on the wide grassy sides and it’s not dangerous at all. Once we get into the downtown proper, the sidewalk starts. We’re in a poor, African-American neighborhood with run-down housing.
Soon we’re in the historic area with mega churches, lovely homes and a few bed and breakfasts. The MST itself doesn’t go past Tryon Palace but we turn right to see it and get our picture taken in front of the gate.
I understand that several FMST members from New Bern have proposed a new route through the city, one that would take you off NC 55. They’re concerned that the current route is too busy.
I disagree; I think that walkers should see more of the city than just lovely homes and the Palace. The current route is busy but not dangerous.
We wander around the tourist area with our packs on. The riverfront is well-done. There are several streets of restaurants, galleries and gift shops. We go into a store called The four C’s.
The woman behind the counter asks “Are you walking the MST?” Wow! That’s the first time anyone has asked me that. Then I notice that she’s carrying a pile of Scot’s MST trail guides, so she knows the trail.
There’s a Pepsi Cola store. Pepsi, first known as Brad's Drink, was created in 1898 at Bradham's Pharmacy at Middle and Pollock Streets, the tourist streets we're been exploring.
Tomorrow is the big day when we cross the Neuse River on a huge and busy bridge.
Cumulative after 62 days, 780.5 miles, 93,550 ft. ascent
Starting with 749.1 miles, 93,150 ft.
16.1 miles, 250 ft.
We always start our mornings with a bang. Today we did more than three miles the first hour. But as we take breaks, our average number of miles per hour decreases over the day. Even so, with a lot of breaks, we end up walking over 2.5 miles an hour. It’s going to be a shock to get back into the mountains.
We spend most of today’s walk going through LaGrange, population 2,844.
We walk the full length of the main street.
Most of the street consists of small houses with large porches, circa 1900. Most are well-maintained. We keep looking for a coffee shop without any luck.
Several old men are sitting in front of an electrical supply store.
If there was a coffee shop, they’d be sitting in the coffee shop, like the Chatterbox Cafe in A Prairie Home Companion.
I ask one fellow “Is there a place in town to get a cup of coffee?” He points to the Hess station, which also doubles as a Dunkin Donut shop. The coffee is pretty good and we sit on a stoop on the side of the gas station.
After we walk over US 70, we turn on Jenny Lind Rd., named after a 19th Century Swedish opera singer. But it might have been named after a local resident. Even with all the looking and discussing that we do, there’s so much that I don’t know about the area. Some I can look up but for much I need to talk to people. Very few people are outside.
The highlight is crossing the Neuse River – finally – and passing by a large swamp, complete with bald cypress. Now I really feel like I'm in the coastal plains. One of the trees on the boundary has a very small sign saying
Conservation easement boundary. North Carolina Coastal Land Trust
Now why did the sign have to be so small? I would have shouted it from the treetops.
Cumulative after 61 days, 765.2 miles, 93,400 ft. ascent
Eureka to Jason in Swamp Country
16.1 miles, 400 ft. ascent
Shift change on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail!
Kate Dixon, who has been walking with me for several days, left the trail to get back to Raleigh. Lenny came last evening and we met in Kinston. He came with fresh clothes, fresh legs and most important fresh feet. Mine have been pounding the road for five days.
This stretch of the North Carolina coastal plains is full of large, prosperous looking farms. We pass a few sad single wide trailers, probably rentals, but most houses are large and solid.
Almost everyone is flying an American flag.
As we're getting closer to the coast, the land becomes quite swampy. They drained the swamps by building canals along the side of the road. A large swath of grassy land was left between the canal and the road, making it easy to walk.
I can really understand now how swampy land is reclaimed for building and farming. Cotton and winter grasses are visible but most fields were freshly plowed.
A muskrat swims across a small pond in front of a house. We can't resist and walk over to watch it. Now we're really on private property.
The owners' dog is eyeing us but is not rushing over to us. In this stretch of the MST from Raleigh on, the dogs have been very well behaved. They may bark madly but they know their jurisdiction.
The trail leaves Wayne County and enters Greene County. There are few churches but many family cemeteries.
The most impressive is the Edmundson cemetery with its large crosses. The oldest grave that I can read is from 1779. Now some Edmundsons are raising Butterball turkeys.
We eat at Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, the most famous restaurant in the area. The food is imaginative, good and local. The service is impeccable. This is the place to try if you're in Kinston.
Cumulative after Day 60, 749.1 miles, 93,150 ft. ascent
16.1 miles, 350 ft. ascent
After our lobby day, I was eager to get back on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. This was Kate’s last day on the trail with me.
We debriefed about Land for Tomorrow lobby day. Kate knows about every North Carolina legislator – their district, where they stand on various conservation issues, their pet projects and the conservation projects that have been funded in their district.
I know that it’s what she does but it’s still impressive. She filled me in on how the NC state legislature works. We never seem to run out of things to talk about. I’m going to miss her.
Today takes us from just off Lamm Road outside of Wilson to Eureka in Wake County. We pass large farms, some in winter crop, others freshly plowed. On this trip so far, the dogs seem to be under control. Some are chained or fenced but others just know to stop at their property lines. They’ve been well trained.
One quirk of this area are the polka dot mailboxes. You really have to be house proud to live in a rural area like this. Residents must spend a lot of time on their house and gardens.
We walk through Black Creek, established 1779, population 714. Unfortunately, the railroad came through the middle of town, bisecting the main street. There’s a small grocery store, a beauty shop with a very lonely owner sitting outside with her dog. The police station is also on the main street. And of course, a huge cemetery.
We stop in their town park to eat a snack. Kate says “I bet you they got a grant from one of the trust funds.”
And that’s true. Their website says “We have received 2 park grants to make the improvements to our town park. We are very proud of our park and would like to thank the PARTF (Parks and Recreation Trust Fund) committee for their support.”
Once out of Black Creek, we have lunch on the steps of a church, watching the mating rituals of two killdeer. On the gravel, in front of us, the male is tweeting and strutting. The female comes out from behind a tree. But a pickup truck roars by and the male flies up. He seems to have disappeared. But in a few minutes, he comes back and the courting continues. We leave them alone and walk on.
Kate seems preoccupied by all the Bradford pear trees that we’re passing. Bradford pear trees grow quickly and have a ball shape. They’re popular but have lots of problems….
We get to our end point, Eureka in Wake County, population 244, close to Goldsboro. Most of the businesses are closed. There’s a coffee shop that seems to thrive at breakfast time. The mini-mart has closed its gas stations.
Kate voted today as the prettiest section. So what did Kate think of the road walking? “I’ve enjoyed it. North Carolina is so beautiful.”
Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, planned to hike with me for five days.
But in the middle of our plans, Land for Tomorrow scheduled a Lobbying Day. What could I do but go back to Raleigh with Kate? I was eager to see how this is done.
Land for Tomorrow is a coalition of environmental and conservation groups in North Carolina that lobby for fully funding all the conservation trust funds. These include the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, the Natural Heritage Trust
Fund, the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund and the Agricultural Development and
Farmland Preservation Trust. The people who showed up were experienced lobbyists from The Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, various conservation groups from all over the state like Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.
We got briefed by Debbie Crane, who works for The Nature Conservancy. The whole purpose of the day was to meet with various legislators besides our own. We were supposed to explain why conservation funding was important and helped the economy. For example,
Every dollar spent on conservation returns four dollars in the economy. Pretty good investment.
The "ask" was $50 million dollars for Clean Water and $2 million for Farmland Preservation. Two millions? That's nothing.
Still when we went to the legislators on our list, most of them moaned and groaned about the economy. "We're trying to balance the budget". But the whole conservation budget is 0.25 % of the economy. I think I have the decimal point in the right place. So they should not balance the budget by cutting out conservation funding.
Kate did most of the talking. She introduced me as a "hiker", who was hiking the trail. But most legislators were not available, even some with appointments with us. So we wrote hand-written notes saying we had stopped by. We also did a lot of waiting and talking to their assistants. We even had to wait for their assistants.
One exception was Susan Fisher, my state representative. She knew she had an appointment with us; she was on time, cheerful and very knowledgeable. She seemed interested in my MST hike. I was impressed.
A fun diversion from a busy day was an ice cream social. They had invited Maple View Farm to serve ice cream at lunch time.
Even though my feet got a rest, it was an exhausting day. We drove back to Wilson, eager for another day on the MST.
Pit Stop General Store to Shirley Rd.
15.8 miles, 300 ft. ascent
Today our Mountains-to-Sea Trek takes us into Wilson, North Carolina, or as close to Wilson that we’re going to get.
The MST starts rural with bigger farms and fewer rundown houses than the previous days. Cotton, vegetables and other crops about to be planted are in the fields.
Family cemeteries abound; some in the middle of a field under a solid oak tree, others right on the road.
Houses all show off their camellia bushes – a southern standard with big red flowers. As we turn on Lamm Rd., it turns to suburban Wilson.
Wilson is the home of Jim Hunt, former governor of North Carolina. He was governor from 1977 to 1985 and came back again from 1993 to 2001. He made education a big priority. The high school is named after him and so is part of an interstate around here.
Lamm Road passes through Wilson Corporate Park, LiveDo USA, an adult diaper company and the James Baxter Hunt Jr. high school.
We also pass by a large pond and a mansion whose windows are boarded up.
We had parked our car on the side of the road and reached it at 2:30 P.M. For some reason, we’re not having any luck finding a place to leave a car overnight so we’re moving both cars in the morning.
With all that extra time, I drove to downtown Wilson. It’s a sad few blocks that had its heyday. Bail bonding stores, a couple of gift stores, men’s flashy clothing shops and many empty storefronts.
Downtown also has the Wilson County Courthouse and a huge post office.
I drive back on Nash St. with lovely old houses, some well-kept, others not so much. But the shopping centers are thriving with all the box stores we know.
Starting with 684.9 miles, 91,700 ft. ascent
Jim Ray’s Crossroads R&R food mart to Pit Stop general store in Mt. Pleasant
16.2 miles, 400 ft. ascent
It's an unusually cool Sunday, around 41 deg., as we start out for our day on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.That's good since I'm still nursing my sunburn and blister.
The route takes us close to Zebulon, the big town here - 4,600 people - but heads down southeast toward Wilson.
First thing in the morning, we see a kingfisher, and later a great blue heron. We're starting to see swamps, now known as wetlands as we walk through Franklin and then Nash Counties. Large empty fields are about to be planted.
It's flat. Though my altimeter registers about 300 to 400 feet of ascent a day,it could just be the uplifts on the roads.
The roads are quiet because people haven't started their drive to church. A state trooper stops us and asks us about our walking.
“I saw you walking yesterday,” he says. We explain about the MST and Kate pulls out a Friends of the MST pamphlet.
“Oh yes,” he says “I saw it on PBS. But what do you do about dogs?” he asks. Very perceptive of him. It could be that only a state trooper would understand that the most dangerous aspect to what we're doing are dogs.'
"Well, I hope it's not against the law." I show him my pepper spray. He's a runner and uses it too.
This may be the only situation when I was happy to see an officer. I think they ought to know about the trail.
Churches abound here, of course. But so do small family cemeteries.
On the left is a gravestone from the Civil War, part of a small cemetery next to the road.
We pass Elizabeth Missionary Baptist Church and can hear the minister shouting his sermon. He must be pounding on the pulpit.
As we get closer to our destination, "no Slaughterhouse" signs pop up in people's yards. What is that about?
I try to ask the staff at the convenience store but they can't articulate the problem well. So here's a summary from the web, put out by the ABC-TV affiliate in Wilson.
It's a fight that has some folks fuming, one that pits a city against a county. It's all about a chicken processing plant that could be built in Nash County.
A sign with the words "No Slaughterhouse" with a circle and a slash through it sat outside the Nash county Commissioners meeting. Residents at the meeting hope it sends a clear message.
The city of Wilson is pledging $1 million dollars to oppose the chicken processing plant. A spokesman for the city says they worry what it will do to the area's watershed. They asked the Nash County Commissioners to take more time to study the project, but the Wilson spokesman says they were told no.
Carolinas Gateway Partnership Chairman Frank Harrison said officials have gone out of their way to do their due diligence on Sanderson Farms and the plants they operate, visiting sites and talking with public officials.
“With the high unemployment in our area, the community has an obligation to work to create fair-paying jobs with health insurance,” Harrison said.
Starting with 668.9 miles, 91,350 ft. ascent
Holden Rd. to R&R Food Mart
15.9 miles, 350 ft. ascent
I spent the night in Raleigh with Kate Dixon, Executive Director of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. She's going to walk on the trail with me for several days. We drive back to where I stopped yesterday outside of Wake Forest and start walking on Holden Rd.
Soon we enter the community of Youngsville (population 650). The MST takes us on the main street, past stores and restaurants. We stop in the coffee shop at about 10 A.M. We're looking for coffee and a goodie while everyone else is having a full breakfast. The coffee turns out to be so-so and the goodies are not that interesting.
We walk out of town into rural Franklin. It's a beautiful, warm Saturday, getting warmer by the minute. Serious cyclists are out in a large group, riding bike route #2, generally the same route that we're walking.
Farms, modern development and some abandoned buildings, including an old gas pump. It's advertising 30 cent/a gallon gasoline, leaded of course.
We pass Hill Ridge Farm, a recreational farm - now that's a new term for me. They offer hayrides, train rides, playlands for children. Even though they were not going to open until next month, the place seemed like a lot of fun. It would be a good place to have a birthday party or spend an afternoon with children.
The sun is getting stronger but I don't notice that my arms and legs are getting sunburned. It's their first exposure this year to so much sun. We're walking in full sun. On the road, there's no shade.
In the middle of the afternoon, we get to our end point at a gas station. After picking up the car at our starting point, we drive to tomorrow's end point at another gas station. Out of courtesy, we ask if we can leave a car here overnight.
"I wouldn't do it," the woman behind the counter said. "Car windows have been smashed in." I don't want to ask her how long ago that was. Sometimes, one incident in a safe neighborhood stands out in a person's mind more than habitual crime. So we reluctantly decide to set up both cars tomorrow. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth about the area.
We drive to our motel. I realize that I have a blister on my heel. It is much too early on the trip to have a blister. I pierce the blister, pad it well and hope not to feel it too badly tomorrow.
Cumulative after Day 57, 684.9 miles, 91,700 ft. ascent
Starting with 662.5 miles, 90,700 ft. ascent
Falls of the Neuse to Holden Rd. SR-1147
8.4 miles, 650 ft. ascent
Finally starting the Mountains-to-Sea Trail trip that I had to cancel in January. This time, it is warm and sunny as I drive to Raleigh.
But since Sharon is biking this section, I'm on my own. So for today, I worked on getting a shuttler, someone who would help put my car at the end of the section and drive me back to the beginning.
I called PaddleCreek, who rents canoes and kayaks and knows about shuttling people. I talked to Pete Farmer two weeks ago and I was a little nervous as whether he would come through. I had a picture of a 20-year old with other plans.
But I get to the store and Peter turns out to be a 60 year old plus retired Canadian who works at Paddlecreek for fun. Very reliable. If you need a shuttler, call the store and ask for Pete.
The road out of Falls Lake is steep and narrow - not a pleasant place to walk. But it doesn't last long and soon I'm in McMansion land.
If we think we have outragiously large homes in Asheville, come out to the Raleigh suburbs - Wake Forest, actually.
I pass housing development after development with their big "private" signs, threatening prosecution if you step on their property.
But one street stands out as a friendly development without any threatening signs - just a bench inviting you to sit a while.
I pass a strange barn.
Its owner asks me what I want - I seem to look official with my orange vest.
So I tell him about the MST and he starts telling me that his grandparents owned the barn at the "old homeplace". He moved it here on his land.
Then who do I see but Scot Ward, the guy who wrote the MST book that I'm following step by step. He is doing the trail for the fourth time, this time east to west. Our trails intersect on Thompson Mill Rd. He seems to be staying in a lot of private homes; contacts he made on his previous trips. Though he still carries a backpack, it doesn't sound like he's sleeping out a lot. But that's fine. The MST is not a backpacking trail.
I reach my car at about 3:30 P.M., thinking I should have done more miles. It's too early to go down to Raleigh, so I go to check out my next destination.
Cumulative after Day 56, 668.9 miles, 91,350 ft. ascent
I'm moving ever eastward on my Mountains-to-Sea Trail hike and I'm now finely attuned to beach and coastal concerns.
Here's a new expression - at least for me. Terminal groins. It sounds positively painful or gross but it's not.
Terminal groins are structures that are perpendicular to the beach. They're designed to slow the rapid fluctuations of inlet shorelines.
North Carolina Conservation Network explains the issue.
Last week, after only 15 minutes of debate, the state Senate approved a bill that would allow hardened structures on our coastline. This is not good for our beaches and it will cost the North Carolina taxpayer a pretty penny.
A decades old ban on hardened structures on our coast has enabled North Carolina's beaches to remain healthy and natural. Weakening this ban commits taxpayers to a never-ending and escalating fight against the sea.
While hardened structures may capture sand directly in front of beach mansions, they also accelerate erosion further down the beach. Once one is in place, a domino effect will likely occur as our coastline is gobbled away by these structures.
The North Carolina legislature is considering spending this money as it proposes that our state parks close two days a week. Does that make sense?
In our current budget crisis, when our legislators are considering deep cuts across the board, how do legislators explain to their constituents that they are extending a multi-million dollar bailout to wealthy beachfront homeowners?
Yesterday, I led a hike in Montreat Wilderness.
OK, so it's not really very wild but it has 2,500 acres set aside in perpetuity for hiking and exploration. Though Montreat Conference Center is private, it allows the public to visit and hike on their land.
Our first destination was Lookout Rock - see me in the top picture.
It was a good climb from Lake Susan and the group wandered all over the rocks, admiring the views and taking pictures from its edge. They were being edgy.
That is the original and true meaning of the word, edgy.
On the edge doesn't mean being nude, using four letter words or getting high. On the edge means walking on a narrow precipice or cliff. I don't have fear of heights but I have to use all my concentration to negotiate this edge until the trail widens. That is risk taking behavior, not getting drunk or sitting at home smoking or inhaling some chemical.
The media has taken the word edgy and coopted it to mean outrageous, but physically very safe, behavior. Most people don't behave outrageously. They are content to sit on their couches, eating chips and dips and watch others having behave ridiculously.
Cooking shows are now using edgy chefs. As people cook less and less, they watch more cooking shows, not realizing that all the food is prepared ahead of time.
For most walkers, including the two other people on Lookout Rock, this is the extent of their Montreat hike. But we continued on the E. Ridge Trail and Mt. Mitchell Trail to Pot Cove Gap. After lunch, we went down to the Trestle Trail and walked on the new Greybeard Trail. The switchbacks on the new trail have been beautifully graded. For that, we have the Montreat trail crew to thank.
We had wonderful views of the mountains and crossed a minor waterfall. To my surprise, we saw three young men on dirt bikes come roaring on the trail - illegally, of course. They may have thought they were edgy but they couldn't cross the small waterfall that we had crossed handily, so they turned around as soon as they could maneuver their bikes.
Below is a picture of our Carolina Mountain Club group - none under 50 and some much, much older.
I'd love to take some of these passive folks, teens and adults, alike who watch edgy reality shows and take them on a short hike, just to Lookout Rock.
Almost all would be able to get to the rock eventually. But would they enjoy it? Would they be willing to go on to a full-day hike? Or would they want to go back to their edgy show?
For all outdoor people - hikers, climbers, mountain bikers and others, I reclaim the word edgy. Let's climb a mountain and walk on its edge.
Yesterday, I attended a board meeting for the Great Smoky Mountains Association. GSMA is the nonprofit that runs the bookstores in the visitor centers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition, it also publishes many of the books, maps, pamphlets and calendars that it sells.
The organization is now building the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center, just inside the park from Cherokee. I had the privilege of getting an insider's tour before our meeting. I put on a hard hat and walked past yellow tape, half-installed exhibits and smiling construction workers.
The building is awesome and bigger than the current one. The exhibits will emphasize the cultural history of the settlers. and will feature subjects like food, crafts, farming and, yes, moonshine.
The visitor center doesn't look quite ready for visitors now. But if all goes well, there will be a grand opening for the public on Friday April 15. The time has not yet been announced. But watch this spot in the next few weeks.
Put it on your calendar.
Land for Tomorrow has sent out this action alert.
Urge NC legislators to maintain current funding levels for the conservation trust funds.
The state’s four conservation trust funds are at serious risk in current budget discussions at the General Assembly. These trust funds (Clean Water Management, NC Natural Heritage Trust Fund, Parks and Recreation and Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation) have preserved hundreds of thousands of acres of family farms, forests, stream banks, game lands, parks, greenways and scenic vistas.
If these trust funds seem very theoretical to you, note that these cuts include the NC Parks that administer our beloved state parks.
State conservation funding has already been reduced by almost 50 percent.
Key legislators are considering zeroing out funding for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) and the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund (ADFPTF). Now is not the time for further reductions. We need to keep the conservation momentum going. Please contact your legislators today and urge them to maintain current funding levels for CWMTF and ADFPTF.
You can go to their action page and fill in their form. But a well-written letter in the mail is taken much more seriously.
Five Carolina Mountain Club members will discuss the pleasures and challenges of walking all the trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
But there's no need to walk all the trails to enjoy the Smokies. Find out why the trails in the Smokies are so comfortable and fascinating to hike.
(And where can you see this car?)
This program is sponsored by Friends of the Smokies and the Trails Forever Program.
Please join us at REI Asheville
DATE: Wednesday March 9
PLACE: REI Asheville, 31 Schenck Parkway Asheville - (828) 687-0918
If the website says that the program is full, come anyway. Not everyone who signs up shows up.
Sunday Lenny and I went out to do our first maintenance walkthru on out section of the Appalachian Trail. We maintain a section from Devils Fork Gap to Rice Gap - 4.9 miles.
The day started out sunny and warm but it soon started raining. We kept discussing if we should turn back or continue. As soon as we agreed that we should turn back, the sun came out. After a while, it didn't matter. We were soaked.
Several trees had come down over the winter and several more were still there from our fall walk thru. After the fifth tree, I stopped taking notes. The Carolina Mountain Club trail crew is probably going to have to walk our whole section to deal with all the trees.
We don't have a chain saw and the crew takes care of removing large trees.
This area, like all hiking sections in the East, was settled. There's even a two-grave cemetery right on the trail. The section also has a lot of barbed wire, from its grazing days. Most of the barbed wire is still up on posts.
But I walked into some low to the ground, which was hidden by leaves. I got scratched right through my heavy Thorlo socks. Scratched but not bleeding. Should I get a tetanus shot or not?
I went to the doctor first thing on Monday morning. Even though I had had a tetanus shot six years ago, I got another one yesterday. I really couldn't argue with the PA.
This barbed wire was rusty and the remains of a large pasture. In addition, the medical advice is to get a three-in-one - tetanus, diphteria and pertussis, if you're a "senior". So I did. A trail maintenance day that ended with a shot in the arm.
Today Lenny and I are giving away our snowshoes. I feel it's a passing of an era, though he thinks he's just emptying out a closet.
We bought these snowshoes in the late 1970s when we decided to hike the winter Catskills 3500. It's a hiking challenge that involves hiking to 35 peaks that are over 3,500 ft. in the Catskills in New York State.
We hiked all the 35 peaks - part of the challenge is that four specific ones have to be hiked in winter. Then for another patch, we had to hike all of them in the winter. So we bought snowshoes and full, 10-point crampons. On most hikes, we carried them most of the way until the snow was deep enough to need them.
I continued to use them for winter hiking until we moved to Asheville. We knew that there was never enough snow here to warrant them but I felt that if I left the winter equipment in New Jersey, I'd never buy new snowshoes and go snowshoeing again. After ten years here I still haven't used them
But several Carolina Mountain Club members are driving to Roan Mountain in the middle of winter and snowshoeing there. Driving all that distance in the snow just doesn't appeal to me and I'm giving them away to someone who could use them.
But I feel sad. An era has passed.
Carolina Mountain Club has discovered the Shope Creek area of Pisgah National Forest.
On Sunday, we went on a five-mile hike through the forest.
The area is located above Riceville near the Oteen area of Asheville. If you take Riceville Rd. past the VA Hospital, turn left on Bull Gap Rd. and right on Shope Rd., you'll eventually come to a dead end. That's the beginning of the Shope section.
The area doesn't have any public parking at this time, though that's in the works eventually.
The only way we got in was because Tim Forrest, a biology professor at UNCA, had the key. Tim does entomology research in the area and he came with us. When we passed the fall above, we named it after him: Forrest Falls.
The area has certainly been lived in and is now being logged by the Forest Service. That's the cadaver of a vehicle left here, years and years ago.
The trails are mostly old roads, which in spring, is supposed to have a display of showy orchis. But the primary purpose of the area is for logging. We passed bundles of large downed logs and walked through ground flattened by the saw.
Starting with 651.7 miles, 90,200 ft. ascent
West Point on the Eno to E. Geer St.
We drive past Durham so I can put my car at the end of E. Geer St. Janet has been very helpful in finding the way to E. Geer St. in Durham, my destination.
We drop my car at the end of E. Geer St. Janet takes me to West Point on the Eno where we finished yesterday and heads home back to Asheville.
I cross N. Roxboro Rd., a very busy street with many businesses, and walk briskly. Along with the gas stations, dry cleaners and fast food restaurants, there's still empty land. No indication of who owns this land.
I turn on Monk Rd., a residential street with small, poorly kept houses. Then past massive churches, small storefront churches and new apartment complexes.
This area is so fresh that Google Maps hasn't caught up with all the new street names.
The MST goes through a public housing project where I have a snack on a bench.
This is Durham, North Carolina so public housing consists of one-story houses, not the massive projects I lived in for a while as a child in Newark, New Jersey. Children are already in school for the day so the area is quiet.
When I turn onto E. Club Blvd., I pass a huge Mobil Station on the corner, which looks like Nirvana to me. It has outside tables and a well-stocked store and grill inside. With my hiking poles and backpack, I look, well, different and a middle-age man keeps eyeing me. He turns out to be the owner.
"You must be wondering what I'm doing," I say. "I'm walking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail which goes right past your gas station. A 1,000 miles through North Carolina".
And I hand him a card. When I started the MST project, I had taken book cards from my second hiking guide and on the address part, I stuck a label which reads:
From Clingmans Dome to Jockeys Ridge State Park
Walking 1,000 miles through North Carolina
It's a cheap solution which explains the MST, and even advertises my book.
I buy a cup of coffee but the owner waves my money away. "Would you like a piece of fried chicken?" He asks.
"No, thank you." But wait until Scot comes through here again. He'll take everything you offer him.
E. Club St. holds Durham's infrastructure. I pass a firefighter academy complete with a burned brick building which they use for practice. Then onto the transfer and recycling station and the Durham County Animal Shelter.
Finally E. Geer St.
I have 4.4 miles on this road but I feel the excitement of being close to my goal. Lots of small houses, tiny churches, and random businesses.
Two guys hanging around a tire store ask me if I'm lost, then offer me a Pepsi. I pass a Hell's Angels club with a fierce looking dog behind the fence. I had been fixated about possible dog encounters on E. Geer St. but I am pleasantly surprised. The few dogs barking obsessively are behind a fence or chained. Thank You!!
I pass the "dead end" sign as the road becomes more rural. I hear someone yelling out "Jungle Jane", from the front-yard of what will turn out to be the last house on the left on E. Geer St.
Don introduces himself and asks the usual trail questions - but with a twist. When he learns that the MST starts at Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, he says "My wife's grandfather was John Davis. His house is at the Mountain Farm Museum in the Park."
"Wow! I know that name well since I volunteered at Oconaluftee Visitor Center this past year."
Don grins. "You have to meet my wife." Linda comes out. She's a lot shyer than her husband but is happy that I know all about her grandfather. Here we are outside of Durham - what are the chances of that?
He wants to show me all his history books about North Carolina. He's built a library off his garage chock full of books and memorabilia.
"You know the road ends right here," Don warns me.
"Yes, but if you walk past the road and around the fence, you'll continue on the MST. There's a trail there that goes around Falls Lake." I no longer feel foolish telling locals about trails right in their neighborhood.
A few more minutes of walking and I pass Lake Ridge Airport, a small airport, and get to my car. I take off my boots and realize how much my feet hurt. They are going to need serious attention and a rest.
Cumulative after Day 55, 662.5 miles, 90,700 ft. ascent