MST in a Day Encourages Islanders to Take a Break, and Take a Hike
By SARAH ALLMAN
During such a busy season on Hatteras Island, it
can leave little time to stop and enjoy the surrounding majesty of
nature. There is so much beauty to take in, yet our schedules often do
not allow us to pause and enjoy it. On September 9, 2017, however, the
Hatteras Island community will have the opportunity to participate in a
statewide event encouraging the slow intake of all the wondrous views
that North Carolina has to offer. The Mountain to Sea Trail in a Day
event is intended to “engage hundreds of hikers and paddlers in a fun
event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the MST,” according to Jerry
Barker, mastermind behind the event.
On September 9, 1977, Howard Lee, then the NC
Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development, inspired his
audience of NC citizens to construct a trail running the length of the
state. On that day, he dreamed that the trail would stretch from the
mountains of North Carolina to the coast “leading through communities
as well as natural areas.”
Now forty years later, his dream is being honored
by the Mountain to Sea Trail in a Day event hosted by the Friends of
the Mountain to Sea Trail. The MST officially became a part of the NC
State Parks in 2000, and is unique in its 1,175 mile long path through
36 different counties. The trail begins at Clingsman Dome in the Smokey
Mountains and ends at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in the Outer Banks,
making its way through rural countryside, lush forests, and coastal
swamps along the way.
In order to commemorate Lee’s speech, the Friends
of the MST are asking the public to complete each of the 301 legs of
the trail on the day of the event. Each leg is approximately 3-5 miles
long and varies in difficulty from easy to very strenuous.
Participation in the event is simple: hikers must sign up at https://mountainstoseatrail.org/mstinaday/,
hike their designated leg on the day of the event, take pictures of
their hike, and let their segment leader know when they have completed
their leg. Lee himself, now 83 years old, is even signed up to hike a
leg of the trail.
Segment 18 of the MST, which begins at the Cedar
Island Ferry in Atlantic, NC and ends at Jockey’s Ridge State Park in
Nags Head, NC is made up of 20 legs altogether. All of the legs of the
trail on Hatteras Island are classified as easy, with the longest being
6.6 miles and the shortest 1.9 miles. Two legs include ferry rides and
many others involve walking on the beach.
This section of trail which runs through Hatteras
Island is particularly unique because, according to Barker, it includes
the “most extensive and remote beach walking” as well as three
lighthouses, various shorebird species, and the east coast’s tallest
There are lots of opportunities to get involved
in the MST in a Day event on Hatteras Island. 17 legs of segment 18 are
covered so far within meetup.com, with legs 4 (from the ferry docks to
the bath houses), 5 (from the bath houses to Frisco Campground), and 8
(from Canadian Hole to Avon Pier) still without any committed hikers.
There is also only one hiker signed up on 6 segments of the trail
whereas the Friends of the MST would like to have at least 2 hikers
committed to each leg.
Participation in the event is free, but donations
are certainly encouraged. Donations go to maintaining the trail as well
as adding more sections to the existing 700 miles of trail. Donating
just $35 warrants a 1-year membership in Friends of the MST with
benefits such as invitations to special events and a 10% discount on
There are currently about 700 people signed up
statewide to hike the MST on the day of the event, with 75% of the
trail covered and a month to go. The Friends of the MST encourage
hikers to sign up for more than one leg if possible. Hikers can
complete their leg at any convenient time on the day of the event,
although the morning is recommended in order to avoid the heat. Hikers
should also be cautious on sections of trail which follow the road.
There will be a post-hike celebration at Jockey’s
Ridge at 2 p.m. on the day of the event complete with cake, treats, and
participant medals. Addresses from Dave Hallac, NPS superintendent, and
a representative from the event are to follow.
If you are interested in participating in the event or have any questions you can visit the https://mountainstoseatrail.org/ or https://mountainstoseatrail.org/mstinaday/. Go to “Planning your Hike” for trail information, or to sign for a leg of the trail.
Segment 18: The Outer Banks Highlights Include:
- Ocracoke Village, a quaint and quiet town at the western end of the segment
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore, encompassing the beaches for nearly the entire segment
- The Ocracoke pony pens, which hold the descendants of a horse herd that once roamed on the island
- The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, which tells the story of the over 2,000 shipwrecks off the coast of North Carolina
- The Open Ponds Trail, a sandy track through maritime forest near Buxton Woods
- Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, at 208 feet
the tallest brick lighthouse in North America, and the most recognized
symbol of the Outer Banks. It is open for climbing in the summer.
- The historic Chicamacomico Life-Saving
Station, the original site of the forerunners to the U.S. Coast Guard,
which is now a museum
- Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a renowned haven for waterfowl, especially in the winter
- The historic Oregon Inlet Life-Saving Station
- Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, a
1,000-foot fishing pier originally built in 1939 and reconstructed
several times, most recently in 2011, which is now part of the North
- Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the largest and highest dune complex in the eastern United States