Newest adventure awaits: The Mountain-to-Sea Trail

Mountain-to-Sea Trail: a simple footpath stretching almost 1,000 miles across North Carolina from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks.

Hear ye, hear ye. I’ve decided to finally get off my lazy butt and do something physical again. In case you’ve never read my dribble before, hi! In 2013 I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. I reached the northern terminus, Mount Katahdin, on September 18 and promptly decided to never exercise again for the rest of my life. Not to be boastful or anything, but I think I’ve been doing a bang-up job of reaching that goal, if I do say so myself.

For five months I’ve been more or less sitting around gaining weight. A good amount of that time has been devoted to drafting (and re-drafting) a book on my A.T. thru hike. I even thought to set up the laptop in the kitchen so that I could be closer to food for inevitable moments of anxiety during the writing process. What can I say? I’m a natural. Once I finished the initial manuscript, I passed it onto several people for feedback. I’m currently in the middle of this iterative process, having revised twice and sent the most recent version for further review.

In the meantime, I’ve diligently stalked my hiking friends on Facebook. Some people are planning other long distance hikes (the Pacific Crest Trail is a popular goal); others are still out there hiking (the 1,000 mile long Florida Trail is “in season” right now). I promised myself that I wouldn’t do a thru hike in 2014 since my body was wrecked from the challenges of the A.T. trek. However, as the A.T. thru hiking season begins, it’s hard not to dream about a long walk. I thought about doing a section hike on the A.T., but then I looked at the recurring wintry forecast in the mountains and changed my mind.

Instead, I’ve set my sights on the Mountain-to-Sea Trail (MST) in North Carolina. The MST meanders about 950 miles east to west across the state, from the barrier islands of the Outer Banks all the way to the Smoky Mountains. Starting at the Atlantic Ocean should alleviate any concerns over running into the Abominable Snowman. About half of the trail is actually completed; the other half is temporarily routed on biking paths and back roads.


As far as I can tell, the trail runs through more small towns than the A.T. On the one hand, this means more opportunity for resupply and less of a need to carry many days’ worth of food. On the other hand, it creates a logistical challenge as far as finding camping spots. Luckily, Mr. Scot “TABA” Ward, who has hiked the trail four (five?) times, created a guide called, “The Thru-Hiker’s Manual for the Mountain-to-Sea Trail of North Carolina” (see link). This book provides information relevant to thru hikers such as where to find water, resupply, and camp. Understanding the limited options on sections of road walk, it includes fifty churches and private residences along the way that have agreed to let hikers camp on their property.

I plan to start in the first or second week of March, which I realize is approaching rapidly. I should be busy planning out potential resupply locations and sifting through my gear, but instead I’ve been contemplating whether I should wear a new hiking shirt or just stick with the one that already has a hole in it (thoughts?).

Truth be told, I’m not sure that I’m going to hike the whole trail. With so much road walking and a trail community and tradition not as well established as the A.T. (the Friends of the MST website has recorded only 42 thru hikes to date, many of them with vehicle support and/or the aid of bicycles), I may not find it as rewarding. I just know that walking in circles around my neighborhood is driving me batty, so I’m going to go for a longer walk in hopes of finding inspiration. I plan to start out slowly despite the flat terrain since I’m incredibly out of shape and my right foot is still at times sore as a result of the AT trek. I also want to get into the habit of reading and writing more on this trek (i.e. intellectual pursuits), which I completely neglected on the A.T. If that means putting in fewer miles and ultimately not getting as far, then so be it.

Of course, as ever, reader interest and encouragement will help keep me motivated. No pressure…unless you want to see me fail. (I’m joking. How could I fail if I don’t actually have a firm goal? I just meant I’d love for you to follow along on my wayward journey, whether I make it 9.5 miles or 950.) For my part, I promise to update regularly and include lots of photos (this post notwithstanding) in an attempt to keep it interesting.

In any case, keep an eye out for a post addressing some of the changes I’m making regarding gear, resupply, and overall strategy relative to my AT thru hike. I’m going to spend the next week or two planning…as soon as I figure out which hiking shirt to wear.

Meandering on,


28 thoughts on “Newest adventure awaits: The Mountain-to-Sea Trail

  1. good for you! Treat yourself to a new shirt. 🙂 This trail sounds interesting in ways that are different from the AT – more towns and villages means more encounters with people who live in the area, which could lead to learning some interesting stories about the area you are traveling through. Flat walking sounds like it could be perfect for you this year. The ability to have more support some of the problems you faced in New England. Yet, in case you think it “too easy”, it is still 1000 miles. Or 1, depending on how it goes. 🙂
    Does this mean I need to come up with a new song list for you? 🙂

  2. Woot! Woot!! I look forward to sitting at my office desk reading about your travels… It will get me back to thinking about doing my own walk. And I would vote for new shirt… but perhaps mail yourself your old shirt somewhere in case the new one irritates…

    • Thanks for the comment! Knowing that people are interested in “joining” me in this journey truly is motivating, especially since this trail is not as well traveled as the A.T. Going it alone really has been nerve wracking since I came up with this latest idea.

  3. You write interestingly about the trail and the people…do include the run up to the trip…choices for gear and…wardrobe…? There’s a whole additional subject there in the little towns etc. Look forward to it…have missed your voice.

    • Aw, thanks! I know I dropped off the radar. It’s partly due to spending time drafting my book and partly due to a feeling that my life hasn’t been interesting enough to share. Mostly a mental game, I think. Let’s see what this new adventure does for that.

  4. Excellent to hear you’ll be hiking and blogging again. I’d vote for new shirt, too. New adventure -> new shirt. How about one of those lightweight merino wool shirts, which stay clean-feeling longer, and don’t get stinky like synthetics.

    • I’ll definitely be wearing a wool shirt. I bought three last year before my trek and still have one “fresh” one in addition to the one with a couple of holes.

    • Thanks! I know you’re ticking down the days to your trek as well. I’m not going to wish you luck. If I may, I’m going to wish you an amazing journey filled with positive experiences that outweigh the challenges because that’s what lies ahead for you; I’m sure of it. If you’d like, I’d be happy to email you my phone number in case you ever need to talk to someone who can relate or need some encouragement. Just let me know.

      • So weird – 19 days now. No, wait, it’s midnight! 18! And thank you for your wishes. I’ve left most of the fear behind now, and am just so excited. I will probably need some encouragement, though – that would be great!

  5. Good luck! I’ve hiked part of that trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway here in Asheville. For future long distance hikes, if you have any interest in crossing the Atlantic, I highly recommend the Camino. 500 miles from St Jean to Santiago, but I’d go from LePuy if i were you (it’s quite a bit longer).

    • My mom and I were just talking about the Camino. It sounds like a great one. Might have to wait to see if I can get my book published and make a few pennies on it before committing to crossing the Atlantic, though.

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