Trailblazing North Carolina From The Mountains To The Sea

The News and Observers made it official today. The trailblazing begins...North Carolina will soon have a trail from the Mountains to the Sea. Check out the article below by Wade Rawlins who is covering a series of articles in the N&O.
Trail begins stretching across state
After decades of planning and perspiring, a 900-mile trail from Smokies to the shore takes shape
Wade Rawlins, Staff WriterComment on this story
GLENDALE SPRINGS - Following a line of orange surveyor flags, a half dozen volunteers use pickaxes and rakes to claw a narrow hiking trail along a wooded mountain slope near the Blue Ridge Parkway. The freshly turned dirt looks moistly dark and inviting to walk.
It's a long way from this breezy Appalachian mountainside to the sandy flanks of Jockey's Ridge, but one day, mile-by-mile, the two points will be connected as North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail edges closer to fulfilling its name.

Jim Hallsey, who helped envision the trail three decades ago as a state parks planner, is one of the trailblazers, wielding a pickax instead of the No. 2 pencil he once used to sketch the proposed corridor on a state map.

It's a lucky man who gets to chart an ambitious dream such as a 900-plus-mile hiking trail from the Smokies to the Outer Banks -- luckier still if 30 years later he gets to help realize that vision with his own hands.

Hallsey's crew of volunteers, who work one Saturday a month in Ashe County, are part of a dedicated group of trail builders who have quietly but steadily forged a footpath that connects the state from one end to the other.

"It captures the imagination of people who find peace and renewal in the out-of-doors and are sparked with the idea of being part of something bigger than they are," he says.

Meandering from the Smokies to the Outer Banks through 37 counties, the trail features some of North Carolina's most stunning landscapes: waterfalls, a gorge, three national parks, two wilderness areas and two bird-rich wildlife refuges.

"I like the real variety it has, mountains, foothills, swamps, beach," says hiker Scot "Taba" Ward, 33, of Palm Beach, Fla., who began the cross-state hike in late May. "It has a little bit of everything."

About 485 miles of trail have been completed, primarily in Western North Carolina. The remaining route follows roads. Much labor remains, as do the challenges of piecing together land amid the competing interests of development. After years of struggling, the trail has gained fresh legs, demonstrating how a hiking path gets built in the 21st century.

Connecting the paths

For the first time this spring, state parks leaders committed money to buy roughly 1,000 acres to help bridge gaps in the footpath across the Piedmont. Crews are approaching another milestone: 500 miles of completed trail. And local governments have joined in regional planning efforts. Routes through the Triad and Triangle have gathered momentum, with construction well under way.

It's a far different era than the 1930s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps helped complete great public works projects such as the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail and 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Atop Mount Mitchell, a plaque honors the service of the Civilian Conservation Corps -- "that magnificent army of youth and peace." The group helped complete the Appalachian Trail by 1937.

Today, hiking club volunteers shoulder the lifting and digging.

The 59-mile stretch of trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway was designed by longtime trail promoter Allen de Hart to reproduce the gentle grades and straightaways of the parkway itself. "It was a mission I felt we could do as a group," de Hart says of the trail.

Volunteers with the Carolina Mountain Club, one of the state's oldest hiking clubs, have given tens of thousands of hours and built about 135 miles of trail in the western part of the state. They are currently building a 15-mile section south of Asheville.

"We have five crews that go out one day a week year-round and work on the trail," says Don Walton, a retired finance officer who serves as Mountains-to-Sea Trail coordinator for the Carolina Mountain Club.

complete story at the or (919) 829-4528

No comments: