The North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a thousand-mile route for hikers across North Carolina, and you can get a short sample with a two-hour hike followed by a talk about the trail on Saturday, May 4 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more qualified hike leader and speaker, because Danny Bernstein has walked the entire length of the trail, and shared her experiences in a new book.
The guided 2-hour hike along the Mingus Creek Trail begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 4 at the Mingus Mill parking area, which is located on US 441 (Newfound Gap Road) about 2 miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina, and 0.5 miles north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
Saturday's hike will cover 4.4 miles round-trip, and according to a park spokesperson is "rated easy to moderate, but does have some steep uphill sections and an elevation gain of 800 feet. The trail follows the route of an old wagon road and passes through areas that were farmed in the days before the creation of the park. The hike also includes a visit to the Mingus Creek Cemetery."
Hiking participants should wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots and bring drinking water. Because weather in the Smoky Mountains can be unpredictable, a rain jacket is also highly recommended.
Talk About Mountains-to-Sea Trail Follows the Hike
Bernstein will discuss the highlights and challenges of hiking the MST, as well as share pictures, maps, and stories that will captivate the audience. Her talk will include some of the unexpected and unusual sights she encountered during her journey along the entire 1,000 miles of the trail.
The MST includes plenty of literal highlights, including Clingmans Dome in the Smokies (the highest point in the park), Mount Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Mississippi) and Jockey's Ridge State Park (the highest sand dune on the East Coast). The physical footpath is a work in progress; about half the total length is completed, with those sections linked by back roads that make a hike along the entire route quite feasible.
According to the veteran hiker, "The route takes in Fraser fir trees and pelicans, old grist and textile mills, working cotton and tobacco farms, Revolutionary War sites and two British cemeteries complete with Union Jacks. The trail is half on footpaths and half on back roads, offering experiences not only in nature but also in small towns, at historic monuments, in family cemeteries and in local shops."
This Hiker and Author Knows Her Subject
Bernstein has been a committed hiker for over 40 years, and in addition to the MST, she's completed the Appalachian Trail, all the trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and "The South Beyond 6000," an organized program for encouraging hikers to climb the forty 6,000-foot peaks in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Recognizing that "trails don't maintain themselves, so people have to do it," she also volunteers to help on the maintenance of sections of the MST and the Appalachian Trail.
If you can't catch her talk on Saturday, you can read about her experiences along the MST in her latest book, The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina: Walking a Thousand Miles through Wildness, Culture and History. Her book is available in plenty of locations, but a purchase from the Great Smoky Mountains Association will help benefit the park through the work and donations by this non-profit partner.
If you need additional details about the hike or talk on May 4, you can phone the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at (828) 497-1904.