Posts Tagged With: MST

Backpacking in the Smokies and Ashevile, Part I

In mid-October, Andrew and I look a well-deserved vacation.  We had been overwhelmed with work, re-planning the thru-hike, and starting to plan our wedding.  So when our trip rolled around, we were thrilled.

We had this awesome 4-day, 3-night trip planned through the Smokies, starting in Smokemont.  Andrew LOVES the Smokies; one of his internships in college was trail maintenance in the Smokies.  I have never been backpacking up there.  So we were REALLY looking forward to it!  In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, campers are required to obtain backcountry permits, and are required to reserve campsites and shelters.  This helps to alleviate overcrowding at campsites and shelters.  We had to re-plan our trip a little bit because we waited too late to reserve our shelters, and the one we wanted one night was already full!  The re-route did mean we got to spend part of our trip on a section of the MST, which we always love!

So, our trip – we went into the Smokies at Smokemont, and reserved site 50 (Chasteen Creek) for the first night.  It was just over 1 mile hike in, which is what we needed after a long drive across the state.  The second night, we reserved Kephart Shelter.  Our last night we had campsite 52 (Newton Bald).  All of the backcountry sites in the park have a bear cable retention system installed – which makes hanging a bear bag very easy!


Ready to hit the trail!

So we got into the park a little later than we had hoped – good thing we planned ahead and had a short hike into the first campsite!  The hike into our first campsite was quick, and we still had enough daylight to set up our tent and shelter before it got dark.  We took our MSR Nook again – our second trip using it.  Setting it up on this trip was MUCH smoother than on the last one.  We also used the Twing again.  Now, you may recall that the waterproofing failed on our Twing on the last trip.  There wasn’t any rain in the forecast, but the Twing gives us a sheltered place to store gear, stay warm while we’re eating (it traps body heat and heat from cooking), and it distributes light from our lantern well.  So we set it up again.  We also took our new Gravityworks water filter for a spin.  This setup rocks!  I love being able to let it filter water while I go about other tasks setting up camp (review coming soon!).

I have never used the Bear Cable Retention System, so I was glad to have enough daylight to check it out.  If you’ve never used it before, the Bear Cable Retention System is AWESOME!  They have a cable strung between two trees, at the ideal height to protect from bears.  There are steel cables with hooks and pulleys hanging down.  So you can hook your entire pack into a hanging table, pull it up into the air, and clip into an adjoining tree.  It is strong enough to hold a pack, and a bear can’t chew or rip through the metal cables.  Genius!


Our camp the first night

The first night was VERY cold.  Andrew and I were both in our 35-degree sleeping bags and fully dressed, but it got into the low 30s that night.  I didn’t sleep much the first night because I was so cold.  My feet get very cold, and this night was no different – 2 pairs of socks and chemical foot warmers and my feet were STILL cold.  I had been thinking about adding a pair of down booties to my kit, and this confirmed it!

The second day we hiked from Chasteen Creek Camp to Kephart Shelter – 8.5 miles.  The 3 miles up Dry Sluice Gap were brutal.  You may recall that I had some severe Achilles pain on our last backpacking trip on the Neusiok Trail.  Well… the up and down of this trail re-inflamed that pain.  Every up step hurt my heel, and every down step hurt my knees.  I was SO relieved when we got to Kephart and I was able to take off my shoes!

Alright y’all… check back in a couple days for Part II of this trip.


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Finally Paddled the Canoe!

For those of you who don’t know – Andrew and I help to organize GetExporing! Greenville, a free Meetup group here in Greenville.  The aim of the group is to get people outside more.  The group is open to beginners and advanced explorers alike, and we are no drop!  We host primarily paddling, cycling, and hiking events.  If you’re in Greenville, check out the site here and come explore with us:

This past Saturday, Andrew and I led a paddle at Dismal Swamp State Park.  The park has over 20 miles of canal open to paddling (as well as hiking/cycling trails, a paved cycling path, a very educational visitor center, and an orienteering course).  The canals were originally dug by slaves with the intent to drain the swamp and use the land for agriculture.  The land wasn’t suitable for agriculture, so it was heavily forested.  Now, the trees are back and we get to enjoy the beauty of the area.

We planned to paddle 3 miles up the main canal, then around one of the side canals and back to the boat launch – for a total of about 8 miles.  The radar showed that we had about 3 hours after we started until storms started to roll in.  The area is prone to severe lightning, so we wanted to be sure we were off the water by that time.  The canal was pretty wide, and the water was very calm.  The main canal is open to all kinds of boat traffic, so several times we had to pull over to the side to let a much larger boat pass.  We did have some rain while we were paddling, but thankfully no storms!  We had trouble finding the side canal we planned to paddle, so we ended up just paddling 6 miles – to the end of the State Park on the main canal and back to the visitor center.

Andrew and I chose to paddle the new canoe (obviously!).  This was the first chance we’ve had to get the canoe in the water.  It paddled so well!  It is a little bit heavy to paddle solo, but moved beautifully with two paddlers.  Andrew is a much more experienced canoeist than I am, so I am looking forward to spending more time on the water this spring and summer to learn to paddle better!

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New Sponsor!

Exciting news!  We have been planning on printing custom cycling jerseys and tech tees for this thru-hike. In addition to wearing these jerseys ourselves for the duration of our trip, we’ll be selling them.  Proceeds from the sale of the jerseys will go to Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  So you’ll get a cool jersey, and support a great cause!  We will post the jersey design when we get it finalized.  We’ll also keep you all posted about ordering jerseys or tees if you’re interested!

We are partnering with Ride Fast Gear to make this happen!  Ride Fast is a GREAT company – based right here in NC!  They print custom jerseys, cycling shorts, tech tees, you name it!  They have no minimum quantity, and have been a joy to work with so far.  Check them out here:

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Another New Ride!

Since Andrew and I decided to go on this adventure, we have been debating what kind of boat to take on the paddle portion of the trip.  We didn’t own tripping kayaks or a canoe, so we would purchase whichever one we decided to use.  The benefit of a kayak would be speed and comfort.  I am much more used to paddling kayaks, and it would be a faster, more maneuverable boat.  The BIG downside is storage.  It has been difficult to find kayaks that are maneuverable enough for the river we’re paddling and have enough storage for 8 days.  We discussed tandem vs solo kayaks – and for storage space we would have to paddle solo.  Canoes are a little bit slower and more maneuverable, but they are workhorses; they could carry all the gear we need plus some.  Plus, Andrew has a soft spot for canoes.

We settled on a canoe.  We’re paddling the Neuse River – which runs through Eastern NC.  There are a lot of farms in the region, so we worry about filtering water that is full of run-off from pig farms.  So we plan to carry our water with us.  This is the primary reason we opted for the canoe – the storage capacity.

Well, this past week we purchased our canoe!  We bought a Mar River Explorer 15 RX.  It is a 15ft canoe with a moderate rocker and shallow-v hull.  And we found one made of Royalex!  A moderate rocker will allow it to cut through waves/rapids easier.  The shallow-v hull will make it faster and more maneuverable.  The Royalex material is lightweight and durable, but isn’t made any more.  The canoe we purchased is a 2012 boat, but we found one that had never been used.  We have a few modifications to make – adding kneeling pads, re-mounting the seats, adding skid plates to the bow and stern, and adding deck rigging for storage nets.

We also purchased Bending Branches Expedition Plus paddles to go with it.  They’re wooden paddles, with a rockguard that extends 6-inches up the shaft and a fiberglass-reinforced blade.  Plus they’re pretty 🙂

Just to make it a week full of paddlesports – we went to a kayak roll session at ECU.  I got in a whitewater boat for the first time – and learned how to wet exit and started learning my hip snap (the first step to rolling a kayak).  Andrew was test paddling a play boat a friend of his is selling.  He decided to purchase that as well – so now we have a whitewater boat to go with our canoe.  With the weather warming up, we should have some good days of paddling ahead of us!


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Updated Itinerary, Clingmans Dome to Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC

One of the things that makes the Mountains-to-Sea Trail unique is that it is still being developed.  Each year, Friends of the MST adds several miles of trail to move the route off back roads.  Because we had to delay the hike by a year, we had to look at the changes to the route and re-work part of our itinerary.  Just like last year, we’ll post our itinerary in sections.

The MST was originally divided into 38 sections by Allen de Hart, the brains behind the trail.  The FMST is still using these sections to describe the trail.  The sections average out to around 27 miles each, although they aren’t all the same length.  The route from Clingmans Dome to the Folk Art Center in Asheville, NC covers sections 1-7.  This route has 2 options.  We’re opting for the southern route (the black line on the map) along the Tuckaseegee River because this is the route FMST would like the MST to take eventually.  This plan is exactly that – a plan.  It is important for us to be flexible along the way when something inevitable happens that we aren’t expecting.

So, here is the itinerary for the first 7 sections (Clingmans Dome to Folk Art Center in Asheville, 134 miles):

Friday September 18, 2015 – Day 1 (10.72 miles)

Begin hike at Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP)

Camp at GSMNP Camp #54

Saturday September 19, 2015 – Day 2 (9.38 miles)

Camp at Deep Creek Campground

Sunday September 20, 2015 – Day 3 (13.9 miles)


Camp at Tuckaseegee Outfitters in Whittier, NC

Monday September 21, 2015 – Day 4 (10.1 miles)

Pass through Dillsboro and Sylva, Resupply #1

Camp at Pinnacle Park, Sylva, NC

Tuesday September 22, 2015 – Day 5 (20.36 miles)

Enter Nantahala National Forest

Camp at National Forest campsite (1st site in Nantahala National Forest)

Wednesday September 23, 2015 – Day 6 (17.42 miles)

Enter Pisgah National Forest and Middle Prong Wilderness

Camp at National Forest campsite (3rd site in Middle Prong Wilderness)

Thursday September 24, 2015 – Day 7 (19.64 miles)

Camp along the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)

Friday September 25, 2015 – Day 8 (15.43 miles)

Trail begins to parallel Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)

Camp at Lake Powhatan Campground

Saturday September 26, 2015 – Day 9 (14.8 miles)

Resupply #2 in Arden, NC, Mail Drop #1 in Asheville (28803)

Get off trail at US-74A, find a friend to stay with for the night

MST Sections 1-7

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We’re Back At It!

First is first… we’re SO SORRY for the radio silence the last 6 months!  A lot of big changes have been happening for us – we’re both started new jobs (Lindsey as general manager and Andrew as footwear lead at Great Outdoor Provision Co in Greenville, NC), moved to a new city, and had to delay the big adventure.

We focused on the new jobs and triathlon training this summer, which didn’t leave much time for preparing for the thru-hike.  But race season is almost over (one more race – Goose Creek Trail Race November 15), and its time to start focusing on our hike preparations again.  We’re still working on getting sponsorships to collect those last pieces of gear we need.

And we’ve FINALLY settled on our wheels for the trip.  For a while, we were going back and forth between riding our road bikes or finding a tandem touring bike to use.  Well, we finally settled the debate last week, when we lucked onto this beauty listed on Craigslist:


Yes, thats right – we finally found a tandem touring bike that fits us!  It is a mid-1990s Trek T50, and is in great shape.  We will need to do a little bit of work – replacing the seats and pedals, adding racks and panniers, and it needs a good tune-up.  We’ve been commuting to work this week and loving every minute of it.

So we’re back to making progress toward collecting our gear.  Hopefully I’ll be better about posting regularly – I know you guys are as excited to read about our preparations as we are to go through them!

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Exciting Partnerships

Guys, I have a really exciting announcement!

As we’ve been working on planning the thru-hike, we’ve been trying to think of ways to give back to the trail community.  We are getting most of our hike sponsored, so we want to pay it forward.  We also want to raise awareness about the trail and get people outside.

We LOVE yoga. We strongly believe in the healing powers of yoga.  We also use yoga to train for other sports that we enjoy.  We practice together almost every night.

So what better way for us to give a unique gift to the trail community than to use yoga to raise money?!

We’re are very excited to announce that we will be partnering with Sage Rountree to raise money for Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (FMST) as Carrboro Yoga Company‘s fall Karma Connection.  The proceeds from the three donation-based classes in September, October, and November will be donated to FMST.  We will be attending the October 19 class and will speak about the trail and our hike.  Townsend Bertram has donated an awesome prize package from their rental program – gear for a weekend away for 2 people (a tent, 2 sleeping bags, 2 sleeping pads, and 2 packs), a $150 value – that we’ll be giving away at the October 19 class.

We are also excited to announce that we’ll be partnering with Anna Levesque of Girls At Play to hold a donation-based restorative yoga practice at a Blue Ridge Parkway scenic overlook in Asheville.  We’re still hashing out the details of this event, we’ll post them as soon as we figure them out.

We hope we’ll see you at one of these events!

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MST Month

May is MST Month!  Thats a whole month dedicated to the trail we’re so excited about hiking this fall.  There are plenty of ways you can celebrate MST Month.  My hiking group will be hosting 4 hikes on the trail this month – Basin Cove to Devil’s Garden, Jumpinoff Rock to Sheets Gap, Harper Creek Wilderness, and the Tanawha Trail.  Great Outdoor Provision Co is raising money for FMST by selling raffle tickets all month long.  If you’ve been thinking about volunteering for FMST, what better time to start than now!  The trail is built and maintained primarily by volunteers.  For more information, see their website.

Some fun facts about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail:

  • The MST was named “Best Thru-Hike You’ve Never Heard Of” by Outside Magazine in 2011
  • The trail is 1000 miles long and traverses both the highest peak east of the Rockies (Mount Mitchell) and the highest sand dune on the east coast (Jockey’s Ridge)
  • The MST travels along the AT for several miles at the beginning of the trail
  • The MST passes through 3 national parks, 3 national forests, and 7 state parks
  • In the coastal section, the trail utilizes 3 ferry rides and passes 3 lighthouses

No matter how you choose to get involved – volunteering, hiking, donating – make May the time you finally check out the Mountains-to-Sea Trail!

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MST Itinerary, part 2

We’re planning and posting the itinerary for our hike in stages.  If you’re looking for Part 1 (Sections 1-7), look here.  Just like the first part we posted, these sections will all be on foot.  We’ll switch to out bikes just after this section!

Here’s the itinerary for the next 11 sections of the trail (Folk Art Center in Asheville to Stone Mountain State Park, 214 miles):

September 29, 2014 – Day 11 (16.83 miles)

Get off trail at Potato Field Gap on BRP, find someone to stay with for the night (Asheville)

September 30, 2014 – Day 12 (10 miles)

Leave Asheville, hike out along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Camp in Pisgah National Forest campsite

October 1, 2014 – Day 13 (11.22 miles)

Enter Mount Mitchell State Park

Camp at Mount Mitchell SP backcountry site

October 2, 2014 – Day 14 (16.14 miles)

Enter Pisgah National Forest, resupply #3 in Marion

Camp in Pisgah National Forest campsite

October 3, 2014 – Day 15 (15.95 miles)

Enter Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

Camp at Linville campsite

October 4, 2014 – Day 16 (8.86 miles)

Camp at Linville campsite

October 5, 2014 – Day 17 (13.36 miles)

Enter Pisgah National Forest

Camp at Pisgah National Forest campsite

October 6, 2014 – Day 18 (15.01 miles)

Camp at Pisgah National Forest campsite

October 7, 2014 – Day 19 (13.93 miles)

Pass Grandfather Mountain, hike along Tanawha Trail

Camp at private property available for MST thru-hikers to use

October 9, 2014 – Day 20 (13.73 miles)

Resupply #4 in Linville

Camp along Tanawha Trail

October 10, 2014 – Day 21 (10.18 miles)

Resupply #5 in Boone/Blowing Rock

Leave trail at 221/321 intersection, find someone to stay with (Boone, Blowing Rock)

October 11, 2014 – Day 22 (22.53 miles)

Camp at private property available for MST thru-hikers to use

October 12, 2014 – Day 23 (8.61 miles)

Camp at private property available for MST thru-hikers to use

October 13, 2014 – Day 24 (11.56 miles)

Camp at private property available for MST thru-hikers to use

October 14, 2014 – Day 25 (13.04 miles)

Camp at Doughton Park RV Campground

October 15, 2014 – Day 26 (9.7 miles)

Enter Stone Mountain State Park

Camp at Stone Mountain SP Campground

Screen shot 2014-04-20 at 8.30.18 PM


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MST Itinerary, part 1

For those of you who aren’t familiar with how long trails like this are laid out, the distance is divided into sections (38 on the MST).  Sections can signify terrain or park changes, state lines, etc.  Describing a trail by sections can make talking about the trail easier – I can ask someone a question about section 5 instead of having to try to describe that section.  The 38 sections of the MST were devised by the trail planners and were described in the first book to be written about the MST.  They just stuck after that.

These sections aren’t all the same distance (~27 miles).  They are divided by landmarks of some sort.  These can be park boundaries, ferries, crossroads, anything that seemed to Allen de Hart like a significant change.

In creating this itinerary, we’re thinking of the trail in these sections.  The places we’ve chosen to change media (switching from hiking to biking, for example) are at section boundaries.  We’re relying on information on the Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail Website and on “The ‘Thru-Hiker’s Manual’ for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail across North Carolina” by Scot TABA Ward.  Ward has hiked the MST 5 times, and his book basically lays out turn-by-turn directions for thru hiking.  We’ve chosen to vary from his path in a few places, opting for alternate routes with more camping opportunities.  Many of the campsites don’t have names or numbers, so they’re identified by mile marker or by outstanding feature.  You’ll see a lot of businesses and private residences listed as places we’re camping.  There in Ward’s book there is a directory of people and businesses who are generous enough to let thru-hikers camp on their property.  A thru-hike at this stage in the trail’s development wouldn’t be possible without these Trail Angels, so THANKS!

This is our ideal itinerary.  We can prepare from now until judgement day, and we’ll still have things happen along the trail we haven’t accounted for here.  We will, of course, post changes as they happen along the trail!


So, here is the itinerary for the first 7 sections (Clingmans Dome to Folk Art Center in Asheville, 134 miles):

September 19, 2014 – Day 1 (8.34 miles)

Begin hike at Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP)

Camp at GSMNP Camp #53

September 20, 2014 – Day 2 (8.06 miles)

Camp at GSMNP Camp #60

September 21, 2014 – Day 3 (17.6 miles)


Camp at Tuckaseegee Outfitters, Whittier, NC

September 22, 2014 – Day 4 (10.1 miles)

Pass through Dillsboro and Sylva, Resupply #1

Camp at Pinnacle Park, Sylva, NC

September 23, 2014 – Day 5 (20.36 miles)

Enter Nantahala National Forest

Camp at National Forest campsite (1st site in Nantahala National Forest)

September 24, 2014 – Day 6 (16.48 miles)

Enter Pisgah National Forest and Middle Prong Wilderness

Camp at National Forest campsite (1st site in Middle Prong Wilderness)

September 25, 2014 – Day 7 (10.79 miles)

Camp at Graveyard Fields (NFS site)

September 26, 2014 – Day 8 (12.27 miles)

Trail begins to parallel Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)

Camp at Mount Pisgah Campground

September 27, 2014 – Day 9 (12.95 miles)

Camp at Lake Powhatan Campground

September 28, 2014 – Day 10 (14.8 miles)

Resupply #2 in Arden, NC, Mail Drop #1 in Asheville (28803)

Get off trail at US-74A, find a friend to stay with for the night

MST Sections 1-7

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