Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a 1000 mile trail that travels from the Smokey Mountains in Western North Carolina to Jockey's Ridge on the Outer Banks. This trail traverses rocky mountaintops, dense forests, rich farmland, open roads, and sandy dunes. It includes both the tallest mountain and the tallest sand dune east of the Mississippi. However that which intrigues me most about the trail, what keeps me up at night with circling thoughts, colors my dreams, keeps my nose deep in a field guide, and my feet wandering the sections closest to my home on a daily basis...are its inhabitants, the plants.

There are parts of this trail that see enormous foot travel by day hikers, section hikers, and runners, whereas other parts are largely untraveled. However, more notably, a mere 20 people have actually hiked this trail from one end to the other, and how many of them in one continuous journey, I do not know (the Appalachian Trail has seen 1000's of thru-hikers). The reason for this most likely stems from the fact that only about 500miles of the trail are completed, traveling on established trail. The other roughly 500miles travel on country road, down sidewalk, and through urban areas. Compared to other long trails, the MST is also in its infancy, only established as a trail in '1980's. Thus the MST has not yet attracted the crowds or publicity of say the AT. However, this is its beauty. I thruhiked the AT in 2008 and the wilderness, kindness, comraderie, beauty, and pain afforded me proved previously inconceivable. However, the MST I do believe will prove to be a different animal, er trail, and one that has been little explored in its entirety.

However, what makes this hike for me, vastly different from my thru-hike on the AT is my purpose. On the AT I sought to hike. On the MST I seek to discover plants. I will walk the entire trail, including its roads, which many bike or skip altogther, for the reason that walking will allow me ample time to take in the plants that grow at my feet, sway overhead, and whose fragrances waft by my nostrils. I want to walk this trail across the varied landscape of North Carolina to see not only the beauty it has to offer, but also its food and medicine. My hope in doing so, is to increase others' awareness of the useful plants sitting (literally) right outside their doors, as well as foster a respect and appreciation for them.

I do not wish for those who follow this blog to go out the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and squander her trail edges and woods, taking the plants without heed. But rather, to use the trail as a means to get to know these plants, identify them in their own yards, woods, and other places more conducive to harvest, and put them to use. I do not advocate picking plants illegally nor mindless wildcrafting. However, I do wholey advocate embracing what abundance nature has to offer us, instead of needlessly cultivating less nutritious plants that don't really want to grow where they've been put, or spending all day at the office only to go to a grocery store in the evening and hope you can fit a hike in on the weekend. Learning about wild edible and medicinal plants can offer great practicality, self-sustainability, and opportunity for communion with nature.

So, I ask you to join me.

Join me as I share stories, pictures, and herbal knowledge from the trail. I encourage you to hike the MST and other trails or wild places by day, and read deeper by night. Let this place, both my blog and the trail, be a forum for learning about the plants, igniting curiosity, and brightening our days on this beautiful planet.


  1. What an amazing adventure Heather, I look forward to following your steps virtually and eagerly await all of your botanical discoveries and stories.

  2. hello dear heather~

    you are doing what i've been dreaming and talking about for years! frank cook planted the seed for me..i am moved to tears reading about your journey because it inspires me to re-focus and prioritize this desire...maybe i'll follow in your footsteps this fall :) thank you for sharing. if you have any time to talk before you leave, i would love to, or maybe i can meet and walk with you when you pass through the triangle...lots of plant friends to celebrate here :)

    all blessings~
    kim in pittsboro

    p.s. so grateful to juliet for posting this on facebook!

  3. Hi Kim! First off, thank you for supporting my journey. I just recently learned of Frank's hiking the trail - all the more inspiring. In some ways it is not easy to carve out the time to carry out a passion that requires such a length of time and immersion, but at the same time, it's that easy. Just have to carve it out. If the sheer thought of doing something moves you to tears, then by all means, it's worth truly doing. I would love to chat with you. Please feel free to contact me through email: heather.herbs.yoga@gmail.com and we could then connect by phone. Also, it'd be great to have a friendly fellow plant person to walk with as I pass through the triangle - you could introduce me to some of your plant friends!

  4. Just found out about the mst this past weekend and found your blog today. Must be fate. I look forward to reading about your experience and hopefully planning my own.