I am excited to announce that I am headed down to North Carolina in just a couple of days for a whole week in my favorite mountains. It's always a trip, in more ways than one, to take the long drive from the northeast to Asheville. Sure, it's 12 hours long in a car...that's not fun. But its a beautiful drive, cruising along Interstate-81 between the Appalachian mountains I hiked on my first long distance trek and passing road signs for all the lil' towns I stopped off in, some I never wanted to leave and some I couldn't get out of fast enough. I usually make a point to take an exit for one of these towns just so I can walk into the local gas station again and remember what it felt like to rush in there with the one-pointed focus of a hiker in seek of an ice-cold beer and pint of ice cream. I'm always acutely aware in my car too of just how far 2175 miles is...and I'm only driving 700 of those 2175 miles. But besides all that, a trip down south to other valley I call home, full of friends and favorite haunts, is always welcome and I'll have the company of my sweetheart to boot.
I am planning this trip south around attending the Annual Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail Conference on Saturday, February 6, at Elon University in Burlington, NC. This conference is a treat every year as it is all things MST. The keynote speaker this year is Sharon "MamaGoose" Smith who has thru-hiked the trail once already and will be leading a Warrior Expedition this September on the MST. There will be updates on all trail work completed by the hardworking trail crews and news about new reroutes. I'll be there selling my book, A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail, and happy to answer your plant and trail questions! Check out this link to register: http://www.ncmst.org/
|Tyler, Harold, and Me at McCrays - MST thru-hike 2014|
But above all it is always a joy to be surrounded by people who share the same deep love and enthusiasm for the trail and to catch up with dear friends. Above is a pic of my good friend Harold who I met on my first thru-hike of the MST in 2011 while walking a country road. He took me out to breakfast at McCray's Grill and joined me for a couple miles of my hike, fending off an angry dog. We have stayed in touch since and he came out to meet me on my second MST thru-hike, again taking me out to breakfast and joining me for not just 2 but 20 long miles on country roads on a hot day in July. With Harold and me is Janice's granddaughter, Tyler. Janice is a long time cook at McCray's and also a member of the Union Ridge Church where I pitched my tent on that first thru-hike and joined the Vacation Bible School children in their arts and crafts. Harold and I already have a breakfast date at McCray's for this upcoming weekend.
|Rachel, Jodi, Michelle, and dogs Harvey and Smokey|
While not at the trail conference these just a few of the incredible people with whom I will be gallivanting around town, tromping around the woods, booty shakin' and belly laughin'. Can't wait to see you North Carolina!