Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mountains-To-Sea Trail Finale

MST – Day 70 – 8-18-11 – FINALE – Cable Lands Access Eno River State Park to West Point of the Eno City Park – 8Miles

Funny how things that are a big focus of your life for a long time seem to end so suddenly:  romances, beach vacations, high school, college, the Harry Potter series.  You dream about them, you talk about them with everyone who will listen, you plan for them, you live them - and then they're over. 

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail certainly did not turn out the way I envisioned when Danny Bernstein proposed our adventure two years ago.  Starting at the westernmost point, hiking in consecutive sections towards the coast, sunny days, step by step…well, we did manage to hold to the hiking west to east part.  Very soon after starting we abandoned the idea of hiking consecutive miles.  Mother Nature in the form of a bad winter interfered and we didn’t want to wait, so we just planned around her.  And although we walked all the trail miles together, Danny and I did not complete the trail at the same time as I imagined at the outset.  She walked her last mile in May and I walked mine in August.  Really, I feel like I “finished” the MST three times.  The first time was when Danny and I walked to the top of Jockey’s Ridge, the eastern terminus of the trail at the Outer Banks, a very significant moment as our journey together ended.  The second time was completing the biking miles with Jim.  And the third was eight miles walking along the Eno River, a return to walking in the woods.

Joe Miller, whom I met in the backcountry of theSmokies nearly two years ago, is an outdoor writer based near Raleigh.  Joe kindly agreed to hike the last section with me, and I could not have dreamed of a better partner, as he is thoroughly familiar with the miles along the Eno, including some not yet on my radar.

I met Joe and his friend Robert at West Point on the Eno Park in Durham, where we left two cars, and Joe drove to the newest 3.3-mile section between the Cabe Lands and Pump Station accesses (see Joe’s description here.)  The guys were in training for an Ultimate Hike event and said they were comfortable with a 3-mph pace.  Hmmm…I’m not sure I can keep that up, but here goes.  Soon we were rocking and rolling up short but surprisingly steep climbs and I wondered aloud who had ordered the importation of small mountains to Durham.  The conversation was as fast-paced as the walking (happens often when hikers get together with stories to swap) and the miles melted away.  Very soon we reached Cole Mill Road and swung onto the MST section I had expected to hike. 

Lots to see on the MST as it follows meandering Eno River, including reminders of human impact

Joe on footbridge

Another MST blaze with some ferocious poison ivy vines

A wall of rock – part of an old dam?

A pump on Pump Station Trail

A slow back- packer

Mill wheel

We crossed Guess Road and ducked back into the woods as part of West Point of the Eno Park.  The trail split in several directions without a clear direction, and Joe’s intuition said to go right.  Robert and I said left and were promptly proven wrong when we passed a guy’s driveway and walked out onto a road.  Rather than backtrack, we cut cross-country and soon reconnected with our trail.  (Joe never said I-told-you-so.)

The Eno River broadens into several wonderful swimming holes and on this weekday a fellow and his dog were playing hooky, splashing and kicking across a tiny pond.  I paused to stick a hand in, thought about taking off my shoes, but we moved on. 

Joe cools off

The eight miles went as quickly as any I’ve ever experienced, just a couple of quick pauses at intersections and no food breaks (but a 3-mph pace, thank you very much)…and then we were looking at the last MST white circle.  How many have I passed?  I’ve photographed quite a few.

And I have now completed the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, nearly 1,000 miles across North Carolina, #25 in a list of distinguished outdoor lovers.  What a magnificent, challenging, unique adventure!  Thank you to Danny and my husband, Jim, and to all the friends and FMST folks and trail builders and maintainers who made it possible.  

Read Joe's story of my last hike here.  

“Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“Another turning point, 
a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, 
directs you where to go…
It’s something unpredictable, 
but then again is right
I hope you had the time of your life.”  
~Green Day


Danny Bernstein said...

COngratulations yet again. It was a wonderful adventure. Are you ready for the next one?

Kate Dixon said...

And another congratulations from me too. Nice blog post!

Chris U said...

So glad that you finished your hike using our newest trail section at Eno River. Building that section was a lot of fun, and it had a special feel about it from the beginning. Congratulations on your completion. Hope to see you at the annual meeting next year.