An 80-mile backpack thru the Triangle?
Looking for a good 80-or-so-mile backpack trip through an urban wilderness? It could happen before long on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail through the Triangle.
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a work-in-progress path across North Carolina. Starting atop Clingman’s Dome on the North Carolina/Tennessee border and ending about 1,000 miles later at Jockey’s Ridge on the coast, the trail, about half of which is done, would provide an opportunity to walk the length of the state. A key component of that goal: places to camp along the way. Through the Triangle that’s been a key concern. For instance, along Falls Lake, where 60 miles of the MST is down, there are only two sanctioned camping areas. In the 80 miles between Falls dam and Hillsborough there are just four. Depending upon the terrain, a good rule of thumb for a viable backpacking trail is camping spots at least every 10 to 15 miles.
“That’s been a concern,” acknowledges Kate Dixon, executive director of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the non-profit spearheading the trail’s advance.
A concern, it turns out, not just of FMST but of the various agencies with jurisdiction along the MST through the Triangle, from the Army Corps of Engineers to N.C. Division of Parks & Recreation to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to Wake and Durham counties. A concern that will bring the various entities together June 21 to discuss camping options.
The FMST has already circulated a proposal for camping options to the group, says Dixon. “The initial reaction was positive,” she says.
Another key component of a continuous trail through the Triangle is a bridge over Little Lick Creek, which would join sections 14 and 15 of the Falls Lake Trail/MST. At the National Trails Day workday last Saturday there was speculation that the bridge could be in place by year’s end. Dixon mulls this time frame for a moment, then says, “Fortunately, I don’t have any children to giveaway.”
While she wouldn’t bet her firstborn on a bridge by year’s end, she says it’s close. The bridge needed one last permit, from Durham County, and it appears that permit is close. From there, it’s a matter of prepping a road to accommodate a crane to hoist the bridge into place, then getting some volunteers to build boardwalk approaches to both ends.
With the bridge in place, it will be possible to hike from Falls Lake dam to Penny’s Bend, a distance of 60 miles. And, Dixon added, while it’s too soon to provide details, there’s headway being made on the last two hiccups in the trail from Penney’s Bend to Hillsborough.
I’ll let you know when those hiccups are cured.
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For the latest on MST progress from Falls Lake dam south along the Neuse River into Johnston County, visit our sister site, GetGoingNC.com.