Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, a nonprofit organization that builds, maintains, protects and promotes the statewide Mountains-to-Sea Trail, is set to hold its annual Gathering of Friends March 26-29 in Surf City.
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a 1,175-mile walking trail that stretches from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. It connects 37 counties, seven national parks and forests, nearly a dozen state parks and historic sites and a diverse group of large and small communities throughout the state. Added to the state park system in 2000, the trail is the state’s longest marked footpath.
As part of the event, attendees can participate in a series of progressive hikes along the portions of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that run through the Smithfield’s Neuse Riverwalk, Bentonville Battlefield, Downtown Roseboro Loop, Old Cape Fear Countryside, Jones Lake, Moores Creek National Battlefield Loop and Burgaw Greenway Loop.
The gathering includes the Friends’ annual meeting, where organization leaders, volunteers and trail enthusiasts discuss the latest trail news and celebrate volunteer accomplishments from the past year.
This year’s event features keynote speaker Julie Moore, who recently retired from the Endangered Species Program at the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Moore has worked in a variety of southern forest ecosystems, most recently with longleaf pine forests and the many associated plant and animal species. Her keynote will touch on the history and importance of the longleaf pine, efforts to preserve and restore pine forests and ways to “read” the longleaf pine landscape.
Other events and activities to help participants see the beauty of the Coastal Crescent route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail include the following:
- Friday, March 27: A reception at the Missiles and More Museum and Assembly Building and roller skating at the Topsail Island Rollerskating Rink or classic miniature golf at the Patio Playground.
- Saturday, March 28: Beach ecology workshops, tours of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, Sips and Sounds at Soundside Park featuring music by Shay Martin Lovette and a sunset hike over the Surf City Bridge. Both Sips and Sounds and the bridge hike are open to the public, with no registration for the Gathering required.
- Sunday, March 29: An Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway paddle, a history hike and lunch in Burgaw and a driving trek of the Holly Shelter Game Land.
This year’s gathering coincides with the release of the latest trail guide, “Great Day Hikes on North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail.”
The guide features 40 day hikes spanning from the stunning Carolina coasts to scenic mountain vistas. During the gathering, Friends is launching the 40-Hike Challenge for walkers and trail enthusiasts who want to complete all 40 hikes. The guide is available for preorder.
Registration for the Gathering of Friends is currently open. This is a members’ only event; however, interested participants can register for the event and a Friends’ membership at the same time. Become a Friends member and register for the Gathering.