For the first time since the event’s inception, the nonprofit Friends of the Mountain-to-Sea Trail is welcoming the public to its annual meeting, which will be held online later this month.
Register online for the meeting organizers are calling an “unGathering of Friends” set for March 26-27. Early bird pricing, $30, ends at midnight Monday. Fee will be $35 after Monday to attend the annual meeting and workshops. Those who register will receive a special MST pint glass.
“Until it’s safe for our community to come together in person, we invite you to gather safely around your small screen to salute the trail that unites us – the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Even though we’re ‘unGathered,’ this is still a very united and active group, and we are eager to see you,” organizers said in a release.
The unGathering kicks off March 26 with a members-only celebration and happy hour, free to members, when volunteers will be recognized, attendees will hear from recent trail completers and from 40-Hike Challenge completer Nashua Hussein. There will also be a short concert by musician and MST section-hiker Shay Martin Lovette. If you are not a member and would like to attend, register at a special price of $60, membership donation is included.
The March 27 meeting, which is open to the public, begins with a State of the Trail update from Kate Dixon, the Friends’ executive director, and other leaders. They’ll share details on work to build new trail, develop programs and improve the hiker experience on the MST. Dwayne Patterson, the director of North Carolina State Parks, will also speak.
Keynote speaker for the meeting is Jeremy Markovich, who produced a series of podcasts for Our State’s Away Message that told a story of the hikers, trail volunteers, founders and dreamers that make up the MST community. He’ll share behind-the-scenes stories from the making of the podcast.
There will be a panel discussion on the experiences of people of color on the MST, featuring MST 2020 completer Cedric Kopa and others. This roundtable, moderated by Patterson, will explore how to ensure MST feels inclusive to all trail users.
The full descriptions for the following workshops planned for the afternoon of March 27 are on the MST website:
- Planning your MST hike is half the adventure: Here’s how our resources can help.
- Off the beaten trail: Exploring MST communities in Ashe, Bladen, Guilford and McDowell counties.
- Day hiking and backpacking with kids (of all ages) on the MST: A “Fireside Chat” with the El-Genk and Wilson families.
- For those who like to go FAST: Fastest Known Times on the MST.
- Sustainable Trails as habitats: Leave No Trace and ecological repair along the MST.
- For those who like to go SLOW: Natural history and ecosystems on the MST.
- Want to hike the whole thing?: Learn from MST Completers from the classes of 2019 and 2020.