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The Missing Link

Article Published: Jun. 23, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
The Missing Link

Shelton Wilder, one of the volunteers working on the Watauga County portion of the Mountains-to-the-Sea Trail, works on a section of the trail between Aho and Blowing Rock last year.

Photo by Jeff Eason

North Carolina outdoor enthusiasts will have a chance July 16-17 to be part of a final push to build the last five-mile segment of a 300-mile uninterrupted stretch of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST).

The "Big Dig" is part of a volunteer effort to build a 1,000-mile hiking trail across the state. The missing link is a 5-mile section is parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock.

With its completion hikers will be able to move from Soco Gap near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the visitor center at Stone Mountain State Park near Elkin without getting off the trail.

"This is a chance to be part of history and leave a legacy for future generations," said John Lanman, leader of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (FMST) Watauga Task Force, which is organizing the event.

Workdays will be Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17, starting at 8:30 a.m. and running into the afternoon. The meeting point will be Thunderhill Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 290.3, 1.5 miles north the intersection of U.S. 321 and the Parkway.

FMST will provide all the tools needed. Volunteers should bring lunch, snacks and plenty of water for their own use. Sturdy shoes, gloves and work clothes suitable for mountain weather are recommended.

Workers under 12-years-old are discouraged. Children need to be accompanied by an adult. Otherwise, people of all levels of skill and physical condition are invited.

"All you need is an appreciation of the outdoors and a willingness to help," Lanman said.

Those planning to participate are requested to inform John Lanman at ( or Allen de Hart at ( There is limited camping available at the Price Lake Campground on July 15 and 16. Advance camping reservations are necessary. Contact de Hart for assistance by July 6.

More than 500 miles of the MST have been constructed and are open to the public. Where the trail has not been built, hikers use back roads and bicycle routes. More than 20 hikers have gone the entire 1,000 miles. Each year, thousands more, including President and Mrs. Obama last year, hike segments of the trail. For more information, visit

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