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Golden spike closes gap

National Park Service Ranger Monika Mayr and MST volunteer John Lanman drive the ceremonial golden spike during the dedication near Thunder Hill overlook. SUBMITTED PHOTO
National Park Service Ranger Monika Mayr and MST volunteer John Lanman drive the ceremonial golden spike during the dedication near Thunder Hill overlook. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Published: 8:49 AM, 10/18/2012

Source: The Blowing Rocket

The mountains and sea have just gotten closer.

The last six-mile section of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway was dedicated Sept. 29 at a ceremony overlooking the Thunder Hill Overlook at milepost 290.3 near Blowing Rock.

The ceremony was held to express the appreciation of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway to the many volunteers who have contributed to the construction project.

Monika Mayr, deputy superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, expressed the National Park Service’s continued thanks for the efforts made by volunteers along the parkway and, specifically, for the workers of the FMST in constructing and maintaining the MST along the parkway.

Allen de Hart, one of the founders of the FMST and currently trail counsel and trail specialist for the mountain sections, provided some history of the years of construction of the trail.

John Lanman, task force leader for the Watauga Task Force, which took the lead in construction of the section of trail along the parkway from U.S. 321 north to U.S. 421, thanked all of the workers who have been a part of the construction effort, as well as both the National Park Service and state parks for their assistance and cooperation in the effort.

Darrell McBane, the state trails program manager for the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, accepted the six-mile section as the latest addition to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which is a linear state park.
He added his appreciation of the work the FMST has done and the cooperation of the Park Service.
Following the comments, there was a lighthearted “golden spike” ceremony, representing the installation of the last signpost along the route.
Just as the railroads celebrated joining the continent by driving a golden spike into the last rail joining East and West, a “golden” spike was driven into the signpost joining the northern and southern sections of the MST. 

Joining the speakers in taking a whack at the spike were Kate Dixon, executive director of FMST, and Dave Bauer, parkway district ranger.
With the new section, the MST now stretches along the BRP from Soco Gap north through Asheville to Mount Mitchell State Park, where it then goes through Pisgah National Forest, the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area and the Wilson Creek Wilderness Area, returning to the parkway near Grandfather Mountain State Park and the Linn Cove Viaduct.

From there, the trail continues through Julian Price and Moses Cone parks, through the newly dedicated section north to Doughton Park and north to where it leaves the parkway and drops down to Stone Mountain State Park.

De Hart began flagging the north parkway section of the MST on Nov. 6, 1998, with two of his students from Louisburg College, James Dunlop and Shane Williams.

They used preliminary mapping created in 1996 by Will Orr, a parkway staff member, and Dwayne Stutzman, a staff member of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

Creating the MST has been a piece-by-piece process. In April 2005, in the Alleghany Task Force section (headed by Steve Joines and his assistant Tom Dillon) of 14.7 miles of trail was dedicated at the Doughton Park Picnic Area; in October 2007, the North Ashe Task Force section (headed by Wilbur Gurganus) of 15.1 miles was dedicated at the Sheets Gap Overlook; and in October 2010, a ceremony at the Cascades Picnic Area dedicated 15.5 miles of the South Ashe Task Force trail (headed by Jim Hallsey) and 10.4 miles of the Watauga Task Force section.

The MST corridor stretches nearly 1,000 miles from Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. 

More than one half of the trail is complete and, in the uncompleted sections, the FMST has established temporary hiking routes using state bicycle trails and back roads.
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