Archived Outdoors

Harrowing MST maintenance project complete

Four years ago, the Carolina Mountain Club identified the “forgotten 14” as an unsafe section within its 155-mile maintenance responsibility on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

This portion runs 14 miles from the Old Bald and Haywood Gap access and travels 500 feet below and up to a mile away from the Blue Ridge Parkway, making maintenance access very difficult on this remote section. The first 6 miles of it were mainly tread, as opposed to logging road, but had some very rocky sections that were narrow and slanted, with dangerous root ball tearouts up to 6 feet deep. The remaining 8 miles are on an old logging road and has a lot of wet spots.

CMC’s Friday and Wednesday crews took on the challenge, creating two new maintenance access portals and one improved portal. Using these access portals, the crews steadily crept along the 6 miles and improved it one rock and root at a time over four years. On July 21, the Friday crew finished the 6 miles of rough trail and climbed out for the last time in a while, carrying all the tools which had been stored down there over the four years of work. All told, dozens of trips have been made on this project totaling over 2,700 hours — or more than 1.3 person-years. Crews have made 37 work trips to the area to complete this project, including more than 100 people.

This area needs section maintainers to preserve the work and is closest to people living in Waynesville, Maggie Valley, Sylva and Cullowhee.

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