One of Mountains-to-Sea State Trail’s originators completes 1,000-mile trek

Jim Hallsey, who first began routing the MST in 1978, pauses near the Linville Gorge during a hike of the 1,000-mile trail.

(Note: this post is edited from the newsletter of our partner organization Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Go here for more details and other news about this nonprofit organization.)

Jim Hallsey, the former state parks administrator who first put the route for the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail on paper, completed his own 1,000-mile trek of the trail on Labor Day, hiking, biking and canoeing across the state.

Fittingly, he finished just as supporters of the MST celebrate the 35th anniversary of the trail’s genesis in a 1977 speech by then N.C. Secretary of Natural Resources and Community Development Howard Lee.

Hallsey joined state government in 1970 and served in several positions with the state parks system. Since retirement, he’s been a tireless volunteer organizer working on the trail’s mountain sections and a board member of the nonprofit support group Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. His private sojourn along the trail was completed in stages this year — a total of 84 days ending at Clingman’s Dome. Among fewer than three dozen people who’ve completed the route, he is the first to have paddled the Neuse and Yadkin rivers as part of the journey.

“As I have hiked some of the formidable terrain of Linville Gorge, Mount Mitchell and the Pisgah and Nantahala forests on rugged trials with huge stones moved by hand to form steps and erosion controls, I have realized that nothing is impossible for impassioned humans filled with vision and faith,” he said. “These trails were built in difficult places, many of them by senior citizens in their retirement years. There are additional communities and citizen volunteer groups along the way taking up the dream of the MST.”

Hallsey took the bit in his teeth after Lee proposed the idea at a trails conference. As the first state trails coordinator, he began drawing up a route, and negotiating with landowners, including the federal government since the trail flows through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and two national forests.

The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail is a unit of the state parks system reaching from Clingman’s Dome in the national park to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast. Each year, thousands of people hike sections of the trail, and they’ve included President Barak Obama and a world-renowned endurance runner to set a record of just over 22 days earlier this year. More than 500 miles of the trail are completed with mostly rural roads providing the links.

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