Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Thru-hike of NC's Mountains-to-Sea Trail

As some of you may know, I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail twice in 2012, both north and south - 4368.4 miles.  My trail name is 'Seeks It', and now I'm headed out to seek my next hiking adventure. This time I'm seeking more than a personal quest - With your help, I'm hoping to make my footsteps count.  I've set up a Fundraising Page - not to raise personal funds but to allow my hiking to support some worthy causes.

By going to this page and donating you'll be supporting Mental Health research *and* trail building and maintenance work for North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST).

The MST is one of the premier cross-state trails in the United States.  Its rivals/peers include Vermont's famous Long Trail, the Arizona Trail, Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail, Ohio's Buckeye Trail, the Florida National ScenicTrail, and South Carolina's Palmetto Trail.

Yellow pitcher plant, Holly Shelter Game Land
The MST starts at Clingman's Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, traverses a stunning diversity of ecosystems from the sub-alpine forests of the highest mountains in the eastern US through North Carolina's Piedmont reservoir country north of Greensboro and Raleigh, to the coastal plain where the trail passes through the exotic fire-dependent Longleaf Pine Savanna, cypress swamp, and Pocosin shrub-bogs where exotic carnivorous species such as venus fly trap and the yellow pitcher plant thrive.  Finally the trail reaches the palm trees of sub-tropical coastal North Carolina and follows the seashore, coming to its eastern terminus on top of the sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks.

The trail is a State Park in NC in the same way that the Appalachian Trail is a National Park - it's an officially sanctioned and supported North Carolina recreational opportunity.  It's not going to go away. It is only going to get better as the years go by.  The western 700 miles of the trail are largely completed.  In the east, after a number of years of unsuccessful effort to find a route, a new route was selected in 2014.  It passes through one of the most ecologically diverse and sensitive regions of the US, called the 'Cape Fear Arch'.  I spent the past year (intermittently) helping to scout and establish this route, and now I'm hoping to be the first to hike it end-to-end.  And in doing so, with your help, I hope to raise some funds to support the ongoing efforts to establish this route and get off-road trail built.

At the same time I hope to raise money for, and help raise awareness that will eradicate the stigma of mental health issues.  Mental Illness is a medical condition much like any other, and there are treatments that are getting more effective and sophisticated all the time.  When I had a serious mental health issue back in the late 1960's and early 1970's I thought I was on my own.  Stubborn and headstrong, I sought no help.  And so I suffered for years, never thinking that there was a supportive community and medical help available.  I was utterly miserable and often at wits end.  Thank goodness I came through it, stronger for the experience.  And thank goodness that my loved ones, some of whom also went through serious mental health issues, did not have to similarly suffer in lonely isolation. Thank goodness we were connected with the resources that could alleviate their pain and guide them back to a wholesome and fulfilling life.  Thank goodness for the researchers who continue to advance the frontiers of Mental Health Research.

And so I want to give back to these pioneers, in appreciation of the relief they have provided to my loved ones, and the relief I might have found myself had I not been such a stubborn independent cuss.

Starting about mid-February 2014 I'll be hitting the trail at Jockey's Ridge and hiking from east to west. 1000 miles, more or less.  The new route hasn't been measured yet, so among other things, I'll be taking GPS data and reporting it here, sending it to FMST, and providing tracks via EveryTrail.

I hope you will follow my adventure extend your support.  Let my hike symbolically represent the promised path to recovery for all those who continue to suffer.  A dollar per mile is all that I ask.  Your dollar will offer hope to people who suffer - It will open the door to relief for those over-active minds that teeter on the knife edge between genius and insanity--minds that, if brought under reasonable control, might some day solve the insoluble problems of our generation.  How can you fail to invest in our collective future?

You can follow my hike on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pj.wetzel.9 and/or right here on this blog where I'll be regularly posting updates and photos.

Thanks for visiting, and most of all thanks for supporting Hike for Mental Health and North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

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