THE MOUNTAIN TO SEA TRAIL DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK
Kate Dixon, Executive DirectorFriends of the [email protected] Dear Friend of the MST:The highest priority of Friends of MST during this outbreak of COVID-19 is the health and well-being of our volunteers, staff and users of the MST.Like you, we are doing our best to follow closely the recommendations of health and government officials. Effective today and likely to continue through at least May 1, we are providing the following guidelines as a way to protect the MST community.For All of UsTo the extent possible, stay at home or in the outdoors where it is easy to be at least six feet from people you do not live with.Wash your hands thoroughly before and after you are in contact with people or surfaces which could host the virus.If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19 and believe you have had contact with anyone in the MST community, please notify me at 919-698-9024 or [email protected] so I can help you let others who may have been in the area know.Guidance for Volunteers and Trail AngelsMany of our most dedicated and involved volunteers are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.We strongly recommend that all group trail workdays or other events be cancelled until such time as we update these guidelines.We strongly urge Trail Angels to suspend offers of shuttles or homestays to long-distance MST hikers. Because it is not possible to complete the MST without help from trail angels, we strongly advising current thru-hikers and those who tell us they are planning a long-distance hike soon to postpone until the COVID-19 outbreak is over.While trail workdays are cancelled, our volunteer leaders may have tasks that solo workers could undertake such as trimming vegetation, picking up trash or reporting on other issues. Contact the crew leader in your area if you can help in this way. If you have questions about these guidelines, please contact me at [email protected] of 919-698-9024.Staff Schedules and AvailabilityOur Raleigh office is closed to the public, and our staff are working almost entirely from home.Hiker resources are available on our website, and printed copies of our trail guide and new day-hike guide may be purchased through our online store.Despite working from home, the staff still love to hear from you and are happy to respond to your questions via e-mail, phone and Facebook and Instagram. Staff contact information is available on the website.The main office phone of 919-825-0297 and general e-mail account of [email protected] are also being monitored.Gathering of FriendsThe Gathering in Surf City has been cancelled, and we are processing refunds for all registrants who have asked for them. We are sorry to miss seeing so many good friends at that time, and we greatly appreciate how generous and supportive our hosts, Surf City and Pender County, have been. In the coming weeks, we will be e-mailing our planned “State of the Trail” report to the entire MST community.Day Hiking and Backpacking on the MSTThe MST remains open except for Segment 18 on the Outer Banks. Although we are discouraging group hikes and gatherings on the trail, we hope you will use the trail by yourself or with family members you live with. Slow down. Listen to the birds. Feel the breeze.Avoid the most popular locations on the MST, and stay at least six feet from other people at trail heads and when passing on the trail.Drive yourself (do not carpool).Explore a less-visited segment you haven’t hiked before. Download trail guides from each segment page or use the interactive google map. Need more help? You can purchase a trail guide or the new day-hike guide from our online store.That said, if you have symptoms, have tested positive, or have been in contact with anyone else who has symptoms/tested positive, please refrain from using the MST.Do not plan a thru-hike at this time. It is not possible to complete the MST without help from others, and we do not want you to put yourself or them in danger of infection.Keep your dog leashed, and make sure it does not jump on other people. Do not pet other dogs. Dogs can carry the virus on their fur, and you can transmit it to other people after petting them.The people and communities along the MST are our vital supporters. Do your best to prevent any possible infections through responsible and hygienic interactions. Follow Leave No Trace practices whenever you use the trail.Thank you for your love and support of the MST. It is comforting to all of the staff and board to be part of such a strong, diverse and caring community.The MST was built for times like these.Stay safe, and enjoy the trail.