Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Mountains to Sea Trail: 10 Benefits of Hiking on Blacktop

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The beauty in the piedmont section of the Mountains-to-Sea trail has exceeded my expectations. And the state parks here are awesome! The view from the summit of Stone Mountain is spectacular, we enjoyed a hike with the kids at Pilot Mountain, and our family loved splashing in the lake and waterfalls at Hanging Rock State Park. But, these literal and figurative high points are connected by road walks. Hot, asphalt, road walks.

Like so much of life, enjoying a thru-hike has as much to do with attitude as it does the trail itself. And, as such, I’ve decided to list ten benefits of hiking the blacktop. Some are serious, others more humorous, but all of them have floated through my mind and kept my feet plodding down the painted white lines and unkempt shoulders of North Carolina roadways.

10. Large semi’s provide a cool breeze as they roar past.

9. It’s easier to study wildlife when it’s lying still by the side of the road.

8. You often get to hike with a dog – whether you want to or not.

7. There is a heightened appreciation of cemeteries. (Eternal resting places are the best places for temporary breaks on a road walk.)

6. You can interpret honking however you like.

5. Your miles per hour and per day increase without additional effort.

4. It’s entertaining to watch a driver’s expression as he tries to figure out why a homeless woman with ski poles is walking down the road.

3. You realize how kind people are when they pull over to offer food, water, or a ride. One fellow sped past me, screeched to a stop, put the car in reverse and then yelled, “Are you out here exercising or do you need a ride?”

2. It’s as interesting and educational to explore farms, neighborhoods, and towns as it is to discover the habitats of plant and animal.

1. Walking down an open road is more appealing and adventurous than sitting inside of four walls.

I haven’t minded the road walking on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail as much as I thought I might. The Friends group has done a nice job of finding the roads less traveled and charting the course on scenic blue highways and country roads. Still, there are hundreds of reasons, and there is a big push right now to raise funds and awareness to move the route off asphalt and establish a continuous path on dirt tread. The long list of advantages includes landscape conservation, economic benefits, and increased community health. There isn’t space in a blog post to include them all. So here are my two favorites:


2. It’s a whole lot easier to pee.

If you like to ‘go’ in the woods, help us complete the trail by making a donation at

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