North Carolina Family Completes MTS 40 Hike Challenge + Boy Makes a Deer Friend


The Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) announced this week that a family of six from Durham, N.C., hiked all 40 of its Great Day Hikes on the MST, completing the 40 Hike Challenge. Hussein and Nashua El-Genk finished all 40 hikes in seven months with their children Zakariyya, Ayyub, Kareema, and Rasheed. 

The El-Genks began their journey last May while looking for a way to combat the increasing screen time that came with the pandemic. No easy task for a family of six with kids ranging from 6 to 12 years old. 

The 40 hikes highlight the many gems along the 1,175-mile MST, crossing through small towns, national parks, state parks, pretty backroads, and historic sites. The challenge welcomes hikers of all experience levels, ranging in difficulty from half a mile to 8.6 miles. The family enjoyed all parts of their adventure, from learning about history and enjoying incredible views to getting caught in a torrential rainstorm. 

“We loved doing the challenge, and it was so timely as it gave us purpose and structure in a tough year,” says Hussein in a press release. “There is something on the trail for everyone of all ages, abilities, and interests; we would love to see others take on this challenge of diverse hikes across our beautiful state! We are immensely grateful for the hard work to establish, maintain and constantly grow and improve this amazing public resource. Every bridge, boulder hops across mud pits, fallen trees cut, or resting benches that we passed reminded us of all the efforts so many have put in year after year to make this available for everyone to enjoy and discover.”


As a family trip to Massanutten, Va., was coming to an end, Stephanie Brown sent her son outside to play while she packed to leave. She wasn’t expecting him to make a new friend. 

As Brown was cleaning the fridge, she could hear her son, Dominic, come to the door and begin to clean his boots before coming inside. When she turned the corner, she was stunned to see him and a baby deer standing side by side. Before she could say anything, she quietly got her phone and snapped a photo.

Dominic did not think anything of it and wanted to bring his new friend inside for some cereal. His mom told him to walk the deer back to the woods so that it can be reunited with its family. Dominic walked his new deer friend home and Stephanie posted the photo on Tuesday of this week. Since being posted to her Facebook page, the photo has gone viral. 

Photo by Stephanie Orrantia

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