by Crystal Cockman
October 30, 2017
On a foggy morning on October 12th, 56 people checked in with LandTrust staff, most at the Asheboro airport (the location for parking) and a few at the Wood Run Trailhead, before starting out on a 4-day, 40-mile adventure on the Uwharrie Trail. This is the fifth year for The LandTrust for Central NC’s annual thru hike, and this is the largest event to date. A few people found the trail more challenging than expected and had to drop out along the way, but 47 people completed the full forty miles. One couple decided to do the backpacking trip to celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary.
Trail angels provided support along the way, and included David Gardener, David Craft, Karen Auman, Marla Coulthard, Jim Plant, and Crystal Cockman. Karen provided chicken for the hikers at the first camp, Yates Place, and Marla provided ice cream at the second camp, Jumpin Off Rock and cakes for dessert at the cookout. David Gardener camped with the hikers and checked them in at each campsite. He also had a truck full of Gatorade ready at various road crossings and camps. Water was provided at campsites in the evenings and mornings. David Craft and Jim Plant helped with water and other supplies. Other Uwharrie Trailblazer volunteers who helped with the preparations for the hike included Joe White, Jeff Grant (both of which completed the 40 mile hike), and Jared Byrd. Merritt Maness provided firewood at each campsite. Marcus West (who completed the 40 mile hike), also kept track of incoming hikers to campsites and donated items for a raffle, with proceeds going to The LandTrust for Central NC for work on the Uwharrie Trail.
On Saturday night we had a celebratory cookout, and attendees dined on grilled chicken provided by the Eldorado Outpost. Our Uwharrie Trail Champion was awarded posthumously to Deborah Walker, who passed away last year. Deborah was the District Ranger on the Uwharrie National Forest and she worked tirelessly to ensure that all user groups on the forest had the best experiences possible, and also worked with The LandTrust for Central NC to expand the Uwharrie National Forest and extend the Uwharrie Trail. Deborah completed the thru hike the second year The LandTrust hosted it. Her husband James Walker accepted the award.
David Craft welcomed the group and introduced special guests. Chris Cagle with the Eldorado Outpost spoke about how his grandfather came down to the Uwharries in 1961, when the Forest Service sent him there from the Pisgah Forest. He said they began boundary surveys then. He moved his family down 1962. Chris said, “Walking those original lines is also where he said he caught the vision of how special this mountain range and area is.”
Nell Allen with the NC Zoo welcomed attendees to the property where the cookout took place, which is owned by the NC Zoo Society. Mary Joan Pugh, also with the NC Zoo, was in attendance, as well. This area will become Walkers Creek trailhead when the property transfers to the U.S. Forest Service. Michael Spisak, the new District Ranger, and Terry Savery, Watershed Management and Recreation Staff Supervisor, were also in attendance.
Sponsors for the hike included The LandTrust for Central NC, the Uwharrie Trailblazers, the Uwharrie National Forest, The Eldorado Outpost, Thorlos, the North Carolina Zoological Park, Four Saints Brewing Company, REI, Cabelas, Newport Landowner Services, Inc., Marcus West, and David Craft.
Sam Parrott, Membership and Outreach Associate with The LandTrust, did the entire thru hike this year. He says, “I moved to North Carolina in January when I began working for The LandTrust so this was not only my first thru hike but it was also my first time hiking on the Uwharrie Trail. The 40-mile UT is a seemingly unknown and underutilized treasure and the Uwharrie Thru Hike was a wonderful way to experience that treasure for the first time. For all of the hikers, including myself, the scenic views, rich cultural history, and passionate people made the Uwharrie Thru Hike a memorable adventure.”
At the end of the hike, nearly all the hikers commented that they are already planning to join in on the trip again next year. The hike was a great success thanks to the efforts of many. If you missed out on this year’s trek, look for registration for next year to open in early Spring 2018. The hike will take place in the fall again next year. Visit The LandTrust for Central NC’s website at www.landtrustcnc.org to learn more, or call us at 704-647-0302.