Although socializing and organization are the most significant elements of the Gathering of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for the 40th anniversary event, special hikes, workshops and other events have been organized to entertain and educate the 300-plus visitors to Elkin the weekend of March 24. Many require registration or membership, however, there are several that are open to residents as well.
Dropping more than 2,000 feet in six miles, the hike from Devil’s Garden Overlook to Widows Fall is one of the more strenuous hikes featured. This section of the MST is maintained by the Alleghany Sparta Trail Association, which was founded in 2015. “We did this hike two Sundays ago and it took us three hours, most of it downhill. The trail is wide most of the time, using old logging road beds,” explained Iboya Pasley of the ASTA. “Gaby [Carter, hiking guide for this tour,] recommends walking poles, walking shoes with good grip and water and snacks.”
Like the Overmountain Victory Trail, those with an interest in the past will enjoy the Moonshine and Still Search hikes on Garden Creek and Stone Mountain. More than 30 years ago, guides Bob Hillyer and Joe Mickey started finding the remains of local stills while hiking with their children. According to Mickey, Stone Mountain is “the moonshine capital of the world. With the number of stills we have found in the area, it must be pretty near the top.”
“I remember we had found maybe 40 or 50 stills and we were impressed,” claimed Hillyer, “then we ran into a guy who said he had found 140.”
Having documented at least 160 stills, Hillyer and Mickey have still not found them all, however, they will be leading those who register off the beaten path to catch site of the remnants of local history. During this tour, participants will hear anecdotes and information as a way to preserve the past.
Even non-hikers will have fun to look forward to with the Downtown Elkin Walking Tour that highlights historical and aesthetic features through several blocks of Elkin as well as an Art Hike with musical elements. This joint effort of the Foothills Arts Council, the businesses of downtown Elkin and local artists, both fine and instrumental, was designed to encourage visitors and residents alike to spend time enjoying the town on Saturday from 3 to 9 p.m. and will start off the Art Hike season.
In addition to various artists at the Foothills Arts Council on Church Street, Artfolks Studios on Court Street will contain works by Dan Butner and Tory Casey. On the west end of Main Street, Living Waters Foundation will welcome visiting artists, while on the east end, Wanderlust Studios will feature the works of Candice Brown.
While perusing the fine art available, guests will be entertained by musicians throughout town. Many of these locations will be sponsored in cooperation with one of the local vineyards such as Carolina Heritage, Raffaldini and Grassy Creek or breweries like Skull Camp. Not limited to the downtown area, interested parties will want to be certain to contact the Foothills Arts Council for full details.
In addition to such musicians as Mecca and Adam Lowe, Back In Time, Gary Sibley, Martha Bassett and Old Country Store, karaoke will be available at Southern on Main from 7 to 9 p.m. for those who wish to contribute to the harmonious atmosphere.
Details for all activities involving the 40th anniversary of the Gathering of the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail including information on registration or becoming a member of the FMST can be found at https://mountainstoseatrail.org/mst40th/trail-town-excursions/.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.