BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. — The Mountains-to-Sea Trail stretches nearly 1,200 miles from the Outer Banks to the Great Smoky Mountains, offering some of the state’s most beautiful attractions along the way.
A man from Oak Island will be completing that hike, not just for fun, but to help the North Carolina Wildlife Federation.
What You Need To Know
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) spans 1,175 miles, going from the Outer Banks to the Great Smoky Mountains
The trail typically takes three to four months to complete depending on the hiker
Luke Bennett will be hiking the trail and sending data to the North Carolina Wildlife Federation along the way
Luke Bennett, 22, has always loved movement and has spent a great majority of his life running. Now, he has a new passion.
“Just recently, about a year and a half ago, I bought my first backpack and went to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” Bennett said. "And that’s kind of where it all started with me for hiking.”
Since then, he’s already gained plenty of experience.
“Last year I did the Appalachian Trail, I started May 7 and finished August 10, so that was relatively quick, but I don’t feel like I rushed,” he said. “I got the full experience and enjoyed every day. I didn’t take too many days off, and I would say that that was the best experience of my life, and I would do it again tomorrow if I had the chance.”
While he may not be taking on the Appalachian Trail again, he’ll be doing one a little closer to home: The Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
“Well, I knew I wanted to take another adventure before settling into the real world of working every day and this one stuck out to me, just because I’ve lived in North Carolina my entire life, but I don’t believe I’ve seen the entire state,” Bennett said. “This is just a way for me to kind of reflect on where I’m from.”
Bennett won’t just be learning about his home state, he’ll also be teaching about it. He’s partnering with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation and submitting data throughout his hike.
“So what I’ll be doing for them is kind of collecting photos and notes just about the state of the trail, maybe some trash that I see, some habitat fragmentation, just different things that I see along the trail, taking notes,” he said. “And then I’ll be sending pictures to them for them to post on their blog every week, kind of just saying where I am, what I’m seeing, what I’m experiencing.”
Bennett and the NCWF are teaming up to bring awareness to the Tar Heel State’s biodiversity, something that as a former biology major, Bennett is well-versed in. He hopes to highlight that diversity, threats to it and solutions to take.
He will begin his hike in the Outer Banks and you can follow Luke on his travels here.
Originally, Bennett was planning on breaking a record with his MST hike, but now, he plans on taking his time and enjoying every moment along the way.
He’s hoping the blog and his nearly 1,200-mile hike can inspire other people to follow their own dreams.
“I really hope that people are inspired to take, maybe if they have a dream of doing a big hike or a big run, understand that it doesn’t have to remain in that dream state like you can actually take it, and if you take that first step then you can start to understand that you really are capable of more than you think you are, and we’re really capable of doing some really incredible things using our legs and our minds,” Bennett said. "It just takes some willingness to break the everyday pattern that a lot of us get stuck in, willing to take a risk and understand that we have one life so we should make the most of it.”
Hiking for Habitat is also raising funds for NCWF through Bennett’s hike.
If you would like to learn more about the MST you can click here.
If you would like to learn more about the NCWF you can click here.