When Jennifer Brownsdorf retired from her teaching job in Raleigh, she had another big adventure in store. She hiked the entire Mountain to Sea trail, across North Carolina.

“I started it in January of 2021 and finished in December of 2021,” said Brownsdorf. “Seventy-seven trail days so I was out for 77 days and I did it in 44 separate trips.”

And that’s considered fast when you think about the entire trail.

“The trail, itself, is 1,175 miles from Clingman’s Dome in the mountains to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast,” said Brent Laurenz, the Executive Director of Friends of the Mountain to Sea Trail, a non-profit that works with the state and federal park services to maintain the trail and ensure that people have a good time on it.

For Brownsdorf, that meant doing the trail on her timeline, when she wanted to see each particular part of the state.

“Wildflowers in the spring got to be in the mountains,” she said with a chuckle. “Beach, you don’t want to be out, necessarily, on the coastal plain in the middle of the summer so I was able to figure out where I wanted to be and when I wanted to be there, and then plan accordingly.”

“I think it’s growing a lot in popularity, especially the last couple of years, the pandemic and folks looking for outdoor recreation opportunities,” noted Laurenz, who says he’s also finding it can be as mentally therapeutic as it is physically. “It really kind of renews your sense of optimism and hope in the people of the state. You meet people that are just – welcome you in with open arms. They don’t know who you are. They see you walking down a trail. Not only are you reconnected with nature but just reconnected with people and that people are generally good and hospitable and the people of North Carolina are very welcoming.”

Since the terrain differs, significantly from the mountains to the coast, Jennifer traveled the trail differently in spots.

“When I did it, I did hike and backpack where I could. And I bike-packed and rode my bicycle in places where I could ride my bike and then I paddled where I could paddle,” said Brownsdorf. But whenever she was on the trail, she was prepared for full engagement. “Don’t’ go set off with a small backpack and a granola bar and a 20-ounce bottle of water, right? You need to be prepared for food and water.”

See the big project the Friends of the Mountain to Sea Trail are involved in, in this edition of the Buckley Report.