Imagine hiking almost 1,000 miles. You get to the end, take in the views … then not long after, turn around and hike back. That’s pretty much what Scot Ward did. En route to accept an award in Boone for the feat, he stopped in Asheville to talk to Xpress.
At 35, Ward, who lives life out of his truck when he’s not hiking, already owns the Long Trail in Vermont, some of the highest mountaintops in Hawaii and Colorado, the Appalachian Trail and more. Plus, he just recently finished hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which runs through Asheville on its route from Clingman’s Dome to the Outer Banks.
When Ward passed through Asheville, Xpress met with him to learn more about his adventure. We learned he’s a self-made type, living by the ideals that only a total devotion to adventure can make possible. “I don’t let fear, money, a job, or a girlfriend tell me what to do,” he told Xpress.
Ward spoke with such fervor and excitement that it was difficult for this occasional weekend warrior to keep up. Here’s a sampling of what he shared:
Mountain Xpress: Why did you decide to hike the MST?
Scot Ward: Walking is what I do. I was living in Hawaii and heard about the MST. I did some research and decided to hike it to write a good guidebook.
What was to be the focus of your guidebook?
To clear up confusion on trail intersections, to fix the water issue (I almost died 5 times in 2008 from running out of water on the trail) and to find out where to camp. I contacted 825 businesses, churches and individuals along the way to get permission to drink from their hoses and camp on their property [27 replied with a yes].
When did you embark?
I’ve done the MST three times in two years. In 2008, I started at Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee [finished at the Outer Banks]. In 2009, I went from Clingman’s Dome to the Outer Banks and turned around and walked back.
That’s what you mean by “yo-yoing” the MST.
How long did it take?
Two and a half months to hike roughly 920 miles one way.
Is the trail located mainly along the roadsides?
About 400 miles was along roadside, but the MST shows you everything North Carolina has to offer. You experience the culture and festivals — unlike the Appalachian Trail, where you’re stuck in the woods for six months.
What were some highlights along the way?
Hitting the beach and seeing the waves after walking so far. Standing on the highest mountain east of the Mississippi — Mount Mitchell, and social encounters. If you’re open to the friendship along the way it can be an amazing journey for anyone who does it. It’s not a trail for anyone who wants to stay in the woods. You have to be open to seeing a few cars drive by. I’ve ridden my bike over 40k miles so I’m used to that.
Did you have any help?
Friends I made along the way let me get showers, and I had some sponsors: Teva gave me footwear, Leki gave me poles, and Trail Hound gave me fleece clothing.
Did you receive any awards?
On March 13, [N.C.] Sen. Joe Sam Queen presented me with “The first to YoYo the MST” award on behalf of The Friends of the MST trail.
Ward is now on tour, promoting his book to outdoor-sports shop owners along the MST. Local stores, Black Dome and Jus’ Running have already purchased a number of his self-published Thru Hiker’s Manual s and have that copy-shop folded and stapled, 100 page cannon of practical wisdom on their shelves for $20. The book, among other tidbits about the man and his hikes, is also available on Ward’s website: http://www.thru-hiker.us/
Photo by Eddie Ward