ELKIN — Hiker and podcaster Julie Gayheart lives in Charlotte, however she is fast to explain herself as dwelling precisely one hour from Elkin.
“There is no such thing as a city that cares for his or her trails like Elkin that I’ve seen,” stated Gayheart.
She would know. She’s hiked almost each main path within the area, and a few additional afield such because the Wonderland Path, which encircles Mt. Rainier in Washington state. Oh, and she or he’s almost carried out part mountain climbing the Appalachian Path — for the second time.
For these planning to attend the N.C. Path Days pageant the primary weekend in June in Elkin, Gayheart may properly sidle as much as them with a microphone. Her common podcast, Jester Part Hiker, garners 1,000 downloads every week and she or he’ll be out and about throughout the pageant recording materials for one among her weekly editions.
This previous 12 months, her podcast was dedicated to chronicling every of the 40 hikes featured within the e book “Nice Day Hikes on North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Path,” written by the Buddies of the Mountains-to-Sea Path and edited by Jim Grode.
A faithful hiker since 2006, Gayheart developed a particular bond with the MST. And he or she additionally was moved by the Elkin space. Simply seeing a path signal units the tone for the mountain climbing expertise right here, she stated.
“These indicators are very distinctive. You recognize whenever you see a kind of indicators — it’s an (Elkin Valley Trails Affiliation) signal,” stated Gayheart, recalling her hike by the MST part closest to Elkin and crossing a newly constructed bridge subsequent to Byrd’s Department Campground. “After I walked over that bridge, I actually felt one thing, like I’m precisely the place I’m imagined to be.”
She advised herself: “That is too particular for me to not attempt to become involved in some form of approach.”
Gayheart typically donates to path teams to contribute towards path upkeep and the like. So after being so moved on the MST, she joined the Buddies of the Mountains-to-Sea Path group. To her shock, she acquired a telephone name.
She had an hour-long dialog with a board member.
“Who calls you whenever you donate cash? No one,” she stated. “They don’t name you and thanks personally.”
From the very starting of her relationship with it, the path that spans North Carolina gave the impression to be reaching out to Gayheart.
It started throughout the pandemic. Gayheart, who holds a Grasp of Enterprise Administration, is the division chair of profession and technical schooling at Hopewell Excessive Faculty within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Faculty District, the place she has labored since 2006. Her educating profession — with its summers off — gave rise to her part mountain climbing ardour. The podcast was based in 2019 as Gayheart discovered many assets dedicated to thru-hikers (who full trails from starting to finish with out pause), and she or he sought to supply one thing for part hikers like herself, who chip away piece by piece till completion.
Looking for content material for her podcast throughout the pandemic was difficult typically.
“What began taking place is, identical to the whole lot else, the Appalachian Path and all the large trails had been saying, ‘Please don’t come to the path, keep off the path, we’re shutting down shelters, we’re shutting down privies,’” she stated.
After which Gayheart bought an e-mail e-newsletter from the Buddies of the MST.
“The headline was ‘A Path for Instances Like These,’” she recalled. “They had been welcoming individuals to the path … I’ve by no means hiked within the Piedmont. I’ve by no means carried out highway walks earlier than [trail sections that use roadways], and I’ve actually by no means till now hiked on the seashore.”
Gayheart determined to strategy the MST by finishing the day hikes featured within the e book, and within the accepting spirit of the MST group, the writers joyfully agreed to be interviewed for the podcast collection.
And all through the hikes, the interviews, the podcasts, Gayheart stated she discovered herself altering.
“One other factor that occurred to me throughout these final six months is it actually has given me a way of ‘I actually need to be concerned on this neighborhood. I actually need to give again. I need to get the phrase out in regards to the Mountains-to-Sea Path,’” she stated. “I actually need to do what I can to assist this path system progress.”
Gayheart is volunteering to guide a guided hike throughout this 12 months’s Path Days, and the subsequent episode of her podcast is dedicated to the pageant.
She stated Elkin stands out amongst path cities as a result of “the city purposely needs it of their city to attract hikers and draw enterprise. When you’ll be able to really feel that, it makes a distinction.”
Lisa Michals could also be reached at 336-448-4968 or observe her on Twitter @lisamichals3.