Volunteers works weekly to maintain Mountain-to-Sea Trail segment that runs through Sneads Ferry, Onslow County.

As volunteers worked Wednesday to build a bridge along a trail running through Stones Creek Game Land in Sneads Ferry, resident Mike O’Neill planned to trade his handsaw for a bicycle for a different kind of trail experience.

O’Neill will be joining the hundreds of hikers, bikers, joggers, walkers and others who take to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Saturday for the MST in a Day event celebrating the 40th anniversary of the trail.

The event commemorates a speech by Howard Lee, the then-secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural Resources and Community Development that was the catalyst for the trail that stretches 1,175 miles from Clingmans Dome to Jockey’s Ridge.

O’Neill plans to bicycle three legs along the trail Holly Shelter to the Surf City Welcome Center.

Whether he’s helping with maintenance on the trail at Stones Creek in Sneads Ferry or riding along other legs of the MST, O’Neill simply enjoys it.

“It’s good for the soul,” he said Wednesday as a group of volunteers led by Tim Supple headed out turn reclaimed wood into a bridge for the trail.

Supple, a retired Navy and Marine combat corpsman, never guessed all that time in the field on deployments would prepare him for cutting through brush, building bridges and painting the white dots on trees so direct hikers on where to go.

He’s now Mountains-to-Sea 15B Trail Team Leader, helping oversee a 100 mile stretch of the MST in Onslow and Pender counties.

As a trail leader, he’s out each Wednesday with any volunteers he’s recruited for the task of the day at the Stones Creek Game Land section of the trail.

Supple initially heard about the MST effort about three years ago while watching a show on PBS that included information about nearby Croatan National Forest. He called to see if he could volunteer and learned then that the trail would cross through Sneads Ferry.

An original trail spanned only a few miles and an initial walk through quickly changed plans after hundreds of endangered Venus flytraps were found.

After talking with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, which owns the game land property, alternate routes were suggested and there is now a 10-mile trail within the Stones Creek Game Land that is now part of the MST.

“I just wanted to give back,” Supple said of the time he volunteers to the MST.

He said it’s a great way to explore North Carolina and he encourages area residents to get out on Saturday and enjoy any leg of the MST they can.

Area 15B includes Holly Shelter Game Lands with about 20 miles of trail; 9 miles of Topsail Island from Surf City Pier to North Topsail Beach town park; and the 10 miles at Stone Creek Game Lands.

Mike Cunningham of Sneads Ferry is new to the area and said he’ll be getting a closer look at the landscape Saturday as he runs/walks the trail on Topsail Island from Ocean City to the entrance at Stones Creek Game Land.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this,” he said of the MST in a Day event.

Those planning to participate are asked to sign up so that the number of people involved can be tracked.

For more information about MST in a Day or to sign up to hike, go to the website mountainstoseatrail.org/mstinaday.org and click on the segment of trail you would like to participate in.


Reporter Jannette Pippin at Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com or 910-382-2557.