‘Father’ of NC’s Mountains to Sea Trail reaches milestone, continues hike toward bigger goal

At nearly 86 years old, Howard Lee isn’t slowing down.

Recently, he knocked a goal off his list by reaching about 120 miles hiked along North Carolina’s Mountains to Sea Trail. He’s been working on the milestone for five years.

“It’s such a delight to be a part of this,” Lee said. “To be here today, to be with friends and to continue to be able to hike the trail at my age, certainly is a blessing.”

Lee is considered the “father” of the 1,200-mile trail, which stretches across North Carolina in segments, as he first proposed the idea in 1977 as secretary of what is now the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

“It allows you to get out and commune with nature,” he said. “To be able to get out here and see the trees and the flowers and to be able to see the animals and the natural areas is just so relaxing and so soothing. This is a way to escape from the pressures of the day-to-day grind and relax and feel human again.”

“On one of our low-use trails, we’ve seen over 100 percent increase in the traffic just over the last three months. … We work hard to maintain it and build it, so we want to see as many people as possible out enjoying it.”

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