Pensacola resident and High Peaks founder John Whitehouse was recently honored with the Carolina Mountain Club’s Distinguished Service Award for his tireless commitment to maintaining and improving the area’s hiking trails.
“Few have done as much for our trails,” said longtime CMC member Rocko Smucker, who nominated Whitehouse for the award and made the presentation at the Asheville-based club’s annual dinner. “John is an outstanding leader and mentor. He gets people involved because he’s such a pleasure to be around.”
In addition to his 20 years of membership in CMC and his decade of leading that club’s Monday Trail Crew, Whitehouse is a co-founder of Yancey-based NC High Peaks Trail Association. The Burnsville-based club is the Friends of Mt. Mitchell State Park organization, and also maintains the hard-to-reach trails of the Black Mountains.
Whitehouse has been instrumental in helping High Peaks earn a reputation as a reliable partner with a dedicated team of volunteers willing to take on the most challenging trail work. The weekly crew he leads installs steps, digs out water drains, clears downed trees and weedeats the trails, among other tasks.
One of their proudest accomplishments was building a 27-foot-long log bridge over Neal’s Creek near the Black Mountain Campground on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Whitehouse designed an elaborate system of overhead pulleys to lift and move the main beams for the bridge.
In 2019, Whitehouse and High Peaks were honored with the Gov. Locke Craig Award, the highest honor given out yearly by the NC State Parks system. That award was for work done at Mt. Mitchell State Park, where Whitehouse was instrumental in planning, purchasing and installing a low-watt Traveler Information AM radio station, along with many other projects.
A retired nuclear engineer, Whitehouse and his wife, Sandy, have lived in Yancey for 20 years.
“John does a lot more than anybody knows,” noted current High Peaks President Dennis Smith. “He spends more time preparing tools, filing reports with the land-use agencies and handling the nuts-and-bolts of running an active trail club than most other volunteers spend doing actual work on the trails.”
Photo Info: John Whitehouse, center, holds his Distinguished Service Award from the Carolina Mountain Club as CMC President Tom Weaver, left, and Rocko Smucker, right, look on.