Jennifer Pharr Davis to be First Completer of the Appalachian High Route

Jennifer Pharr Davis to be First Completer of the Appalachian High Route Sunday, May 8 at the Burnsville Town Square at 2:30pm. Come Cheer Her On!!

May 6, 2022 BURNSVILLE, NC – One rainy day in downtown Burnsville, Jake Blood and Jennifer Pharr Davis sat on the porch of the Nu Wray Hotel talking about hiking, trails in Yancey County, and dreaming about something bigger.

Jake, a Yancey County resident, is the chair of the Burnsville-Yancey Chamber Travel and Tourism Committee and Co-Founder of NC High Peaks Trail Association. Jennifer is a critically acclaimed author, speaker, hiker, and hiking company owner. She was also named the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2011, the year that she set the record for the fastest completion of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.).

While studying a map of hiking in the County, Jake lamented the fact that he hadn’t been able to find a way to connect Mount Mitchell to the Appalachian Trail. “I’ve tried for 15 years to connect the highest peak East of the Mississippi River, Mount Mitchell, to the A.T.,” said Jake. “There is just too much private land and getting the owners to allow for hikers to cross just isn’t possible.” Jennifer however wasn’t constrained by a need to hike in the wilderness and woods. “The trail is right there Jake,” she stated. “You just need to hike the road between the two connectors.”

Looking with new eyes, Jennifer saw the Burnsville Connector. The Burnsville Connector is a 19-mile road walk that starts at the northern terminus of the Black Mountain Crest Trail and follows Bolens Creek into historic downtown Burnsville. The road walk then parallels Cane River to reach the Lost Cove Trail where it feeds into the Appalachian Trail.

According to Jennifer, many trails in the state use road miles and using the roadway in between these two major landmarks just made sense.

The Burnsville Connector is the lynch pin in what Jake and Jennifer call the Appalachian High Route, a 343-mile loop that connects the Highest Peak in the Black Mountain Range and the highest point in the Appalachian Mountain Range, Mount Mitchell, with the Highest Peak in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, Clingman’s Dome. In doing so, this loop connects the story and history of the men who argued about the prominence of these mountains and for whom these peaks are named after: Elisha Mitchell and Thomas Clingman. Additionally, it fulfills the vision of Benton MacKaye, the originator of the Appalachian Trail, to connect the highest mountain in the Northeast (Mount Washington) with the highest mountain in the Southeast (Mount Mitchell).

Besides connecting the Appalachian Trail and Mountains to Sea Trail, this route utilizes the 11-mile Black Mountain Crest Trail in southern Yancey County and 5-miles of the Lost Cove and Devils Creek Trail in northern Yancey County, both renowned for their beauty and outstanding biodiversity.

The Appalachian High Route is predominantly located within Western North Carolina, but it does have several stretches that follow the NC/TN state line, where it does at times cross fully into Tennessee. The route passes through three National Park Units (The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, The Blue Ridge Parkway, and The Appalachian National Scenic Trail), Three National Forests (Nantahala NF, Pisgah NF, and Cherokee NF), and one NC State Park (Mount Mitchell State Park).

Jennifer will hike the final leg of the trail on Sunday, May 8 to become the first known completion of the trail, finishing at the Burnsville-Yancey County Visitor Center at 2:30pm.

Plans are in the works for a trail headquarters and resources.