Oak Island man aims for MST speed record
Oak Island resident Luke Bennett recently set off on a 1,175-mile journey across North Carolina to raise money and awareness for issues threatening wildlife and their habitats — and have a go at the Mountains-to-Sea Trail speed record.
Bennett, 22, started the MST in the Outer Banks March 23 and plans to run and hike the trail over 27-28 days with a small support crew of friends and family, arriving at the trail’s terminus at Clingmans Dome in late April. His journey coincides with the 45th anniversary of the MST, first proposed in 1977 at Lake Junaluska.
Dubbed “Hiking for Habitat,” the journey will raise money for the N.C. Wildlife Federation, which will track his efforts through an ongoing blog and social media posts.
“North Carolina’s wildlife, outdoors and adventures are the foundation of my life. Hiking for Habitat will be a culmination of all my outdoor experiences and serve as a tribute to our state,” Bennett said. “After taking a deep dive into the diversity of habitats and wildlife throughout the state, it’s time for me to give back, and I’m thrilled to partner with NCWF.”
Bennett lives in Oak Island but grew up in Durham, where he developed a sense of wonder and appreciation for the outdoors during a childhood spent fishing, swimming and exploring the Eno River. He began running cross-country in seventh grade to get in shape for his middle school’s basketball season and developed a passion for running. Since then, he estimates, he’s traversed more than 20,000 miles. Last May, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Appalachian State University and shortly thereafter thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail.
“I want to raise awareness about the diversity of habitats and wildlife and push myself on their behalf,” he said. “Hiking the entire MST will reinforce my connection with North Carolina, so I never forget where I came from no matter where I’m heading.”
Follow Bennett’s journey or find out how to donate at ncwf.org/blog/hiking-for-habitat.
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Godspeed to you, Luke. I commend what you're doing for your home state and wish you luck in your quest.