Trail Days’ Vendor Village promises education-filled stroll — and brews

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Josh Smith will demonstrate his Mountains-to-Sea Trail app at the N.C. Trail Days vendor village the first weekend in June.

Courtesy Josh Smith

ELKIN — This year’s Vendor Village at the N.C. Trail Days festival in Elkin features more than 20 outdoor recreation and advocacy-themed exhibitors, as well as fly fishing demonstrations, food trucks and a beer garden.

Booths will include: N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Cooks sporting goods of North Wilkesboro, Friends of Stone Mountain, Blue Ridge Conservancy, Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Throw and Sew, Surry County Beekeepers Association, Yadkin Riverkeeper and Carolina Climbers Coalition.

Among this year’s exhibitors is Josh Smith, who will be sharing information about his free Mountains-to-Sea Trail app, Pocket Trails. The app offers a guide to hikers working their way across the MST, which is North Carolina’s version of the Appalachian Trail. The app launched a year ago on the Android platform and just recently released this year for Apple iPhones.

Following completion of his service in the U.S. Air Force in 2017, Smith set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. A native of Hillsborough, he had always sought to hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which passes through his hometown. But the resources for following the trail are not as rich as those available to AT hikers, making MST thru-hiking challenging.

Smith planned to complete a mechanical engineering degree after finishing his AT adventure. But along the way, he listened to a podcast about programmers working on developing trail apps. Smith knew the development of resources for MST hikers could bloom if the North Carolina trail had a successful app.

“I was in Northern Virginia — a week away from Harper’s Ferry — and that’s all I could think about while I was walking” was developing the MST app, Smith said. “You have to think about something while you walk for 10 or 12 hours of the day. I would go to sleep thinking about it.”

So he got off the trail halfway through the journey and enrolled in the New York Institute of Technology in Long Island. After taking a class in the programming language for app development, he abandoned his plans for the mechanical engineering degree and is now a year away from completing an information technology degree. His MST app, Pocket Trails, is a constant work in progress and could very well become his full-time job upon graduation, he said.

Smith will also lead one of Trail Days’ guided hikes — the Grassy Creek Vineyard to Carter Falls hike.

“I went to Trail Days in 2019. If you know anything about AT Trail days, that event definitely has a party atmosphere,” said Smith, observing the stark contrast with Elkin’s nature-loving version of the event. “I fell in love with Elkin and I fell in love with the idea of N.C. Trail Days.”

Lisa Michals may be reached at 336-448-4968 or follow her on Twitter @lisamichals3.

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