NC Mountains to the Sea Trail FAQ
Who is Hope Floats NC?
After being diagnosed and subsequently battling cancer in 2009 Kim Tart wanted to do something to honor those who were still fighting and remember those who had been lost to the disease. She also wanted to help in the fight against cancer by raising money for research. In 2011 she decided that she wanted to do a long distance kayak trip through Eastern North Carolina to raise awareness to the disease and money for the American Cancer Society. The spark was ignited and Hope Floats NC was born. Hope Floats launched its first Annual Tour in April of 2012.
Are there other groups like Hope Floats NC that makes this kind of trip?
Hope Floats NC is one of only two Relay for Life teams in the country that paddles a multi day, long distance kayak trip as a team event to raise money for the American Cancer Society. Hope Floats’ sister team the Castaways Against Cancer also paddle as a Relay for Life team from Miami to Key West each June. In 2015 a group called Paddling for Pennies launched a trip down the Neuse to raise money for the Fire Fighters Assisting Armed Forces Families.
I am just trying to complete the MST, can I join Hope Floats NC to help me accomplish this?
Hope Floats NC’s primary mission is to raise money for the American Cancer Society. We would welcome individuals trying to complete the MST to join us on our Tour but they must fully commit to the fundraising mission of our team and participate in all duties and functions while on the Tour just as our Core Team Members.
How much does it cost to join Hope Floats NC?
The Hope Floats NC Tour is a fully supported event, meaning that we have a road crew that carries all of our camping gear, cooking equipment, portable toilet / shower facilities and any other non-paddling gear that is needed during the Tour. Since all of the donations that we raise goes directly to the American Cancer Society, our Team Members pay a fee to support the cost of the Tour. The fee for 2017 is $175.00 per person. This fee covers breakfast and dinner for each Team Member for the entire Tour. It also covers consumables needed in camp and the fuel for vehicles to pull our support trailer. There are also some external fees that we have to pay for promotional and publicity items for fundraising efforts. MST paddlers must pay a deposit of $85 by November 1st and the remaining balance of $90 by January 15th. MST paddlers who raise $600 or more of their Fundraising Requirement prior to November 1st can opt to wait and pay the entire $175 any time up to but no later than January 15th.
Why do I have to pay a deposit?
The Hope Floats NC Tour is limited to 30 paddlers. This limitation is due to restrictions of camping space at a couple of the sites we use during the Tour and also limited to the amount of space we have to carry personal and team gear in the support vehicles. Our permanent Core Team consists of 19 paddlers which leaves only 11 slots that can be filled by MST paddlers or potential new Core Team Members. Your deposit ensures that you have a reserved space on our team for the season.
What if I have to back out before the Tour, do I get my deposit back?
If you pay either your $85 deposit or your entire $175 Tour Fee and then decide you cannot join us, any money you paid will be refunded if the request is received prior to January 15th. After the deadline all deposits and fees are non-refundable. Any donations that were received to the American Cancer Society are non-refundable regardless of when they were made.
Why can’t I have my deposit or fee back after January 15th?
Once we get within 90 days from the launch of the Tour, we start to put together the final budget and begin committing funds. The budget is finalized around the number of paid participants on January 15th so if anyone backs out, it has the potential to impact our budget and the Tour Plan. Refunding money after the 15th would have a negative impact on our budget and may cause us to have to ask our other team members for additional fees to cover expenses. For this reason we will not make any refunds after January 15th.
I didn’t find out about Hope Floats NC until after the November 1st Registration Deadline, can I still join?
The earlier you contact us the better chance you have of securing a slot on our team for a season. We will accept participants anytime up until January 15th, or when we reach 30 participants.
Would I need to do fundraising?
As a paddler on our team you must commit to helping us fund-raise during the season that you join us. Relay for Life’s fundraising season runs from September to August. Paddlers are required to join our Relay for Life team before January 15th during the season you plan to paddle with our Tour. Each paddler is then required to raise a minimum of $1200 per person in donations to the American Cancer Society through their online profile at the Hope Floats NC Relay for Life Team site.
I am already a member of a Relay for Life Team, can I count donations I received at my other team towards my fundraising goal with Hope Floats NC?
Hope Floats NC encourages and supports all Relay for Life teams and consider them partners in the fight, however the Tour we make in April is for the sole purpose of raising funds in the name of our team. As such you would still need to meet your fundraising goal with and through our Relay Team in addition to anything you did with your other team.
When is the Hope Floats NC Tour and how long is the Tour?
The Hope Floats NC Tour lasts for 8 days. We hold our Annual Tour during the month of April. The dates for 2017 are April 15 – 22.
What kind of paddling experience do I need to make the Tour?
Each paddler joining the Tour must be proficient in basic paddling skills in up to Class II rapids, and be comfortable in Open Water. Anyone wishing to join the Tour must paddle with one of our permanent Core Team Members at least once prior to the Tour so that we can assess your paddling skills. This helps us to put our safety plan together prior to the tour and give us an idea of what you are capable of doing in case of an emergency during the Tour. We usually plan a monthly trip that you would be invited to join us to fulfill your assessment requirement. We can also work with you to plan something locally where we can meet for a couple of hours and get on the water.
What kind of gear do I need for the trip?
Participants must provide their own paddling and camping gear. Paddling gear consists of a minimum of something to paddle (kayak or canoe), a primary paddle, backup paddle, basic paddling safety items and the appropriate clothing to paddle in cold weather and cold water. Camping gear should consist of at minimum a tent, sleeping bag and any other personal camping gear needed for an 8 day trip. Cooking gear is not required as our support team packs all the kitchen gear and does the cooking.
Where does the Tour begin and end?
We launch our Tour from Anderson Point Park in Raleigh and it ends at the Town Dock in Oriental. All paddlers must begin and end each day with the entire team. No one is permitted to join us “mid-way” of any day of the trip. Paddlers who cannot make the entire 8 days of the Tour may do portions of the week but must coordinate with the team Captain and Support Crew Chief as to what days they are planning to join and depart.
What is the overall distance you paddle and how far do you paddle each day?
Over the 8 days of the tour we paddle between 204 and 208 miles. The exact mileage depends on the route we have to take on our last day. Each day’s mileage is different but we average 25 miles a day. The longest day is 37 miles (day 2) and the shortest is 19 miles (day 3).
How many hours are you on the water each day?
Time on the water depends entirely on the water levels of the river and what kind of flow is being generated. At higher water levels our longest day (37 miles) may be completed in as little as 7 hours. At low water levels it could take as long as 11 hours. Our shortest day (19 miles) is between 3 and 6 hours depending on the water levels. In typical years we can make about 4 to 5 miles in an hour.
Do you stop for breaks and lunch during the day?
Sitting in the boat all day can be almost as difficult as the paddling so we try to stop every two hours contingent upon finding a place to pull up and take out. The banks of the Neuse for the most part are steep and those places that don’t have steep banks are extremely muddy. Over the years we have been able to identify places that we can typically take out for breaks but during extreme high water levels they may be underwater and we would need to find alternatives. We don’t have an established “lunch” break. Typically paddlers will be eating all throughout the day to keep their energy levels up. During most breaks we are out of the boats long enough to take a potty break and get a bite to eat before getting back in the water.
Where are some of the places you stop each night to camp?
At present there are only two established camping locations on the Neuse River along our route. Neuseway Nature Park in Kinston and a commercial KOA campground in Bridgeton (that we do not stay at) are the only places designated for camping to the general public. Our team has a partnership with the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, the Town of Smithfield, and the Sudan Shriners that allow us to camp by special permit in places where camping is not allowed to the general public. We are able to do this because of our non-profit mission and partnership with the American Cancer Society. Stops that we make each of the 8 days are; Smithfield, Cox Mill Ferry, Goldsboro, Seven Springs, Kinston, Maple Cypress, New Bern and Oriental. Goldsboro Parks and Recreation is trying to establish a river campsite just down river from the Wildlife Access on Highway 117. Although the park has not been developed we partnered with them to start using the site as one of our stops, and promoting it to other paddlers in an effort to generate interest.
What other commitments or responsibilities would I have during the Tour?
Each paddler and camper that joins us for the tour must share in communal duties in camp and safety duties while on the water. In addition to being responsible for setting up and taking down your personal camping gear, you would also be required to take a turn in the rotation of camp duties including assist with kitchen clean up other help needed by the support crew. You may also be asked to help unload or load some of the shared camping gear. While on the water each paddler is required to take a rotation in the sweep (last paddler) position. The Sweep Position consists of a minimum of two paddlers one of which must possess advanced paddling skills including assisted deep water rescue and basic first aid. Sweep Position is covered in shifts of half a day and each paddler will take a turn for one morning and one afternoon shift during the Tour. Paddlers are also required to participate in a nightly ceremony of remembrance and a daily debrief/safety meeting.
Why does Hope Floats NC paddle in April as opposed to other times of the year?
There are many reasons that we paddle in April. The month of April provides the best window of opportunity to have fairly predictable weather over an 8 day stretch. There are very few severe thunderstorms during April since the air temperatures are still a little cool. Although we have had snow in North Carolina as late as April, it is very rare. Since temperatures are still cool in April we don’t have to contend with mosquitoes like you would from May to as late as November. Hurricane season starts in June and runs until November and there is no way to predict what will happen during those months from year to year. Water levels on the Neuse are usually highest in March and begin to fall off in mid to late April unless we have an unusual amount of rain in late Spring. April gives us the highest safely navigable waters on the Neuse. December to March the water temperatures can be extremely cold on the Neuse which increases the risk of hypothermia should you accidentally fall out of the water.
Since I am just trying to complete the MST can I end my paddle at the Neusiok Trail at Pine Cliffs rather than paddle to Oriental?
Paddlers will not be allowed to leave the group except in cases of emergency while we are on the water. Oriental is about 6 miles across the river from Pine Cliff and the Neusiok Trail. If you are doing a through trip of the MST and want to get to Pine Cliff after our Tour we will be glad to work with you and give you a ride back down to Minnesott Beach where you can catch the ferry across the river to Cherry Branch. The entrance to Pine Cliff Recreation Area is just ¾ of a mile up hwy 305 once you get off the ferry. If you own your paddling gear, we can work with you and get your boat secured until you can pick it back up after you finish the MST. If you rent your gear it would be up to you to get it returned as we cannot take any responsibility for it.
What if I can’t devote a whole week to the trip, can I do sections?
After January 15th, we open up the tour to “Day” paddlers. This is for anyone who wants to paddle for 3 days or less of the Tour. The rates for Day paddlers vary significantly depending on the number of days you want to join. Single day paddlers receive no assistance from our Support Crew and no meals for the day are provided. Participants that join us for two or three days consecutively will benefit from the full support of our crew and receive breakfast and dinner on the days they are with us.
What if I just wanted to make the trip on my own, what advise could you give me?
A multi day trip down the Neuse requires a lot of planning. There are many challenges that you must prepare for and you need a good contingency plan in place should an emergency occur. Don’t try to just “wing it” on the Neuse. The river is constantly changing, trees are falling, there is a lot of debris in the water, and water levels and flow rates are constantly fluctuating. It is not an impossible trip and the more planning you do the better success you will have.
As mentioned in other sections of the FAQ there is no established camping sites along the river and the majority of land is private and posted. Public Lands such as NC Wildlife Accesses allow camping only by special permit to established groups who submit a plan for approval. Individuals are not allowed to camp and Wildlife Officers will ask you to leave and may even issue you a citation if they find you in violation. Your safest bet is to have a support group that can meet you at established take out points and get you to somewhere that you can stay overnight like a local hotel. There is camping in Kinston at the Neuseway Nature Park run by the City for a nominal fee. They also have bathrooms with showers available. When you get down to New Bern the KOA Bridgeton is river left before you get to the Dunn Street railroad bridge. They have a nice takeout and campsites within site of the ramp. If you aren’t interested in adding the extra 2 miles it would take to paddle across the river to the KOA and back there are several hotels in New Bern on the waterfront.
There are long sections of the Neuse that are very remote with little or no access. There is also limited access to phone service so you should definitely have a paddle plan in place and established times and points to make contact with someone away from your trip. Verizon has the best coverage. One other option for you might be a Spot Locator which does work great along the Neuse.
Paddlers should study maps carefully and know how many miles they can realistically paddle in a day. Many people start out on this trip with unrealistic expectations of what they can do. You cannot make this trip in single weekend or even a longer 3 day weekend. At best paddling sun up to just before sunset, you might be able to make the entire trip in 6 days. Trying to make the trip with that kind of consistent mileages and not knowing where you are going to stop each night can lead to accidents or put you in extremely dangerous situations. If you have already been section hiking the MST consider doing this portion on the Neuse in small two-day or three-day sections that you could manage better and would give you less risk should you attempt it without giving due diligence to planning.
The most important two pieces of advise is wear your PFD and never paddle alone. Many sections of the Neuse do not see daily traffic so if you have an accident and can’t move forward, it could be hours or days before anyone found you if you were unable to get phone service or fell overboard and lost your phone. This alternative to finish the MST is going to be unlike any other section of the Trail that you have completed in that it truly is the road less traveled, so be sure to put together a really detailed float plan and make frequent contact with family or friends away from your group, at established times. That way should you run into trouble and can’t reach someone, you have the peace of mind that someone will come looking for you if you don’t make a check point. OR better yet, just join us for our Tour in April and enjoy some great company along your journey.
I have read everything in the FAQ and I am ready to join or have further questions who can I talk to?
If you have made it through the FAQ and this sounds like something you would like to do to complete your journey of the MST, you should contact the Skipper of Team Hope Floats NC, Chris Tart. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you would just like to talk you can reach him by phone at 910-890-1094. If you get his voice mail please leave a message with your name, phone number and a short message saying you are trying to finish the MST and would like more information about our trip. He will get back to you as quickly as possible.
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