By Alex Junes-Ward

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Pandemic shutdown aside, Tom Mullikin remains hopeful and is working: In fact, he’s busy planning and conditioning himself for his next big expedition, this one no less ambitious than previous excursions but a bit closer to home. In July 2020, Mullikin will embark on his CAROLINA 7 expedition, a first-of-its-kind mission that will have the global expedition leader hiking the length-and-breadth of the Palmetto State from the mountains to the sea. 

So-named for the seven geographic wonders unique to South Carolina, Mullikin’s route will include each segment of the Palmetto Trail, an approximate 500-mile stretch from the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Upstate to the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Basin (aka ACE Basin) in the Lowcountry.

“This will be something of record-setting expedition, not so much in terms of the time it takes for us to complete it, but in terms of the magnificent destinations across South Carolina that we will enjoy along the way,” says Mullikin, an energy and environmental attorney, former Army officer, and retired commanding general of the S.C. State Guard who has spent much of the last four decades traversing every continent on earth, climbing mountain ranges of the world’s seven tallest peaks (including reaching the summits of more than 20 mountains across the globe) and logging SCUBA dives in all the world’s five oceans. “This hike across our state will, I believe, be unlike any exploratory expedition ever done before at any point in our state’s history. Our expedition is intended to raise awareness of the unbelievably beautiful and historic sites across South Carolina – from the mountains to the sea.”

The CAROLINA 7 expedition will serve as “a public awareness campaign and learning experience for all,” he adds. “As families across our state recover from the shutdown and the impacts of COVID-19, we hope our expedition will raise awareness of the tremendous beauty our state has to offer. And where appropriate, we invite families across South Carolina to join this historic expedition either virtually via social media or along the trail.” 

Along the route, Mullikin and his team are planning a series of evening fireside chats on issues ranging from conservation, resiliency, adult and childhood fitness, outdoor therapy, floodwater-mitigation issues, and more. The discussions will be led by key partners in the outdoor and conservation industries. 

A “National Geographic Expert” and a Fellow in both the Manhattan-based Explorer’s Club and London’s Royal Geographical Society, Mullikin currently chairs the Governor’s S.C. Floodwater Commission, an organization established in 2018 by S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster [pictured here with Mullikin] as a means of exploring new and substantive flood-mitigation opportunities in the wake of disastrous flooding across S.C. since 2015.

– Alex Junes-Ward is a S.C.-based freelance writer.