We'll either walk from Folk Art Center if the parkway is closed farther north (usually is in the winter) or shuttle to Craven Gap and walk back to the parking lot. We leave by 9:10 a.m. If we walk from the Parking lot it's a lot of uphill on the way out and easier downhill coming home.
Mountains-to-Sea-Trail hikes are designed for fitness and community among already experienced hikers. We repeat the same trails weekly so that, over time, we enjoy the beauty of each trail. We limit our hikes to two hours because many of us work and have to be somewhere else by 11:15 or so. Thus, it's not possible to wait for slower hikers. We shuttle, so if someone is slower, the group would have to wait in order to give a ride back to the starting point. Thus, the need to be on the same page with regard to hiking pace.
Hikers who are new to hiking will likely be more comfortable on another meet up hike designed for people who are just beginning hiking or trying to get into shape for hiking. You might consider "WNC Easy Hikers Group," for instance.