Except as otherwise noted, all contents of this Web site are Copyright © Chief Noonday Chapter, the North Country Trail Association.
 June 29, 2015

Chainsaw safety note from the National Interagency Fire Center:   We are posting this information not only for our certified chain-sawyers in Chief Noonday Chapter, but also for others who may use chainsaws in settings other than the North Country National Scenic Trail where certification may not be required.


Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter  

 May 28, 2015

Real log notes from the Trail:   If a contest were held to determine which chapter in the North Country Trail Association had the most trail kiosks, my money would be on Chief Noonday Chapter to be in the top ten if not in the lead.

At last count, we had 27 kiosks at or near trailheads in Chief Noonday Country which the Chapter had constructed and erected, plus materials posted on shared space on two others.

(You can click on this to make it bigger)

And eleven of our kiosks have log boxes mounted on them containing notebooks for hikers to stop and leave a word or two about their experiences on the Trail. 

There are a lot of messages of support and appreciation for the Trail and all the effort and dedication that goes into maintaining it.  And that is heartening to see for those of us who spend a lot of hours and energy working to keep the Trail up or develop it or promote it, as well as use it.

Larry Pio, Chief Noonday Chapter's intrepid president, has been keeping an eye on the log books from the various kiosks and has begun a project to scan and reproduce the logs so everybody can enjoy them.

For starters, we have a collection of pages from the log book during 2014 at Stagecoach Park on the North Country/Paul Henry Thornapple Trail at Middleville.  This is a reproduction of the original notes, boo-boos and all, to give you the full flavor of the messages.  Writers were young and old.  Some hikers were passing through on extended hikes on the NCNST.  Some names are already familiar to us in the Chapter.

We'll post more logs as Larry produces them.

If you don't already have a reader which can open PDF files, contact the Webmaster for suggestions.

Log notes from the Trail:

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter  

.June 11, 2014


A new bench set invites a rest stop along the North Country National Scenic Trail just north of the Bowens Mill Rd trailhead in the Barry State Game Area, Barry County, Michigan.  (Photo by Mick — who inadvertently left his orange day pack in the picture)
New enhancement along the Trail in north Barry County:  So there we were, making our way south on the North Country National Scenic Trail in the Barry State Game Area, Barry County, on our June chapter hike, not expecting any surprises — when all of a sudden our hike leader Jane Norton and our hike sweeper Mary Rebert had one for us.  It was a brand new set of trail benches that had been hand-crafted for placement at that very spot by their spouses.
Tom Norton and Larry Rebert in the very early stages of putting the new benches in place.  (Photo by Mary Rebert)

The benches were two lengthwise halves of a 4 foot long pine log. 

The original log had been donated by Art DeFields, a friend of Tom Norton. Tom designed and cut the wood and stained the benches for protection.

The log halves were mounted on steel legs in a cradle that was attached to the wood with four bolts. Paul Nimz was the metal worker who crafted the base, which features cut-outs of the North Star and the NCT lettering.

The legs of the bench are buried and cemented in place. Larry Rebert and Tom did the installation of both benches on May 27.

Paul, Tom and Larry are members of Chief Noonday Chapter.  And the project was conceived and closely monitored by Tom's and Larry's wives, Jane Norton and Mary Rebert, who are the Chief Noonday Chapter North Country Trail Adopters for the BSGA section between M-179 and the Peets Road trailhead.

The "benching crew":  From left, Tom Norton, Larry Rebert, and Jane Norton(Photo by Mary Rebert — which explains why she wasn't in the picture)

The benches were placed along the Trail less than a tenth of a mile north of the Bowens Mill Road trailhead parking area.

A group of Chief Noonday Chapter members hiked the North Country Trail on Saturday, June 7th, from the Peets Road trailhead to Hall Lake (well, some of us only made it from Peets Rd to McDonald Lake — 6.2 miles — and called it good).  Most of us had not known that the project was being completed, and so we were surprised and delighted when we were walking along — and Mary and Jane sprang their surprise on us and created this "Kodak moment."

Another big trail enhancement project is under way in the Yankee Springs Recreation Area — the replacement of about 240 feet of boardwalk in the section between Norris Road and Hall Lake.  Work was started on May 31 and continued on June 1.  The Webmaster estimates that about 90 feet of boardwalk have been completed to the point where hikers can walk on them.  Much remains to be done.  But that will be the subject of another Trail Log item in the coming weeks.

Our hiking party took prompt advantage of the new trail-side rest-stop seating.  Seated from left: Linda Wilkey, Steve and Josie Hicks, Eunice Jennings, Mary Rebert. Standing from left:  Jane Norton, Mike Wilkey, Charles Krammin, and Bill Russell. The chapter members who carried out the construction and placement of the benches were not with us when the picture was taken.  (Photo by Mick)

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter   

.September 25, 2013

It's a sign!

A "new" sign on the Battle Creek Linear Park:  Seems like it's been years since we started trying to get this sign up in front of Clara's On the River on the Battle Creek River between McCamly Street and Capital Avenue NE. 

Wait, it has been years!  I'm pretty sure we already had possession of this sign from the National Park Service when I first became active in the Chapter in late 2005.  Larry Pio made a guess that it all started in 2002.  I queried our senior members about it, but it became apparent that our institutional memory regarding the early stages of this project is a bit hazy.  I concluded that we probably received the sign originally in 2003 or thereabouts.

Dave Kaufman, Specialty Machining, Kalamazoo, fabricator of the new frame, poses with the work in progress before the powder coating was applied.

The text on the sign is already a bit outdated, describing the Trail as 4,175 miles long.  Referring as it does to the shores of Lake Champlain in New York State, it'll become even more outdated when the Trail extends into Vermont in the not-too-distant future.  (Click here for a larger image.)

The original plan for this sign was that it would be mounted on the coordinated specially designed type of signage mounts already used along the Linear Park.  Eventually somebody figured out that the sign was simply too heavy and wind-resistant to be mounted in this way. 

And so the Chapter engaged Dave Kaufman at Specialty Machining in Kalamazoo to fabricate its new heavy-gauge aluminum frame.  The frame was powder coated to a matte brown color, which will extend the life of the frame and provide a stable color, which leaving it to oxidize in its natural state would not have done.

In Chief Noonday country, similar signs were erected years ago along the Trail in the Kellogg Biological Station (a short distance south of B Avenue) and Historic Bridge Park.  The sign at KBS is still there, but the one in Historic Bridge Park mysteriously disappeared some time ago.

The sign in its brand spankin' new frame was planted at Clara's by a Chief Noonday crew consisting of (pictured below, from left) Eric Longman, Mary Rebert, Mike Wilkey, Larry Pio, and Linda and Ron Sootsman, with collaboration from staff of the City of Battle Creek.  The setting was a nice little plot filled with yew bushes and a couple ornamental crabapple trees.

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter   

 August 31, 2013

Passing of a friend:  We received word that a long-time friend and member of Chief Noonday Chapter, Gerald A. Phillips, had passed away Friday morning, August 30, under hospice care in Kalamazoo.  Jerry had been battling cancer since late last year.  He was 70 years old and a resident of Portage at the time of his death.

Gerald A. ("Jerry") Phillips
August 2, 1943 - August 30, 2013

I first met Jerry at our Chapter meeting in April 2011.  He had been a member of the chapter and a Trail Adopter in previous years but had taken a break from involvement with the North Country Trail because of all the other things he was involved in — and there were lots of them.  His Adopter section had been between M-89 and C Avenue — the section now under the care of Ron Sootsman

Jerry had decided to get re-involved with the Trail and was interested in resuming service as an Adopter.  We promptly found an Adopter slot for him, teaming him up with Bob Cooley to tend to the Ott Biological Preserve and Kimball Pines sections.  He and Bob became close friends.

I was intrigued by Jerry's e-mail handle, "Zernialgus."  He explained that it was a homage to Gus Zernial, who back in the '50s had played as an outfielder successively for the Chicago White Sox, the Philadelphia Athletics, staying with the Athletics when they moved to Kansas City, and finally with the Detroit Tigers.

To put it mildly, Jerry was a dedicated fan of baseball — a walking library of baseball facts, stories and lore.  Bob Cooley said that among Jerry's possessions he found several boxes of books, at least 50 books, just on the subject of baseball.

Jerry was a devoted teacher, and he didn't retire from teaching when he retired from his day job in 1997 — as anyone who ever hiked in the woods with him can testify.  Every time Jerry wanted to emphasize a point, he would stop, face you, make the point, and only then would you move on.  There would be a lot of stops....

Jerry was born in Dowagiac in 1943.  He graduated from Decatur High School in 1962.  He went on to Western Michigan University, graduating there in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree.  His college major had been History, with a double minor in Social Science and Physical Education.  He went to work for the Battle Creek Lakeview School District as a teacher — and taught there for 30 years.  He taught 6th, 7th and 8th grade U. S. History, Social Studies, and English.

Jerry coached for Middle School track, basketball, and football teams.  He also coached for Battle Creek summer baseball league and for several years was the director of the entire summer baseball program for 600 kids. 

Bob Cooley, whom Jerry had named as the executor of his estate, reports that Jerry had been the second youngest of six children.  Jerry had been married in the past but never had children of his own.  He more than made up for it in the love he had for kids and the dedication of his talents, energies and time over so many years to teaching and coaching so many kids.

Among the sidelines Jerry became involved in were researching and documenting genealogy, which he did for over 40 years, and he was a long time member of the Van Buren Genealogical Society.  He loved the outdoors and loved sports.  He was once a long-distance runner.

Besides the North Country Trail Association and Chief Noonday Chapter, Jerry's memberships included the Michigan Nature Association, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society mentioned above, the Kalamazoo Valley Genealogical Society, and the Rose Family Association.

It is expected that a celebration of Jerry's life will be held in the next few weeks.  And what a life to celebrate!

My thanks to Bob Cooley for providing most of the biographical information above.

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter 

Update 9/18/2013:  A celebration of Jerry's life will take place on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:00 AM in the Grange Hall, in front of the Hamilton Coastal Plain Sanctuary, located at the intersection of 84th Ave and County Road 215, Hamilton Township, MI. 49045.  Click here for a map.

 July 9, 2013
North Country National Scenic Trail 2013 through-hiker Luke "Strider" Jordan getting underway on the next mile set.  (Photo by Beth Keloneva, West Michigan Chapter)

Long-distance hiker coming through Chief Noonday country:  Meet Luke Jordan, who acquired his trail moniker "Strider" for exactly the reason you might think: his stride when he has a full head of steam up on the trail is long enough that other hikers who join him on the trail have to be in good shape and pretty motivated to keep up. 

Luke reached Lowell on Wednesday 7/17 and met N.C.T.A. national staff members (from left) Executive Director Bruce Matthews, Jill DeCator, Tarin Hasper, Beth Henkels, and Andrea Ketchmark

And it wouldn't just be an issue of velocity.  On Luke's trek to cover the entire 4,600 mile length of the North Country Trail this year, they'd also need to be ready for distance, because Luke has been averaging around 25 miles a day.

Luke, who hails from Minnesota, elected to do sort of a preamble to his main trek on the NCNST by coming to Michigan last year to satisfy the requirement that one walk the bridge over the Straits of Mackinac in order to claim a true through-hike on the North Country Trail.  And as we Michiganians all know, the only day you can do that is Labor Day each year.  So Luke termed Labor Day 2012 as "Trail Day 000" in his journal.

Luke began the main trek six months later on March 27 of this year ("Trail Day 001") from Lake Sakakawea State Park in North Dakota

That means he's been hiking on the NCNST nearly four months now. 

Prior to his "official" arrival at Lowell on Wednesday, Luke left the Trail briefly on July 12 to be in Lowell for the unveiling of the new mural at NCTA HQ and the inauguration of Lowell as one of Michigan's latest Trail Towns.

And this week he passed the half-way point on his way to Lake Champlain in New York.  I understand he actually plans to finish his trek in Vermont.

He reached the Schoolhouse at White Cloud on Saturday, July 13, and hooked up with Western Michigan Chapter members. 

He reached Lowell on Wednesday, July 17, had lunch and spoke to the Rotary there, and continued on from Lowell that afternoon. 

He arrived in Michigan's First Trail Town, Middleville, on Thursday, July 18, was greeted by Jean Lamoreaux and Village staff members, and was treated to lunch at The Big Easy (where Chief Noonday folks have been known to break fast before setting out on hikes and workdays in the Middleville area). 

Jean had a chance to do a bit of interviewing.  She writes: 

I took him to lunch at the Big Easy, who gave him a free lunch. We had a nice chance to chat.

Luke "Strider" Jordan, graduated from St. Cloud State in December 2012 with a degree in Natural Science.  Being totally burned out from college, he wanted to be outdoors and personally accomplish something.  He planned for six months this hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail.

Jean Lamoreaux caught Luke on camera on the Trail through Middleville (note the urban signage on the lamp-post).

On March 27, he started in North Dakota and for six weeks he had to wear snow shoes to walk the Trail.  He averages about 25 miles a day.  And he plans to finish in Vermont by October.

So far he has covered 2,400 miles and worn out 1½ pairs of shoes.  He has a third pair ready just in case.  The Post Offices along the way are his lifeline for supplies.

He eats one full meal a day and survives the rest on protein bars.  He sleeps along the trail wherever he can. Stays in a motel about once a week. He said there has been a lot of "trail magic" so far, where people have offered their homes and food.

He budgeted $5,000 for the trip and has quite a bit left.  He plans to take a train from Vermont back to Minnesota where he is from.

He has wanted to quit three times from exhaustion, blisters on his feet, and pests.  The ticks were the worst in Wisconsin, where he had to remove three, and the mosquitoes were the worst in the UP where he had to wear netting, which was also hot.

He was anxious to keep going today and plans to be in Battle Creek on Friday night and into Ohio by next week.

He got lost once in the UP and disliked walking in the hot sun where the Trail goes along roads.  He had no problem finding his way from Lowell to Middleville.

Map packets from the mash-up collection on Chief Noonday's Web site were strategically placed on several trail kiosks in Chief Noonday's tri-county area to help ensure that any side trips Luke took were ... intentional.

Luke is keeping an on-line journal of his trek here.  Also, check the Facebook pages (NCTA's and Chief Noonday's) for updates.   And see the article by Howard Meyerson, writing July 29, 2013, for the Grand Rapids Press.

The Webmaster will try to keep an eye and ear out for further reports on Luke's progress through Lower Michigan and spread the word.

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter  

.January 2013

The Year to Date — Trail happenings in January:

January 33:  Winter hike at Middleville:  OK, technically it was February 2.  Groundhog Day.  And after breakfast at The Big Easy, nine hardy souls stepped out for Chief Noonday's second winter hike of the season, walking about four miles in about six inches of snow on the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail/North Country National Scenic Trail.  They started at the Irving Trailhead, where this picture was taken by Jean Lamoreaux, and walked about four chilly Hiker Challenge miles along the Thornapple River and into the Trail Town of Middleville, and eight continued on to Crane Road.  Jean's camera lens did not need cleaning — that's snow coming down as the picture was taken. 
     Hiking were Mark Adams, Ron Sootsman, Karen, Charles Krammin, Jackie and Fred Wilson, Cal Lamoreaux, Patt Bartig, and Patt's son Bruce. (The Webmaster apologizes to Karen for not having her full name.)  The highest temp on the Trail today was 20° at 10:45 AM, and the wind chill was around 10°.
Shoe Year's Day 2013 at Yankee Springs:  For Chief Noonday's first winter hike of the season on New Year's Day, we teamed up with the DNR management and staff to host the second annual Shoe Year's Day event at the Yankee Springs Recreation Area.  We'd thought last year's program was a success with a total attendance of around 70 — so we were amazed when over 130 people showed up for this year's program. 
     The hike started at the YSRA Winter Sports Area on Gun Lake Road west of Hall Lake, followed the North Country National Scenic Trail to the west Norris Road Trailhead, and then returned to the Winter Sports Area — a total distance of about four miles.  DNR staff provided refreshments at both the WSA and the Norris Rd TH and awarded hiking staff medallions to those who completed the hike.  Ron Sootsman gave a presentation and guided tour on the history of Yankee Bill Lewis's hotel site and stagecoach stop and the old Yankee Bill's spring at the Norris Road trailhead.
     YSRA's DNR Park Manager, Andru Jevicks, and Park Supervisor, Joseph Jandernoa, were assisted by several other DNR staffers.  Chief Noonday members included Ron Sootsman, Charles Krammin, Marcia Mellen, Steve Hicks, Gerald Phillips, Cal and Jean Lamoreaux, Jane Norton, Mary Armitage, Eric Longman, and Bobbi Jo Gamache who brought a group up from Portage and helped spread the word to other hiking groups.
     Regrettably the Webmaster was only able to take a few pictures at the beginning, including this one — before his camera froze up.
Calhoun County Trailway Alliance receives grant:  In January the CCTA and the Community Foundation Alliance of Calhoun County received a second grant of $100,000 from Enbridge Energy.  This was a matching grant and marked the single largest corporate grant the CCTA had received to date.  Over 20 different contributors helped the CCTA meet the match.  The CFACC serves as the fiscal agent for the CCTA.  From left: Larry Rizor, CCTA President; Ron Sootsman, CCTA Treasurer;  John Sobojinski, Enbridge; and Karen Yankie, CFACC President.  Ron Sootsman is also VP/Administration for Chief Noonday Chapter, a partner of the CCTA.  (Photo by Marissa Nielsen) 
Wildflowers on the North Country Trail:  At the January chapter meeting, Chief Noonday's unofficial naturalist-in-residence, Cal Lamoreaux (in the teal shirt, right) treated the chapter to an informative exploration of the wildflowers and flora to be found along the NCNST in Chief Noonday Country.  The presentation consisted of Cal's captioned images and impressive commentary.
     We were also impressed with Audrey VanStrien's tote bag, which was covered with pins and badges from many places she had visited and trails she had hiked.

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter   

August 5, 2012
2012 National Conference of the NCTA:  On Friday evening NCTA Executive Director Bruce Matthews opens post-dinner activities introducing what has become an annual event within the annual Conference — v the singing of what has become sort of the NCTA's national anthem, the North County National Scenic Trail Ballad written by Charlie MaGuire and introduced to the NCTA membership at the 2007 National Conference at Bemidji.

CND caps a big year:   This has been an exceptional year for Chief Noonday Chapter.  There were two big events on CND's calendar that were unique in its history:
●   We celebrated the 15th Anniversary of our founding as a chapter in the North Country Trail Association, when we set out on our mission of building, developing, maintaining and promoting the North Country National Scenic Trail in the south central and western counties of the State of Michigan.  And,
●   We took on the challenge of hosting the 2012 National Conference of the NCTA — and we pulled it off!

Planning and preparing for a national conference is a long process.  For us it began with discussion at the April 2010 chapter meeting.  Search for a site began in May 2010.  The Chapter voted to take on the mission at the June 2010 chapter meeting.  Plan B for the site, the Yarrow Golf & Conference Resort in Kalamazoo County near Augusta, solidified in October 2010.  And we were off and running.

Numerous people, including several who were brand new members of the Chapter, stepped forward to take up the challenge of serving on the various Conference committees, under the initial leadership of Dave Cornell, who was soon joined by a co-chairman, Eric Longman

Together this intrepid crew did the planning, made the contacts, did all the legwork, talked to all the people, recruited help, solicited financial support, obtained and prepared materials and souvenirs, arranged transportation, and tended to the gazillion details of preparation (including a lot of Trail work during an exceptionally hot summer) that ultimately led to a great and very successful Conference.

A picture caption in our gallery of pictures from the Conference lists all the people involved in the Conference work whom the Webmaster knows about.  There may be others as well that he didn't know about.

A magnificent North Country Trail Quilt was created by Chief Noonday members and their friends, to be auctioned off at the Conference.  Displaying the quilt are (from left) Mary Fleming, Linda Wilkey, and Josie and Steve Hicks.  (See the gallery picture caption for more details.)

Conference activities included (but were not limited to) workshops and discussions led by NCTA and NPS national staff as well as National Board President Larry Hawkins.

There were hikes on our urban and park Trail segments in Calhoun County, the entire Trail through Kalamazoo County, most of the off-road Trail in Barry County, and a long segment in Kent County.  There was a side hike and tour at Saugatuck hosted by Charles and Verle Krammin.  There were tours in Lowell, KBS, Marshall and Albion. 

According to reports from HQ at Lowell, there were 136 paid registrations for the Conference.  Add to that the staff, family and guests — which brings the total of those attending part or all of the Conference to more than 150.  The Webmaster counted around 70 registrations from Michigan.  There were a total of 506 sign-ups for the various hikes, workshops and tours.  Numerous people, with Chief Noonday members and friends well represented among them, received national awards from the National Park Service and the NCTA.

Despite having taken Greek for five years in high school and college, the Webmaster couldn't make much of the final financial report.  Suffice it to say that after all the fees and donations were collected and bills were paid, there was $3,848 left over, which was divided equally between NCTA and Chief Noonday Chapter.  

Be sure to check out our picture galleries of Chief Noonday's CND national award recipients and of Conference events.

Congratulations and thanks to all the Chief Noonday Chapter members and friends who helped to produce this highly successful event!

Next year it's Pennsylvania's turn.

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter  

 June 20, 2012

Interurban connections:   The North Country Trail may not be part of the National Historic Trail system, but it doesn't lack its own historical highlights.

The Gull Lake Junction station in the interurban railway system was located at what is now the North Country National Scenic Trail trailhead on Augusta Drive.  Click on the picture to see a larger version.

One site of historical interest is the Augusta Drive trailhead on the Ron and Grace Hutchinson property on the edge of Augusta.  That spot a hundred years ago was what you might call a bit of a transportation hub.

Augusta the village got its start back in the early 1830s when a visionary and enterprising physician, Dr. Salmon King, arrived with his family, staked a claim, built a log cabin (and later an inn), and established his medical practice. 

He sold his holdings to another enterprising group who formed the Augusta Company in 1836.  They platted the village and re-channeled Augusta Creek into a new millrace, one of the longest and most successful  in Michigan. 

The first mill, a sawmill, started operation in 1837, and processed timber that was hauled, dragged or floated into town, producing the railroad ties and the lumber which led to construction of more mills, more industry, more trades, more stores and businesses, and the homes of the growing population of families employed by and utilizing all these enterprises.  

"Downtown": The interurban station in the village was located on what is now Michigan Avenue in Augusta but at the time this picture was still referred to as Augusta Drive.  Click on the picture to see a larger version.

The history of transportation and Augusta is an interesting topic in itself.  No doubt the very first avenue of transport was the Kalamazoo River.  Augusta Creek flowing into the Kalamazoo River would have triggered visions of water power and future mills and industries before Dr. King arrived, which was exactly what ensued. 

The first road was a dirt road that ran through town between the county line and the somewhat older Galesburg (initially known as "Morton") to the west on the same general southwest-northeast axis as the river.  That road was called "Augusta Drive" for its entire length — and is still labeled as such on older maps (and the Google on-line map).

The primary upgrade from "hoofing" it on such roads would have been horse riding or using horse-drawn carts.  But not everybody owned a horse.  One option would be for people to rent a horse (and a cart, if desired) from a local livery in Augusta.

Homework assignment

●   Click here to see a gallery of images and maps for more background on the interurban railway at Augusta.
●   Click here and here to see the posters put on display on the kiosk at the Augusta Drive trailhead by Larry Pio.

In 1845 the railroad arrived — and afforded yet another option — the Michigan Central Railroad, which connected Augusta and its businesses and industries with the markets in the rest of the State to the east and eventually to the west.  Augusta was off and running.

Augusta first became an incorporated village in 1869, less than a decade behind Galesburg, which had incorporated as a village in 1861.

As a firefighter in a previous life, I couldn't help be struck by the following story recounted in an article in the Kalamazoo Gazette (August 20, 2010):

On the night of June 28, 1893, a devastating fire leveled an entire block of the village. Possibly started in a bakery oven, the inferno destroyed a drug store, meat market, furniture store and grocery, along with the just-completed Finley's Hotel at the corner of Fayette and Webster near the Michigan Central tracks. By the time a hand-pumper fire rig arrived by train from Battle Creek, the fire was substantially out. Almost all of the horses boarded at the William Giddings livery stable were lost.

In 1900, at the turn of the 20th century, railway access at Augusta was enhanced when the Michigan Traction Company began running an electric interurban railway for passengers between Battle Creek and Kalamazoo through Augusta. 

The track ran along the northwest side of Augusta Drive — right across the front of what is now the Augusta Drive trailhead of the North Country National Scenic Trail.

And another interurban division connecting Battle Creek with Gull Lake and Richland via what would later become Camp Custer ran right through the present trailhead. 

The two tracks intersected right in front of the present trailhead, forming a junction.  Station buildings were built there.  And people coming from Battle Creek or Kalamazoo could get off at the station and catch the Gull Lake Division car to ride on up to the depot at Bay View, Gull Lake.  One could make connections at Gull Lake and continue on the interurban up to Grand Rapids.

One report I read said that Michigan Central ran over 90 trains a day through Augusta in the 1920's, between freight and passenger trains.  Another source said that the interurban came through Augusta in one direction or the other every 45 minutes.  But this also was the era that saw great growth in the automobile and trucking industries, with consequent improvement of roads and ultimately profound evolutions in the way people traveled. 

The era of Augusta and the interurbans ended in 1929.  Access to Augusta gradually became problematic as highways and an interstate were built away from it to the south and Camp (later Fort) Custer monopolized the area south of the River from Battle Creek to Galesburg.  The lack of easy access inevitably impacted commerce and industry, quite significantly changing the character of the town and the pace of life there. 

Nowadays probably the vast majority of Augusta residents still gainfully employed actually work elsewhere, mainly in Battle Creek or Kalamazoo, I suspect, and return to Augusta at the end of the daily grind to enjoy the relative peace and quiet which this pleasant town affords.  Maybe it's too bad the old interurban is no longer around.  The commuters' fares would probably be a fraction of what they're spending on gas!

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter  

(Sources for this Trail Log item included Mill Town: The History of Augusta, Michigan, Kalamazoo Gazette, 8/20/2010; How Dear to Our Hearts: Augusta, Michigan - 1976; Michigan Place Names, by Walter Romig, LHD, 1986.  Thanks to Larry Pio for gathering much of the background material from Ron Hutchinson and the Kalamazoo Public Library.)

 May 19, 2012

A higher profile for the Trail at the border:   The northern border of Chief Noonday Chapter country, that is.

Until recently, the North Country National Scenic Trail became a bit vague once you reached the northern boundary of the Middleville State Game Area south of Parmalee Road in Barry County on your way north.

The team makes fast work of raising the kiosk and settling it into its new site at the Maher Audubon Sanctuary on 108th Street.  That's the North Country Trail passing behind them — for the time being.

We still have some real work to do in that area, but we've had some interesting developments lately where the Trail follows the border between Barry and Kent Counties along 108th Street. 

Going North the Trail joins 108th Street from the Harris Creek Rd roadwalk connector trail and heads east over a mile-long stretch of straight but hilly off-road trail along the edge of the Middleville State Game Area

The Trail then crosses Solomon Rd/Coldwater Avenue and continues east as a roadwalk along 108th Street, a dirt road, until it turns north on Baker Avenue and heads up into Kent County. 

(To confuse things a bit, the road that is Baker Avenue going north at this point is Wood School Rd going south in Barry County. See our map mash-up of the "border" section.)

Sound boring?   Well, maybe so up till now, but things are changing. 

Completing some structural details on the back.

As it happens, for the last 2,500 feet on 108th Street before the Trail turns north, it goes right by the Maher Audubon Sanctuary, which is owned by the Grand Rapids Audubon Club

Chief Noonday president Larry Pio has been working with the GRAC to bring the two organizations into a new partnering relationship, and we see his work bearing fruit already.

On our May 19th workday we took down the trailhead kiosk from the old abandoned Mullen Rd trailhead, loaded it onto Jeff Fleming's trailer, hauled it north for 20.8 miles, and gave it new life putting it up at the entrance of the footpath leading into the Maher Sanctuary from 108th Street. 

We posted preliminary informational materials on the kiosk including a map of the NCNST in that area between Baker Avenue and Parmalee Rd and a map of the trails and creeks within the sanctuary itself.

The kiosk was measured for Plexiglas panes, which will be installed later, and a coat of stain was applied.  (See a later picture of the finished product on the Facebook page.)

The plan is to have informational materials relating to the North Country National Scenic Trail on the side of the kiosk facing the road and information on Audubon and the Maher Sanctuary on the side facing ... the Sanctuary.

And that's just the beginning.  The GR Audubon Club and the Chapter leaders are exploring the possibility of re-routing the North Country Trail off 108th Street and through the Sanctuary to come out on Wood School Road to the east, where it would turn north and continue as a roadwalk connector trail up into Kent County, which is the Western Michigan Chapter's bailiwick. 

After the kiosk was up, Larry Pio, Larry Hawkins, and Ron Sootsman checked out and flagged a couple possible routes leading out to Wood School Road from the Sanctuary's loop trail, for later study and shared decision by the two organizations.

In addition to the Larrys and Ron, today's work team was rounded out by Jeff Fleming, Bob Sulaski, Mary Rebert, and Yrs Truly.

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter  

May 9, 2012

The Merry Month of May — ver. 2.0

Middleville becomes CND's first Trail Town:  (Above) Village Council President Charles Pullen and Andrea Ketchmark, NCTA Director of Trail Development, sign a Memo of Understanding between the Village and NCTA as Larry Hawkins, NCTA National Board President, looks on.
     (Right below) Village trustee Phil VanNoord voiced strong support of the Trail Town relationship that Middleville and the North Country Trail Association have established.  Phil is also a CND member and Trail Adopter for the Middleville State Game Area section of the Trail.
     Middleville is believed to be the first NCTA Trail Town in Michigan.
     (Left below) Sara Schaefer, the DNR's Wildlife Biologist for the Barry State Game Area, delivers her report on Middleville's Mill Pond which is adjacent to the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail/NCNST.  Especially interesting to many of us was her primer on mute and trumpeter swans which are vying for ascendency at the pond.

Pre-Conference hike in Kent County:  On May 5 we hiked a section of the North Country National Scenic Trail through the Fallasburg County Park and the Lowell State Game Area which will be showcased at the National Conference in August.  Great trail, but the hike, billed as about 5 miles, came out closer to 7 miles, which will trigger plan revisions for the Conference hike.
    (Near right) The Trail along a ridge with a view of the Flat River calls for careful footing, because that's a pretty steep downgrade on the right!
    (Far right & below) We were impressed with the map boards and road crossing signage that the Western Michigan Chapter had erected along the Trail.  We may flatter them by imitation. 
    (Below)  Robert Sulaski, Charles Krammin, Mary Rebert, and Eunice Jennings approach a road crossing at Flat River Drive on this very scenic stretch of the NCNST in the State Game Area.
    Click here for a map mash-up showing the track of our hike.

Mick Hawkins   
Webmaster, Chief Noonday Chapter  

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Last modified: Thursday, December 03, 2015

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