Blogging the North Country Trail

by admin on October 5, 2011

Welcome! The NCTA’s Insight blog is your source for extended coverage and inside information on what’s happening on and around the North Country Trail.



There is something so breathtaking, so remarkable, so…fun about backpacking with women.

Don’t get me wrong, the natural scenery is pretty amazing. But can we take just a moment here recognize that women who backpack aren’t like other women? They’re strong. They’re open to taking risks. They’re pretty much the most amazing thing ever

Or at least that’s what I learned during a 3-day backpacking trip I led the weekend of Sept. 20-22 with five women — three of whom had never been backpacking before. We hiked the Manistee River Loop, a 20+ mile hike that covers the NCT through some of the most magnificent outdoor scenery in Michigan. (The waterfalls! The river! The woods!)

A Walk in the Woods — literally

This trip was offered by the Outdoor Book Club, a little company I launched this past February to help women get outdoors and get out of their comfort zones, while in the company of good books (and book lovers). For this trip, I chose Bill Bryson’s seminal backpacking tome, A Walk in the Woods. Everyone read the book beforehand, and when we rendezvoused at the Seaton Creek Campground, I passed out little care packages that included oatmeal cream pies (one of Bryson’s favorites) and hiking-themed bookmarks.

As the women hefted the backpacks filled with gear (which I had provided as part of the experience) on to their shoulders, the discussions about the book started. We talked about obnoxious trail companions, the rate at which American forests are disappearing, and of course bears. Bryson was notably concerned about bears through the whole book (coincidentally, I’d spotted one the week before while scouting out the trail). In fact, I had invited Bryson to join us on the trip, even though my trips usually are strictly women. His daughter wrote me back, thanking me for the offer, but said her dad was busy in the UK working on his latest book. Bummer.

The trip would have been amazing if the weather had been beautiful and sunny the whole time — but instead, we braved thunderstorms, blisters and even falling trees over the three days we were on the trail. But I’m also pretty sure it wouldn’t have been as memorable if the weather had been beautiful. (During a particularly thunderous 6am storm, I called out to the other women in their tents: “Everyone okay?” I got a resounding “YES! THAT WAS AWESOME!”)

The waterfalls!

How women hike differently than men

It’s not that our technique is different — we put one foot in front of the other, just like the dudes. But we tend to approach the challenge differently: instead of being competitive, we’re supportive. Instead of every man for himself, it’s a time of bonding and creating lasting relationships. Oh, and instead of beef jerky and freeze-dried bag meals, it’s hot, delicious shepherd’s pie, washed down with red wine. (Women definitely bring better snacks.)


What did we learn that weekend? To find our way out of  the woods, and our comfort zones, even those of us who were experienced backpackers. The women who hiked alongside me that weekend had never have felt as elated, brave and — okay, bad ass — as they did crossing that suspension bridge at the end of the three days. Tired, wet and asking when we could go again.

Jill Hilton

All photos courtesy of Donna Wilson.


The latest Call of the North Fall Winter 2014 issue of our newsletter is now available (PDF – 3.3MB).  In it, you’ll read about…

  • a recap of the Dakota Prairie Chapter’s “Hike every mile” event on North Country National Scenic Trail Day
  • a recap of the Minnesota Hiking Celebration event
  • an update on what’s happening with several of our Chapters in North Dakota & Minnesota
  • The 2015 activities schedule
  • An invitation to attend the Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis next weekend.  There will be several NCT-related presentations and our volunteers will be there staffing our booth in the Exhibitor tent again.

Nov 14 Expo Ad

October 22, 2014

Contributing to planning processes to protect the NCT

The NCT is a project needing incredible coordination between many land management agencies and partners. Each agency responsible for a section of the NCT may have a different mission (wildlife management, timber production, recreation) but they all have something in common, the NCT, and it’s our job to remind them the Trail is important, that […]

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September 17, 2014

It’s a Launch!

We Build Trail in Low Places–North Country Trail Association Celebrates our Volunteers! from North Country Trail on Vimeo. With a parody of the song "Friends in Low Places" (properly licensed!) this music video celebrates the volunteers who build, maintain and tell the story of America's longest national scenic trail. Stretching 4600 miles from the middle […]

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July 31, 2014

News for Chapter, Affiliate and Partner Leaders

It’s been a busy summer. Here are some items that have been topics of discussion lately so I thought I’d share with everyone. Let me know if you have questions, comments or thoughts on additional topics you’d like to see me cover in the future. This monthly email is not only meant to share ideas […]

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July 7, 2014

Thru Hiker Oversight?

The recent increase in making end-to-end thru hikes of the North Country National Scenic Trail, including accomplishing it in one season, has led to a number of questions having to do with NCTA’s oversight of such hikes and claims for their accomplishment. While NCTA welcomes and encourages such attempts, the Association neither assumes nor desires […]

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June 5, 2014

Celebrate National Trails Day on the NCT!

Question: What national “holiday” is celebrated this Saturday (June 7th)? Answer: National Trails Day®. According to the American Hiking Society, the 22nd annual National Trails Day® will be “the country’s largest celebration of trails” which will “bring together outdoor enthusiasts across the country.”  It is a “celebration of America’s magnificent trail system and its countless supporters and volunteers. More than […]

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April 28, 2014

Volunteers named Midwest Regional Hartzog Award winners

The National Park Service announced that NCTA Chequamegon Chapter volunteers, Rick Pomerleau and Mary Stenberg have won the Midwest Regional Hartzog Award in the Individual category. Rick and Mary have come to be known as the “dynamic duo” along the NCNST. While either one is deserving of this individual award, it is the collaborative effort […]

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April 28, 2014

Trail Alert: Ott Preserve – Emmett Charter Township, MI

  A portion of the NCT in the Ott Biological Preserve in Calhoun County has been temporarily re-routed while the Calhoun County Trailway is constructed in the same corridor as the northern portion of the Trail.   Please see the Chief Noonday Chapter page for more information:

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February 13, 2014

2014 Trails Advocacy Week Summary

Executive Director Bruce Matthews has been in Washington DC this week, supporting Trails Advocacy Week with the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS): Here is his summary of the week as he wades through weather delays and cancellations trying to get back home: Trails Advocacy Week 2014 is history. We’ve met with federal agency […]

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