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.


It’s a Launch!

by jdecator on September 17, 2014

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 of North Dakota to the Vermont border of New York (and hopefully soon into Vermont to connect with the AT), the North Country Trail illustrates the diversity and tells the collective story of America's northern heartlands–our "Red Plaid Nation." Go to for more information, and to support this effort!


Today NCTA is launching our first music video!   “We Build Trail in Low Places” ( parodies the old Garth Brooks hit, “Friends in Low Places,” and celebrates the efforts of volunteers along the entire 4600 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Our hope is that it will be widely shared and go viral in our community and elsewhere, sharing with the world something about who we are, what we love to do and why folks should want to be part of our community and family!

So, how come a music video? It’s no secret that the North Country Trail’s story is not well-told. We often joke about it being the “best kept secret,” but you know, it’s really not that funny. Our volunteers toil in obscurity and while most of us are happy just to be part of building the trail, its a worthy effort deserving of more recognition. Plus, there just aren’t enough of us. Its also no secret that we’re older and need to bring in more younger folks to take up the leadership mantle. We need a new and better way to share our story. A music video depicting a multi-aged group of folks having fun together sends a strong message about access, invitation and inclusion. If viewers can see themselves in the picture and want to stand next to and have fun alongside us, there’s a chance of bringing them on-board, recruiting them into the community.  And, through today’s social networking, if we can get LOTS of viewers we’ll be generating more awareness about the trail, who we are and what we do.

Will it work? A lot depends on you—our NCTA family, our trails community—and how enthusiastically the video gets shared. The more views and shares we get, the more likely the message gets communicated. We’ll measure the outputs—the numbers of views and shares, but the real outcomes have to do with more members, and more folks participating in NCTA activities. But again, we really need your help in sharing the video as widely as possible.

So how did we pay for it? We knew NCTA’s budget had other priorities, but the idea of doing a music video seemed like a good one, so we used a crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter, to generate the funds. With Kickstarter you pitch your idea to the public and ask for backers to step up and help fund it. The cool thing is, you set a target, and you only get funded if the target’s fully met. Basically people vote with their wallets, and fortunately they (you!) liked us! 154 backers pledged 25% MORE than our target, so we were able to do the project without taxing NCTA’s already stretched finances. Here’s more about Kickstarter:

We recorded the song, and then we recruited volunteers and shot the video scenes all in one June day in the Lowell, MI area. We’re pretty juiced about the results! We hope you will be too.  Above all send this link, , far and wide, to everyone you know, and encourage them to watch the video and talk about it with their friends. Help us make it go viral!

Consider making a donation to support the North Country Trail Association – Click here.

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 from the offices of NCTA and NPS, but it’s also a way to share best practices between chapters and affiliates or to get input on issues facing you out in the field. We are a large community and there is so much we can learn from each other so please ask lots of questions and share your stories with us. I’m also going to start posting these monthly emails to our blog so please feel free to pass the link on to anyone that is interested.

Partnering with Youth Corps

One of the biggest concerns I hear from those of you working in the field is that you need more young, strong bodies to do the heavy lifting out on the trail. Whether it’s to bench new side hill trail or carry lumber for a large boardwalk project, sometimes you need a little extra help. All across the trail, our chapters and partners have had great success working with youth corps of all different types. These groups vary in how they are organized, what they cost, and how much time they are willing to give, but all of them have the opportunity to provide the young energy you might be looking for a those bigger projects the chapter just can’t tackle alone. If you are interested in working with one of these crews, check out some of the options and let us know. We are happy to work with you to find the resources needed to make it happen. Here are a few good examples:

  • Americorp NCCC (see attached)
  • Student Conservation Association (see attached)
  • Wisconsin Youth Corp
  • Great Lakes Conservation Corp (see attached)
  • Conservation Corp of Minnesota and Iowa

Check out this story from Minnesota to learn more about the experience they had with AmeriCorp.

Timber Management and the NCT

Much of the trail goes through working landscapes, areas that are managed for multiple purposes like timber, wildlife, agriculture, etc. One of the most common practices, and most noticeable, is timber management. Although it’s easy to wish they simply stay away from the NCT, it’s not realistic. It’s important that we understand the processes of the agency so we can make sure the NCT is provided for. With better communication and partnership, the land manager can try their best to let you know what to expect, keep you updated on timber sales and guide the timber companies to care for the trail. Here are a few tips:

  • Be aware of your National Forest as well as State, County and private forest planning processes. If they offer an avenue for public input, make sure you let them know that the NCT is an important resource they should be providing for in the process. The key is finding out when and how in the process you can become involved.
  • Share NCTA’s Timber Harvesting Policy with the land managers and offer to work with them to keep the NCT open, safe and scenic during and after the scheduled harvest.
  • Take pictures before and after if possible. Land managers usually have a window of time after the cut to make timber companies comply with the terms of their contract. If their contract called for them to remove the slash from the trail and they didn’t, tell the forester.

When to use Paint and Plastic blazes

2×6-inch blue paint blazes are the standard marker for the North Country National Scenic Trail but the National Park Service also offers plastic nail up blazes to be used in certain situations.

In general, paint blazes are preferred for many reasons. They are inexpensive, blend with the natural surroundings and although they may require more upkeep, their lasting impact on the landscape is less.  The plastic alternatives were originally offered for two reasons: 1) We had a few land managers at the time that preferred them, and 2) for stands of young Aspen because they grow too fast and don’t hold the paint well. I’ve heard many arguments for plastic: it looks sharper, require less upkeep and are less messy. But over the years, we’ve seen how these plastic blazes deteriorate, fade, crack and become trash on the forest floor. They are more expensive, tend to become targets for vandals and they add an artificial element to a natural setting.

I know how much each of you has on your plate when it comes to managing a section of the NCT. It’s not an easy task and it’s understandable that you might gravitate toward plastic because of the ease and to keep from getting paint on everything you own. I’m not suggesting there is never a use for plastic; simply that we consider the impact and long term viability of placing thousands of plastic rectangles in the woods. Temporary routes or road walks or in stands of trees where paint blazes won’t take might be good places for plastic. In other cases, please consider all of the above when making the decision for the best marking on the trail.

If you haven’t already, check out Bill Menke’s guide to blazing.

North Country National Scenic Trail Day – coming soon!

September 27, 2014 will be our first annual North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) Day!  The objective is to raise the profile and awareness of the NCNST as a trail of national significance and a valuable recreational resource to local communities. We also hope the event will support membership recruitment and renewal, local partnerships and your marketing efforts of the local trail as part of the National Scenic Trail system. We hope to have events across the trail all on the same day, all celebrating the NCNST! You will find the guide to planning and hosting an NCNST Day event and many event ideas in our online Volunteer Resources Center.

NCT legislative update: Arrowhead, Vermont and Unit Status

HR. 4736 and S. 2595, the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act of 2014, are of great concern to the NCTA. If enacted this legislation would officially add the Arrowhead Trails of NE MN (Superior, Border Route and Kekekabic Hiking Trails) to the NCNST, as well as extend the eastern terminus into Vermont. For more see here: HR. 4736 was introduced by Rep. Nolan (MN-08) with the bipartisan support of 9 other House members. S. 2595 was introduced by Senator Klobuchar (MN), supported by 7 other Senators.

Currently in their respective committees, both bills await being scheduled for a hearing, which we’re told may occur after the August recess. We are working on

(1) Gathering the endorsements and support of partner organizations

(2) Urging the committee chairs to schedule the bills for a hearing

(3) Getting additional support from Members of Congress not already signed on.

We’re being told not to get our hopes up–Nothing’s changed in a Congress that seems determined to prevent as much legislation from being passed as it can. But we’ll keep trying.

S. 2293, the National Scenic Trails Parity Act of 2014, remedies an inequity in how the National Park Service administers its 6 National Scenic Trails. The Appalachian, Potomac Heritage and Natchez Trace hold “unit status,” and the North Country, Ice Age and New England do not. Among other things this inequity results in fewer opportunities, less funding and less recognition. Sponsored by Senator Baldwin and 3 others, S. 2293 did receive a hearing on July 23. NCTA is submitting formal testimony in support.

How can you help? NCTA’s Advocacy committee is actively seeking members across all of our states. We are still seeking state chairs for Pennsylvania, New York and Ohio as well as representatives for each Congressional District. See the attached position description and contact us if you are interested.

Membership retention and recruitment (R & R) strategies:

The North Country Trail Hikers from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan holds drawings for free memberships at local events. Participants fill out a slip of paper with blanks for name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. They draw five names to win introductory memberships for which the chapter paid the $23 each. After it’s over, they also add all of the emails they collected to their chapter e-mail list. These people now receive the e-newsletter and messages about chapter events in hopes that they will join. This is a great way to get new people engaged.

Please remember to follow up on past due members. Gentle reminders and encouragement to rejoin our NCTA family goes a long way.  If you are not receiving monthly past due report or new member information contact Tarin,  For more ideas and reference material check our Volunteer Resources Center on the NCTA website.

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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February 12, 2014

D.C. Blog 5: Tuesday’s Hill visits

Blog # 4: Report on Monday’s Hill visits Executive Director Bruce Matthews is participating in Trails Advocacy Week in Washington, DC. He is blogging his experience. Hill Visits: Tuesday I visited the offices of Rep. Dave Camp (MI-04), Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI-02),  and Bill Owens (NY-21). Owens’ NY district includes the Adirondacks and will be […]

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February 11, 2014

Trails Advocacy Week in D.C.: Blog 4–Monday’s Hill Visits

Executive Director Bruce Matthews is participating in Trails Advocacy Week in Washington, DC. He is blogging his experience. Hill Visits: Monday We have three main objectives as we visit Members of Congress this week: 1. Advocate their support for continued federal funding of the NCNST; 2. Advocate for the Land and Water Conservation Fund—including full […]

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February 11, 2014

D.C. Blog # 3: Advocating with Federal Agencies

Executive Director Bruce Matthews is in Washington DC for Trails Advocacy Week. He is blogging about his activities. One of the key elements of Trails Advocacy Week this week in Washington DC is meeting with the federal agency partners who respectively administer or have key roles with the management of national scenic and historic trails. […]

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