4 Tips for Hiking all the North Country Trail in One State
Have you ever thought about hiking all of the miles of the North Country Trail in your state? Marci and her husband Darrell just passed 500 miles on their goal to hike all 1,150 miles of the NCT in Michigan.
They started out simply with day hikes and then got hooked. Marci has tips for those who might consider a goal like this, even if you don’t think you’re in shape and are still working full-time and don’t think you have the time!
by Marci Burke, Chief Noonday Chapter Member
My husband, Darrell, and I have always loved to hike together. We usually just did short loops or out-and-back hikes. Our most frequented areas were around Kellogg Forest (Augusta, MI), Red Bridge area of the Manistee River (Wellston, MI), and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Munising, MI).
When we first started hiking, we didn’t know there was a common thread with our favorite areas – the North Country Trail passes through each of these areas! Our interest was piqued as we began to notice signs and kiosks describing the trail.
Our first planned NCT hike was a 100-mile backpacking trip from Pictured Rocks area to Tahquamenon Falls area. It was a personal challenge that we wanted to accomplish.
We made it, and we fell in love with the North Country Trail. That was in 2011.In 2015 we made it a goal to section hike the entire state.
As of 1-1-17 we have hiked 500 miles. We are aiming to average 30 miles per month this year and next year so we will complete the trail by the end of 2018.
We both have jobs that don’t allow us a lot of time off work, so we hike when we can. We are 50-ish and 60-ish and not in perfect shape. All it takes to succeed is a good pair of shoes, a backpack, and a love of the trail!
Tips for those considering hiking all the North Country Trail in one state:
1. Plan, plan, plan.
- Just do it! Haha, in reality it does take a little bit of planning.
- Look at the terrain, weather patterns, and trail accessibility to determine how long your hikes will be. It is faster hiking when there aren’t elevation changes.
- Summer has longer daylight hours than winter, so we plan longer hikes during those daylight hours.
- We chose to hike certain sections of trail at certain times of the year for safety and/or comfort due to snow or river crossings. For instance, rather than take a road hike around a river fording, we hiked that section in late summer when the water level was lower (and warmer!)
- The southern portion of our state has less snowfall, so we hike more of those miles in the spring and winter.
2. You don’t have to hike sequentially.
It isn’t necessary to hike the whole trail sequentially.
However, in order to keep an accurate record of our hiking progress, we do start or end our hikes at the terminus of a previous hike in that area.
We also keep a map on the wall at home that shows our progress. It serves both as a reminder of where we have been and an incentive for we have yet to go.
3. You don’t have to be strong to hike the trail. Hike the trail to get strong.
The benefits of hiking the North Country Trail are many, but they may differ for each individual. I find that the trail is a place where I know I will be challenged and grow both physically and mentally. If something is bothering my mind, I can think it through as I hike. If something is uncomfortable with my body, my mental strength keeps me going. There really is some truth to “mind over matter.”
4. Hike your own hike.
- A day hike will get you out on the trail (that’s how we started).
- A thru-hike will keep you on the trail (we can’t get away for that long).
- A section hike will keep you going back to the trail and this is the method that is working for us right now.
On a recent hike in the cold and snow, we were tired and sore but excited to meet the milestone of 500 miles. After mile 499 I asked my husband, “If we were on our last mile to complete the entire state, how do you think you would feel right now – elated, relieved, or disappointed to be done?” He answered, “All of the above. I guess I would be thinking about what our next hike would be.”
That just about sums up our trail experience. Even with an end goal of hiking all of Michigan, each end is the next beginning.