by Kenny Wawsczyk, Michigan Regional Trail Coordinator
For all three days the sun shined down on the largest ever NCTA Celebration, with nearly 400 attendees.
With the temperature in the 70s you truly couldn’t ask for better weather, especially considering the fact of how much rain the U.P. has gotten this spring and summer. The gathering took place at Northern Michigan University in Marquette and proved to be a great venue to hold a Celebration.
Also, if you’ve never been to Marquette, put it on your list for places to visit. It has a friendly downtown area with all the stores you’d find in a big city in its outskirts. Travel a few miles outside the city and you’re surrounded by trees, rocks and stunning views. Besides the Celebration, Marquette also hosted a blueberry festival as well as two art shows, so needless to say there was plenty to do.
The scheduled hikes ranged from going up and down steep terrain to take in the views atop Hogback Mountain to walking the shared route of the paved pathway of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail. Besides the dinners and awards at night, hiking was the only thing on the agenda for both Thursday and Saturday. There were even group hikes days before the Celebration officially started.
Friday, after the morning hikes (that is if you weren’t eating blueberries at the festival), there were break-out sessions discussing more serious topics such as Engaging New Audiences and Chapter Fund Raising Basics. There were also entertaining sessions including, Comedy on the NCT and Yooper Tours.
(Check out this teaser trailer for a series of videos Alex Maier did on his hike through the U.P. Episodes 1-5 are available now on his YouTube Channel, with 4 more yet to come.)
Each night consisted of a social hour at 5 pm followed by delicious dinners. Numerous awards for both the NCTA and National Park Service were handed out and presentations were given about the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, the Appalachian Trail, and the Iron Belle Trail. Then on Saturday night we bid farewell to our Executive Director, Bruce Matthews as he will now be traveling the country (and probably then some) and fishing from his new kayak.
Overall it was a fantastic celebration and endless thanks go out to all the volunteers who made it happen, especially Lorana Jinkerson and the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter.
Next year’s Celebration will be in southern Ohio at Hocking Hills State Park, April 26-29th. We’ll be joining with the Buckeye Trail Association and their annual TrailFest. It’s going to be a fantastic joint celebration. Make plans now to join us in April!