Our Stories

Felicia Hokenstad: Volunteer Spotlight

Categories: Connect, Michigan, Northern Michigan, Volunteer Stories


“I do not know if you see a recurring theme here,” said Felicia, “but I genuinely enjoy the outdoors and I take advantage of any opportunity that allows me to share that with others.”

Felicia Hokenstad volunteers with the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter in Marquette, Michigan. She has been eager to increase her responsibility as a Chapter member so she has stepping into a leadership role. Felicia agreed to an interview with the NCTA in early 2020, explaining her path of involvement with the Trail, NCTA and her Chapter.

Felicia Hokenstad
Provided by Felicia Hokenstad
    • Tell us a little about yourself! How did you become familiar with the North Country Trail?I am originally from Central Wisconsin, but moved to Marquette, Michigan (UP) about three years ago. My move to Marquette is how I found the North Country Trail. Marquette is referred to as a Trail Town by the NCTA. It is hard to navigate around town without running into blue blazes if you are a hiker, runner or mountain biker (some of the Trail intersects with the Noquemanon Trail Network, a mountain biking organization). I simply love to spend time outdoors hiking, biking, camping, sightseeing, etc. Hiking in particular has played a big role in my mental health, especially anxiety. I can feel like a wound up ball of anxious energy, go for a hike, and instantly feel better. As I started exploring more recreation areas in Marquette, I noticed more and more trees marked with blue blazes. Curiosity got the best of me and a Google search led me to the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter.


    • Describe your path from no involvement to volunteering with the Chapter. Assuming you at least used the Trail before anything, what inspired you to go beyond only using the Trail, to engage on a volunteer level? When did you join a Chapter? What made you want to pursue membership and/or a leadership role with them?
      I started out just using the Trail. The fact that it went all the way through Marquette and beyond was so intriguing to me. A simple internet search provided more in-depth information on the Trail, including the local Chapter. At this point, the only time I actually went hiking was with my partner, Eric. I was still new to the area and not feeling entirely confident enough to go solo. I made Eric join the Chapter with me last winter (2019) and dragged him to our first membership meeting in April. At that very first meeting I remember Lorana, the Chapter President, mention that she needed assistance with administrative type work, and I volunteered to help right away. Around that same time, I enrolled in graduate school at Northern Michigan University, and that took up all of my free time, so I never actually got around to helping her out with anything. That first semester of graduate school took up so much of my time that I barely got out to hike! I decided to take the summer off school, and volunteered for a trail maintenance project and to lead a third-Sunday hike for the club. Time went on and I decided to drop out of school because it was keeping me from being able to spend time outdoors. I started to have free time again! That is when Lorana and I finally met up and went over some of the administrative tasks that I could help with. Our Chapter is unique in that it was the first chartered Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. Many Chapter members have been here for a long time and are ready to pass their knowledge down to the next generation. I believe this is a gap that I can help fill; it is one of the main reasons I decided to pursue a leadership role with the Chapter. Sharing is caring, and I love to share my experiences outdoors with anybody who is willing to listen. It’s not always an easy task to recruit new members, but I believe that if I can share the love that I have for the Trail with as many people as possible in the Marquette area, other people will feel the same need to give back.


    • What other/previous volunteer and/or leadership experience do you have?
      Outside of the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter, I am an ambassador (hike leader) for an organization called “Women Who Hike,” whose mission is to empower women who hike on and off the trail to connect with other women who hike nearby. I plan a minimum of four events each year in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. For two years in a row, I have hosted an overnight group hike at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Both years I had women travelling from downstate Michigan to experience a little piece of UP heaven. I have established so many friendships in this role as a hike leader, it has given me the courage to start branching out.

      Felicia Hokenstad
      Provided by Felicia Hokenstad

      In addition to my experiences with Women Who Hike, I am also a co-leader for an annual gathering hosted by “Women of the Wild Midwest” or “WOW Midwest.” Last spring was their inaugural event, with the mission to bring together like-minded women for an awesome get-together with classes and outdoor activities, and it was a total success. I was just an attendee back then, but it did not take long for me to reach out and offer assistance in planning the 2020 event. Last year they hosted in Wisconsin, but this year will be Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio from October 23-25. I attended a couple classes to learn about backpacking and camp cooking, participated in a volunteer activity to remove invasive species from the park, and enjoyed a hike around the park. Others had plans to explore via mountain bike or paddling, and we all convened over a fire at the end of the night for a raffle drawing and a catered dinner. I will always treasure this experience and I am thankful for the friendships I built along the way.

      I do not know if you see a recurring theme here, but I genuinely enjoy the outdoors and I take advantage of any opportunity that allows me to share that with others.


    • A leadership role can sound intimidating to some; people seem hesitant of extra commitment. What gives you confidence you will be able to balance this and your personal/professional life?
      A part of me likes to stay busy and make myself useful, which is why the extra commitment of a leadership role does not seem as intimidating. My experience with administrative work and with leading group hikes have already been helpful to the Chapter. Lorana mentioned that she is serving her final term as President of the Chapter… This is what motivated me to follow up with her again. While I am interested in her role as President, we decided to start smaller. We met a couple times to go over some administrative tasks that I can help her with and she invited me to start attending the board meetings. Next September, when they vote on the positions, I will be able to run for the board. The board meetings will be a great way to learn more about the Chapter and the administrative tasks that I am taking on will alleviate some of the work from Lorana.


    • You are learning some administrative responsibilities from Lorana. Could you explain what this training has involved?
      So far, my training with Lorana has involved the following: Helping with correspondence on social media (mainly Facebook) and our Chapter calendar; learning how to use Mailchimp for membership emails; planning and leading monthly group hikes for the Chapter; proof-reading Chapter newsletters; reserving rooms at the local library for Chapter board meetings and general membership meetings; taking minutes during the board meetings; and other tasks as assigned.


    • Do you have any advice or encouragement for others considering this type of volunteerism or leadership?
      My advice is to go for it. It is intimidating to walk into a room of people that have been with the organization for a long time and offer assistance or suggestions, but 99.9% of the time the organization will be happy to have you! The friendships that you will establish along the way are irreplaceable. It is incredible to see what a group of people can accomplish when they put their minds together. Also, volunteering does not always have to mean trail maintenance. If you think you have something to offer, offer it!


  • Any big plans for the Chapter that you would like to share, for this year or the future?
    Monthly group hikes! We have had challenges in the past to find volunteers to host regular monthly group hikes. I plan to take over a majority of them, but with help from other Chapter members, we would like to host Chapter group hikes at least once a month again! On February 8, we had 16 attendees and hiked about three miles on the shores of Lake Superior.