by Greg Brock, NCTA Member-at-large
We decided that hiking would be one of the methods for my wife and I to get healthier. Luckily there is a state park near us with some great trails. After working up to a five mile route we met a hiker who told us about the trails off the main trail, or ridge trails. They were a bit hard to find but once we got the hang of it locating the ridge trails was easy. They were more challenging and much more fun.
After reading many books on hiking the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, the last book I read was from a Michigander who hiked the AT Trail, tried it as a through-hike but life got in the way and he had to go home a few times. I knew this was beyond our interest but we really enjoy the day hikes. The wife won’t go for the backpacking just yet; I keep working on her though.
In looking to try something new, I came across information on the North Country Trail on the internet and read about the Hike 100 Challenge. We thought it was a good idea and made it our goal. We also decided to attend the 2016 Celebration in Fargo, ND.
We started in April at the Birch River Schoolhouse Loop in MI. Then, we picked the hottest and most humid day in May to hike the NCT in Shawnee State Forest, OH. Met a nice local family who camped out on the trail because they got a late start the night before. Ohio pushed me to the limit physically with the weather, it was either up or down and the trail markings were nonexistent. After that we decided we were cool weather hikers.
So we took a break until mid-September when we went to the Celebration in Fargo. I was a bit worried we would not achieve the challenge since we were only about a third of the way in mileage. However, Fargo got us back on track, we really enjoyed the prairie hiking which is much different than that of MI.
We made a vacation out of the trip and took our time coming home by way of the Upper Peninsula. But first we had to stop and walk across the Montreal River that borders Wisconsin and Michigan.
You see, after hiking in MI, OH, ND, MN, it only seemed logical to hike in WI since we were already there. Then we could make a vacation out of going to the PA/NY border, that way we would have hiked in all the states of the NCT.
Oh yes, we had decided to hike all seven states when we were at the Celebration in Fargo!
We camped and hiked in the Porcupine Mountains, the “Grand Canyon” of Michigan, and Hemingway country in the Upper Peninsula. We found the NCT crossing the highway near Lowell on our frequent drives to see the kids at the University of Michigan and got more mileage in that way. It is also a nice stop to get out of the car and stretch the legs.
We then traveled to Bradford, PA and hiked the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania and the Allegany State Park in New York. Oh, it’s not a typo, PA likes the “heny” and NY likes the “any”, I have the photos to prove it.
We took two days off then headed back to our now favorite place, Bitely MI. We camped and did our final twenty miles on the trail over three days. As a present we had just purchased backpacks for both of us at REI in Ann Arbor (shout out), they worked out great. A shout out to the Outpost in Holland, MI where we purchase most of our stuff.
Thanks to all the folks volunteering and working for the NCT, what a wonderful concept. It is a great way to get out and rejuvenate.