Hiking all of the North Country Trail in Wisconsin: Jerry Krause

Fewer than 20 people have completed the entire North Country Trail. But every year, many hikers challenge themselves to attempt longer and longer distances on the NCT, many of them checking off new-to-them sections, accumulating more and more unique miles. Check out our Long Distance Hiking Page for details on our Long Distance Hiking Recognition program. 

Jerry Krause recently completed all of the North Country Trail in Wisconsin.

In 2015, a buddy from college and I were on one of our many canoe trips. He mentioned that he was planning to head up to the North Country Trail for some hiking and camping and wondered if I’d be interested in going too.

I’d done a fair amount of walking through the years but hadn’t done any serious hiking in over 45 years. But I thought it might be interesting to give it a try again and I agreed to go as long as I didn’t slow him down too much.

Jerry Krause in the Chequamegon National Forest in Wisconsin

So in early December 2015 we spent 2+ days hiking on the NCT near Drummond, Wisconsin. It took me a few miles to get my breathing at the correct rate but after that I was good to go and found that I really enjoyed the hike. The lakes, overlooks and river crossing along the trail in this area were awe inspiring. And the occasional bear and wolf or coyote tracks that we saw were intriguing.

I enjoyed the hike so much that I returned for an additional 3 days of solo hiking later that month to cover the sections that my friend had done previously. On one of those days I caught my first glimpse of a wolf as I was leaving the parking area at dusk and my headlights swept briefly across him in a clearing.

In early 2016 I discovered that the Ice Age National Scenic Trail was a lot closer to home than the North Country Trail and spent most of my hiking time devoted to finishing that entire trail. But my buddy and I still managed to get in 8 days of hiking west of and around Mellen, Wisconsin, including Copper Falls State Park.

I’d never seen any of the waterfalls in this part of the state. They were truly breathtaking. We also managed to cover the trail west of Drummond to Brule and then to Solon Springs, Wisconsin. We crossed the Great Divide which separates the Lake Superior and Mississippi River watersheds and then followed the historic Brule-St. Croix portage. That was a fascinating intertwining of geology and history.

In 2016 I also realized that the NCT runs very close to my daughter’s family home in southwest Ohio. So I was able to grab a couple days of solo hiking there. This particular section of the NCT is very flat as it’s a paved rails-to-trails [section] but it also has some very interesting history.

With the Ice Age Trail complete, I was able to devote most of my 2017 hiking time to the North Country Trail. When hiking solo I concentrated on the connecting road routes that we had skipped over while our tandem hikes focused on the off-road trails. In mid-April we finished the remaining off-road trails in Wisconsin including Pattison State Park with its impressive Little and Big Manitou Falls. On June 1, I finished the connecting road routes in Wisconsin. I am now in the process of working my way along the NCT in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

I’ve seen an incredible variety of wildlife along the way including several bear, a gray wolf, red fox, coyotes, numerous deer, eagles, hawks, trumpeter swans and many more. And the geological formations along the trail are equally impressive with the hills, bluffs, overlooks, rivers, streams and the amazing waterfalls.

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