Our Stories

Cynthia Clemens: NCNST Long Distance Hiker

Categories: Hiking Stories

Cynthia Clemens

Central patch + Ohio, Michigan, 1000 Miles, and Mackinac Bridge

by Elizabeth Root

Like many other “hikers,” I began my journey as a “walker,” enjoying time with friends in our neighborhoods chatting and walking for therapy and exercise. If we go back even further, my dad was an avid walker, walking five miles most every day, who invited me to walk the Mackinac Bridge with him in 1999. Little did we know that that would be his final Labor Day on this earth. So, my connection to walking and hiking runs deep and is generational, for my connection to my dad continues through hiking, and I often think about how much he would have enjoyed the NCT, had we known about it.

When we moved from the east side of Michigan to Barry County, I was intrigued by Yankee Springs Recreation Area being so close to our house, about eight miles away, and I wanted to explore there. I saw some meet-ups online for Chapter hikes there, and connected a few times with lures of Yankee Springs, and eventually went on a road walk also.

Then there was covid. Wanting to connect with people in safe environments was being sought more actively by so many. I saw a Facebook post for the B2B (Border to Bridge) Women’s Hiking group for a 10-mile Yankee Springs hike, which I attended in Oct 2020. I wasn’t hooked yet, but then the B2B group, led by Ann Riley-Guwara, held an outdoor tutorial about backpacking the NCT in April of 2021. This was probably the biggest hook, because by then I had personally connected with a couple of ladies who were hiking with the group.

I never intended to backpack and buy all that gear! Or even any shoes beyond my lovely New Balance sneakers. But then it happened. I got Blue Blaze Fever. The B2B group of ladies became my family. The weekends that were planned became my respite and solace. We would laugh, we would share our life stories, and we would sweat. We learned how to tough it out, and find humor in our humanness.

In January 2023, I could hardly believe that I was finishing the entire lower peninsula of Michigan, at the Mackinac Bridge! That stately gem, that still in my heart stood for special times walking with my dad more than 20 years earlier, loomed like a beacon of salvation! I don’t think it actually hit me, this feat that I had accomplished. Two years earlier, I hadn’t even contemplated this.

But then, there was more: the Upper Peninsula. I had been there a handful of times at best, and it seemed like a foreign land. But wow, the scenery, and the trails! Again, I was newly hooked!

In 2022, I had formed an alliance with fellow hiker Elizabeth Root, and in addition to sections of the UP, we were also fitting in trips to Pennsylvania to hike all of that state in three sections, backpacking through the Allegheny National Forest, where we happened upon hiking legend Joan Young! The wet April in Allegheny is where I learned more than I ever wanted to know about foot blisters. But, I didn’t die!

I am not sure where my NCT journey will take me, and I do not currently have goals to do even any more of the NCT, but somehow I have faith that it will call, as it has before. I am so grateful to those who have and still maintain this magical secret place that connects geography, people and nature! I have learned so much, and my life has become richer through the people and places along the trail. Always, always, hike on!

Learn more about long distance hiker recognition at explorenct.info/NoCoLo/index.htm.