Our Stories

Paul Jager: NCNST Long Distance Hiker

Categories: Hiking Stories

Paul Jager

Central patch + Michigan, 1,000-Mile, and Mackinac Bridge

I started my journey of hiking the 1,175 miles of the North Country Trail in Michigan almost by accident. I had done some backpacking in my younger days and really enjoyed it. My first hike on the NCT was in my early 50s, and I had thought my backpacking days were over because I had no one to hike with. Through my son I met Mark Tangen, who was in the process of hiking the 1,175 miles of the NCT in Michigan. He had completed most of the Lower Peninsula and was looking for someone to hike the Upper Peninsula with him.

Our first hike together was from Petoskey to Mackinaw City: 64 miles over four days. We hit it off well, and I started replacing my old gear. It took several years before I decided I to was going to hike all 1,175 miles. I started doing some 25- to 30-mile day hikes to cover much of the mostly roadwalk from Croton Dam to the Ohio border. I did an overnighter and a three-day hike to finish off the south end of Michigan. Mark and I would hike 100+ miles each summer in the UP, and three or four days in the Lower Peninsula.

Only twice did we have to cut our hike short, the first time was because of the death of my father. This summer (2023) we planned for both of us to finish together with a 15-day, 206-mile hike from Craig Lake State Park west to the Wisconsin border. But just one week before we were to start, Mark had something happen that kept him from hiking the hours and miles we were planning. He was still able to support me as I hiked alone the 206 miles.

The UP is much nicer hiking than the LP. It is more remote, has fewer road walks, and fewer people, except in the National and State Parks. Some areas of the trail that do not see much traffic also do not see a lot of trail maintenance, and the hiking can become hard work. But the solitude and scenic views make up for it.

My next goal is to hike with and support Mark as he finishes the 1,175 miles. Not sure what will happen after that. Wisconsin and Minnesota are looking good.

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