Our Stories

Elizabeth Root: NCNST Long Distance Hiker

Categories: Hiking Stories

Elizabeth Root

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

Stepping cautiously across the grated portion of the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day 2016,  I wondered why my daughter would drag me up here to walk the five miles across the Straits. As I was handed my certificate of completion for the Bridge Walk, I flipped the colorful paper over. It read, “You just walked 5 miles of the NCNST.” A picture of a very long, blue-blazed trail running through many states met my eye. Hmm. Never heard of it.

Fast forward to 2019. I ended up backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota due to a change in plans. The trail had everything: Hills, water crossings, mosquitoes, mud and more mud, rocks and roots, a dreadful but beautiful rocky beach walk, and horrendous storms – but it was also part of the North Country National Scenic Trail.

The trail was intriguing so I decided to investigate Michigan’s lower peninsula. In 2020 I found a group of women (the Border 2 Bridge group) who were hiking lower Michigan. I joined the group as they were passing through Battle Creek. Numerous hikes later both with the group and solo, I finished the Lower Peninsula in May of 2022.

Hearing that Pennsylvania was challenging and beautiful, I spent two spring break weeks conquering the well maintained trail, starting at the New York border headed south. Highlighting the experience were the water crossings, mountains, waking up to snow-covered tents, the most mud for three days I have ever felt, old train tunnels, and nesting bald eagles on the Allegheny River. 

The Upper Peninsula was waiting. After two years of short hikes and one redirected attempt due to ticks and sweltering temperatures of 90 degrees, I had to accomplish the rest of Michigan. In June of 2023, I set out to hike the final miles needed through the Porcupine Mountains and from O Kun-de-kun Falls to the McCormick Wilderness. The weather was great, the mud was less, the mosquitoes were horrendous, and the 400+ trees were still over the trail through Craig Lake State Park. But it was beautiful terrain. Mission accomplished.

The trail still awaits, so hiking away I will go one step at a time.

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