Doug Seaney: NCT Long Distance Hiker
Central patch + Michigan, 1,000-Mile, and Mackinac Bridge rockers
Compiled by Joan Young
In my youth I was in Boy Scouts, and our troop did a lot of hiking. I was definitely in it more for the hikes than for the merit badges or rank.
I first discovered the North Country Trail in autumn of 1999. I had just started a job in Charlevoix, Michigan. My family was still in Lewiston, Michigan, and I was exploring the area looking for a place to move to. I was driving South on US-131 and saw a sign for Deadman’s Hill Overlook. I stopped by and hiked to the bottom of the hill. At the bottom was a directional sign that said “NCT” with an arrow. I later looked up what the NCT was and discovered the North Country Trail Association. I believe I joined the NCTA in 2001.
I was busy with life and four kids, but in the back of my mind, I wanted to hike all of the upper peninsula of Michigan. On May 17, 2003, I set out from St. Ignace, heading to Tahquamenon Falls, foolishly thinking that 90 miles was no big deal. After all, I was a former Boy Scout and had done lots of hiking in my youth. My first trip out was very interesting; the maps available at that time were sketchy at best. The Trail north out of St. Ignace in 2003 was difficult to follow in places. Lost my way several times. Once I lost the Trail and followed a two-track that seemed to head in the right direction. Then it started curving and intersected with other two-tracks. I eventually ended up in a sandy area and saw some footprints… Yup, my own! I had walked in a circle. I looked around and found a blaze hiding in some trees, and was back on my way. I damaged my Achilles tendon and was really limping by the end of the hike. I had planned on seven days of hiking but finished in six days. Even with all the route-finding challenges, the sore ankle and cold nights; I was hooked!
Most years I managed to get one four- or five-day hike done; some years more, some not at all. Most of my hiking was done solo, but I did do a few hikes with one other person along.
There have been many changes in the time I’ve been working on hiking the NCT in Michigan. 2008 was the first trip I used a GPS; that was super helpful as the NCT hikers’ group out of Marquette had provided me with a few waypoints that I loaded in my GPS. This came in very handy as part of the Trail was not yet established. Now the newest, latest thing is the Avenza map app on my smartphone.
Seventeen years later on October 3, 2020, I finally finished all of Michigan, both upper and lower peninsulas. Total number of hiking days in Michigan was 76 days on the Trail, some short days and some long days. I’m not sure if I will hike the entire Trail, but have hopes to continue on to Wisconsin in 2021.
An excerpt from this essay ran in the Spring 2021 issue (40.2) of our quarterly membership magazine, the North Star.
In 2012, a program was developed to provide a modest award and incentive to people who hike a large number of unique miles on the North Country Trail. Many hikers love patches, so a central patch and rockers were designed to give to those people who hike either [at least] one complete NCT state or 1,000 unique miles. In addition, those who complete the entire NCT under muscle power are given a certificate, and an outer rocker. Those who hike (including snowshoeing or skiing) the entire Trail are said to complete an end-to-end (E2E) hike. If some portions are bicycled, an end-to-end trip rocker is awarded.
To date (Spring 2021) 53 people have been recognized as NCT Long Distance Hikers. We know there are other people who qualify for these patches, but have not applied for them. There are currently 19 known E2E hikers. Two people have completed E2E trips.
To see the complete list of NCT Long Distance Hikers and find out how to apply for recognition, visit explorenct.info/NoCoLo. There are also links to known essays, journals, and more by these hikers.