Our Stories

Lisa Snook and Barb Whittington: NCT Long Distance Hikers

Categories: Hiking Stories, Michigan, Wisconsin


Lisa Snook and Barb Whittington

Findlay, Ohio (Lisa) and Grand Marais, Mich. (Barb)
Central patch + Michigan, Wisconsin, Mackinac Bridge, and 1,000-Mile rockers

The North Country Trail has been an almost obsession for me for a number of years. Some unfortunate souls who have asked casually about my adventures on the Trail, expecting a few words, get much more than they bargain for with plenty of stories, a full-out passion for the Trail, and recruitment to join in the fun.

Lisa Snook, by Barb Whittington

Others’ adventures on the Trail have inspired me as well, like the trail stories on the NCTA website. One of the posts online gave statistics regarding the long distances people have covered on the NCT, including thru-hikers and those who have covered 1,000+ miles over the years. In the post it described the miles as “unique.” Unique of course to differentiate from those who have hiked the same sections over and over that may be close to their homes. Calling any miles on the NCT unique is quite a good description of what we have experienced on the Trail. There is no better way to describe the beauty of the Trail that changes daily with the weather, vegetation and the wildlife. My hiking partner Barb Whittington and I completed our hike of the entire state of Michigan from the Ohio line to the Wisconsin border in October of 2020 with the goal of hiking the NCT in Wisconsin in 2021. This fall we completed that beautiful section making our “unique mile” total over 1,371.

Barb Whittington, by Lisa Snook

When Barb and I first started hiking the NCT we backpacked our way across the NCTA Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter’s section and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the upper peninsula of Michigan. But it wasn’t until we began doing some slack packing that we really got to know the areas we hiked through. We of course traversed the Trail, and saw beautiful landscape and the diverse flora and fauna of the northwoods, but it was when we moved the cars that we experienced the small communities and saw a different aspect of the region. We began our Wisconsin hike going from east to west. At the Michigan-Wisconsin border area, we had a bit of road walking, but once in the woods got the same wonderful, remote, natural northwoods feel that we had hiking in the Upper Peninsula. It was a pleasure to drink in the fresh, spring air and enjoy the feeling of being the only souls in the forest. To be able to put our energy toward the beautiful outdoors, physical activity and a connection with others who share our love of the Trail has been a welcome departure from the world events of the year that has just passed.

Wood turtle, by Lisa Snook

We typically hike our long distances in the spring and the fall to avoid heat, bugs, and crowds. This spring, while enjoying the beauty of the remote Trail near Copper Falls State Park, we came upon several NCTA Heritage Chapter volunteers going home from a day of trail maintenance. We shared a few words and realized that we were talking to the author of a wonderful brochure we had been using to help identify all of the lovely spring wildflowers we had been seeing. As I sit here reminiscing about how we so appreciated meeting the crew who had helped us enjoy our trek more by clearing the fallen trees that had obscured the Trail and by preparing a guide to the local flora, I am reminded of what the North Country Trail has brought to me and my hiking partner. Today’s mental health experts extoll the importance of mindfulness, of showing gratitude, of connecting with nature and of friendships. The North Country Trail checks all those boxes.

Another important aspect of our hiking adventures on the NCT has been how much we have learned about ourselves, the land, and nature. Of course, we have learned a lot about backpacking, about the best gear, about how best to carry water and how to be safe and not hurt ourselves. But more importantly we have learned so much about the North Country we have and are continuing to travel through. In Pattison State Park, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, and Copper Falls State Park, we saw structures and bridges that were constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) mostly in the late 1930s. That and our experiences in Michigan’s upper peninsula led me to read more about the CCC and to visit its museum in Roscommon County, Michigan.

Provided by Lisa Snook

We camped near Lake Owen where the forestry sign detailed the archaeological evidence of a 4,000-year history of cultures that had inhabited the area. We came upon a turtle in the woods who politely posed for a few photos. When we got back within cell range and did some research, we realized we had seen a wood turtle, which is considered a threatened species in Wisconsin. Our turtle friend had found the perfect place to live: in the remote woods between several creeks and the Nemadji River. As we walk, we keep a mental note of all those things we are going to read about when we get back.

Provided by Lisa Snook

My favorite novels to read are those set in the places I plan to walk through. While enjoying the novels set in rural Wisconsin prior to our hike, I got a better idea of the vibe of the people who live in and visit the area. As I said, we don’t see many people but that makes our interactions on the Trail that much more special. Whether it is the young man enjoying time with friends at a softball tournament in Solon Springs (Wisc.), the retired couple out for a joyride in the ATV, or the young dad in Pattison State Park on a biking/camping getaway, it was easy to see in their eyes and hear in their voices their love of rural Wisconsin. Throughout our trek in northern Wisconsin, we were met with smiles and waves. We were asked if we needed water. We were treated with respect.

Adding another 210 unique miles to the trek was our goal and we accomplished that, but we got so much more. As was our experience in Michigan, the North Country Trail in Wisconsin must be experienced to be fully appreciated. Each NCT experience for us has been wonderfully unique and I encourage others to enjoy their own unique miles.

An excerpt from this essay ran in the Fall 2021 issue (40.4) 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. 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.