Simon Jaklin: Hike 100 Finisher
In 2020, Boy Scout Troop 346 of Negaunee, Michigan chose to trek the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore rather than head to scout camp due to coronavirus concerns. One of the Scouts, 12-year-old Simon Jaklin, and his family were then motivated to continue hiking the North Country Trail and pursue the Hike 100 Challenge.
This is an interview with Simon, followed by additional content from his mom, Dani. The original interview with Simon ran in the Spring 2021 issue (40.2) of our quarterly membership magazine, the North Star.
NCTA: Could you expand a bit on the Scout hike of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?
Simon: We did beginner hikes that were only three to five miles carrying our packs. We felt the practice hikes were going to prepare us, but they weren’t near what the 50-miler was. We were not prepared for what we had coming. We thought it was going to be easy and we could finish it up quickly to swim and play every night, but we were proven wrong by trail conditions. We did an additional hike the day before starting Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to make sure we got our 50 miles for the Boy Scout 50-Miler Award.
Traveling an hour to Munising, the Troop started the trek at Munising Falls Visitor Center and hiked out five days later at the Grand Sable trailhead, then all the way to the Grand Marais pavilion. The first seven miles were very muddy and really tested my abilities. At the time, I was sure I would never look back at this hike as a fun accomplishment because the Trail was hard and my pack was heavy. But now I am glad we went. And I can look back at what a great accomplishment it was. The weather was great. The Trail was quiet except around the parking lots at Miner’s Castle and the Log Slide. Miner’s Castle was full of out-of-state tourists that were not masked or social distancing, so we kept our distance. We had to carry our own gear, food, and water. I was able to get to know what our Troop strengths and weaknesses were, and the people more personally. Everybody would have their own weaknesses or difficulties along the Trail but no one judged others because most of the time they too were going through the same thing.
NCTA: Where did you hike your additional miles to reach 100?
Simon: My family did a lot of hiking in Marquette County by Lake Superior, and we also went to Pipe Falls and that was one of my favorite trips.
NCTA: Why was that your favorite hike during the Challenge? Which were your other favorite miles and why?
Simon: Pipe Falls was my favorite because the Trail was good, and it was a nice time to go hiking and be outside with the beautiful fall colors. I loved hiking at night around Sugarloaf Mountain and Wetmore Landing by Little Presque Isle, and using the trail reflectors to navigate. That was one of my favorite parts of our 100 miles. The reflectors are so cool and I love night hikes now.
NCTA: Which miles were the most challenging, mentally or physically?
Simon: I was glad to see the AmeriCorps workers putting in boardwalks in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and saving us from some of the ankle-deep mud, because for the first seven miles we had sheer mud with no way around it and I was glad to get on some wood.
NCTA: Now that you’ve finished a Hike 100 Challenge, do you have other North Country Trail plans this year?
Simon: My family and I hope to do our 100 miles this year as well, and hopefully coronavirus won’t get in the way of any of our plans. Our family would like to travel along the NCT and camp.
We didn’t even know the Hike 100 Challenge for North Country Trail was available until we got done with our 50 miles with the Scouts. We wondered if there was a badge or something for completing our 50 miles on the NCT and then found out there’s one for 100, so my family decided to shoot for that.
Even knowing what I know about long hikes, I would do it again. I cried, I laughed, I was mad, and I was sad, but the one thing I really remember was Mr. McCollum said, “You only remember the happy things,” and that’s true. Sure, you remember the sad things and the bad things, but when you think about it you just think about the happy things.
Dani Jaklin: We had some excellent leadership from Scoutmaster Lee Ossenheimer and Assistant Scoutmaster Mike McCollum with Troop 346 for the hiking adventure. The Scouts picked up spare garbage all along the Trail and cleaned up the campsites. With the parks closed, many patrons had left their garbage behind. The Scouts carried out their own garbage and the garbage from day travelers, as well.
I enjoy hiking and participating in Scouting activities, but usually my husband Jeff is the one to immerse himself into the week of Scout Camp. Having the opportunity to be part of a long hike was an amazing experience with some talented youth. It was a taxing journey, as all good adventures are, and will be a great memory.
Hiking in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore proved tricky because we had to have permits to camp. It was important to reach the campsite and use the designated areas. One night there were extra campers in the area, and late arrivals found it difficult to find appropriate tent and eating sites away from other hikers. (Coronavirus certainly put a different spin on group camping sites. Obviously we would previously have enjoyed the fellowship and stories of other hikers, but with a pandemic, everyone politely kept to themselves and respected the space available.) But knowing how hard some of the trail conditions were, we couldn’t fault those that didn’t reach their destination before nightfall.
Our satellite data (when available) from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore showed our true trail had zigzagged additional miles from the documented trail. Some days felt very long, but the weather was phenomenal, the bugs were low, and once we were out of the mud, the trail was great. We were so glad we started in the mud and ended in sand because mentally, that would have been a grueling finish otherwise.
Without a pandemic, our family would not have had the time to hike 100 miles on the North Country Trail. We typically fill our days with roller derby (Dead River Derby and North Country Bruisers) and camp in short spurts as weekends allow. We are fortunate to live in an area where the Trail is so close. Getting into the woods, exploring areas we hadn’t been, and sharing the experience together were some great moments of 2020. We had such a great journey that we signed up to hike another 100 miles in 2021.
Because of our long hike, we learned about and were able to meet Rue McKenrick when he traveled through [Michigan] this summer on his American Perimeter Trail quest. That was a great experience. After listening to his stories, our family started exploring ideas of a thru-hike one day.
The North Country Trail is a beautiful opportunity for all ages and abilities. It has been a constant in our backyard and quietly persevering with the dedicated enthusiasts that lovingly care for it. We hope to find out more about maintenance and offer our time to see that it continues for other families to enjoy. Simon was recently elected Assistant Senior Patrol Leader for Troop 346 and is looking forward to finding some service hours on the NCT this summer.
Read about Rue McKenrick and the American Perimeter Trail, a 12,000-mile loop that circumnavigates the continental U.S. using existing trails, at americanperimetertrailproject.weebly.com. Learn more about the Boy Scout 50-Miler Award at scouting.org/awards/awards-central/50-miler.