Posts Tagged ‘backpacking’

NCTA’s Mapping Resources – Summer 2017 Update

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by Matt Rowbotham, NCTA’s GIS Coordinator

The NCTA is moving forward in a number of exciting mapping areas. The impetus behind our current efforts is the opportunity to deliver trail users a unified mapping system. Going beyond paper maps, our current system facilitates direct access to the trail data used to create the official North Country Trail maps.

Although traditional paper maps are still the most reliable and fundamental tool for backcountry navigation, the NCTA’s goal is to make our map content available in as many of today’s most popular platforms as is possible. Including desktop/laptop computers, tablets, smartphone, GPS receivers and of course traditional paper maps.

Core Datasets

The NCTA maps are built around three core sets of data.
These are the:

  • NCT centerline
  • NCT point data
  • New mileage index

The first step with this system was getting the NCTA’s data out from behind the organization’s internal network. This came about through our hugely popular ArcGIS Online (AGOL) mapping system. Available at home, on the road or in the field. The AGOL platform allows us to deliver our core data sets to the public with rapid updates.

As we’ve continued to improve this system, there are a number of new features we’ve recently rolled out.

New features in the NCT point data layer

Google Driving Directions

A significant new feature we’ve built into the NCT point data layer is a direct link that will launch Google Maps driving directions directly from any of the points (Parking, Camping, etc) in our system.

Users are now able to click on any point feature along the trail and by clicking the “Google Maps Directions” link Google Maps will launch on your device with point you’ve selected automatically set as the destination.

This is especially useful on mobile devices, simply enter your starting location select your route jump in your car and let your mobile device guide your way. As a somewhat new resident of northern Michigan, this has become my go-to strategy for exploring new parts of the NCT. I personally use it weekly!

We’re now adding photos to many of these point features. Over the coming years we anticipate having a nearly complete photo inventory of the facilities along the trail. Beyond just being interesting to look at, having a photo of things like parking area will be really informative with things like how many cars can fit, remoteness, etc.

Mileage Index

The most consistent complaint we’ve heard about our online mapping system has been how difficult measuring distances along the trail can be.

The “half-mile” waypoints we’ve been adding to our new hiking map series are serving as a great work-around, creating a mileage index we can load on the online map.

This can be used to easily estimate distances along the route of the trail. Currently, we have a mileage index available and online for North Dakota and Michigan…with the rest of the trail in the works.
There are a number of things to keep in mind when using these points:

  1. The points don’t appear on the online map until you zoom into a detailed scale.
  2. The mileage labels currently don’t work on the Explorer for ArcGIS app many of you may be using on your tablets or mobile devices, although the labels work fine on the web version. When using the app, you’ll need to click on the point to see the mileage.
  3. Lastly, and most importantly these mileage markers are not set in stone and they will change regularly and in some cases significantly. It’s important to always check the online map for the latest updates. Stay tuned it’s going to continue to get better from here.

Want to learn more?

Please join us this Wednesday, June 28th at 7:30PM EDT on our Facebook Page for a live question and answer session focused on the NCTA’s mapping resources and how you can best use them:

We are currently running the NCT2GO Digital Map Campaign to fund these great advances we are making to our map program.

Your gift will really make a difference –

2017 Allegheny 100-Mile Hiking Challenge Great Success!

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Record Numbers for Allegheny 100 mile hiking challenge


The Allegheny National Forest (ANF) Chapter of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) held its eighth annual Allegheny 100 (A100) Mile Hiking Challenge June 9th-11th. The A-100 is an unsupported endurance hiking challenge with no timekeepers, no aid stations, and no finish line other than the one hikers set for themselves.

The event challenges hikers to traverse 25, 50, 75, or 100 miles along the North Country Trail (NCT) through the ANF in 50 hours, beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday and ending at 8 p.m. on Sunday. This year the event started in the north at the Willow Bay trailhead and ended at Route 66 in Vowinckel, PA. The direction changes from year to year to give hikers a chance to see the whole trail.

A record number of 152 hikers signed up to hike the various distances, with 77 signed up to attempt the 100-mile trek. Most hikers are from the local area, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio, but some came from as far away as Florida, Colorado, and Texas.

Hikers start Allegheny 100 mile Hiking Challenge

Andrea Ketchmark, Director of Trail Development for the NCTA, addresses hikers at the start of the Challenge.

Seventeen people completed the 100 miles, including two people who originally signed up to only hike 75 miles! Three people finished 75 miles, 67 people completed the 50 miles, and 58 people completed at least 25 miles. All participants should be proud of themselves no matter what distance they covered.

Allegheny Hiking Challenge Finishers

Nikki Van Frank, Perry Muir, Dan Mock, Thomas Brody, John Mock

One-hundred mile completers this year were: Daren Allen, Mark Dingman, Lori Bean, Alisha Glasgow, Mark Meengs, Steve Bogart, Robert Gregg, Matthew Roane, Ryan Bollas, Russell Horne, Brian Smith, Nathan Boyle, Benjamin Hrycik, Nathan Tobik, Peter Burke, Christopher Janovich, and Lisa Wandel. Honorable mention goes to George Martynick for finishing the 100 miles around midnight Sunday.

Allegheny 100 Mile hiking Challenge finishers

Happy 100 mile finishers! — Daren Allen and Alisha Glasgow.

The Allegheny 100 Mile Hiking Challenge will return in 2018 the second weekend in June to give hikers another chance to conquer their chosen distance.

Participant Amy Weller shared this fun video about her experience with the A-100.


The A-100 would not be possible without the help of the National Forest Service, the NCTA, the many volunteers who put in countless hours throughout the year, and support from our sponsors and ongoing supporters including United Refining Company/Kwik Fill, Northwest Savings Bank, Crescent Beer, Betts Industries, D&R Transportation, Bluegill Graphix, the Warren YMCA, Shell Appalachia, Ace Hardware in Warren, and the Warren County Chamber of Business & Industry.

Interested in joining the Allegheny 100 Mile Hiking Challenge in 2018 or seeing more photos from 2017? Follow the Allegheny National Forest Chapter on Facebook here:

Also keep an eye on our website. Registration will launch early spring of 2018, and this year the event sold out in 10 hours!

Join us for National Trails Day!

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It’s the nation’s largest celebration of trails!

Join us June 3, 2017 as we celebrate National Trails Day with the American Hiking Society. We’ll have events across our 7 states. Join up with a local chapter, affiliate, or partner for a hike, trail town celebration, or work day. Check back often as we’ll be adding events. You can find all events near you by searching the American Hiking Society event page here.

Events along the North Country Trail

(all events are Saturday, June 3, unless noted otherwise)

New York:

Wildflowers along the NCT, photo by NCTA Staff

Event: Wildflower Hike (easy)

Host: Central New York Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Parking lot at south end of Cazenovia Lake on Rte. 20 just east of NY 92. We will carpool to nearby Nelson Swamp Unique Area, since parking there is limited.

RSVP: Mary Dineen, 315-424-1284

Start: 1:15 pm

Distance: 2 miles

Description: Join us for a Wildflower Hike. Will the trout lilies, spring beauties, and trillium still be out? On a previous Wildflower Hike, we identified 57 flowers and other plants! (Short hike, probably a couple of miles; NSU Area does qualify for the Hike 100 Miles on the North Country Trail Challenge)



Event: Darlington Days National Trails Day Hike on the North Country Trail

Host: Wampum Chapter North Country Trail Association

Location: Kathy’s Country Kitchen Restaurant, 3403 Old Darlington Rd.
Darlington, PA 16115


Start: 12:00 pm

Distance: 3 miles

Description: Hike the North Country National Scenic Trail with the Wampum Chapter of the NCTA on Saturday, June 3rd as part of our participation in the Darlington Days celebration. We’re meeting at the south end of the Trail Town of Darlington, near the North Fork of Little Beaver Creek at Kathy’s Country Kitchen, and at 7:00 AM we’ll shuttle hikers out to the Louthan Rd. trail head for a three mile hike back into town. Upon arrival those who’d like to can jump into the Darlington Days annual parade and march with the chapter.

This hike is rated easy in difficulty with a few climbs and descents along the way and a relatively even footpath. Hikers should dress for the weather, wear appropriate footwear, bring drinking water, and also a snack if desired for along the way.

NCTA volunteers will be spending all day Saturday and Sunday at Darlington Days manning the information table to talk to attendees about the North Country Trail and carving hiking sticks with the kids. All are welcome to drop by and visit, or to stay and help us spread the word about this 4,600 mile national scenic hiking trail that travels through Beaver and Lawrence counties of Pennsylvania.

Maps of the hike can be found here on the Wampum Chapter website


Date: June 3-4, 2017

Event: Shawnee Section – the Buckeye Trail Association Ballinger Property

Host: Buckeye Trail Association

DescriptionWe will be mowing and pruning at the Ballinger property (trail maintenance too). We will leave for work at 8:00am and quit at 3:00pm. Learn more here.

CampingAt the Ballinger property. Tent camping only. Camping GPS coordinates 38.81119, -83.26958

MealsBring your own food and water.

Mapping: See the location for this event in Google Maps

Date: June 2-4, 2017

Event: National Trails Day Weekend Encampment

Host: Buckeye Trail Association

Location: BTA Barn 83949 Beall Road, Deersville, OH

Description: Join fellow Buckeye Trail hikers for the Second Annual National Trails Day Weekend Encampment at the BTA Barn near Deersville, Ohio. At our past encampments, we’ve had hikes, geocaching, games for kids and great food. It also looks like we might have kayaks available courtesy of the MWCD. George Markusic is coming and he has a great geocache program that should be on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 or 2:00 P.M. We’re planning a potluck dinner on Saturday evening but otherwise plan on bringing your own food. Learn more here.




Grand Traverse Hiking Club, NTD Celebration 2016, photo by Sara Cockrell

Event: National Trails Day Celebration Hike

Host: Grand Traverse Hiking Club Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Baxter Bridge State Forest Campground, No 29 1/2 Rd, Manton, MI


Start: 9:00 AM

Distance: 2.5 miles

Description: The Grand Traverse Hiking Club will be celebrating National Trails Day on Saturday, June 3 from 9AM-1:30PM at Baxter Bridge State Forest Campground on the Manistee River.There will be 2 hikes at 9AM on the North Country Trail. A 5 mile hike from the Campground to the 29 1/2 Rd (Baxter Bridge) trailhead, then up to High Banks Rollway & back, or take a shuttle to High Banks Rollway, and hike 2.5 miles back to Baxter Bridge. From noon until 1:30PM, we will enjoy a Potluck Picnic at Baxter Bridge SF Campground. You will need to bring your dish to share, table service, beverage & a camp chair. GTHC will provide grilled hot dogs & condiments

Event: Hike from Rumely Road to Laughing Whitefish Falls

Host: North Country Trail Hikers Chapter of the NCTA

Location: 1830 Altamont, Marquette, MI


Start: 12:00 PM

Distance: 5.0 miles

Description: We will carpool from Marquette to Rumely Rd where we will hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail past Pipe Falls and another unnamed falls on our way through the woods to the Laughing Whitefish River. There are many steps leading down to the river from high above where we will have hiked in. We will then cross the Laughing Whitefish River bridge and ascend up numerous steps where we will then turn off the North Country Trail and take the spur trail to the Laughing Whitefish Falls, passing by two additional unnamed waterfalls. We will view the Laughing Whitefish Falls, with some taking the steps to the bottom, before we head back to the parking lot to drive back to Marquette. Note there are many steps and a couple of steep grades in this hike so come prepared with walking sticks. Cameras, water, bug dope, etc. are highly recommended. You will be logging about 2.2 miles towards your NCTA 2017 Hike 100 Challenge.

Duane Lawton at the Trail Town Celebration, photo by Dove Day

Event: Petoskey Trail Town Celebration

Host: Jordan Valley 45 Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Pennsylvania Park, Petoskey, MI 49770


Start: 9:00 am

Distance: 2 and 4 mile hikes, entertainment, lunch and more!

Description: Join us in celebrating National Trails Day and attend the 5th Annual Petoskey Trail Town Celebration!
There will be morning NCT hikes, music, lunch, presentations, kids activities, prizes, and a raffle! We hope to see you there!
9:00 First Hike shuttle leaves for McDougal/Greenwood (4 mile hike)
10:15 Second Hike shuttle leaves for Riverbend Park (2 mile hike)
11:45 Entertainment starts “Folk stomp sounds of Lee Dyer”
12:00 Lunch/Entertainment
12:30 Presentations, prize and raffle drawings
1:30 Activities/Entertainment

Date: June 3-4

Event: National Trails Day Celebration and Work Day 

Host: Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Bark Dock Day Use Parking, Curley Lewis Highway, Whitefish Bay

RSVP: or 989-350-2826 by 9:00 AM Wednesday, May 31st to obtain a complimentary camping site for those working the volunteer work session. Two or three nights will be available.

Start: June 3, 10:00 am Hike the Whitefish Bay National Scenic Byway. June 3 after lunch work session, and June 4 work session continues 10 am – 5 pm. Come anytime.

Distance: June 3, 2-6 miles.

Description: Saturday–June 3rd–Hike the Whitefish Bay National Scenic Byway–10:00 AM, Bring Water and Insect Repellent. Pack your camera and grab a friend or two for a stroll along the Lake Superior Shoreline!  Hike lengths from 2 to 6 miles. Hiking will occur on Section K of our trail map #2:

Lunch after the hike–at Silver Creek Pub, with optional volunteer work session to follow in the afternoon and continuing on Sunday. View the event on Facebook here for complete details or contact Kay using the RSVP information above.

Date: SUNDAY June 4

Event: Chief Noonday Chapter National Trails Day Hike: Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, Augusta to Battle Creek

Host: Chief Noonday Chapter of the NCTA


Distance: 6 or 12 miles

Description: A “2-in -1” hike. Long and Short hike start at the same time and same place. Long hike about 12 miles and short hike about 6 miles. Surface: natural.

12:45 p.m. a shuttle will pick up hikers for the long and short hike and transport them to the hike start location.

• 11:00 AM Optional lunch at 2 locations: Dig In Café, 111 W Michigan Ave or Players Bar & Grill, 506 E Michigan Ave, Augusta MI

• 12:45 PM Long hike parking: Dickman Rd/M-96 at Brady Rd, Battle Creek, MI
• 12:45 PM Short hike parking: Augusta Dr Trailhead, 704 E Augusta Dr, Augusta MI

Event: Construction of Approach to Bigelow Creek Bridge

Host: Western Michigan Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Newaygo County, southeast of Grant, MI near 120th Ave and Pear Ave. Contact Larry below for details

RSVP: Larry Meyer at

Time: 9 am – 4 pm

Description: The Western Michigan Chapter is hosting a trail workday in Newaygo County just southeast of Grant, MI near 120th Ave and Pear Ave. We will be rerouting a section of trail through a piece of beautiful private property. Trail work involving the use of hand tools. Workday is 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.  Contact Larry Meyer at for meet up information.

Event: National Trails Day History Hike on the NCT

Host: Old Victoria Restoration

Location: 25401 Victoria Dam Rd, Rockland, MI


Start: 1:00 pm

Distance: 2.6 miles

Description: Hike the North Country National Scenic Trail into copper mining history with guides from Old Victoria! This 2.6 mile hike will take place over rough, uneven terrain; closed-toed, appropriate shoes are recommended. Bring water and a snack to enjoy atop Lookout Mountain with a view to match its name. Learn more or RSVP on our Facebook event page.

Event: Trails Day Event to Combat Invasive Species

Time: 10 am

Host: Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA with North Country CISMA (part of the Michigan Invasive Species Coalition)

Location: Manistee National Forest Sulak Campground West of Baldwin, MI. South of M-10 near Branch, MI map here.


Description: We will be joining with the North Country CISMA (a part of the Michigan Invasive Species Coalition) to host a learning/working day to learn to identify and find several types of invasive species in the Manistee National Forest and on the North Country Trail.Our meeting point will be at Sulak Campground West of Baldwin MI. This is south of M 10 near Branch, MI. More info and a map can be found on our website



Event: Explore the North Country Trail in Northwest Wisconsin

Host: Brule-St. Croix Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Palmer’s Landing trailhead, 10613 South County Road A, Solon Springs, Wisconsin 54873


Start: 9:00 am

Distance: 4 miles

Description: 9 AM – meet at Palmer’s Landing trailhead to hike the Brule-St. Croix Portage segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail (2 miles). This segment is the oldest trail in the upper Midwest. 10:30 AM – dedication of a new boardwalk at the north end of the Portage Trail, on the Bois Brule River. The boardwalk is dedicated to the memory of Chuck Zosel, longtime superintendent of the Brule River State Forest and volunteer with the North Country Trail Association. Chuck worked for many years to restore the Portage Trail and incorporate it in the North Country National Scenic Trail. After the dedication, hike back (2 miles) to the trailhead for a potluck picnic at noon. 1:00 PM – hike the Brule Bog Boardwalk segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail (5 miles, out-and-back). See spring bog flora in the Brule Glacial Spillway State Natural Area.

Event: Heritage Chapter National Trails Day Hike – Gold Mine to Wren Falls: Iron WI

Host: Heritage Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Casey Sag Road Trailhead, From Hurley WI: Take HWY 77 west beyond Upson 3 miles to Casey Sag Road, turn right (North) go 2.75 Miles to trailhead.


Start: 9:00 am

Distance: 3.5 miles

Description: The trail travels through mature woods with many highlights including an old Gold Mine. The mine, known as the Maxim Mine, was operated in the early 1900s by Civil War Veteran Zenas Maxim and his son Captain Frank Maxim. Hikers will also visit the new Gold Mine West Campsite, a backpacking campsite created by the Heritage Chapter in 2015. Continuing west from the campsite, the trail passes a scenic overlook and a large beaver dam before reaching the beautiful Wren Falls on the Tyler Forks River.

Directions: From Hurley WI: Take HWY 77 west beyond Upson 3 miles to Casey Sag Road, turn right (North) go 2.75 Miles to trailhead. Hike will be 3.5 miles. Shuttle at Wren Falls. See Gold Mine, overlook of Penokees and Wren Falls. RSVP: to plan shuttle.

Event: National Trails Day – Trail Building

Host: Chequamegon Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Rainbow Lake Wilderness, meet at Reynard Lake Rd where the NCT Crosses. See map here.


Start: 8:30 am

Distance: Trail Building Project

Description: Join us as we complete the Rainbow Lake Wilderness Re-route! Chapter Volunteers have finished all of the tasks necessary for completing the re-route (4 days of trail building already!). All we have left to complete is some tread building on the longer re-route. When we finish on June 3rd, we will have a celebration at a local watering hole! The re-route is most likely the most ambitious project for the Chapter this year and I will be doing a “Rainbow Lake Wilderness Re-route All Stars” in the next newsletter (like I did for the Mellen Boardwalk building last year). It’s not to late to be a part of this major Chapter accomplishment! I can’t think of a more significant way of celebrating National Trails Day then by completing the Rainbow Lake Wilderness Re-routes. We will meet at 8:30 a.m. at Reynard Lake Road where the NCT crosses. See PDF map here.



Event: National Trails Day “Itasca to Hubbel Pond Series” Hike #5

Host: Laurentian Lakes Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Elbow Lake Rd. Trailhead, Ponsford, MN 56575

RSVP: llc@northcountrytrail.org

Start: 9:00 am

Distance: 4.8 miles

Description: Join the Laurentian Lakes Chapter of the North Country Trail Association as they hike 4.8 miles from the MN Hwy 113 Trailhead to the Elbow Lake Rd. trailhead along the Laurentian Divide. Map of this section: Meet at Elbow Lake Rd. Trailhead at 9:00 am. Map: Shuttles will be provided to the hike starting point. Chapter meeting to follow at Ice Cracking Lodge (


Event: North Country Trail Grand Opening Celebration

Host: Minnesota Waters & Prairie Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, 602 Minnesota 210, Fergus Falls, MN 56537


Start: 1:00 pm

Distance: 2 miles

Description: Join the Minnesota Waters & Prairie Chapter as they gather to officially open the 9.8-mile NCT loop within the City of Fergus Falls. This event will feature a formal grand opening program (e.g. remarks by local trail partners, a ribbon cutting ceremony, and ceremonial Trail Town sign installation) followed by a variety of guided hikes on the NCT. This will include shorter, family-friendly hikes and longer challenging hikes. There will also be refreshments and information on local hiking and volunteer opportunities inside the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center.

National Trails Day hike with the Superior Hiking Trail Association, photos by Kim Fishburn

Event: Superior Hiking Trail Association Hikes

Host: Superior Hiking Trail Association

Location: Castle Danger Trailhead Parking Lot, Castle Danger MN


Start: 10:00 am

Distance: 9.1 miles or 2.4 miles

Description: Enjoy treats before we start hiking to celebrate the day! Both hikes meet at Castle Danger Trailhead Parking Lot. At Hwy 61 mile 36.6, turn left on Lake Co Rd 106/Silver Creek Township Rd 617 and go 2.4 mi. to trailhead parking lot on right.

Long Hike: Gooseberry Falls State Park to Castle Danger, 9.1 miles – Hike along the scenic Gooseberry River for four mi., then enjoy views from Mike’s Rock and Wolf Rock.

Short Hike: Castle Danger Trailhead to Crow Creek Valley Campsite and Back, 2.4 miles total – Take in sweeping lake views from Wolf Rock, continue through pine woods to inland view at optional Crow Valley Overlook Spur Trail. Return via same route.

North Dakota

Event: National Trails Day at Fort Ransom State Park

Host: Sheyenne River Valley Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Fort Ransom State Park, 5981 Walt Hjelle Pkwy, Fort Ransom, ND 58033


Start: 9:00 am

Description: National Trails Day! Meet at the Rosebud Visitor Center at 9am to carpool to Fort Ransom State Park. A Ranger-led hike will begin at 10am. Pack a lunch for noon meal. At 1:30pm we will canoe the Sheyenne River. There will be park entrance and canoe rental fees. Dinner to be provided by the chapter at 5pm followed by an evening campfire.

Event: National Trails Day Hike in Sheyenne National Grassland

Host: Dakota Prairie Chapter of the NCTA

Location: Sheyenne National Grassland


Distance: 8.6 miles

Start: Jorgan’s Hollow Campground 10 am. (see directions below)

Description:  We will meet at Jorgan’s Hollow Campground at 10:00 A.M., and hike west to FR 1212. This is a point to point hike, consequently we’ll be shuttling hikers back to your vehicles. The trail meanders around stands of bur oaks and rolling hills of tall grass prairie. This is a very beautiful section of the grasslands.

Consider joining us on the 3 hour hike in ushering in summer.  Bring lunch along as we will be stopping about halfway to relax and eat. Please respond that you will be joining us, on this message, on facebook, or on meet up.
Directions: From Fargo, drive south on I-29 to the Kindred exit.  Turn west and travel 17 miles on SR. 46.  Turn south on SR 18 and travel about 3 miles turning west on CR 2.  This will turn to gravel.  Watch for the sign that indicates CR 23.  Turn south on CR 23 and travel about 5 miles to Jorgans Hollow which will be on your left.  This is a 45 minute drive.

4 Tips for Hiking all the North Country Trail in One State

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Have you ever thought about hiking all of the miles of the North Country Trail in your state? Marci and her husband Darrell just passed 500 miles on their goal to hike all 1,150 miles of the NCT in Michigan.

They started out simply with day hikes and then got hooked. Marci has tips for those who might consider a goal like this, even if you don’t think you’re in shape and are still working full-time and don’t think you have the time!

by Marci Burke, Chief Noonday Chapter Member

couple hikes all of michigan north country trail

Marci and Darrell at their 500-mile mark!

My husband, Darrell, and I have always loved to hike together. We usually just did short loops or out-and-back hikes. Our most frequented areas were around Kellogg Forest (Augusta, MI), Red Bridge area of the Manistee River (Wellston, MI), and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (Munising, MI).

When we first started hiking, we didn’t know there was a common thread with our favorite areas – the North Country Trail passes through each of these areas! Our interest was piqued as we began to notice signs and kiosks describing the trail.

Our first planned NCT hike was a 100-mile backpacking trip from Pictured Rocks area to Tahquamenon Falls area.  It was a personal challenge that we wanted to accomplish.

We made it, and we fell in love with the North Country Trail. That was in 2011.In 2015 we made it a goal to section hike the entire state.

As of 1-1-17 we have hiked 500 miles. We are aiming to average 30 miles per month this year and next year so we will complete the trail by the end of 2018.

We both have jobs that don’t allow us a lot of time off work, so we hike when we can. We are 50-ish and 60-ish and not in perfect shape. All it takes to succeed is a good pair of shoes, a backpack, and a love of the trail!

Tips for those considering hiking all the North Country Trail in one state:

1. Plan, plan, plan.

  • Just do it! Haha, in reality it does take a little bit of planning.
  • Look at the terrain, weather patterns, and trail accessibility to determine how long your hikes will be. It is faster hiking when there aren’t elevation changes.
  • Summer has longer daylight hours than winter, so we plan longer hikes during those daylight hours.
  • We chose to hike certain sections of trail at certain times of the year for safety and/or comfort due to snow or river crossings. For instance, rather than take a road hike around a river fording, we hiked that section in late summer when the water level was lower (and warmer!)
  • The southern portion of our state has less snowfall, so we hike more of those miles in the spring and winter.

IMG_20150916_101348444 (1)

2. You don’t have to hike sequentially.

It isn’t necessary to hike the whole trail sequentially.

However, in order to keep an accurate record of our hiking progress, we do start or end our hikes at the terminus of a previous hike in that area.

We also keep a map on the wall at home that shows our progress.  It serves both as a reminder of where we have been and an incentive for we have yet to go.

NCT miles

3. You don’t have to be strong to hike the trail. Hike the trail to get strong.

The benefits of hiking the North Country Trail are many, but they may differ for each individual.  I find that the trail is a place where I know I will be challenged and grow both physically and mentally. If something is bothering my mind, I can think it through as I hike. If something is uncomfortable with my body, my mental strength keeps me going. There really is some truth to “mind over matter.”


4. Hike your own hike.

  • A day hike will get you out on the trail (that’s how we started).
  • A thru-hike will keep you on the trail (we can’t get away for that long).
  • A section hike will keep you going back to the trail and this is the method that is working for us right now.


On a recent hike in the cold and snow, we were tired and sore but excited to meet the milestone of 500 miles. After mile 499 I asked my husband, “If we were on our last mile to complete the entire state, how do you think you would feel right now – elated, relieved, or disappointed to be done?”  He answered, “All of the above.  I guess I would be thinking about what our next hike would be.”

500 miles

That just about sums up our trail experience.  Even with an end goal of hiking all of Michigan, each end is the next beginning.

Couple Hikes all of NCT Kent County Michigan

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We’ve loved hearing all of your stories from the Hike 100 Challenge during 2016. We heard stories of people who decided to hike a little bit in all 7 states, those who did all the border crossings, a woman who finished hiking all of Michigan, and now a couple who hiked all the miles in their county in Michigan. It’s a choose-your-own adventure challenge. What will you do for 2017? Sign up now and join us!

Photos and story by K.D. and TJ Norris

Kent County, in west Michigan, is shaped like an oblong box measuring about 25 miles east to west and about 35 miles north to south. The North Country Trail runs the length of the county, but at a total of 71 meandering miles, with protected woodlands at the north border, rural farmlands on the south border, and mostly suburban roadways between.

As North Country Trail Association newcomers and recent Kent County residents, we decided our 2016 Hike 100 trek would be to hike the county. And hike every mile of it we did, some sections twice as often logistics required out-and-back hikes. The ending total on the border-to-border hike was 112.5 total miles.

NCT at Kent south border

At the south border of Kent County, MI

The trek began in January, with light snow on the ground in second-growth forests, continued through spring trillium blooms and bug swarms, and included one 90-degree summer day walking asphalt roads skirting the Grand Rapids metro area. It ended in early November along freshly harvested corn and soy bean fields just south of Lowell, the mid-way point of the NCT and national headquarters of the North Country Trail Association.

Much of the county’s NCT is walked on rural roads of both the paved and gravel variety, with several short sections of paved hike/bike paths and even sidewalks in the area of Rockford (a lovely town along the Rogue River and connector to a spur south into downtown Grand Rapids). From Rockford north, the trail follows the path of the heavily biked White Pine Trail north from Rockford to Indian Lakes Road, and may soon extend on the White Pine farther north to Cedar Springs before heading west.

NCT north of Rockford 2x28x16

North of Rockford

That extension would be a good thing, too, as walking along Indian Lakes Road west of the White Pine Trail was maybe the most dangerous stretch to walk, where hikers share a heavily-traveled paved road with cars; at least it was so when this pair walked it in the spring.

Among the highlights, and occasional warnings, of the hike were:

  • Trestle Park: on the White Pine Trail between Indian Lakes Road and Rockford, has a great historic marker detailing the restored railroad trestle. It also has toilet facilities, but bring your own paper and sanitary wipes!
  • Sunfish Lake: just south of Cannon Township Park on Belding Road (with parking and supplied public toilets), the highlight a long boardwalk through an extensive wetlands area filled with abundant aquatic and avian wildlife.
  • Townsend Park: just north of Cannonsburg Road NE, paved walkway but still a welcome detour off paved roads.
  • Between Seidman Park and Fallasburg Park: a puzzling portion of the trail; depending on your direction you backtrack north to south on the trail. For us, we walked from south of 2 Mile to back up north of 3 Mile roads before returning south of 2 Mile again, and all on public roads until Fallasburg Park, with its scenic Flat River crossing.
  • Biggs Avenue NE: part of the Seidman to Fallasburg park jog, the trail is a rural country road passing through a large farm. Cows and cornfields and that peculiar smell of real rural life. It’s an acquired appreciation but ambiance nonetheless.
  • The City of Lowell: NCT office, the Flat River dams, a very nice wooded area at the confluence of the Flat and Grand rivers (where we saw an eagle on an August afternoon). And a brew pub in downtown. All good on a late summer day.
  • Grand River crossing to Barry County line: long stretch of walking on paved county roads (crossing Interstate 96), with the northern portion heavy-traveled by vehicles and the southern portion lightly traveled and a much more pleasant walk.

Spring Trillium on NCT 5x22x16

All and all, the Kent County portion of the NCT may not be the most scenic stretch of the trail, and we understand it is still in flux as to route.

But if you are traveling from the east to the west on the trail (south to north through Michigan) you can look forward to more extensive stretches of woodlands north of the county as the trail enters the Manistee National Forest.

We plan to strike north of Kent County as part of this year’s #Hike100NCT miles.

Be Bear Aware on the North Country Trail

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By Alison Myers

photo by Phil Horton via Creative Commons

photo by Phil Horton via Creative Commons

Have you ever encountered a bear, or evidence of a bear while out on the North Country Trail? Did you know that black bears reside in every state the NCT traverses?

As humans it is our responsibility to respect wildlife and the places they roam and live. Because they are able to adapt easily to changing environments, black bears can still thrive in areas of human development. When we are in their “home,” we need to understand how we should conduct ourselves.

Some of our trail states have healthy, large, bear populations while other states have very few. Most of our trail states have large enough bear populations to allow seasonal bear hunting (Ohio and North Dakota do not).

Bears have been an important animal in American culture since prehistoric times. There are many Native American legends dedicated to the bear such as the “Sleeping Bear” as well as many important spirits, gods, and totem. There are also the modern stories such as Smokey Bear and Teddy’s Bear.”

Follow these steps to stay safe if you encounter a bear on the trail:

Fact: During late summer and all throughout autumn bears are trying to fatten up for their winter “hibernation period” called torpor. Bears do not stay asleep all winter as we commonly think! It is a period of slowed metabolism and lower body temperature, but they do still come out of their dens for a little snack. While in torpor, an animal can wake up quickly and easily, unlike other animals that truly hibernate.

Be Bear Aware


US Fish and Wildlife Service via Creative Commons

Bears are opportunistic eaters and foragers. Just like us, they are omnivores and love the taste of all food. They have their favorites, just like we do, too. Staying far enough away from free food sources such as fruit bearing plants (apple trees), garbage bins, and compost piles, are not always easy to do when hiking or camping.

Most bears will avoid humans if they hear or smell them coming. They don’t usually want to be bothered and are scared of us – unless they have become used to humans. Unfortunately, with more people entering their domain, bears are less afraid of us and may approach if there is food.

Although, bear attacks are very rare, it could be a good idea to carry bear pepper spray for defense against other large animals as well. It may also help ward off a cougar attack or a charging moose.

Keeping Bears Away

The best thing you can do is to keep food and food smells far enough away from you and your campsite. Check out this article from Wide Open Spaces about choosing a campsite and making it bear proof.

Bear Encounter: What to Do


USFWSMidwest via Creative Commons

If you see a bear, keep in mind that you are the visitor. Respect the bear’s space. It is your responsibility to move away from them and keep a safe distance. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and can detect you before you even see them.

Follow these steps as suggested by the National Park Service:

Once a bear has noticed you and is paying attention to you, additional strategies can help prevent the situation from escalating.

Identify yourself

Talk calmly so the bear knows you are a human and not a prey animal. Remain still; stand your ground but slowly wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening.

Stay calm

USFWS Midwest via Creative Commons

USFWS Midwest via Creative Commons

Remember that most bears do not want to attack you; they usually just want to be left alone. Bears may bluff their way out of an encounter by charging and then turning away at the last second. Bears may also react defensively by woofing, yawning, salivating, growling, snapping their jaws, and laying their ears back. Continue to talk to the bear in low tones; this will help you stay calmer, and it won’t be threatening to the bear. A scream or sudden movement may trigger an attack. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.

Pick up small children immediately

Hike and travel in groups

Groups of people are usually noisier and smellier than a single person. Therefore, bears often become aware of groups of people at greater distances, and because of their cumulative size, groups are also intimidating to bears.

Make yourselves look as large as possible

(For example, move to higher ground.)

Do NOT allow the bear access to your food.

Getting your food will only encourage the bear and make the problem worse for others.

Do NOT drop your pack

It can provide protection for your back and prevent a bear from accessing your food.

If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways.

This allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Moving sideways is also non-threatening to bears. Do NOT run, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Bears can run as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down. Like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Do NOT climb a tree. Both grizzlies and black bears can climb trees.

Leave the area or take a detour.

If this is impossible, wait until the bear moves away. Always leave the bear an escape route.

Be especially cautious if you see a female with cubs.

Never place yourself between a mother and her cub, and never attempt to approach them. The chances of an attack escalate greatly if she perceives you as a danger to her cubs.

For more information on how to use bear pepper spray and what to do during a bear attack, read the rest of the NPS article on bear safety:

Fall Hiking Guide

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fall on the Border Route Trail

Cooler temps, low humidity, brightly colored hillsides, migrating birds, no more bugs….ahhhh, we’re in the glorious Fall hiking season again!

by Matt Davis, Regional Trail Coordinator for Minnesota and North Dakota

Mid to late September is the start of the most glorious time of the year in the North Country.

No, it’s not because it’s football season or because hockey season is right around the corner. For many, it’s the best time to be outdoors and to hike on the North Country Trail. The prairies and hardwood leaves are turning colors, the air is colder, and the bugs have gone away. Personally, I wish there was a way to hit the pause button as September turns into October so I can enjoy a much longer fall season. How about you?

If you are still a few miles short of completing your Hike 100 Challenge you should have no excuse to get out there this fall and cover some more miles.

Here are some things to remember when it comes to enjoying to the fullest the North Country’s best hiking season:

img_15731. Check the NCTA calendar

Find out if your local Chapters / Affiliates have any guided fall color hikes planned for your area. This is a great opportunity to see new-to-you sections of Trail and make some new friends in the process.

2. Check your State’s fall color tracking website

Find out where the color is peaking at that time. And remember that it can vary significantly in different parts of our states.

3. Check your State’s hunting season calendar

Find out if you need to be concerned about a hunting season being open – and it’s more than just deer rifle season. Blaze orange should be worn during all hunting seasons.

Read our post “Stay Safe During Hunting Season.”

Visit these sites for each state to check hunting seasons and pay attention to all posted trail closures:

4. Be prepared


Be prepared for fall by taking stock of the gear & clothing you take along. You’ll need some extra things along with you that you didn’t need in the summer including extra warm clothing (including a winter hat and gloves), a headlamp, fire starter, emergency shelter, etc.

Read some fall hiking tips at Backpacker (

What is your favorite fall hike?

Here’s Matt’s favorite fall hikes. Be sure to share yours in the comments!

  • Anywhere on the tallgrass prairie in North Dakota and western Minnesota. Yes, you just read fall colors on the prairie. The bluestem turns a reddish-purple color while most other prairie grasses turn golden.  Other colors you’ll find include the yellow of cottonwoods and goldenrod, the vibrant red of sumac, and the vibrant blue sky on the open prairie.  Read more at
  • The NCT within Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge offers a vibrant display of fall colors in the mixed northern hardwood-conifer forests and there are even some prairies mixed in.
  • Much of the Superior Hiking Trail offers a similar display of magnificent fall colors with the added benefit of dramatic topography thrown in.  Fall colors are more “alive” for many when they’re displayed across a hillside compared to flatter terrain.

*All photos taken by Matt Davis on the Border Route Trail.

An Unexpected Adventure: Couple hikes entire North Country Trail

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The Dorroughs at the Trail's Western Terminus

The Dorroughs at the Trail’s Western Terminus

In one month, Dan and Ruth Dorrough will complete their end-to-end section hike of the North Country Trail. It’s an incredible journey that spans 17 years, 7 states, and over 4,600 miles.

The Dorroughs will complete their hike while at the NCTA’s Celebration in Fargo on Saturday, September 17. The Dorroughs will make a special presentation Saturday evening, “An Unexpected Adventure, Hiking the Entire North Country National Scenic Trail,” sharing stories and photos from their epic adventure.

We caught up the with Dorroughs recently, to ask a few questions about their hiking travels on the NCNST.

When did you start your end-to-end trip?

We discovered the Finger Lakes Trail about 17 years ago. It took a while before we learned that it was an Affiliate of the North Country Trail and afforded us a route to walk to North Dakota. For years we did small sections of the NCT. After retirement 3 years ago, we got serious about connecting the sections and completing the missing parts.

What prompted you to want to hike the entire trail?

Curiosity and the value of having a goal.

What has been one of your most memorable experiences?

After a hot hike in rural North Dakota this past Father’s Day, we were putting our gear away in the van when a car pulled up. The friendly driver asked us about our hike and then invited us to join his extended family’s celebration of the day. We were treated as honored guests and shared lots of laughs as we tried to guess each other’s occupations. After a delicious meal, one couple invited us to spend the night in their lovely air conditioned farm home. I (Ruth) even got to sit in a giant sprayer as we learned about mega farming in North Dakota.


Dorroughs exploring North Dakota with a group hike.

What’s been one of the most challenging things about this adventure?

Hiking the trail in sections, mostly day hiking with two vehicles, presented lots of logistic challenges – parking, trail access, finding camping near the trail etc.

The NCNST passes through such a wide variety of landscapes from towns to remote wilderness. How has that affected your hiking experience?

The experience has been greatly enhanced by the variety of landscapes. It has been a marvelous and most interesting way to see the country.

What was your favorite type of landscape and why?

Ruth: Being a bit of an Eastern snob, I was totally unprepared for the haunting beauty of North Dakota. The openness and ever changing vast skies created a walking experience unlike any I had ever experienced.

Dan: I especially like places with dramatic scenery. My favorites are Pictured Rocks, Border Route, Superior Hiking Trail and New York’s Watkin’s Glen.


What’s been one of the most important skills or lessons that you’ve learned along the way?

Ruth: I learned to drive in downtown Boston. Driving rugged, muddy, obstacle laden roads frightened me. I have gained confidence and am more skilled now. I even maneuvered the Subaru between a giant fallen rock near a ditch adjacent to a cliff on one side and a drop off to a stream on the other with only a slight scratch to the side of the car..

Dan: I have learned to graciously accept the kindness of strangers and have become more expert at navigation.

How has hiking together impacted your relationship with each other?

Not a lot. Perhaps it has fine tuned it a bit.

What advice would you give to someone considering an end-to-end journey of the NCNST?

Do it! Do it now while you can still have the trail mostly to yourself and a stranger walking rural roads and small towns is still a curiosity for the folks who live there. 

So what are your plans for after you finish the NCNST?

Ruth: Maybe we’ll do it all over again.

Dan: I’d like to relax for six months and then see what strikes my fancy.

We look forward to celebrating with Dan & Ruth next month at the completion of their journey.

Join the Dorroughs and many other North Country Trail enthusiasts in Fargo September 15-17 for the NCTA Celebration. We’ll explore the beautiful and unique landscape of North Dakota. Hurry, registration ends August 31!

Fire and Flood Safety

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by Kenny Wawsczyk, Michigan Regional Trail Coordinator

As I write this article today’s high is 65 o but for the past couple weeks it has been hot and humid. And the extended forecast looks to be the same. There’s a lot of clichés about Michigan’s weather and what happened to areas of the Trail during the week of July 10th confirmed them.

The far Western U.P, near the Little and Big Carp Rivers, received over a foot of rain in just four hours along with hurricane speed winds causing trees to uproot, bridges to wash out and left parts of the Trail in up to four feet of water. It was so bad the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park officials had to ask hikers and campers to stay out of that area.

Bridge wash out in Wisconsin

Bridge washout along the Black River between Conglomerate & Potawatomi Falls. Photo by Dick Swanson.

Meanwhile over in the Eastern U.P the Hiawatha National Forest had to close a section of Trail due to a wildfire south of Soldier Lake Campground. The “Pine Plantation Fire” burned 56 acres and even called for a Type III helicopter with a water bucket.

Duck Lake area burned in 2012. Photo by Thomas Walker

Duck Lake area burned in 2012. Photo by Thomas Walker, taken this summer.

These stories quickly hit social media thanks to our Chapters and various hikers that got the word out to those planning their U.P trips.

Although you can’t plan for everything, these incidents are reminders to us all of the importance of planning ahead. This is easy to do on day or weekend hikes since we no longer need to wait for the local news to tell us the extended forecast.

Websites and apps can quickly tell us the upcoming forecast and show radar in motion. Yet when you’re out on extended trips or in areas with little to no service, it is difficult to know the upcoming forecast.

Whether it’s a long dry spell or a pop-up thunderstorm, being prepared for any situation is the safe and smart thing to do. So, what would you do if you saw smoke or if a big storm rolled in? Although it’s a situation you never want to be in, it is something you should think about. Knowing the signs and having a plan are key components to staying safe.

For fire safety

Know the weather conditions before you head out. Also know when it is peak fire season in that area.

Is it warm and dry with little humidity? When was the last time it rained? How windy is it?

As always let someone know when and where you are leaving and give an approximate time to your return location.

Use the register boxes our Chapters provide not only because they want to know who’s on the Trail but local Rangers can use them to see if anyone is in the area should an emergency occur.

If you do see smoke don’t try to investigate simply get out of that area even if it means your trip is cut short. If fire is close by head downhill and upwind. Remember particular crossing like large grassy, sandy or boggy areas with little surrounding fuel sources, or of course river crossings and lakes.

To help prevent wildfires know the local burn bans and use a contained source when making a fire. Keep your campfire small and when the ashes are cool to the touch that’s when the fire is completely out.

For thunderstorm safety

Review’s article “If there’s no shelter where do I go

Review our Thunderstorm Safety Tips.

Have you ever been caught on the Trail during a storm or near a fire? What did you do?

7 States, 100 Miles: A Hike 100 Challenge Story

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7 states, 25 hikes, 100 unique miles, a 2,300 mile road trip, and plenty of iconic places. Enjoy this story from a recent Hike 100 Challenge finisher!

Guest post by Ken, a Hike 100 Finisher

In the last year I have been trying to improve my life physically after a pair of back surgeries. Honestly, I have always been trying, but within this last year I have actually been doing it by hiking, biking and kayaking.

On the first of this year I was planning a trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from Oregon, OH, just east of Toledo, which would take me around Lake Michigan. I am a geocacher so I plan every trip with the goal of collecting a few geocaches in different states and at random geological or historic sites. I was zooming in on the websites map north of the Mackinac area and I found a string of caches titled “NCT – (all kinds of things)” making a big, weird S through Hiawatha National Forest.

In the geocache description there is an elaborate, but brief, explanation of the NCT. Needless to say at this point I was floored that I had never heard of the North Country Trail. Around here the AT, PCT and CDT are public knowledge but how did I not know about the NCT which runs only 30 some odd miles away from my house and passes through all the places I love to visit.

Hours of internet reading and book ordering later I had registered for the Hike 100 Challenge and adjusted my spring and summer trips to include a number of out and back hikes along the trail.

A storymap of Ken’s Journey:

In the first few months of the year I made the long round trip drive to do some short hikes along the historic Erie Canal, Wabash/Cannonball trail, through Maumee State Forest and of course the beautiful Oak Openings Metro Park. Then came our first planned trip.

My kids and I (they are 10, 6 & 4) have a goal to visit all 74 Ohio state parks in the next two years. My youngest has Cerebral Palsy and does not walk yet so he gets to ride along for all of the hikes in a pack that helps him build his core muscle strength and keep his legs stretched, but most of all it lets him see and experience the world.

So while in North East Ohio visiting parks we went a little further to Allegheny National Forest to collect some Pennsylvania and New York geocaches as well as to hike a few NCT miles. On one hike we went up from PA to the NY border. That was an 847’ elevation gain in just over a mile, a great challenge for the kids and beautiful hike. Later in the same trip we found ourselves at the Ohio / Pennsylvania border heading up into the state game lands. Another beautiful hike out (up) and back. [See if you can tell what the focus becomes for my hike 100 challenge – side goal]

I used “The North Country Trail” book by Ron Strickland to find some cool destinations and we decided to head over to Zoar, OH for a history lesson and lunch. That was a terrific stop and my hats off to Ron for the excellent guide, it led us to some fine sections of the trail already. Another interesting landmark was achieved on that short hike; it is the Eastern confluence of the NCT and the Buckeye Trail System.

In the last month or so I made the trek out to my closest points of the trail and did a few miles here and there. Oak Openings is about as beautiful and “challenging” as it gets in the Great Black Swamp region where construction levels are more crooked than our skyline. I did however complete a little section hike where the Buckeye Trail splits off of the NCT (or joins depending on which way you go) at the Western end in Liberty Center, OH, so that landmark was completed.

Oak Openings Metro Park in Ohio

Oak Openings Metro Park in Ohio

It is now July and my original vacation trip plans were getting finalized. Looking back I had already logged miles in three of the seven states, with both border crossings; why not add 12 or so hours to my trip to collect all the states and all the crossings?

Fast forward to July 26th, that is today for me, and I will share the tale of a 2,300 mile road trip week that led me not only around the lake but to the conclusion of my Hike 100 Challenge.

On a Monday morning at 03:30 I left work in a rain storm with a final destination of the Historic Fort Abercrombie in North Dakota. The rain relented early enough that I was able to stop quickly and walk across the OH/MI border without too much trouble. As any fellow geocacher will understand, I could have delayed my trip exponentially by caching everywhere so I limited myself to caches close to the borders, highlight earth caches and those all-important state souvenirs.

With only one side trip at the end across the South Dakota border I made it to ND as the sun was setting and found the trail. I set off for an out n’ back from the fort to Kent, MN across the beautiful Red River. It is interesting to note that just to the north in MN there is a pair of high water marks from 1897 and 1997 that are only made more ominous when arriving in Kent to find a nice memorial from the 1997 event. I had a nice local beverage at the pub before walking back and setting up camp in the state park to enjoy my sleep.

As the sun rose over the fort the next morning I set out for Lake Itasca and the headwaters of the Mississippi. While driving along Rt. 34 I stopped at the Hubble Pond trail crossing, I had to, it is a very well maintained trailhead with beautiful signage and information. I was really impressed, thank you. I did not spend as much time on the NCT at Itasca as I did at the actual headwaters (only about half a mile) but I will say that the pure energy of the people and atmosphere in that park was so refreshing, like we were all in on some simple but profound secret that was improving our lives, it was awesome to be there.

headwaters of the Mississippi

Headwaters of the Mississippi River

I was trying to make it into Ottawa National Forest in the U.P. to visit my Uncle and Cousin that I have not seen in 15 years by the evening so my MN/WI border crossing hike was quick and uneventful. The WI/MI border proved to be more difficult as just a few weeks ago the area received a rainfall…er, deluge really, of 12-14” in less than two hours. There were still a large number of washed out roads and detours but I eventually made it down to the Montreal River, parked and hiked across my sixth and final NCT border. Now all I had to do was put on some serious miles to wrap this up, Pictured Rocks, here I come!

Before I set out in the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, I stopped in Au Train for a loaded test hike. I parked at the river and headed west but it felt more up than out. There is something weird and beautiful about the Hiawatha National Forest and Au Train Region, somehow when I turned around I was still going up to get back to my truck. I know that is not physically possible but I could not convince my legs otherwise. I know you long hikers are giggling at me but hey, that was a tough 1.8 miles.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Spray Falls

The only thing I had set up in advance was my Altran ride from Munising Falls to Grand Sable for 1230 that afternoon; this was almost a major mistake. As a sidebar from my story I strongly recommend anyone planning a trip through or to Pictured Rocks to call more than 30 days (it used to be 14) ahead to reserve your campsites and obtain your permit. I was able to get my back country camping permit on the first come basis but it meant in the next three days I was hiking 7, 14 & 21+ miles respectively based on available camping sites. I would rather have finished sooner on the third day but that was it. So, permit in hand I offload the pack and gear ready for transportation. About halfway to Grand Sable I realized my hiking poles were in the bed of my truck tucked under my kayak. Ugh. Second bit of advice is that a written list would have been better. I was able to use a pole that that had been left on the Altran by someone two weeks prior and offered by the driver. I am not a fan of single sticking it but that was 50% better than nothing, thank you trail angels, I hope I deserved it.

At the trail head visitor center I came upon a very adventurous soul who on his first ever experience backpacking had made it there along the NCT from Tahquamenon Falls, and found himself in the same dilemma I was in an hour earlier without reservations for the next 42.4 miles. He ended up with the same itinerary as I had so we buddied up to keep an eye on each other through the next three days.

I will save the details of my Pictured Rocks experience as my own but share the highlights. “Awe”, as in awe inspiring, or awe-some is really the only English language word to describe it as a whole. It makes me wonder if founders in Michigan gave names like Au Sable, Au Train or Point Aux Barques with that in mind while doling out city names. In Pictured Rocks the views are amazing, the hikes are challenging, the people are few (in the eastern two thirds) but quality, the geography is top notch, the thunderstorms are violent, the history is ever present, the flies are legendary and the water is scarce. Okay, the last one needs explaining. Along with leaving my sticks I left my iodine tabs, and filters break. Tap water is scarce; lake, river and stream water is plentiful, plan accordingly. This year PRNP is also having a 50 and 100 mile hike challenge so I kept track of the camp and water hikes and ended up getting 50.2 total miles during the three days in the park, another challenge met. But most important is that just as my feet and muscles were really starting to scream at me south of Sand Point I achieved the NCT 100 mile benchmark!

In the next few days as my muscles recovered I visited NCT sites at Tahquamenon Falls, St. Ignace, where the trail crosses M 123 (near the geocache that started it all) and the last stop on my way home yesterday was at Lowell, MI to poke my head in at the headquarters, visit a great cast and crew, and pass along my thanks for everything while collecting my patch and picking up souvenirs for the kids.

A stop at headquarters on the way home!

A stop at headquarters on the way home!

All told in 28 different hikes at 25 different locations I recorded 100.8 unique miles along 108.1 total miles in all 7 states to include all 6 border crossings with 5 different people and the kids were along for 19.8 miles.

The only thing left now is the East and West Terminus…oh…and those other 4,500 miles.