Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

News from New Executive Director Andrea Ketchmark

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by Andrea Ketchmark, Executive Director of the North Country Trail Association

Hello North Country Trail Enthusiasts!

I could not be more excited to step into the position of Executive Director of the North Country Trail Association. As Director of Trail Development, I’ve spent the past eight years working with our volunteers and partners across the trail. I know firsthand of the dedication our volunteers bring to their work and the love our trail users have for the experience we provide. It’s your passion that will fuel me as I step into this new role.

We are already strong. NCTA has seen incredible growth, in size, professionalism and financial strength, under Bruce Matthew’s leadership. My challenge will be sustaining our success and figuring out what it means to take us to the next level. The next decade will bring both challenges and opportunities and I have no doubt that our team of staff, volunteer and partners, will be able to meet both with creativity and vigor.

I’d like to share a few thoughts with you today but you can expect to hear much more from me as we get to work. Please plan to join me live on Facebook, Tuesday August 8, at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. CDT) for a Question and Answer session.


It’s more important than ever that NCTA position ourselves as advocates for public land and trails. Without strong support from elected officials, our land management agencies and volunteer partners like us do not get the resources we need to do our jobs. We must make our voices heard on the National, State and Local level so decision makers understand that the North Country National Scenic Trail, and other recreational resources like it, are the keys to a healthy lifestyle for all Americans, protecting natural resources for the future and to building a strong economy.

Engaging new audiences

Over the past two years, the Hike 100 Challenge has brought in thousands of people that were new to the trail or new to the Association. We also had 400 people in attendance at our Annual Celebration in Marquette this weekend, breaking all records. These results are not anomalies. They are indicators that more and more people are finding their way to trails and the NCTA should be prepared to bring them into our community with open arms and minds.

We are now attracting more than our faithful long time members. We are attracting hikers and outdoorspeople that don’t know who we are but are interested in finding out. In response, we must be prepared to meet new audiences by understanding the motivations that bring them to us and how we can create trail stewards out of trail lovers.

Financial strength

Of course to meet the ever growing and changing needs of the Trail, NCTA must be in a sound financial position to be able to provide resources for volunteers and for the management of the trail, to bring on and retain staff, and market the organization in a way that brings more volunteers together to share our vision and the workload.

Join me for a live session on Facebook August 8th at 8pm. I’ll be there to answer your questions but I’d also love to hear your stories about how the trail has impacted your life and what you think is needed to carry NCTA into the future.

Thank you for being part of our team and the North Country National Scenic Trail community.

Celebration in Marquette Recap

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by Kenny Wawsczyk, Michigan Regional Trail Coordinator

For all three days the sun shined down on the largest ever NCTA Celebration, with nearly 400 attendees.

With the temperature in the 70s you truly couldn’t ask for better weather, especially considering the fact of how much rain the U.P. has gotten this spring and summer. The gathering took place at Northern Michigan University in Marquette and proved to be a great venue to hold a Celebration.

Sugarloaf Mountain

Views from Sugar Loaf Mountain

Also, if you’ve never been to Marquette, put it on your list for places to visit. It has a friendly downtown area with all the stores you’d find in a big city in its outskirts. Travel a few miles outside the city and you’re surrounded by trees, rocks and stunning views. Besides the Celebration, Marquette also hosted a blueberry festival as well as two art shows, so needless to say there was plenty to do.

The scheduled hikes ranged from going up and down steep terrain to take in the views atop Hogback Mountain to walking the shared route of the paved pathway of the Iron Ore Heritage Trail. Besides the dinners and awards at night, hiking was the only thing on the agenda for both Thursday and Saturday. There were even group hikes days before the Celebration officially started.

Friday, after the morning hikes (that is if you weren’t  eating blueberries at the festival), there were break-out sessions discussing more serious topics such as Engaging New Audiences and Chapter Fund Raising Basics. There were also entertaining sessions including, Comedy on the NCT and Yooper Tours.

(Check out this teaser trailer for a series of videos Alex Maier did on his hike through the U.P. Episodes 1-5 are available now on his YouTube Channel, with 4 more yet to come.)

Each night consisted of a social hour at 5 pm followed by delicious dinners. Numerous awards for both the NCTA and National Park Service were handed out and presentations were given about the Porcupine Mountain Wilderness State Park, the Appalachian Trail, and the Iron Belle Trail. Then on Saturday night we bid farewell to our Executive Director, Bruce Matthews as he will now be traveling the country (and probably then some) and fishing from his new kayak.

NCTA awards with Ruth Dorrough and John and Dove Day

John & Dove Day receiving their Outreach award from Board President Ruth Dorrough

View all NCTA Award winners’ photos here and NPS Award Winner photos here.

Overall it was a fantastic celebration and endless thanks go out to all the volunteers who made it happen, especially Lorana Jinkerson and the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter.

Volunteers and Staff working

Volunteers and Staff working the registration and Trail Shop in Marquette

Next year’s Celebration will be in southern Ohio at Hocking Hills State Park, April 26-29th. We’ll be joining with the Buckeye Trail Association and their annual TrailFest. It’s going to be a fantastic joint celebration. Make plans now to join us in April! 

Farewell to our Executive Director Bruce Matthews

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After a decade of service to the North Country Trail Association, our Executive Director Bruce Matthews is retiring July 31.

In this farewell message, Bruce highlights the incredible accomplishments we have all made together over the past decade including how many miles of trail you’ve built, the increase in membership and giving, as well as a charge for the future.

Please join us by thanking Bruce for his decade of leadership and service by commenting below, or on our Facebook post. If you’re joining us in Marquette this week, we will have opportunity for you to celebrate and thank him there as well.


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.

NCNST Route Adjustment Act Advocacy Update {and request}

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The NCTA is starting over in this 115th Congress in our efforts to obtain passage of our Route Adjustment legislation that we came close to seeing pass during the last few weeks of the 114th Congress in December, and we need your help!

Word from Bruce Matthews is that Rep. Richard Nolan introduced the House version of the “North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment” bill (H.R. 1026) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. John Hoeven co-introduced the Senate version (S. 363) yesterday (2/13).  This introduction was timed with the ongoing Hike the Hill advocacy event.  Click on the graphic below to read the simple legislation and to learn more about what it does (note: both the House and Senate versions have identical language).

What you can do:

We really need constituents of these Representatives who supported the legislation in the last Congress to contact their offices to ask them to once again co-sponsor Rep. Nolan’s bill:

Here are some additional Representatives who host the Trail, who really ought to be co-sponsors:

Act now! Let’s turn the map green!

Below is a map detailing our current sponsors for this bill. Districts marked green represent those who’ve signed onto the bill. (Click the map to view full size)

Here is how you can best accomplish this:

  1. Call their DC office
  2. Provide them with your name & zip code
  3. State that you “Don’t need a response”
  4. Tell them that you would like to see the Representative co-sponsor H.R. 1026

It might look something like this…

“Hi, my name is Mark, I’m a constituent from ___, zip code *****. I don’t need a response. I am in favor of the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act (H.R. 1026) and I encourage the Representative to please co-sponsor this legislation. Thanks for your hard work answering the phones!”

Afterward, tell your friends / family that live in your same District to do the same thing and tell them how easy it was.  The DC staff probably only need to hear from a dozen constituents before moving on the legislation.


If your Representative is already a co-sponsor please call and thank them for their support!  The list of current co-sponsors includes:

We also would like to publicly thank Reps. Beyer, VA-8; Connolly, VA-11; Blumenauer, OR-3; Fortenberry, NE-1; and Clark, MA-5 for their support!

If your Representative isn’t listed anywhere above, please contact them and ask that they co-sponsor this H.R. 1026.

Header photo credit: Craig Toocheck,

North Country Trail in Fort Custer National Cemetery

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by Kenny Wawsczyk, Michigan Regional Trail Coordinator, photos courtesy of Chief Noonday Chapter.

Across seven states the North Country Trail has the privilege to traverse through  a wide variety of properties, from large Forest Service land to small parcels in urban areas.

In Kalamazoo County there’s a unique property that the NCT is allowed to go through, the Fort Custer National Cemetery. During WW II Fort Custer served as a training ground for soldiers. Today, as you stand in what is now wetland, you can still see this history through the man made shapes of the land.

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Over two miles of Trail are found within the 770 acre parcel and the Chief Noonday Chapter has been working for the past few years to improve and replace the existing structures. So far the chapter has completed a total of 260 feet of puncheon, (not contiguous) as well as a 30 foot bridge that was built in 2015. 

With the bridge being built last year the chapter was able to focus on the puncheon this year. And with only approximately 40 feet left to go as well as a few touch-ups here and there it was definitely a successful year.

Ron and Jeff

Volunteers Ron and Jeff on the puncheon.

Volunteers from the chapter were happy to receive help from the Battle Creek Academy as well as the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy. These kids did a lot of hauling of gravel and lumber back into the sites as access to the area is limited. They also did more than just carry material as they got some experience building the structures too.

Michigan Youth Challenge Academy work on the Trail

Michigan Youth Challenge Academy Students work on the Trail


Battle Creek Academy Students work on the Trail

Battle Creek Academy Students work on the Trail

In October I too finally got the opportunity to help out. It never fails to amaze me how much time and effort our volunteers put into each and every project they are a part of.

So if you’re looking to hike a unique area I highly suggest heading to Augusta in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. There’s road side parking off Fort Custer Dr just north of M-96. (Find this on retail map MI-02.)

Then hike less than a half mile into the Fort Custer Recreation Area and just east of the newly built bridge you’ll enter an area that holds a lot of history and your feet will be dry thanks to the volunteers of the Chief Noonday Chapter.

And if you’re in the area, be sure to check out the special services that happen each Memorial Day Weekend in the Fort Custer National Cemetery.

Jeff and Mick Hawkins, volunteers with the Chief Noonday Chapter.

Jeff and Mick Hawkins, volunteers with the Chief Noonday Chapter.

NCTA’s trail management staff attend the National Scenic Trails Workshop

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Fun in the sun: The National Scenic Trails Workshop and NCT Trail Management Staff Meeting in Pensacola, Florida November 13-18

by Andrea Ketchmark

National Scenic Trails Workshop

Staff from the National Scenic Trails from across the U.S . attend the NST Workshop in Florida, November 2016.

In the last 49 years since the 1968 passage of the National Trails System Act, only 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails have been designated by Congress. The purpose of these trails are to showcase the wild scenic beauty of our country along with the important historic and cultural events that took place throughout our history. These Trails – although different in length, geography and purpose – all face similar struggles.

As a member of the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) the NCTA works with these other trails in a variety of ways. Founded in 1997, the PNTS “connects member not-for-profit trail organizations and Federal agency partners to further the protection, completion, and stewardship of the 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails within the National Trails System.”  This partnership gives strength to each of us as individual professionals but also helps to make our collective voice one that will be heard.

Through PNTS’ Advocacy and Policy Committee we monitor federal agency policy and spend significant time responding to those that have an impact on our trails. With this coordinated effort to ensure our voices are heard we’ve been successful in shaping policy to reflect the needs of the trails and that of our volunteer stewards.  It’s through the PNTS that we elicit nationwide support for our NCT legislation (e.g. the Route Adjustment Act or ).

NCTA and NPS planning session

A view of the NCTA and NPS planning session.

Through PNTS Biennial Scenic / Historic Trail Workshops and its joint Biennial Conferences, agency and nonprofit staff gather to learn more about emerging issues including energy development and land acquisition. We hone our skills in GIS and brainstorm ideas for public engagement and marketing. We share our successes and challenges, heartbreaks and new ideas. I’ve brought back much of what I’ve learned over the years and incorporated it into what we do at NCTA.

This year’s National Scenic Trail workshop was held in November 2016 in Pensacola, hosted by the Florida Trail Association. NCTA’s Director of Trail Development, Regional Trail Coordinators and GIS Coordinator (Andrea, Matt R., Matt D, Kenny and Bill) attended along with all three of our National Park Service staff (Mark, Chris and Luke). On the agenda were topics such as using GIS to support land acquisition, coping with increased use on the trail and strategies to engage diverse audiences. Most of the sessions were presented in an open space meeting format, which offers incredible flexibility for the conversations to benefit those in the room. There were also plenary sessions focused on Trail Protection planning and Youth and Diversity. Our staff attended many of the sessions and have been reporting back on how they think we can use what they learned. The moderators of each session also take notes and they will be distributed to all attendees. (Note: the agenda is online for anyone interested in learning more about these workshops.)

If possible, we also like to take advantage our time at the workshops to have our own meetings with NCTA and NPS staff. This year, we arrived in Florida a day early to hold a one-day planning session that made positive movement forward on our challenge to define the roles and responsibilities in our partnership as each of us grows.

Maybe most important are the personal connections we build while at these workshops, both between the larger community and within our own staff. I watched as the dynamic between our NCTA and NPS staff changed when we got on the beach volleyball court and how ideas came alive when we shared a beer while watching the sun set. It is those experiences that set a tone that will last long beyond this workshop.

With only 11 National Scenic Trails, the work we do is specialized. This community offers the opportunity to share, collaborate and learn from each other and a chance to celebrate with and lean on each other. It’s a powerful community and we are proud to be part of it.

NCTA Trail Management Staff

NCTA’s Trail Management Staff. L-R: Bill Menke, Matt Davis, Kenny Wawsczyk, Matt Rowbotham, Andrea Ketchmark

Here is what the staff had to say about attending the Workshop:

“These workshops have a more intimate feel than the regular conferences that I’ve been too and they cover a wide variety of topics. You get to chose which one of the four topics for that hour you’d like to attend, and if you and some others would like to further discuss a particular topic or start a new one, simply do so. Also if you find that the discussion isn’t exactly what you thought it would be then you are encouraged to leave and attend another discussion. The small groups offer more opportunities to talk about your specific issues and get ideas and thoughts from other organizations, and with all the National Scenic invited you get a wide variety of different perspectives.”  — Kenny Wawsczyk, Regional Trail Coordinator for MI

“It is always good to attend these conferences and to re-connect with the trail staff from our sister NSTs. I never fail to be re-energized by the things we talk about both during the formal sessions and during the more informal after hour gatherings.

Several of the formal sessions were totally interesting and informative. It is particularly interesting to hear how our Forest Service trail managers are forging ahead with Regional and National policies to protect the trails they manage.” — Bill Menke, Regional Trail Coordinator for WI

“The opportunity to spend time with other mapping and GIS professionals, that are specifically focused on National Trails GIS issues, is priceless. The exchanging of ideas can get especially intense on this topic. Concepts that I have been introduced to from these workshops have definitely moved the needle forward on the NCTA’s GIS program. It’s also been really neat to see how some of the contributions we’ve made have been molded and modified by other trail groups.” — Matt Rowbotham, NCTA’s GIS Coordinator

“I left Pensacola with some concrete ideas for strengthening the relationships with all of our agency partners in both North Dakota and Minnesota.  The after hours networking with our NST colleagues is both invaluable and fun…and my morning walks on the beach were pretty enjoyable!”  — Matthew Davis, Regional Trail Coordinator for ND & MN

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.