Posts Tagged ‘long distance trails’

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: https://www.facebook.com/northcountrytrail

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 – https://northcountrytrail.org/nct2go/

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: https://www.facebook.com/ANFChapterNCT/

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

Crews finish their hard work to restore the Kekekabic Trail

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Recently, a significant downfall was cut from across the Kekekabic Trail, an unofficial portion of the NCNST within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern MN.

It was the last tree that fell across the western 15 miles of the Kek during last summer’s very strong windstorms to be cut.  These storms left the Kek virtually impassable as thousands of trees were uprooted or snapped off and piled up on top of the trail.

Can you spot where the Trail goes?

 

Trail…what trail?

This spring, the Kekekabic Trail Chapter and Superior National Forest mobilized a volunteer army to pick up where volunteer crews and U.S. Forest Service staff completed their clearing last October.  Our spring crews included:

  • A crew of 7 volunteers led by Derrick Passe that worked on the Kek during the first week of May. They endured wind and snow to clear the first mile into the wilderness, providing a path of egress for subsequent work crews camping on Parent Lake.
  • A long weekend trip led by Mark Stange of the Kekekabic Trail Chapter that worked in the Parent Lake area on the Snowbank Lake Trail.
  • A four week-long CASP crew that was led by Derrick Passe of the Kekekabic Trail Chapter. In addition to his volunteer efforts last fall, Derrick spent the entire month of May out clearing the trails.  The CASP crew worked on the Disappointment Lake Trail, the Snowbank Trail, the Becoosin-Benezie loop trail, and the Kekekabic Trail east to Thomas Pond.
  • Two American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacation crews led by the NCTA’s Matthew Davis and Brian Bittner of the Forest Service.  Check out a couple photo galleries from these two crews that worked on the Disappointment Lake and Kekekabic Trails in the Disappointment Lake area. Below is a photo chronology from these crews that shows what a trail clearing trip is like:

The crews met in Ely at the Forest Service office for the project orientation, which included watching the BWCAW Leave No Trace movie.

 

Jamie Lowe of the Forest Service talks about the work and issues PPE

 

The crews get ready to depart the Boy Scout Camp for the Snowbank Lake canoe landing. Thanks to SPACE Trailers (spacetrailers.com) for lending us the trailer to haul the group’s gear.

 

Canoeing 101 at the landing with Jamie Lowe and Brian Bittner of the Forest Service

The two crews separately canoed into their campsites as the maximum group size in the BWCAW is 9.

Crew members set up their camps on the SE corner of Disappointment Lake

The crews enjoy a celebratory dinner in Ely after paddling out and cleaning up

 

A special shout out goes to Derrick Passe for volunteering hundreds of hours during the entire month of May and making a HUGE difference!

Our thanks go to Jamie Lowe, Trails & Volunteer Coordinator for the Superior National Forest’s Kawishiwi District for all of his hard work on the trails and for his logistical support and assistance. Thanks also to Brian Bittner of the Forest Service for pinch hitting as a Volunteer Vacation crew leader…you saved us!

Our thanks also go to Keith Nelson and the entire staff of the Charles S. Sommers canoe base outside of Ely for hosting the crews before we went into the BWCAW and also the night we came out.

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)


 

Pennsylvania:

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

RSVP: wam@northcountrytrail.org

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 websitehttp://northcountrytrail.org/wam/?page_id=598


Ohio:

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.

 


 

Michigan:

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

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/GTHikers/

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

RSVP: nct@northcountrytrail.org

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

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/120471688527655/

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!
Agenda
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: hss@northcountrytrail.org 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: http://northcountrytrail.org/hss/maps.shtml

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

RSVP: cnd@northcountrytrail.org

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 lkmeyer@zoho.com

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 lkmeyer@zoho.com for meet up information.


Event: National Trails Day History Hike on the NCT

Host: Old Victoria Restoration

Location: 25401 Victoria Dam Rd, Rockland, MI

RSVP: lswebber@mtu.edu

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.

RSVP: spw@northcountrytrail.org

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 atnorthcountrytrail.org/spw


 

Wisconsin

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

RSVP: bsc@northcountrytrail.orgwww.meetup.com/sscbhikers

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.

RSVP: sally65bones@gmail.com

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: sally65bones@gmail.com 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.

RSVP:  che.northcountryscenictrail@gmail.com

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.


 

Minnesota

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.orghttps://www.meetup.com/HikeNCTinMN/

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: http://arcg.is/2esDPOK. Meet at Elbow Lake Rd. Trailhead at 9:00 am. Map: https://goo.gl/maps/8W4vkgTChM62. Shuttles will be provided to the hike starting point. Chapter meeting to follow at Ice Cracking Lodge (http://icecrackinglodge.com/the-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

RSVP: mdavis@northcountrytrail.orgfacebook.com/groups/565210860298649/

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

RSVP: http://shta.org/contact-us/

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

RSVP: https://www.meetup.com/Red-River-Valley-Outdoors/events/237524395/

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

RSVP: rgruch@aol.com

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.

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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, freeimages.com

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 ).

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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

Woman Hikes all of Michigan’s North Country Trail

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Story and photos by Jo Oostveen

“What bridge did you say?” I asked in a puzzled voice.

“The Mackinaw Bridge”, he replied.

I was standing at the water pump with the only other person at the Pinney Bridge campground, early that May morning in 2011. I spied him as he came in late the previous night. I was on a two day hike of the Jordan River Pathway, which shares half of its miles with the North Country Trail.

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Pondering his reply for a minute or so, I asked again, “You’re going to the Big Mac Bridge from here?”

The stranger told me that he had started near his home in Baldwin, and was determined to make the Bridge. My first thought was that he surely must be crazy, and I asked again, “Do you know how far that is from here?”

“Sure,” he said, and proceeded to tell me that six months earlier, he had had a massive heart attack. His doctor said that if he survived, he should plan to do “something special.”

The 40-something guy did get the chance, and he decided that he would hike all the way to the Bridge on the North Country Trail. I shared what trail information I had with him and we both went our separate ways.

Little did I know that this chance 5 minute encounter with a stranger would change the course of the next six years of my life. Sadly, I would never see him again, or ever know his name.

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I was beginning the 60th year of my own life, and coming to the realization that my backpacking days may be coming to an end. My husband, Don, of over 40 years, was not a backpacker, but had always been supportive of my desire to “walk down the trail.” Therefore, I had learned to hike solo, and was pretty confident of going it alone. With the thought of turning 60 looming over me, I had been hiking all my favorite Michigan hikes, “one more time before I die.” As I hiked the final miles that day, I decided that if the stranger could hike to the Bridge, maybe so could I.

After researching the North Country Trail, I was shocked to find out it came within 4 miles of our home. That year, with the help of my husband shuttling me down the trail, I managed to hike from the Hodenpyle Dam on the Manistee River to the outskirts of Kalkaska.This was a whopping 69 miles.

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The hiking trips were limited, because of our other responsibilities. We were the proud “parents” of six rescued husky mixed dogs, at our home we affectionately call “Sled Dog Heaven.” This unfortunately requires someone to be around to tend to the dog chores. Additionally, our daughter who lives in Kalamazoo has a disability and had recently started her own “medical mystery” adventures. Many times, either Don or I had to be with her in Kalamazoo for support, which left the dogs for the one left up north. These two responsibilities severely limited my time for “hiking down the trail.”

The second year, I worked a bit harder, and I did make the Mackinaw Bridge. I thought of the hiker who had started me on this quest, as I ambled into downtown Mackinaw City. Looking across the expanse of the Straits of Mackinac, I wondered what the NCT looked like in the Upper Peninsula. Officially, I had caught “blue blaze fever.”

In 2013, I crossed the bridge, started north, and managed to get to the Twohearted River by years end. My fondest memory happened just north of Tahquamenon Falls. It was October and the third day of continual rain  In the middle of nowhere a lone hiker came towards me. It was Al Learned with his tiny pack and happy go lucky smile. On the other hand, I had a huge pack draped in rain covers, with a probably sour look on my face that said, I was tired of the weather. I learned that day to hike lighter and happier.

By the following year, I had poured over more maps and was serious. Deciding to start early in the year, I hiked from the Dam on the Manistee River heading south. I ended my southern hiking at the NCT Schoolhouse. The trails were wonderful (thank you Red Plaid Nation). I was hooked on blue blazes.

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In the UP, I hiked from the Twohearted River to Munising. Along the way I met some fine NCT folks, and with some strong encouragement from the Superior Shoreline Chapter, I decided that I needed to join the Red Plaid Nation. I made a pledge to them that I would devote all my time to their efforts on the trail, well, just as soon as I completed my now new goal of completing all 1150 miles of the NCT in the state of Michigan by the time I turned 65.

My family now knew that I was serious about completing this goal of hiking all the NCT in Michigan “before I died” or “turned 65” whichever came first. With help from Don and my daughter Kristi, I hiked south from the NCT Schoolhouse to the NCT Headquarters in Lowell. In the U.P., I managed to go from Munising to Craig Lake State Park.

The kindness of strangers and the local NCT chapters, always amazed me. The Upper Peninsula was so beautiful and spectacular. After hiking in Michigan for about 30 years, I never knew such beautiful places existed, and that you only had to “take a hike” down the North Country Trail to experience them.

2016 came quickly, and so did my quest to complete the goal before my birthday. I still had about 175 very tough miles to complete in the U.P., and 160 or so from Lowell to Ohio. In early March, Kristi “delivered me into the woods” as she said, to my start south of Lowell and off I went towards Ohio.

img_0096There were three very difficult trips in the U.P. left before I could step into Wisconsin. The first trip included Canyon Falls, and Big Lake SFCG, as well as spending a night at the Oren Krumm Shelter over the Sturgeon River. The last day, I was hiking to O-Kun-De-Kun Falls at US 45 when a bear cub appeared 5 feet in front of me. For a split second I marveled at how beautiful and cute he was, until I remembered that Mama might be near. My trusty orange, loudest whistle ever, did the trick and I never did see Mama.

The second trip followed the NCT over the Trapp Hills. Ron Strickland in The North Country Trail, describes this area as “….one of the most varied, spectacular, and historically interesting hikes on the entire NCT,” and I agree. If you can put only one hike on your “bucket list” make it this one. You will not be disappointed!

The far northwest area of the U.P. was hit with a storm in July that dumped 15 inches of rain in just three hours. Needless to say, that storm and others that followed played havoc on the trail systems. In spite of the weather disasters, the Red Plaid Nation did their best to make the trail passable through the Porkies, and on to the Black River area. Finally I was walking across the bridge over the Montreal River into Wisconsin.

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Returning home, I completed the final few day hikes to Ohio. My job was done. From a chance 5 minute encounter with a stranger, I had hiked all the way from Ohio to Wisconsin. I want to thank the entire Red Plaid Nation for all their hard work keeping the trail in good condition, and to all the “trail angels” and random strangers who offered kindness along the trail. Also, thanks to my husband Don, who put up with my nutty quest, and my daughter, Kristi, who during her medical adventures was willing be my spotter.

It was the adventure of a lifetime, and I thank everyone involved with the North Country Trail who makes these “adventures” possible.

See you on the trail……..JO

Nicole Vik’s North Country Trail story

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story and photos by Nicole Vik

My story along the North Country Trail began last winter when my editor asked me if I was outdoorsy and suggested I cover outdoor events and news.

My first thought was, of course I’m outdoorsy, I grew up in Northern Minnesota. The question I should have asked myself was, am I athletic?

I decided to participate in a 3-mile snowshoe hike along a section of the trail in Itasca State Park because after all, hiking is just walking right? Wrong. Walking is not the same as hiking and hiking is certainly not the same as snowshoeing. It quickly became painfully apparent that I was desperately out of shape.

14292383_10202351581028861_6884275539011237241_nAt one point I found myself literally waddling up an extremely steep hill. As I struggled with my overly-large and borrowed snowshoes, my chest heaving for air, my brother strolled past me effortlessly while he pulled his sleeping child in a sled that was strapped around his waist. How pathetic I was, being passed by a guy pulling the weight of another human-being. Up a hill. Covered in ice.

I’m sure I was quite the sight; leaning forward in a squat with my butt up in the air struggling to move forward to prevent myself from sliding backward on the icy slope; desperately trying to stay on my feet.

With one mile left, it became my sole purpose in life to finish without crying. By the time I reached the parking lot my legs and hips were so weary it became my new purpose to make it to my vehicle without collapsing. Despite my struggles I did finish the hike, but I had absolutely no intention of ever going back out there.

I had no shame, I published my humiliating story as a column in the newspaper I work for and the response I got was completely unexpected. A few days after the story ran I got an email from Bruce Johnson, who is an active member of the Itasca Moraine Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, he told me he was proud of me for gutting it out and that he hoped I would continue hiking because he was confident that my attitude and perception would change.

At the time I had never even met Bruce, he was a complete stranger to me and I was honored that he had read my story let alone taken the time to encourage me to see it through, if it hadn’t been for him I never would have accepted the Hike 100 Challenge.

Growing up, I was a lazy little girl. My mother would take my brothers and me hiking and I was a bit of a burden on her as I would sit down on the side of the trail like the obstinate little brat that I was and refuse to continue on. “Are you just going to sit here? There is no going back you have to keep going forward,” she would say.

She then started strapping a bungee cord around my waist that she attached to her pack to pull me along and prevent me from plopping my heinie along the side of the trail and she would bribe me with the prospect of a treat when we reached our destination, which worked every time.

I followed like a puppy but the soothing ambience of the woods was drowned out by my insufferable whining as she towed me along behind her.

I started documenting our adventures by writing a series of columns for the newspaper and so many different people reached out to me, all of whom not only shared in my excitement for the trail but were eager to help with any questions or concerns I had.

This sparked my enthusiasm and I began doing research online, reading books, studying maps and I even attended some outdoor expos to absorb as much information as I could; I became obsessed. We purchased some new gear and hit the trail.

I started this journey hoping that by publishing our journeys we would inspire someone else to do something bold in their own life; something that would challenge them.

Isn’t that the point after all? Isn’t that why we face the lifelong struggle? To strive to make everyday worth living and achieve something we can take pride in? But instead I got so much more. I became a part of something so much bigger than I could have imagined and several doors began to open.

I have met several incredible people that I would never have otherwise met without the trail. I did an interview with Dan and Ruth Durrough, and for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting them they are an inspiring older couple from New York who just completed their final six miles of the entire 4,600 miles of the North Country Trail in September at the 2016 NCTA Celebration in eastern North Dakota through the Sheyenne National Grasslands and the Ekre Grassland Preserve. Being a part of their journey and being able to say I was among many that hiked the last six miles of their incredible journey with them is something I will likely never experience again.

During our interview, we were discussing how many connections the trail has to offer and Ruth sat looking at me contemplating that idea for a second before she said “isn’t that what a trail does” connecting you from one place to another and all the places and people along the way. Being senior citizens, Dan and Ruth also encouraged me to keep moving because they told me that at their age if they could do it I could do it.

I was asked to speak at the 10th Annual North Country Hiking Fest at Itasca State Park which for me is not as easy as it sounds, I’m a writer not a public speaker but I faced that fear and I’m glad I did because by doing so I got the opportunity to meet more people as equally enthusiastic about the outdoors as I am who told me that they were thrilled to hear my story which pushed me to keep going.

It was just further proof that the hiking community as a whole is so warm and inviting to those of us who are new to the trail and they are the most genuinely kind group of people I’ve ever had the privilege of coming into contact with.

I’ve pulled several members of my family and friends onto the trail all of whom were at different fitness levels and varying ages. Some were more comfortable in the woods than others but they all thoroughly enjoyed themselves because every trek is unique; it’s exciting to step out onto the trail because you never know what you might see and who you might meet.

img_4077I’ve become more comfortable with who I am by stepping outside of myself to realize that it is a much larger world than we sometimes remind ourselves.

There’s a peace that you feel being so far removed from the technology-based world which so many of us would struggle to live without.

In the middle of one hike I realized that daydreamers make the best hikers. Letting the mind wander helps the miles go by faster and it is a nice distraction from the blisters that are turning into craters on the bottoms of the feet.

The best hiking advice I’ve received is from a gentleman giving a lecture on hiking who said, “Just shut up and enjoy the solitude.” And he was right you will never hear quiet anywhere else like you hear on the trail.

There are places along the trail where the wilderness is so vast. It can be so still with no noise, not a single sound. No wind in the trees, no birds singing songs, no humming of distant traffic, no wildlife, no humans; just pure, complete and utter silence.

I’d be a liar if I said every hike has been good. One adventure started beautifully, the sun was shining with a nice light breeze. After stopping for lunch, I added treatment drops to a bottle of water that I pulled from a lake along the trail which would be more accurately described as a pond.

Two swans swimming casually in the water a short distance from me watched with vague curiosity as I scooped and filtered the water through a handkerchief and added the drops.

It tasted terrible but due to circumstances beyond my control I got sick and I consumed all of the lovely filtered water from my hydration bladder and I was forced to drink that scummy puddle water.

The handkerchief had served its purpose with excellence. There was not a single bit of debris floating in the bottle but the drops could not eliminate the earthy flavor.  I myself prefer flavorless water. I’m sure you won’t find “scummy puddle water” among the Kool-Aid drink mixes in the grocery aisle. I mean, I wouldn’t trademark that.

Anything can happen on the trail, no matter how diligently you plan you can never truly be prepared; obviously I was never a Boy Scout. Needless to say, any hiker at any level can gain vital knowledge with every step taken.

Throughout all of this I have gained confidence in my abilities with every mile that I put behind me and I feel a sense of pride within myself for sticking with it.

Bruce was right, by continuing to hike and write about my experiences my perception certainly has changed. When I’m not on the trail I miss it and I daydream about when I can get back out there.

The important thing to remember is that it is not about what you can’t do, it’s about the things you can do.

Start there and keep pushing and challenging yourself each and every day. Never stop growing and never stop thriving. And not to steal the thunder of Dan and Ruth but if I can do it, you can do it too.

-Nicole Vik is a staff reporter for the Park Rapids Enterprise in Park Rapids, Minn.  This article first appeared in the Call of the North, the NCTA’s newsletter for ND and MN.

You can read more of her stories about her time on the NCNST here:

http://www.parkrapidsenterprise.com/news/4089579-hiking-nct-connecting-foreigners-trail

http://www.parkrapidsenterprise.com/outdoors/4059880-hiking-4600-miles-across-country

Hike 100 Story: Greg & Cathy

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by Greg Brock, NCTA Member-at-large

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We decided that hiking would be one of the methods for my wife and I to get healthier. Luckily there is a state park near us with some great trails. After working up to a five mile route we met a hiker who told us about the trails off the main trail, or ridge trails. They were a bit hard to find but once we got the hang of it locating the ridge trails was easy. They were more challenging and much more fun.

After reading many books on hiking the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, the last book I read was from a Michigander who hiked the AT Trail, tried it as a through-hike but life got in the way and he had to go home a few times. I knew this was beyond our interest but we really enjoy the day hikes. The wife won’t go for the backpacking just yet; I keep working on her though.

In looking to try something new, I came across information on the North Country Trail on the internet and read about the Hike 100 Challenge. We thought it was a good idea and made it our goal. We also decided to attend the 2016 Celebration in Fargo, ND.

We started in April at the Birch River Schoolhouse Loop in MI. Then, we picked the hottest and most humid day in May to hike the NCT in Shawnee State Forest, OH. Met a nice local family who camped out on the trail because they got a late start the night before. Ohio pushed me to the limit physically with the weather, it was either up or down and the trail markings were nonexistent. After that we decided we were cool weather hikers.

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So we took a break until mid-September when we went to the Celebration in Fargo. I was a bit worried we would not achieve the challenge since we were only about a third of the way in mileage. However, Fargo got us back on track, we really enjoyed the prairie hiking which is much different than that of MI.

We made a vacation out of the trip and took our time coming home by way of the Upper Peninsula. But first we had to stop and walk across the Montreal River that borders Wisconsin and Michigan.

You see, after hiking in MI, OH, ND, MN, it only seemed logical to hike in WI since we were already there. Then we could make a vacation out of going to the PA/NY border, that way we would have hiked in all the states of the NCT.

Oh yes, we had decided to hike all seven states when we were at the Celebration in Fargo!

We camped and hiked in the Porcupine Mountains, the “Grand Canyon” of Michigan, and Hemingway country in the Upper Peninsula. We found the NCT crossing the highway near Lowell on our frequent drives to see the kids at the University of Michigan and got more mileage in that way. It is also a nice stop to get out of the car and stretch the legs.

We then traveled to Bradford, PA and hiked the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania and the Allegany State Park in New York. Oh, it’s not a typo, PA likes the “heny” and NY likes the “any”, I have the photos to prove it.

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We took two days off then headed back to our now favorite place, Bitely MI. We camped and did our final twenty miles on the trail over three days. As a present we had just purchased backpacks for both of us at REI in Ann Arbor (shout out), they worked out great. A shout out to the Outpost in Holland, MI where we purchase most of our stuff.

Thanks to all the folks volunteering and working for the NCT, what a wonderful concept. It is a great way to get out and rejuvenate.