Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible. Pertinent guest posts are always welcome.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winter Leadership Training Opportunity in NY

from Larry Blumberg

Under the auspices of the Binghamton, NY-area Baden Powell Council of the Boy Scouts of America, a couple members of the Triple Cities Hiking Club and I will be teaming up with others to present a "winter outdoor training" course in early January, 2009 for scout leaders and others who lead winter trips.

This will be our fourth year of presenting this course...some examples of the topics we cover include winter-related first aid cases; clothing and boots; setting up tents in snow; cooking / menu planning; other backpacking gear specific to winter; hiking with skis, snowshoes, and crampons; and, building snow shelters.

The course consists of an indoor class session followed by a weekend outdoor overnight, it is permissable to attend just the indoor session if you wish (but to attend the weekend outdoor overnight, you MUST first attend the indoor class session)

a) Indoor Session - Saturday, Jan 10, 2009
Boy Scout office downstairs conference room, 2150 NY Rte 12, Chenango Forks, NY 8:30 am to 4 pm...cost of participating in the indoor session only, is $15 - includes course handouts and lunch

b) Outdoor Session - Friday evening, Jan 16 to Sunday morning, Jan 18, 2009
Highland Forest, Fabius, NY (SE of Syracuse, NY) - sleep in a woodstove-heated cabin or your own tent, your choice...cost of both the indoor and outdoor sessions is a total of $40, includes camping fees and some meals, participants will provide others.

It is assumed that participants will already have some level of three-season hiking and camping experience; the purpose of this training is to expand into and learn more about four-season outdoor activities, and to also begin to prepare participants to lead others on winter trips.

If interested in learning more about this training course, please e-mail Larry Blumberg. To sign-up for the course, simply call the scout office during business hours at 607-648-7888 or toll free at 1-877-674-8876 and indicate you would like to sign up for the "winter outdoor training course" taking place in January. Your credit card payment will be taken over the phone!

Big Frowny Face In the Sky, Dec 1

from National Geographic, "Planets, Crescent Moon to 'Frown' on Skywatchers Dec. 1," by Andrew Fazekas, Nov 25, 2008

"This is set to be the best planetary gathering of the year, simply because it involves three of the brightest objects in the sky after the sun," said Geza Gyuk, director of astronomy at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

On November 30, at about 7 pm Eastern Standard Time, Jupiter and Venus will be separated by only 2 degrees. The planets will be easily seen shortly after sunset, as long as the sky is clear. Look low in the southwest, approximately where sunset occurs.

However, the best of the show may be on the following evening, Dec 1. The crescent moon will join the two planets for a short time, creating the appearance of a "frowny face" in the sky.

Five planets are visible in the sky to the naked eye, but Jupiter and Venus are the brightest. They are both enveloped in reflective clouds. Jupiter is the largest planet, and Venus is the closest, making both of them easily visible.

Planetary conjunctions are relatively rare, and the last time that Venus and Jupiter were so close together was in 2 B.C. This has raised speculation as to whether the light from the conjunction appeared merged and is the "Star of Bethlehem."

See National Geographic Blog
These links are checked on the date of the article. As the article ages, some links may become invalid

Saturday, November 29, 2008

NY DEC Pilots Equestrian Use of NCT/Link Trail

from the Central New York Chapter newsletter, Oct 2008

Notwithstanding our experience based concerns about the basic non-compatibility of a shared significant use equestrian-hiking trail, per their intentions stated on April 28th, NY Parks has issued a plan encompassing the trail section from Nelson Road eastward/northward to the trail head area on Oxbow Road. Some sections of this trail segment are relatively narrow and others have a fragile soil base.

The plan includes stipulations and options that can be exercised only by NY Parks— all of which are intended to provide both clarifications and a measure of protection of the trail environment. A new gate is being installed on the east side of Nelson Road by NY Parks, one that will permit horse passage. Our concern is that is should be an effective deterrent for ATV and snowmobile non-authorized use as well. The plan states that horses will not be permitted on the trail west of Nelson Road now.

We will continue our liaison with the designated NY Parks contacts, both for the trail segment involved in this pilot plan and the other trail segments permitted to us via the Revocable Permit in force. There are a number of issues that require mutual attention

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Michigan Solo Hike-Paddle Loops

hike / paddle loop
Pere Marquette loop
follow link below for full size
from Alan Fark

If you're paddling Michigan rivers, you know it's a hassle to shuttle your own kayak or canoe back-and-forth from the start and end point, and you need a buddy to help you do it.

Here are some circuits which can be done without shuttling, and which combine hiking and paddling. They can be done solo. Most are on the North Country Trail. These are day trips, not overnights.

Either drop your canoe or kayak off at the upstream portion (lock it with a bicycle lock or hide it in weeds, and don't forget to leave paddles and life vest away from the boat), drive to your endpoint, hike upstream and paddle back to your car. You can also obviously just start paddling from the upstream point and walk back upstream to your car after leaving your boat at the "bottom." This latter strategy runs the risk of missing the bend in the river where you're supposed to stop, if you're unfamiliar with the landing spot.

Alan has provided maps and some info for five different loops. There is a 6th possibility for a short trip, on the map above. You can begin at Upper Branch Bridge, hike the NCT and Sulak Access Road and then paddle down to Upper Branch. This makes a short day trip... nice for families.

See Hike-Paddle Loops
See Boating

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Pipeline Approved to Cross Minnesota

pipeline map
Enbridge Energy's "Alberta Clipper" pipeline
would run from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wis.
(MPR Graphic/Than Tibbetts)
from Minnesota Public Radio, "Minnesota PUC approves Canadian oil pipeline," by Stephanie Hemphill, Nov 25, 2008

Enbridge Energy received the go ahead today to build a big new pipeline to carry oil from Canada to refineries in Minnesota and elsewhere in the Midwest. Environmental groups say oil from the tar sands of Alberta is bad for the environment, because it puts out more pollutants and more global warming greenhouse gases, than conventional oil... more

If the line is built it will parallel existing pipelines. They cross the NCT somewhere near the Chippewa National Forest

Also see New oil pipeline across Minnesota approved from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune

USFS Wants More Kids in the Woods

girl reading interpretive sign
photo from USFS
a news release of The USDA Forest Service

The loss of connection between children and nature is an issue that incites passion and shared commitment among Forest Service employees. Establishing and renewing a child’s affinity to nature is a shared responsibility that transcends all agency functional areas. In 2007, we initiated a funding opportunity “More Kids in the Woods” for cost share projects to emphasize our continuing commitment to children. The positive results from this effort underscore our leading role in reconnecting children to nature. By continuing to work with our partners, we can expand our potential for even greater success.

The US Forest Service is pleased to issue a call for proposals for Fiscal Year 2009 with $500,000 to be awarded. The program requires partnering with a Forest Service unit to submit an application. The primary objective of the More Kids in the Woods cost-share funding is to effectively engage children in meaningful and sustained outdoor experiences, thereby increasing awareness and understanding of the natural world and the benefits of forest and grassland ecosystems. This funding opportunity leverages our efforts, builds upon our existing partnerships, and will help build relationships with new partners. The requested Forest Service More Kids in the Woods funds must be matched by non-Forest Service contributions, cash or in-kind, in a ratio of at least 1:1. The maximum amount available for a single project is $50,000 while the minimum is $5,000. Reports on activities and project results will be required for funded projects.

Proposals should be prepared in close collaboration with partners and be submitted by Forest Service units. Please follow instructions in the attachment for preparing your proposals. An electronic form for submitting proposals is also provided. A receipt of confirmation will be returned. Integrated Region/Station/Area teams will review and rank the proposals submitted in each geographic area. An official memorandum with the R/S/A’s top rankings will be sent to the Washington Office. The Washington Office will use the top rankings to make the final selections.

We already have many well recognized programs and activities that align with the goal of connecting children to nature. Whether you submit a proposal for a cost share project or not, I encourage you to work toward ensuring that every child in America, along with their parents, has an opportunity to intimately explore the natural world. Thank you for your efforts in this meaningful endeavor.

For more information, contact Kristen Nelson, Interpretive Services Program Manager, at 202-205-1406, or Drew Burnett, Assistant Director, Conservation Education Program, at 202-205-1781.

What Would You Like?

Readers! Would you like me to add short listings of upcoming events which are sponsored by chapters that are something beyond regular business meetings, or short day hikes?

This blog is not intended to be a calendar of events, but it might be of interest for chapters to see what their sister groups are doing across the trail.

Take the quick poll in the right column and help me decide!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Skurka Program January 9 at Cuyahoga NP

Andy Skurka
Andy Skurka
from Andy Skurka

In 2005 Andy completed the 7,778-mile Sea-to-Sea Route, which includes the entire length of the North Country Trail. By doing this he became the 7th person to follow the complete NCT.

Andy says, "I'm speaking at Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Brecksville, OH (halfway between Cleveland and Akron), on Fri, Jan 9. The show will be held in the Happy Days Lodge and will start at 7pm."

It is part of the park's Monthly Lyceum Series; there is an $8 admission price. Call (330) 657-2909 for tickets.

Visit the Andrew Skurka Website for more about Andy and his complete speaking schedule.

Wisconsin - Gold Mine to Wren Falls

boardwalk under construction
Chapter President Michael Stafford drives home
some nails during the September 20 weekend

from the Wisconsin North Country Trail News, edited and submitted by Gaylord Yost

What a great way to finish off the trail season for 2008. Great Lakes Trail Coordinator Bill Menke made the final inspection of the newly constructed NCT segment between the Gold Mine and Wren Falls during October. Only a few minor glitches will need to be touched up yet but the heavy work is done and the new segment can be easily hiked.

Work will continue on this segment, however, as the Chapter is responsible for constructing three bridges and several more boardwalks such as the one pictured to the left. These structures are needed to bring the trail to the high standard customary for National Scenic Trails.

Volunteers worked on two weekends during September and October to construct the 96’ boardwalk. Much of the preliminary work was done in September when volunteers with the Chequamegon Chapter, combined with Heritage volunteers, cut up the lumber and moved it to the boardwalk site. The crew also leveled the support beams in September.

The Chapter rented a pickup truck and was able to move all of the lumber for the boardwalk and a portion of the lumber for two of the bridges needed into the woods. Construction of the two bridges will begin probably in May 2009 when the weather permits.

boardwalk completed
Volunteer Dale Yerkes from Milwaukee
puts some of the finishing touches
on the completed boardwalk
Chequamegon Chapter members taking part during the September weekend included Bob Norlin (Iron River), Tana Turonie (Mellen), Mike Ryan (Mellen), John Beghun (Iron River), Mikie Kuhman (Cable), and Marty Swank (Ashland). All are members of the Chequamegon Chapter except Bob Norlin who is actually a member of the Brule-St. Croix Chapter but is also the Chequamegon Chapter's Trail Adoption Coordinator. Michael Stafford and Gaylord Yost represented the Heritage Chapter at the joint weekend.

Work on the boardwalk ended in September with nailing the framework together. In October, the deck was laid down and screwed to the frame. We are grateful for the nice turnout of Chequamegon Chapter members and help from other non-members.

Building Connector Trail from Highbanks

from the Wandering Knight. You can see many more adventures, both on and off the NCT at Ken's blog.

I spent last weekend with a group of other people in the western part of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan building a new side trail off of the North Country Trail. 17 people worked for a handful of hours constructing the half-mile trail from the Highbanks Lake Campground to the NCT on what was probably a nearly ideal day to do such work.

Making a Difference: Building New Trail from Ken Knight on Vimeo.

Monday, November 24, 2008

NCT Helps Promote Ohio Cultural Toursim

from the Ohio University Zanesville Campus, "Exploring Appalachia", by Nichole Medaugh, Nov 24, 2008

... "If you don't know where you came from, you don't know where you are going to go. You have to know the past to evaluate what's gone on to move forward," said Winnenberg.

Helping the areas efforts is the 4,600 mile North Country Trail that begins in New York and will continue through Wayne National Forest and Burr Oak State Park.

"It does bring in tourists that shop in the local stores and eat in the restaurants," said Regional Coordinator North Country Trail Andrew Bashaw. "The other thing is the quality of life, the trail being built here and the people from here can use the trail for everything they want..." more

Sunday, November 23, 2008


With the blessings of the North Country Trail Association, this blog will post as many items as are available to keep anyone interested informed of things that are happening along the North Country Trail.

There are quite a few items that have recently come to my attention, and those will be posted and backdated with the sequence in which they occurred.

There are some tweaks to the format to do, and I hope to find a better header graphic... maybe even change it seasonally, but this will get us started.

Please! Continue to send me information about things that are going on in your chapters, states, etc. And tell everyone you know who is interested in the NCT to stop by, and click the link at the bottom to subscribe. If you have a blog of your own through blogspot, you can sign on as a Follower too.

It is my great pleasure to launch this blog. I think of it as a continuation of the former "News" column on the NCTA web site.


"Greatest Silent Sport" - Bart Smith Hike Documentary - Wins Emmy

Grindeland, Gilbuena, Quinn
Minnesota State University Moorhead Documentary
professor Martin Grindeland, left, and head
producer Rebba Gilbuena, center, and chief editor
Michael Quinn were among those awarded a regional
Emmy on Oct. 25 for their documentary film
"The Greatest Silent Sport."

from the Aberdeen News, "EMMY AWARD WINNER, Aberdeen Central graduate part of prize-winning university class,"
by Kevin Bennett, Nov 23, 2008

Aberdeen native Michael Quinn was one of 14 students in a broadcast documentary class at Minnesota State University Moorhead that recently won a regional Emmy.

The students received the Emmy from the Upper Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for their documentary titled “The Greatest Silent Sport.”

“The Greatest Silent Sport” tags along with hiker Bart Smith as he travels the North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs roughly 4,600 miles from North Dakota to New York. Smith is walking and photographing all seven of the national scenic trails to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the National Trails System. "It was a lot of hard work and we all worked together to make this project a success," said Quinn, 22, during a phone interview. "But it was very rewarding for us, especially me."

Quinn was the chief editor in charge of the documentary, which took him two and a half months to edit.

"I enjoy being behind the camera," said Quinn, who edited 30 hours of tape into the 30-minute documentary.

“That equals about 60 minutes of footage for each minute of the finished documentary,” Quinn said.

Professor's idea

All of the students wrote, reported, photographed and edited material for the project. MSUM mass communications professor Martin Grindeland served as faculty adviser.

"Professor Grindeland came up with the idea behind the documentary," said Quinn. "He's a great teacher and we all learned a lot from him. His class last year also won an Emmy for its documentary 'Walk into the Wild.'

"Rebecca Gilbuena was this year's project producer," said Quinn. "And she did an awesome job and the department continued with its award-winning tradition."

“The Greatest Silent Sport” was produced in cooperation with Prairie Public Television and the North Country Trail Association.

Quinn graduated from Aberdeen Central in 2004. His father, LeRoy Quinn Jr., lives in Sisseton. His mother, Sheila Faber, lives in Washington state.

What he's doing now

He graduated in May from MSUM, where he majored in mass communications. He now resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., and does freelance work with Zeus Pegasus International, a Virginia-based company. He's currently on an assignment covering Barry Manilow in Las Vegas that will be used by the QVC channel.

"I've been with Zeus Pegasus since September," said Quinn. "And it's never a dull moment - I love what I do. To think, this all started when I signed up for a radio and TV broadcast class in high school."

Quinn completed a project on the Republican convention and many smaller projects for the QVC channel. In January, there's a small chance Quinn could be tasked with a project for the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. He does a variety of tasks when on assignment, mainly behind the camera.

"I like being behind the camera," said Quinn. "It's my thing."-->

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Freys Added to NCT Long Distance Hiker Club

Mervin & Rachel Frey
Mervin & Rachel Frey
from Mervin & Rachel Frey

Mervin and I have now passed the 200 mile mark on the North Country Trail. We have 236 miles done now from Highland Drive, south of Allegheny National Forest in PA to Fox Hill Road in New York. We do sections as we have time off from work.

In 2000-2001 we did the entire Appalachian Trail and have also hiked the 250-mile Tuscarora Trail. Thanks to all the trail maintainers for making it possible!

note that anyone can "join" these clubs by sending some info about 200 or more different miles hiked on the NCT to Joan Young.

See all the Club Members at North Country Trail Association and look in the left column.

Adirondack Wilderness Route Questions Remain

from the Albany Times Union, "Where will new trail go?" by Alan Wechsler, Nov 20, 2008

Last Thursday at Mercatos Restaurant in Delmar, nearly two dozen upstate New York members of the Adirondack Mountain Club, Appalachian Mountain Club and Sierra Club met with Bruce Matthews, executive director of the North Country Trail Association of Lowell, Mich. Their mission: to make sure the route through New York's largest wilderness area stays in the wilderness.

There are several routes proposed. The trail is expected to traverse the center of the park, through such wilderness and wild forest areas as Moose River Plains, Siamese Ponds, Vanderwacker Mountain and Hoffman Notch.

But some controversy has developed over where, exactly... more

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Muskegon Hiker Does the Manistee NCT - A Long Walk In the Woods

Hart-Montague Rail Trail
by Bruce Sparks of Muskegon
The best way I can think to describe my week is this slight modification of the title of Bill Bryson's book on his ill-fated journey on the Appalachian Trail. His book is titled, "A Walk in the Woods". Over and over during the week I found myself talking to myself and saying that I was just enjoying a long walk in the woods. And really that is just what it was.

I noticed that my wife looked a little uncertain as I shouldered the pack and headed off down the trail away from Mesick, Michigan. Her discomfort might have grown a little as not 20 minutes after she left me we both heard the same thunder and were in the same storm. Only Susan was dry in the car and I was getting my first good dousing of the early week. It rained off and on the rest of the day, night and morning of the next day. Interspersed among the rain drops were 4 fairly substantial hail storms. I actually preferred the hail since I didn't get wet from the little icy pellets as they bounced off me.....and with 5 layers of clothes on I didn't feel them either.

This section of the North Country Trail had just been completed this summer and although officially certified and marked it was not yet on any of the trail maps I had purchased. The trail went right along the edge of the Hodenpyl Dam Pond....actually a large lake. It could have passed for one of the lakes in northern Canada that I have loved canoeing in so much.

Next I encountered the most demanding section of my hike as you go up and down following the ridges on the west side of the Manistee River Valley. Taking this long walk in November was an advantage because with 50% of the leaves already fallen you could see through the foliage and enjoy the views from the highest spots in the area. Yet there were still enough leaves and color to make it a spectacular view. It had been a long time since I had tried a long distance hike like this and I was unsure of my limitations But by the time it got pitch dark at 7:20pm (the sun had officially set around 6:40) I had covered over 18 miles comfortably that first day. That was a confidence builder.

The biggest disadvantage to hiking in November is that darkness comes early forcing you off the trail and into your tent. Then you can feel trapped waiting for the first signs of dawn that didn't come until just after 8:00am on this particular week. My pattern was to take a break on the trail and eat dinner and then not stop walking until at least 6:45 pm when I would put up my tent in twilight. The next morning I would be out of the tent by 7am and after packing up quickly (because it was cold) I would follow the trail for the first 30 minutes or so by the light of my small flashlight. I slept really well most nights.

At the end of the Day #2 I was way ahead of where I thought I would be. As I pitched my tent in a grove of big spruce trees it snowed big fluffy flakes for about 30 minutes. It was a Christmas type scene and I think I even sang a couple of Christmas carols out loud as I was settling in. Kind of magical.

One particular section on the next day had just one variety of tree that had golden yellow leaves. Most of the leaves had recently fallen and the whole area was blanketed in golden leaves that had not yet curled or dulled as they dried out. The whole area was an unbroken carpet of bright yellow and gold. Wow.

I was looking forward to a brighter warmer day for Day #4 and it was slowly warming up. At lunch I stopped to eat right on the banks of the Pere Marquette River. Not long after I began to prepare my lunch three older fishermen came floating down the river and chose to stop at this same spot for lunch. They had a big cooler full of food. They didn't offer me anything at all, but I wasn't coveting their stash because I was preparing another hot MRE for my meal.

I decided to stop at 3pm at a National Forest Campground because I wanted to build a fire that night and felt more comfortable doing so in one of the steel fire pits. I had fantasized about someone leaving a whole stack of nicely stacked unused wood at one of the campsites thus meaning I would not even have to gather wood. But that was just a fantasy and not reality. But it wasn't hard to gather my own and soon I had a blazing fire going. The sky was completely clear and I was camping in the field under a magnificent blanket of stars, that were not all dimmed by moonlight or any street lights or lights from town. It has been a long time since I sat for hours by a fire under a sky like that.

Day #5. This is an 8 mile section of trail in which you walk past six small lakes. As I walked down the trail towards the lakes the sun was coming high into the sky and warming everything up. For a while I walked with outstretched arms just trying to soak it all in. I sat down for 30 minutes or so just before noon at the first lake that I came to. I'm sure this lake wasn't even an acre big but it was beautiful with the fall colors bordering it. The light breeze was blowing across the surface and the sunlight was sparkling as if the lake was full of diamonds just below the surface. I can be mesmerized watching the patterns in the water.

On Day #7 I passed a solo hiker who was able to tell me that I was about a two hour hike from the end at Croton Dam and so I was able to call my wife who met me soon after I finished at 3:30. The maps says I walked 139 miles during the week.

The best memory was watching a bald eagle swoop over one of the small lakes. I began to think how I could not have enjoyed this glorious moment if not for some of the less pleasant moments that preceded it......the cold of the night before, the monotony of some of the miles, the chill of the rain. None of those times were so bad and I even enjoyed them in an odd way but they weren't highlight moments. They were the kind of moments that most of life is made up of. Some rough times, but mostly okay times... even good times, but not earth-shaking thrilling stop the presses times. But it seems to me that if I will be faithful and consistent in these more mundane times then the reward is the occasional incredible moment that is simply priceless. I think it applies to our marriages and a lot of other things. I want to keep on going, trying to be steady as I journey.

I have already had far more incredibly great mind blowing moments and memories then I deserve. But I believe there are more ahead if I don't stop.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New NCTA Ohio Regional Office

Harrop House
Harrop House
from Andrew Bashaw, Regional Trail Coordinator for Ohio and Pennsylvania

The Harrop House in historic downtown Shawnee is the new home to the regional office of the North Country Trail Association, the Little Cities of the Forest Collaborative, and the Ohio's Hill Country Heritage Area.

Come see our new digs in this old building, learn what these organizations are accomplishing in the region, and see the Village of Shawnee. Feel free to bring a potluck snack for folks to share, refreshments will be provided. The event is casual, so leave your tux at home!

We'll also lead a short +/- 2 mile hike starting at 10am right across the highway at Tecumseh Lake along the Buckeye, North Country and American Discovery Trails, dress for a hike in the woods.

Feel free to drop by anytime, call ahead to guarantee the light will be on with someone here to greet you!

The Harrop House
127 b West Main Street
Shawnee, OH 43782

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Paul Haan Hikes in the Southern Manistee

from Paul Haan

Saturday was a beautiful day for a fall hike. This fall has been gentle in west Michigan, with no heavy rains to wash the leaves off of the trees and few days with high winds, so I took advantage of the mild, sunny day and went for a hike in the Manistee National Forest along the North Country Trail... more