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.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kickin' Back - Memories of the Beginning of the NCT in the UP

Bea Anderson
Bea Anderson
by Bernice Anderson, excerpts from the North Country Trail Hikers Winter 2009 Newsletter

I have so many memories of the early construction of the trail, memories of sore muscles and numerous bug bites, especially Black Flies, but also a real sense of pride when the plans worked out. I thought I’d share some of these with you for those who may not know how some things came to pass. I’m not claiming to be accurate on dates and people involved but just bear with my original intent.

We used to have all our meetings at Gene Elzinga’s house, a lovely porch on the east side with a long table that always accommodated all of us. There we did our planning and work assignments. About fourteen people usually attended. Several of the very active people have since passed: Roland Schwitzgoebel, Bill Herron. Many more are unable to do this work anymore. Dan Hornbogen was a mainstay and I recall Russ Fure, the historian. Shirley La Bonte, treasurer, Jan Lindstrom Wester, Don Elzinga., Gerry Nault, Seth Johnson, and numerous others I can’t recall right now.

We usually marked the potential trail in the winter but come spring and summer, we found we had to change many areas when we discovered they were truly wet areas. Also sometimes there were huge brush piles, etc. No matter, it was always a challenge.

I think building the bridge over the Laughing Whitefish River and the board walks were some of the most difficult but also rewarding. The original plan was to make our trail south of the river in the rocky ledge that leads to the Ice Caves close to Eben. We scouted it and flagged our potential trail all the way to Laughing Whitefish Falls. We planned a loop from there. I fell in the river while crossing on a large log. Gene lost his walking stick but caught it before it went over the falls.

Because this was a designated wilderness [Rock River Canyon] area we had all kinds of hoops to jump through to try to get approval. Many letters and phone calls were made back and forth over quite a long time. They were with different agencies involved. I think I still have my last letter of protest: all to no avail as we were denied our trail. From there we went to the north side and had many difficulties with water, beaver dams, etc. We often worked 4 or 5 days a week and finally got to the place where the bridge was to be built. Then we worked from the west side to make the trail to the opposite side of the proposed bridge.

It was June with black flies galore. We were dressed like lumber jacks, each with an axe, hatchet or whatever, all muddy, blood running down our faces from the fly bites when some ORVs came by. You should have seen the looks on the driver’s faces as we gave them directions to Howe’s Lake.

We had many unexpected problems: someone came in and threw around all the wood steps that Marti and I had placed the day before. Also someone stole many of our 2x4s and much of our lumber. Since we could no longer safely leave our tools, etc. for the next day, eventually we found secure hiding places for the tools and a cave to put lumber in. See North Country Trail Hikers Winter 2009 Newsletter for the complete article
and read an interview with Bea Anderson , featured in "Heart & Sole," North Star April 2003 - find her in the left column under Michigan

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