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, October 27, 2009

Infected by the H1-K1-NG Bug

Marilyn Hoogstraten
Marilyn Hoogstraten (photo by JHY)

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by JHY

Marilyn Hoogstraten may have been infected with a serious virus. It begins with a little worm of an idea drilling its way into the brain. There it waits and festers, feeding on the cells of a 9 to 5 job and a “normal” life until one day it erupts into a feverish desire to run into the woods carrying only a pack and two sticks... Yes, Marilyn is one of the many who grew up wanting to hike a long trail.

With a smile and the swing of a hiking stick, Marilyn confessed to a dream from long ago of hiking the Appalachian Trail. Her story seemed an echo of my own. She married, raised two children, still no time to hike. Then retirement arrived and she started a new business as an outgrowth of a beloved hobby, her talents as a photographer. And she did well. But all those summer weddings prevented her from taking hikes beyond the day excursions of her local club the Grand Traverse Hikers (which is also a chapter of the North Country Trail Association). “I was spending a whole lot of time sitting in front of a computer, and I gained weight” she explained with a grimace.

Then one day she knew she had to do it. She decided that her goal would be to hike all of the North Country Trail in Michigan that wasn’t road walk. That idea didn’t last long! If she was going to do a state, she would have to do all of it. Besides, she wanted to start in March and the southernmost Michigan sections are on roads. Now she has only about 150 miles of the NCT’s 600 in the Lower Peninsula yet to walk. “I’ve only started the UP,” she explained. Her hike near Brevort Lake was one of the most difficult with much of the trail knee-deep in water in the early spring. She began to wonder if she was cut out for hiking rugged trails, but, she said, “I always found the next road or trailhead and then realized that I could do it.”

hiker on foggy morning
Marilyn hikes in fog in the Manistee National Forest (photo by JHY)
All of her miles this year have been day hikes. “I want to get a new pack and try thru-hiking,” Marilyn added. “Maybe next year.” She often hikes with friends so that they can put a car at each end of the day’s walk. Tuesday, she walked from Timber Creek on US 10 to 96th St, the Lake / Newaygo County line. She emailed me, and I spotted her in exchange for an interview. Her plan was to camp at Highbanks that night, and friends would be joining her for the next day’s walk. “The logistics of making this hike happen have been challenging,” she admitted.

Her hope was to lose some weight through all the hiking. “But I was so hungry after hiking for three days in a row that I would gain five pounds,” she chuckled. “I lost that, then gained some back. I’m still too heavy,” she admitted. But she also pointed out that she is proof than anyone with a strong desire can walk out their door and take on a long trail. You don’t have to be young and slim, with the limbs and metabolism of a race horse. You just need to have a passion. A map is good too...

Both walking alone and in the company of others give her pleasure. “It’s really nice to camp with one or two friends,” she acknowledged. She really likes the variety of experiences on the NCT. Rural roads can be as interesting as the forests. She’s enjoying the colors of fall the best of all the seasons so far.

As we parted at Wingleton Road she was heard mumbling things like “Maybe I’ll order the Wisconsin maps.” Or, “I could hike most of Ohio in the winter; one of my daughters lives there.” Oh, yes, Marilyn’s infection has become quite serious...

See Marilyn's Journal
See A Hike with Marilyn and Maggie for more pictures from that hike

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