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.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Al Franken Signs on to Arrowhead Reroute

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from a news article at

“The North Country National Scenic Trail is one of this country’s greatest assets,” said Sen. Franken. “It’s time we include Minnesota’s Arrowhead officially as part of its authorized route.”

Senator Al Franken, Minnesota, has officially become a co-sponsor of the bill to make the "Arrowhead Reroute" an actual part of the North Country Trail. The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) Route Adjustment Act of 2009 (S. 553) was introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. This action is needed since this route is considered a significant deviation from the original Minnesota route of the trail.

The Arrowhead Route follows the Superior Hiking Trail up the north shore of Lake Superior, crosses near the Canadian border on the Border Route and Kekekabic Trails, and then will return to Grand Rapids, Minnesota and the Chippewa National Forest.

See Support the Arrowhead Reroute

Saturday, February 20, 2010

New Trail to Cross Knife River on SHT

Knife River trail bridge
new Knife River bridge (photo by Gayle Coyer)

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from the Ridgeline, the magazine of the Superior Hiking Trail Association, winter 2010

A new 6.4-mile section of the Superior Hiking Trail, south of Two Harbors will be opened in mid-May, 2010. This section goes from Fox Farm Road/ East Trailhead to Rossini Road, crossing the West Branch of the Knife River.

Trail Construction Supervisor, Larry Sampson, and more than 70 volunteers put in over 1000 hours on the project. The section features nice maple forests, huge beaver-chewed stumps, and over a half mile of old beaver ponds.

The SHTA is currently working on the map for this new piece of trail. They have scheduled a guided hike for July 17, 2010, beginning at 10 am. Meet at the Fox Farm Road/ East Trailhead.

This segment will be issued by the SHTA soon

See Superior Hiking Trail Association

Friday, February 19, 2010

Superior Days Presents Issues to Madison, WI

Brule State Forest
NCT in Brule State Forest (photo by JHY)

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based on a news article in the Superior Telegram

Superior Days is an event when representatives from northern Wisconsin take issues important to them to the state legislators in Madison. This is a 25-year tradition. Issues this year include funding the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Superior Research Institute, and tax reciprocity between Wisconsin and Minnesota.

But also on the list of topics this year is non-motorized trails. A bill already in the legislature would provide nearly $10 million for footpaths.

Peter Nordgren, of the Brule-St. Croix chapter of the North Country Trail Association, says that the group hopes the current bill will move through the legislature and pass. Trails that could benefit include Superior Municipal Forest trails, hiking trails at Pattison and Amnicon state parks, ski trails in the Brule River State Forest and the North Country National Trail.

In 2008, a legislative study committee found a lack of consistent funding and maintenance for non-motorized trails, with many being poorly maintained. The bill was introduced as a result of that report.

Nordgren continues, "Foot-powered recreation is popular, with surveys pointing out that it is one of the most popular ways of getting outdoors for exercise." He also hopes to emphasize to the legislators that infrastructure such as bridges and signs must be maintained, and new trails added to connect pathways.

These segments are on NCTA map WI-01, 02, and 03

See Brule St. Croix Chapter of the NCTA

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mike Ducek Hikes Brule Bog, Wisconsin

pine grosbeak
pink grosbeak (photo by Mike Duchek)

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submitted by Mike Duchek

I was exploring the North Country Trail's site, and found the Brule Bog Boardwalk segment which looked very cool. Turns out it is the same segment that was featured in a segment on Wisconsin's National Parks produced by Wisconsin's two public TV stations to coincide with the Ken Burns film.

Just two weeks ago I went, and it was a very nice hike - there was well over 2 feet of snow in the area and more has fallen since I was there. Since I'm also into birds, I was delighted as I began my hike to find one of the birds I had wanted to see while up there - a pine grosbeak. In fact I subsequently saw six more, all of which were very tame and cooperative and allowed me some great photos.

Brule Bog
North Country Trail - Brule Bog Boardwalk in Douglas Co., WI (photo by Mike Duchek)

Ravens serenaded me as I exited the bog, and I heard little else. In fact I seemed to have been the only one to hike this segment in a while: as I reached the Catlin Creek campsite, where I turned around, I found a registration box, which showed December 29, 2009 as the last entry. I came back through and hiked a little more as the trail continued across the road before emerging exhausted at the parking spot.

This segment is on NCTA map WI-02

See Chief Noonday Chapter of the NCTA

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Glance at the Student Conservation Association

SCA crew
SCA crew with agency and NCTA staff, and hikers (photo from JHY)

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condensed from Pathways Across America the publication of the Partnership for the National Trails System

What is the SCA?
SCA is the United States' largest youth conservation association. It provides young people with hands-on service opportunities in all sorts of outdoor pursuits. Participants might do such diverse tasks as tracking grizzlies in the Tetons, restoring desert ecosystems, or teaching environmental education. Probably best known by trail supporters is the great assistance the SCA provides in trail construction and re-construction.

Youth can get involved with SCA through programs which last anywhere from three weeks to a full year. Partners with the SCA include government agencies such as the National Park Service and National Forest Service, or with non-profits such as the North Country Trail Association.

How Do SCA Crews Help Trails?
Working in all 50 states and over 500 natural and cultural sites, SCA crews have contributed the following:
  • Backcountry and wilderness patrol
  • GIS/GPS Mapping
  • Habitat restoration and preservation
  • Inventory and monitoring
  • Trail maintenance and restoration
  • Visitor services and interpretation
  • Wildlife and fisheries management

How Does SCA Work?
Each opportunity for a crew is initiated by an agency or organization. A description of the project is prepared and the group then collaborates with the SCA to work out the details.

SCA members come from applicants across the country who are looking for ways to serve. Once selected they are trained and supervised by SCA leaders.

Administrative oversight is provided by SCA. This includes background checks, travel and living allowances, and occasionally medical insurance.

SCA members are volunteers, and the projects are funded through cost-sharing agreements with the partners.

How Has SCA Helped the North Country Trail?
One notable project was the rebuilding of trail through Slippery Rock Gorge, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 2006. The crew removed boulders which made the trail dangerous in wet conditions, created rock steps, improved drainage, benched and graded trail, and basically worked like dogs for a week in the mud. Now hikers have now idea of the work it took to create a safe and enjoyable half-mile of trail.

Bill Menke reports that three years ago an SCA crew built a mile of trail in Iron County WI.

See Dave Brewer's comment about an SCA crew that built a mile of quality trail at PA Gamelands 285 over a period of ten days last summer.

See Student Conservation Association

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Siler & Doug Snowshoe in the South Manistee

alt text
My camp at dinner time (photo by Paul Haan)

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by Paul Haan (trail name Siler)

My neighbor Doug and I got a chance to go out and do about 16 miles of winter backpacking this past weekend. We started at Croton Dam in the southern Manistee National Forest and hiked north from there. The temps were just perfect (steady in the mid to upper twenties), but the snow cover was a bit light (about 8 inches of hard-pack with 5 inches of new fluff on top).

On Saturday we were joined by Pathfinder and his merry group of day hikers (truth be told, we joined them). Doug and I donned snowshoes and the rest bare-booted. It's hard to know which was the better way to go. With the extra 35 pounds on my back, I guess I'm glad I had the extra traction.

Doug and I hiked about 2-3 miles north of 40th Street before we found a camp for the night. Doug tried out his new Shire's Tarp Tent, which provided amazing heat producing results. I slept in my bivy inside my floorless MegaLight tipi.

On the way out the next morning, the forest was full of tracks from critters who took advantage of the mild evening to look for a mid-winter snack. Most abundant were the deer and porcupine tracks.

It was a restful outing, and I'm looking forward to the next hike in two weeks.

This segment is on NCTA map MI-04

See West Michigan Chapter of the NCTA

Monday, February 15, 2010

Use Issues Continue on NCT/ Link Trail

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by Al Larmann, excerpted from the Central New York Chapter NCTA newsletter, Jan 31, 2010

NY Parks has title to the right-of-way lands of the former Lehigh Valley RR between Bingley Road near Chittenango Falls State Park and a point south of Canastota, except for former RR property in the greater Perryville area owned privately. Following significant planning and related work by us, development of part of their lands as a foot trail was permitted to us in 2001, with the remaining lands permitted to us in 2006. Establishing the North Country/Link Trail was a challenge—both in terms of the value of labor contributed, donations from a number of sources, a RTP grant, and funding from both the National Park Service and NCTA HQ. The total for the 2001-2007 span approximated $296,700, with work ongoing since then for maintenance purposes.

A composite of political pressures we deemed to be without merit and an initiative within NY Parks resulted in their imposing upon us a one year “horse use pilot evaluation” on the trail section between Nelson Road and the trailhead access at Oxbow Road in August 2008. The “horse use” advocates subsequently stated in a wide distribution broadcast letter that weather conditions had limited their use of the authorized trail segment; in addition, they requested access to additional segments of the trail that are demonstratively unsuited for any purpose other than foot-travel—evidence to support this concern was supplied to NY Parks.

In mid December, CNY representatives met with County Planners. The results:
The “horse use pilot plan” evaluation by NY Parks resulted in a no significant impact judgment. Since horse use had been restricted by its supporters by choice, we term the results to be inconclusive and will continue our monitoring accordingly. Available data show that a basic incompatibility exists between significant horse traffic and foot-travel use on single path trails, particularly when drainage is an issue.

Snowmobile use— Several hikers had been told by local sources that snowmobile use was a “done deal”. These reports were reinforced- a use permit had been requested by a local snowmobile club and that a decision would be made shortly. A few days later, we were notified that a permit had been issued to the Tri-Valley Snowmobile Club with an effective date of January 1.

NY Parks set forth stringent conditions for snowmobile usage for the trail segment between Nelson Road and the trailhead at Oxbow Road, including an addendum to the standard snowmobile regulations intended to minimize impact to the trail surface and adjoining properties privately owned. One stipulation, states that “a minimum of 6 inches of packed base must be present for trail to be open for snowmobile use." The section of trail authorized for snowmobile use was inspected on foot on two dates— January 10 and 17. The 10th was a cold day, a modest amount of snow was present— snow depth on the trail surfaces traveled by the snowmobile was only an inch or so in most areas. The 17th was warmer, with air temperatures above 32F. Many areas of the trail had no snow cover at all. Snowmobiles were using the trail. Also, damage to the gates at Nelson Road was extensive. Photographs documenting these conditions were taken and supplied to Tom Goetzmann, our designated NY Parks contact, for his appraisal.

We accept that NY Parks owns the lands involved and can dictate its permitted uses. We also acknowledge that snowmobile based recreation is a major factor. NY Parks and others often cite the benefits of multiple use trails. We concur that compatible uses on trails that are properly sized, constructed accordingly, and used properly offer benefits. However, some uses are not compatible.

Our intent is to continue to perform per the terms of the permit issued to us to provide a foot trail that brings to its users a sense of solitude, escape from the pressures of a noise laden society, and healthful exercise as a bonus. We request that the task of overseeing trail management of those segments with basically conflicting uses and sharply different personal philosophies held by the user groups be pursued on a pro-active basis by NY Parks on an open basis.

This segment is on NCTA map TNY-04

See Central New York Chapter NCTA

Friday, February 12, 2010

Time Capsule from July 4

rough fruited cinquefoil
Rough-fruited cinquefoil entertaining a guest (photo by Hugh Yeman)

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from Hugh Yemen, documenting a hike on the Link Trail of New York (NCT uses part of this trail)

"After Grace and I got back from the work hike on the morning of July 4, we took Dylan on another hike. Unfortunately I've not had the time to document it until now. But perhaps February is an appropriate time for a July retrospective: I know that looking back on the light and colors of summer makes me smile."

Hugh continues with many outstanding photos of wildflowers and insects. Please follow the link below to see and read about his hike. Enjoy a spot of color in these gray winter months!

See Time Capsule from July 4 on the Link Trail Journal

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pennsylvania Annual Cherry Pie Hike

Old Stone House, Pennsylvania
Old Stone House(photo by JHY)

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from the Pensylvania NCT

For those willing to brave the outdoors, strap on your boots and get ready to celebrate the birthday of our nation's first president with the annual Cherry Pie Hike. The free program is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Old Stone House in Slippery Rock.

The hike will follow the North Country trail and feature a hefty helping of history and a nice slice of cherry pie.

The North Country Trail offers a walking distance of more than 4,000 miles from North Dakota to eastern New York. The Old Stone House is a pioneer wayside inn originally built in 1822 and restored in 1963. It serves as a landmark on the trail's route through Butler County.

Dr. Aaron Cowan of Slippery Rock University will give a short presentation titled "Beyond the Cherry Tree: George Washington and Early Americans' Complicated Relationship with Nature." Visitors will be fed complimentary cherry pie and coffee and have an opportunity to hike the trail. There's an optional dinner after the hike at the North Country Brewery in nearby Slippery Rock.

You must register for the Cherry Pie Hike. Contact John Stehle, or 724-256-0674; or Dan Mourer at 724-445-3315.

The Old Stone House is located at the intersection of Route 8, Route 173, and Route 528, 12 miles north of Butler.

This segment is on NCTA map PA-03

See Butler Chapter of the NCTA

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

alt text
Duncan Lake (photo by Ken Harmon)

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From the Border Route Trail e-group

Winter Weekend on Gunflint Lake FEB 26-28. This is a casual trip with options to xctry ski, snowshoe, ice fish, dance and of course EAT with 12 other individual ski buffs and Border Route Trail enthusiasts. There are many ski options from beautifully groomed, rolling runs for beginners to back country wildness for those who want a challenge.

THERE IS ROOM FOR 6 MORE INDIVDUALS! We will stay in rustic cabins at Heston's Lodge, ( Cabins have cooking facilities, showers, wood stoves and lake views. There is also a fabulous lake side wood burning sauna! This is also Gunflint Trail Wintertracks weekend offering other activities like dogsledding, dancing at Windigo Lodge, ice fishing contests. ( But the best part is the camaraderie of shared meals with food enthusiasts. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners will be included if you like. Trip costs include 2 nites lodging, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and Saturday dinner. We will help arrange carpooling closer to the trip date. A $50 deposit is required to hold your spot, no exceptions.

ESTIMATED COST: $90 (includes food) + gas, ski passes, alcoholic beverages. For additional info contact Trish H @ 612-824-1328.

This segment is near the Border Route on the Minnesota Arrowhead

See Border Route Trail

Monday, February 8, 2010

Could Alternative Energy Affect the North Country Trail?

biomass harvesting
harvesting biomass (Creative Commons photo by _Asea on Flickr)

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based on a news story in the Michigan Messenger

June Thaden, secretary of the Grand Traverse Hiking Club, has noted that "East of Guernsey Lake there’s a portion of the trail that we can’t even find because there was a clearcut."

It is possible that if the Renewable Portfolio Standards for alternative energy is adopted by Michigan, more areas of state forest could be not only clearcut, but clear cleaned.

State Forester Cara Bouchard commented that only about a third of the new growth that occurs each year is being removed. She felt that much more could be harvested each year to help meet energy needs without harm. One-fifth of Michigan is preserved in state forests, with about 55,000 acres logged each year.

However, even clearcut logging leaves slash and debris on the ground. Biomass harvesting takes all organics out of the forest. Because of the technology of biomass burning, all parts of the tree can be used for energy generation.

Generation of energy by burning biomass is not a completely new idea in northern Michigan. Cadillac has one wood burning plant, and Traverse City is considering the idea. Mancelona is definitely planning to build one. Fuel would need to come from nearby locations.

Ultimately, the question is going to be whether this type of harvesting is compatible with the recreational uses of state forests. This tension is no stranger to trail volunteers. State forests have been managed primarily for timber harvesting, and the NCT has usually been routed along section lines rather than in ways which will appeal to hikers. The reasons given have been directly related to the desire to maintain "timber management units" intact.

Thaden added that the state sometimes mandates logging buffer zones to protect recreational areas, "but even if they specify that in the contract, it doesn’t always happen." It can be noted that the buffer zones are often silly, consisting of one row of trees on each side of the trail. Trail volunteers have also seen many logging operations where, despite agreements, the logging company has used the trail as a skid road, obliterated all traces of the thru-route, and left mountains of slash which must be cleared.

Let's hope that if biomass harvesting is undertaken, that better agreements and monitoring can be worked out to protect recreational interests, including the North Country Trail.

This segment is on NCTA maps of Michigan

Sunday, February 7, 2010

NCT Memorabilia - Part 3 - Patches

NCT patch
current North Country Trail patch

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by JHY

These patches have been offered more recently by the North Country Trail Association. The patch above was introduced in 2000. It, and the state patches below first show up in the October 2000 North Star. That year, our annual conference was combined with the Superior Hiking Trail, in May, as they embraced the Arrowhead Reroute. It would make sense that the patches would have been available for the conference, but they don't appear in the July North Star, so I'm not sure. And although I was at that conference, I don't remember. This uses the National Park Service emblem for the NCT. If you compare the compass star in this patch to the ones in the earlier patches you will see that it is yellow and white, instead of yellow and black. This reflects the change that the NPS made officially, to make the star show up better on signage.

NCT state patches
current North Country Trail state patches

Introduced at the same time were these small state patches. They are just 2 inches on the diagonal. It is significant that the Arrowhead route now is shown on the one for Minnesota.

NCT volunteer patches
2000- 2005 North Country Trail volunteer patches

In 2001, this series of patches was begun. They could be purchased by chapters to be awarded to volunteers. You can see that there were four specific designs for Hike Leaders, Volunteer Organizers, Mappers (those who provided input for the then new NCTA maps), and Trail Crew for actual trail work. Any volunteer could purchase, or be given, the volunteer year patches. These were designed by Bob Papp, Executive Director at that time, and quite an all-purpose-person.

NCT supporter patch
patch awarded for recruiting members

I am not sure if this patch is still available or not. This is a patch which was awarded for a particular service to the NCTA. If a person had recruited 10 other new members, this patch was given to the recruiter. Incidentally, there was also an award for recruiting 50 members. This was a denim jacket. Bob Tait received one, but I think that before anyone else reached this level things had changed and no one remembered that award.

There is an existing patch for End-to-Enders. These were made in 1995, and the first ones presented to Ed Talone and Chet Fromm at the 1995 conference at Watson Homestead, New York. These went missing for quite a few years, but I understand from Andrea Ketchmark, the relatively new Director of Trail Development, that they have been found. I told her to save me one!

Although some chapters have created patches, and there were some made for annual conferences, to my knowledge, between yesterday and today's posts, these are all the patches which have been generally issued by the NCTA. If anyone has information which can add to this, it would be greatly appreciated if you would contact me.

See NCT Memorabilia - Part 2 - Early Patches
See North Country Trail Association to buy current patches at the Trail Shop
Contact me at

Saturday, February 6, 2010

NCT Memorabilia - Part 2 - Early Patches

early North Country Trail Patch
first North Country Trail patch

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by JHY

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I am a patch freak. I love embroidered patches, and have a fair collection. I don't quite have all the ones ever issued by the NCTA, but I'm close. Today, I'll feature the earliest series of patches.

To my knowledge, the patch above was the first one ever offered by the NCTA. It was available when I first got involved in 1995. All of these patches, except two, first appeared for sale in the Winter 1990-91 issue of the NCTA magazine. I speculate that they were designed to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Trail, although if so, they should have been first available in the summer of 1990. But perhaps they just didn't make it into the magazine.

early North Country Trail Hiker Patch
first North Country Trail hiker patch

I do not know where this patch came from. It has never been offered for sale through the NCTA. I purchased it at the annual auction, I think in Marquette in 2003. I do own a couple of other never issued patches from the NCT, but I know their history. This one is a mystery, but I treasure it!

early North Country Trail Association Patch
first North Country Trail Association patch

This one first shows up for sale in the August 1997 North Star, in an expanded Trail Shop, to promote not only the trail, but the supporting Association. Note that on all three of these designs the trail still heads straight across Minnesota, not yet having moved toward the Arrowhead reroute.

early North Country Trail states patches
first North Country Trail states patch

When the very first patch was offered, state patches also were made available. As you can see, the shapes of the states are shown, but no attempt is made to indicate the route of the trail through them.

early North Country Trail Volunteer Patch
first North Country Trail volunteer patch

Also as part of the early series, a volunteer could order this strip.

early North Country Trail Association mileage patches
first North Country Trail mileage patches

The final set which was offered in the early series were patches which could be ordered if you demonstrated (mostly honor system) that you had hiked any of these mileages in one day. There was also a patch for 25 miles and one for 35 miles. I do not own those, and would really like to add them to the collection. I wouldn't be able to wear the 35-miles-in-one-day patch! But I'd really like to be the holder of a complete set. If anyone knows of the 25 or 35 mile strips that they would be willing to give up, please contact me!

Tomorrow, we'll cover some newer patches.

See North Country Trail Association to buy current patches at the Trail Shop

See NCT Memorabilia - Part 2 - Early Patches

Friday, February 5, 2010

NY/NJ Trail Conf Promotes Connection

map of Finger Lakes Trail and Long Path connection point
map of the Slide Mountain area

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received from Joe Dabes- the FLTC map coordinator

More and more, trails are working hard to promote connections with other trails. So far the North Country Trail has both ends just hangin' out in the breeze, at Crown Point, New York and Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota. There are some high hopes for connections, but nothing yet.

Meanwhile, if you continue east on the Finger Lakes Trail at Cuyler, NY instead of turning north on the Onondaga Trail to follow the NCT, you can hike on into the Catskills and reach the eastern terminus of the FLT.

Long Path Logo
Long Path logo
That ending is a connection with the Long Path, a 347 mile trail which roughly parallels the Hudson River from New Jersey to the Albany, NY area.

The NY/NJ Trail Conference, the maintainers of the Long Path, is releasing their new maps of the Catskills soon and they will be showing the connection with the Finger Lakes Trail. This is the eastern terminus of the FLT, and you can note the small FLT logo on the trail at the left of the map and the LP icon on the Long Path.

See Finger Lakes Trail Conference

Back to Regular Posting I Hope

Sometimes real life overcomes cyberspace. Hope to be back to regular posting here for a while. -JHY