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.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Buckeye Trail Work Week Signup

from Rick Adamson

The Ohio State Trail Coordinator for the Buckeye Trail/ NCT announces a work week on the Miami and Erie Canal towpath, June 2-6, 2010.

This will continue the project of connecting off-road trail from Defiance to Grand Rapids, Ohio. Camping will at Mary Jane Thurston State Park, and food and refreshments should be provided by participants, with the exception of Wednesday when dinner will be hosted by Joe & Cindy Krueger.

Tools and training are provided free of charge by Jim Runk, and Assistant State Trail Coordinator. Certified first aid persons are part of the volunteer staff.


P.S. from JHY- I have personally participated in one of Rick's work weeks on this section. They are very well organized, and you will finish the week feeling very satisfied that you have been a part of the team, and important to the accomplishments, no matter what your skill level.

This segment is on BTA Map Defiance Section

See Buckeye Trail

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

State Forest Camping in Michigan

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by JHY

I'm getting ready for my next and final round of NCT hikes (that count toward an end-to-end total). I'll be doing dispersed camping in some Michigan State Forests. Did you know that you are supposed to have a permit to do that, and that if you get caught without one it can be a $100 fine? Well, I knew it, but I'm actually trying to comply this time.

First of all, let's be clear. This is not the same as State Game Areas. They have completely different rules. It is also not State Parks. The rules are also slightly different for Designated State Forest Campgrounds. This post only addresses dispersed camping.

The Michigan State Forests through which the NCT passes are: Pere Marquette State Forest (map MI-05), Mackinaw State Forest (map MI-06), Lake Superior State Forest (map MI-09), Escanaba River State Forest (map MI-11), and Copper Country State Forest (map MI-12).

It is both easy and a pain in the neck to get these free permits. You can't download them on line or have them faxed or emailed. They say it's because they are made in two parts and printed on waterproof paper. Well, I won't rant, but anyway, you have to go to a DNR office to get them. Their web site says that you must go to a regional office. That's not true. Any field office will have them. For example, I don't have to go to Cadillac, but I will have to go to Baldwin to get the permit forms. Supposedly there is a box outside the door with forms in it that you can get even when they are not open. But of course, there is no guarantee that anyone has filled the box.

There are a bunch of rules, of course, but only a few are really pertinent to NCT hikers. I've linked to the complete list below, but here are some that may be relevant.
  • Everyone who stays overnight needs one, whether using a tent, hammock, RV, trailer, or even a sleeping bag, etc. For designated sites, no more than 4 unrelated persons can stay in a site, but I don't see any regulations about this for dispersed camping.
  • You must be more than 1 mile from a designated State Forest Campground.
  • You cannot camp for more than 15 consecutive days, and if you move your site it must be at least 1/2 mile from the previous one.
  • You can't leave a campsite unoccupied for more than 24 hours

Here's what you do with those permits. You need one for each campsite you plan to use. Fill it out, tie it on a tree or some permanent feature. When you leave the site, leave the permit. Yes... they claim that one of their rangers will find it. No comments about understaffed state agencies and their inability to police unlawful ATV use, shooting of signs, etc. But they will find your little scrap of waterproof paper tied to a tree.

So when you get the blank permits, take a few extra so that you are sure to have a new one for each campsite you think you might use.

There is one huge exception in a Michigan State Forest, which is the Jordan River Valley of the Mackinaw State Forest on MI-06, where dispersed camping is not allowed. In fact, the only place NCT hikers can camp in that segment is at the Pinney Bridge SF Campground. This makes it very difficult to hike through that area without support.

This segment is on NCTA maps MI-05, MI-06, MI-09, MI-11, MI-12

See Michigan State Forest Camping Regulations

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Attend the 2010 NCTA Conference in Ashland, WI

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a news release of NCTA

The 2010 North Country Trail conference will be held in Ashland, Wisconsin, August 5-8. This year, a number of pre and post-conference options are being offered. There is a two-day backpacking trip in Wisconsin, led by Bill Menke, prior to the conference. Afterward, Mary Coffin will lead a trip to sample the Superior Hiking Trail on the Lake Superior North Shore, with lodge accommodations.

The conference itself offers a panorama of hikes, tours, and activities. Tours include the Apostle Islands, an Eco-Geo Tour offered by "Down to Earth," and a canoe trip. Hikes will explore the NCT in the western Upper Peninsula, the historic Brule Portage route, and Copper Falls State Park. In the Chequamegon National Forest, Porcupine Wilderness, Mirror Lake, Brunsweiler River, and Lake Owen will be visited on hikes. This conference is loaded with hiking choices from easy to challenging.

Workshops are always an important part of conferences. Topics offered will include Wilderness Medicine, Chapter Communications, Outdoor Photography, Obtaining Grant Money, and more.

Special activities for kids are also being offered.

Outstanding evening programs include Frida Waara, a member of the 2001 Womanquest trek to the North Pole; music by Take Three; and barn dancing with Donn Christensen and the Red Pine Resonators.

For best rates, register by July 1.

See 2010 Conference

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Young Completes NY - 250 Miles to Go

hikers on Finger Lakes Trail
Joan Young & Marie Altenau (photo by Larry Stewart)

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by JHY

From May 3-10, Joan Young, and usual companion, Marie Altenau, hiked 56 miles in New York's Finger Lakes, which completes the NCT in New York for Joan. This section included the popular Connecticut Hill, Finger Lakes National Forest, and Watkins Glen State Park. Watkins Glen is one of the wonders of the east, but unfortunately, the FLT/NCT is not allowed to follow the gorge trail, but stays high above on the South Rim. Side trips are always possible in the summer when the gorge trail is open.

The Finger Lakes is a region of incredible beauty, carved by the glaciers of the last ice age. The area is characterized by steep gorges, shale walls, and waterfalls. This small one is just below Ebenezer Crossing of the Glen Creek, which also feeds Watkins Glen. Wading the creek in 45 degree weather was thankfully brief!
Glen Creek
falls below Ebenezer Crossing (photo by JHY)

The hills of the Finger Lakes rise abruptly from the valley floors, many of which are filled with water forming the blue lakes. Here Marie, and her brother, Larry (who joined the hike for two days), view the valley of Lamoka Lake. Lamoka is one of the smaller lakes.
hikers on Finger Lakes Trail
Larry Stewart & Marie Altenau (photo by JHY)

Along with many buildings which remain from the early 19th century or before, one can also find a number of very old trees. This one is known as the Yorski Oak, found at the Sugar Hill Road crossing.
Yorski Oak
Yorski Oak (photo by JHY)

Only 250 miles of NCT are left for Joan to hike. She's completed 4138 miles, and will end at just under 4400 miles (reroutes continually make the total change, but whatever was official at the time of hiking counts). Marie has hiked 2519 miles of the NCT.

You're invited! Joan says, "Good Lord willin' and the crik don't rise," she will be ending her 20-year quest. She will be the first woman to hike the whole trail, and number 10 overall. You are welcome to come hike her final miles with her and celebrate.

Where: Petoskey, MI (see link below for detailed information)

When: Aug 3, 2010 - meet at 9:00 am. We’ll work out car pools to get hikers out to where the trail crosses Taylor Road. The hike will be about 3 miles, then a half mile back for the picnic.

What: Walk Joan’s final NCT miles with her
Enjoy a picnic lunch- free, our compliments!
Camp over in the field if you wish
If you are free to stay, Joan will be giving the first showing of a brand new program about the NCT on Wednesday, Aug 4, sponsored by the Top of Michigan Trails Council. Time TBA
See a sneak preview of Joan’s next book, for children, called “Moose in Boots.”

How: Just RSVP to Joan at before July 25.

Everyone is welcome, but we need to know how much food we need for lunch. You will need your own mid-morning snack and water.

Facilities: Indoor bathroom and running water. Field for camping (no hookups). If a lot of people come, a porta-potty may be added. There are many motels and commercial campgrounds in the Petoskey area if you prefer more amenities.

This segment is on FLTC maps M13-M16

See Finger Lakes Trail

Saturday, May 1, 2010

April 19-23 hike on the NCT in the Manistee

Jim TenPercent
Jim "TenPercent" (photo by JHY)

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submitted by Jim "TenPercent"

I was looking at the calendar trying to choose some days for a spring vacation, and there it was. Earth Day. Looked to me like the perfect occasion for a backpack trip. It was.

I began at 4pm on Monday at the High Bridge trailhead. I soon came to a place where the railroad crossed the river with a long, high bridge (hence the name). There is a descriptive sign, and you could see the concrete piers for the old iron bridge, marching in a row, into the woods below. Soon, I arrived at Leitch Bayou, my planned stop for the evening. There was a nice deep stream as soon as I entered the large, grassy savanna, so I dropped my pack and paced 200 feet from the trail to find a soft spot for my tent. It wasn't difficult, this place could host a large jamboree. Geese were flying low over head, honking as they passed. A few landed nearby. The air was filled with the tremolos of many loons as evening set, a ghostly sound indeed. When the sun set, the Bayou fell silent. Only 3.1 miles today.

I slept in Tuesday, and didn't get moving until 11:30. As I leave the bayou I won't cross another creek until tomorrow morning. The trail heads away from the river and the big hills begin. A warm day today. Much work went into building this trail, all the side-hill benching is quite remarkable! Up to Red Hill Lookout then down to a low pass. Up and Down.

As I crossed Sheep Ranch Road (FR8060) I stopped to retrieve a gallon of water I had cached on my way up. Gotta have my BV and hot-chocolate after dinner, this is a vacation after all, not a survival course. Reached my camp at 1134 ft, on the pinnacle of a tall breezy hill. A few gnats in the air. After eating I explored an unmarked, but visible trail that follows the ridge line back to the SW along Sweet's Ravine. This is a very cool area to me, high, steep hills, surrounding a long, deep ravine. I didn't follow the trail to it's end, my feet were 'done in' that night. Again I am glad to be here early in the spring, before the trees are leafed out. Had my first ever imbedded tick tonight, in my sock. 12.4 miles today.

Wednesday I got an earlier start. I headed down the trail to cross Eddington Creek and stop to refill my water bottles. This is where the new re-route starts. I was a little apprehensive about not having a trail map, but not to worry. There was no shortage of blue paint. Avoid the turn off to the Marilla trailhead and you soon come out on a gravel road right near the dam. Followed that out to the asphalt, past the spillway and, after reading at the kiosk, (and discovering a nice map of the re-routed area), there was a short road walk before heading back into the woods to follow the edge of the Hodenpyl Pond. The trail here crosses land owned by Consumers Energy who have allowed the trail to be placed on their land.

There are places here that Consumer's had left open in the past for people to use freely for camping, but are now closed off due to people being unable to fit all the trash back into their cars when they leave. I don't know who these people thought were supposed to be cleaning up after them! Bring back Woodsy the Owl.

I stayed the lakeside all day. The trail then passes through the Northern Exposure Campground, a large private campground with many amenities and a nice interpretive trail over which the NCT passes. Soon the trail entered Fletcher Creek Rustic campsites, the primitive camping area of Northern Exposure. The host, Tony, was very welcoming. And an unabashed Park Narc, who suffers no noisy riff-raff. "I throw 'em out, and they STAY out!" This campground is highly recommended for a hiking trip. Walked 10.2 miles today.

campsite byJim "TenPercent"
Chilly Thursday morning. 22 degrees. As the trail leaves the campground I soon came to the new bridge over Fletcher Creek, one of many new bridges and boardwalks you will find in this section. Obviously tons of person-hours invested here. Thank you trail builders! The trail winds around a bit to stay on the waters edge, before popping out to cross M115. The new trail continues now to follow the Manistee River/Hodenpyl backwater. I saw a lot of waterfowl in this area, where I saw a lot of waterfowl. After leaving the Manistee National Forest. Here started a one and one-half mile road walk north. I was hoping for a store again, there are a few miles of road before heading into the Pere Marquette State Forest for good.

I wanted to get to Anderson Creek to camp. In this area there are small, steep hills, a lot of side-hill benching in clay, a few creeks, some boardwalk and some stairs. I also came across the marker for the Old Indian Trail, Cadillac to Traverse City. Behind the marker, and we missed this in the winter, there is a grave marker for someone’s dog, Bandit M. I hope Bandit enjoyed these woods as much as I have. I was happy to make Anderson Creek, the little bridge is broken, maybe from the snowmobiles using it in the winter.

I used a compass to make sure I would not be in the shade of even the just-budding maple trees at dawn. The warm sun was still up, so I left the rain fly off, and jumped in for a quick nap. I woke up as soon as the sun touched the treetops; it was getting cool in a hurry. Later, when it was dark and I was enjoying my hot chocolate I heard a huge splash in the river and went out to investigate. The area was well lit by the bright, gibbous moon and I could see the wake of something swimming across the river. Never saw what it was though, but I was drawn to the stars and planets that could be easily seen, even with the high moon. I caught a glimpse of a swift meteorite, and sat to watch the sky for a while. Right away I saw the most amazing meteorite. It was bright orange and trailing sparks behind as it burned up. I had hiked 15 miles today.

I awoke Friday as the sun hit my tent. Another cold morning. Ice coated my rain fly, inside and out. Got packed quickly and headed out, ready to see my truck and get a hamburger and shower. The trail got hilly here, more steep hills than I remembered, and I kept thinking each was the last. But they kept coming. Also a pretty, open forest and more boardwalk over troublesome seeps on the hillsides. I finally encountered my first other hikers, a couple out day hiking. Finally, I was in the sun limping the last half mile in the gravel to my vehicle. The blisters I had been stabbing and dressing all week had caught up with me today. Got to my truck, made a check for ticks, changed out of my shoes and socks, then headed out to stop and visit Tony again for another great cup of coffee and conversation on my way home.

Yes, Earth Day was the perfect week to pick. I’ll be doing it again next spring.

This segment is on NCTA map MI-05

See Jim TenPercent's full report on Facebook