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, July 28, 2010

Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Closes Section of NCT

oil on kalamazoo river
floatingoil and boom on the Kalamazoo River near Historic Bridge Park (photo by Tom Garnett)

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based on a news article at the Battle Creek Enquirer

Historic Bridge Park in Battle Creek has been closed until further notice as crews endeavor to remove the oil spilled from a pipeline which broke and entered Tallmadge Creek. From there it has flowed to the Kalamazoo River. Valves were quickly closed to stop the leak, but as much as 800,000 gallons of oil have entered the waterways. Work to clean and contain the spill began immediately.

The North Country Trail traverses Historic Bridge Park, and thru-hikers should note that they will need to detour around the park on 9 1/2 Mile Road.

This segment is on NCTA map MI-02

See Chief Noonday Chapter of the NCTA

Saturday, July 24, 2010

New Superior Shoreline Chapter Forms

Munising Harbor
Munising Harbor on Lake Superior (photo by JHY)

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from the NCTA Blue Blaze Bulletin

The former Grand Marais Chapter of the North Country Trail Association in Michigan's Upper Peninsula has just been reactivated as the Superior Shoreline Chapter. With 75% of the chartered area along Lake Superior the new name seems appropriate.

Regional Trail Coordinator, Bill Menke, has been working with previous members and holding public meetings to revitalize the group.

Because the two main towns, Grand Marais and Munising, are located on opposite sides of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the chapter will take a two-pronged approach to activities, with a combined annual meeting.

If you are interested in getting involved, contact Tim at

This segment is on NCTA map MI-10

See Superior Shoreline Chapter of the NCTA

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Judy Geisler Finishes Ohio on NCT Hike/Bike

Judy Geisler
Judy Geisler biking on the Wabash Cannonbal segment (photo from her web site)

by JHY

Judy Geisler is closing in on being the 2nd person to bike and hike her way the length of the North Country Trail. She began in April 2005 at Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota.

It's impossible to tell from her web site how many miles were hiked, and how many were biked, but perhaps she can eventually fill in that data for the curious.

Although her original hope was to finish this year (and she may yet), Judy reached the OH/PA border on July 4, and had only 257 miles yet to complete in New York. She and husband, Bob, who is her support in their RV, headed for that state. But the heat has been so intense this month that they decided to leave the NCT entirely for a while, and are now off to Colorado where it is cooler.

Judy likes to keep a low profile, but her accomplishment will not go completely unnoticed if some of us have our way.

Judy states that she is not sure why the NCT takes the southern route through Ohio. She found many parts of Ohio trail in poor repair and unappealing. Hopefully, the NCT can turn this situation around, especially if more people hike it from year to year. She did enjoy all the canal history and Serpent Mound.

There are many photos of her adventure at her web site.

See The Adventures of Platy and the Gang
See Judy Geisler Following Carolyn Hoffman's Game Plan

Monday, July 19, 2010

Father-Daughter Backpack Porcupine Lake

Porcupine Lake Chequamenon National Forest Wisconsin
Porcupine Lake(photo by JHY)

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based on a news article in the Coulee News

Mark Walters, outdoor writer for the West Salem, Wisconsin, Coulee News, called this past weekend "another excellent adventure on Porcupine Lake."

Porcupine Lake is a small body of water within the Porcupine Lake Wilderness of the Chequamegon National Forest. This is a designated wilderness, which means that it is not managed for timber or any human uses. No motorized, or even wheeled vehicles are allowed.

Walters was there, taking his 9-year-old daughter, Selina, on her first backpacking trip. He has been traveling to Porcupine Lake since 1991 when he began a career as an outdoor writer. But being there with his daughter was the best ever. They bought snorkel gear, and explored the lake below the surface. They cooked over a campfire, and played with their dogs.

Over the years, he estimates that he's spent 50 or 60 nights camping on the North Country Trail in the Chequamegon National Forest.

This segment is on NCTA map WI-02

See Chequamenon Chapter of the NCTA

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bring on the Bridge

Mackinac Bridge walkers
Bring on the Bridge 2009 (photo from HSS)

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a news release of Hiawatha Shore to Shore Chapter

The Mackinac Bridge is one of the two longest suspension bridges in the world. The Golden Gate is longer between the towers, and the white and green Big Mac is longer between the anchor points. The bridge that connects Mackinaw City and St. Ignace, Michigan is an official part of the North Country Trail, but it can only be walked one day a year. That day is Labor Day morning, when two lanes of the bridge are closed to allow thousands of walkers to hike the five miles.

The Hiawatha Shore to Shore Chapter of the NCTA has begun hosting a camping event called Bring on the Bridge to provide a common rallying point for those who want to include the Bridge in their NCT hike.

In 2009, the first annual Bring on the Bridge had 45 participants from two states, and six chapters. The hikers stayed up to five nights, some hiking other trail sections, not just the bridge.

This year’s event will be September 3-7, 2010. Cost for the camping will be $28, and an event T-shirt can be ordered. Registration is limited to the first 75 people. The deadline is early, August 2, so register now!

This segment is on NCTA maps MI-07, MI-08 Hiawatha Shore to Shore Chapter

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hiker Walking UP to North Dakota

Nick Ballard
Nick Ballard (photo by JHY)

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by JHY

As we were resting at a picnic table on a hike through Marquette in May imagine my surprise when Marie said, "There's a backpacker." Sure enough there was a young fellow heading across the other side of the park we were in. I ran to catch up with him. I introduced myself and asked, "Are you hiking the North Country Trail?" Imagine my surprise when he said, "Yes."

In all the miles Marie and I have hiked we've never bumped into another long-distance hiker on the NCT. Yet, here was Nick, in the early stages of a hike of nearly half of the trail. He had begun at Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and his plan was to make it to North Dakota before August.

He was hiking with Wes Boyd's old guide. We all met later to eat dinner together, where I gave him a few updates that are pretty critical and wished him well. Nick is a student at Michigan State.

Hopefully, he'll give us an update on his adventures.

Monday, July 12, 2010

All But a Couple of Miles!

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J Young and Marie Altenau with Mackinac Bridge in the background (photo by JHY)

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by JHY

I've returned from my extensive wanderings, and although to keep telling about my own hikes here seems a little self-serving, it is my blog, and it is NCTA news. I've been pretty swamped, and still am, which is why I've been so slow to get back to this blog.

But, here I am, 20 years after the beginning, on the verge of finishing my North Country Trail Quest. My hiking buddy, since the beginning, is Marie Altenau. She hasn't been as interested in hiking the entire trail as I, nevertheless, she has walked an impressive 2660 miles of the NCT.

We hiked the almost final 115 miles between Five Lake, Michigan and the Bridge in June. My first NCT miles were hiked in September of 1991. At that time, I had no idea at all of hiking the whole trail. The primary source of my excitement was that I had found a National Scenic Trail very near to where I live. My childhood dream was to hike the Appalachian Trail, the only other NST that I knew about.

After a few other short hikes on the NCT, Marie and I took our first long hike in 1994, completing the NCT through the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania in 1994. We were having fun, but I still had no thought of hiking the entire trail.

By the end of the next summer, we had sampled the plains section of the trail in North Dakota and I had decided that I really did want to try to hike the entire trail. By that time, only three other people had hiked it (Peter Wolfe, Chet Fromme, and Ed Talone), and one followed the route by bike and on foot (Carolyn Hoffman). But I was in no hurry. I wanted to savor each piece. And I have.

Skip ahead to about 2005, when I published a book of my adventures North Country Cache. Much to my great surprise, there was still no other woman who had hiked the entire trail. In fact, no one else had completed the challenge. Andy Skurka was actually on his was across the country, using the NCT as part of the Sea to Sea route.

I decided that I'd just keep plugging away at the trail, and try to keep my ears open for rumors of any other women who might be setting out to hike the trail. I'd had a bit of a "scare" in 2004 when JoJo Smiley, and her husband, Nomad (not Nimblewill Nomad), set out to hike it, but they left after completing just under 1300 miles.

A few more hikers finished the NCT, but they were all guys: Don Beattie, Allen Shoup, Bart Smith. But last summer, two people rose to prominence in trail news. They were Nimblewill Nomad (Eb Eberhard) and Mother Goose (Bonita Helton).

As the years had crept on, and my total exceeded 3000 miles, and then 3500, I realized that I could beat any woman who set out to hike the NCT, as long as I knew in time. Although Nimblewill was out to hike the entire trail in one year- and he did- Mother Goose settled on a two-year plan. I knew that if I increased my pace that I could be first. But, did I want to do that? One of the things I liked best about my yearly pace is that it gave me time to think about and savor the locations and things I'd experienced. For about a week, I wrestled with that decision, but finally decided that I did want to be first. As it turns out, Mother Goose hiked about half of the NCT, and then headed back to the drier west.

And here I am, 20 years after beginning, just a couple of miles short of being the first woman to hike the entire North Country Trail. If you count only the people who have traveled it entirely on foot, I'll be number 9... the last of the single digits. That's truly amazing. Of course I do have to hike those last miles. I'll try not to get run over by a truck before August 3.

I've tried to keep very close track of the miles I've walked, and to stay as close to the route of the trail as possible (except in the Adirondacks where there was no potential route when I hiked there). My total is going to come in at 4394 total miles. I'd like it to be 4400 without rounding up, but the numbers are what they are. You can hike those final miles with me by coming to Petoskey, Michigan. See more information at the link below. It's been a great walk!

See Books Leaving Footprints