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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Joan Young- FIrst Woman to Complete NCT on Foot

a news release of theNorth Country Trail Association

Joan Young of Scottville, Michigan becomes the first woman to hike the 4400-mile North Country National Scenic Trail.

On Tuesday, August 3, Young took the final steps of her 20-year quest to complete the trail. Since 1991, when she took her first NCT hike, Young has been slowly adding sections each year. The North Country Trail, a sister to the Appalachian Trail, spans seven states from New York to North Dakota. The North Country Trail was authorized by Congress in 1980, and is one of the eleven National Scenic Trails so recognized. NSTs are designated to showcase outstanding environmental, cultural and historic features of the United States.

Just outside Petoskey, Michigan, on one of the highest hills in Emmet Country, Young became the 9th person, and the first woman, to hike the entire trail by filling in the last remaining gap on her trail map. No hike was too short if it was a new mile of trail. Occasionally, snippets as short as one mile were counted toward the total mileage. Her longest continuous hike was 182 miles in Minnesota, and the longest continual backpacking trek was 131 miles in North Dakota.

Part of the segment of trail she selected for her final hike was previously owned by personal friends of Young, Doug and Pam Boor. The Boors learned that their property could connect two off-road pieces of trail on city property, and decided to work with the Little Traverse Conservancy to preserve the land for the trail, forever. Young actually helped scout the route of the proposed section with Doug Boor several years ago, but had not hiked the completed trail. The trail was built by the Tittabawassee Chapter of the North Country Trail Association that is responsible for maintenance from Kalkaska to Conway, Michigan. The new section follows a high ridge and includes a location where a thru-hiker coming from the east would first be able to see Lake Michigan. A large observation platform has been added to enhance the trail at this overlook. The section is also a good place for day hikes.

Without collaborations such as this, and volunteer efforts, National Trails would not be possible. They receive minimal funding from Congress, and depend in great measure on grass roots support and effort.

“It was really strange to finish all but 2.5 miles of trail in June, and then go home and wait a month to finish,” Young commented. “But we wanted to make it possible for as many people as possible to participate, especially those who had hiked long portions of the trail with me.” Twenty-five people did join the celebration, ranging in age from a woman in her 70's down to the 5-year-old daughter of one of Joan’s hiking companions.

Bruce Matthews, Executive Director of the NCTA, attended. He added, “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Joan is the Spirit of the North Country Trail.”

Young, in addition to hiking, is a frequent volunteer for the North Country Trail both at the level of her local chapter, Spirit of the Woods. She personally maintains nine miles of trail. She is a past member of the Board of Directors of the NCTA, and currently is heading the Long-Distance Hikers Committee.

She regularly presents media programs about her experiences on the trail.

See Books Leaving Footprints for Young's speaking schedule or to book programs

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