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, October 30, 2010

Backing Needed for New Wisconsin DNR Trail Rule

trail leading to WI DNR office
a trail leading to the Wisconsin DNR South Central Headquarters (photo by Todd McMahon)

submitted by Todd McMahon

A new Wisconsin Department of Natural Resourses Rule aimed at speeding up development of the North Country Trail and Ice Age Trail will have a public hearing on November 3, 2010 in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.

The rule allows the trails to be built before the Master Plan for a property is developed. It can take 6 to 10 years for a Master Plan to be developed for properties purchase by the Wisconsin DNR. The new rule applies to lands specifically purchased for trail development. Currently, there are over 70 such properties awaiting a Master Plan including the recently purchased Nemjadi River Tract and Stilin Property Tract for the North Country Trail.

According to an email sent by Kevin Thusius of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, the new rules “will make it possible to start new Trail Construction…immediately upon acquisition.” And according to a DNR Correspondence by Matt Frank, “These rules would provide property managers guidance for pre-Master Plan management of lands purchased for the Ice Age and North Country trails.”

The Public Hearing will be held at 6 pm, Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at the DNR South Central Region Headquarters, 3911 Fish Hatchery Road, Fitchburg, Wisconsin. Written comments on the proposed rule may be submitted via U.S. mail to:
Ms. Brigit Brown
Bureau of Parks and Recreation
P.O. Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707.
Comments may be submitted by email to

Comments on the proposed rule must be received on or before November 5, 2010.

This segment is on NCTA maps WI-01-03

See Wisconsin DNR Proposed Rule Page for more information

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Encampment River Bridge Repaired.

Encampment River Bridge
Encampment River Bridge before repairs (photo by JHY)

by JHY with information from the "hiker" egroup

When my hiking buddy, Marie, and I crossed the Encampment River bridge (Superior Hiking Trail, MN, just north of Two Harbors) in August of 2009, I happened to be a bit ahead. Noticing that it was an odd bridge, with the steep, cleated ramp at one end, I ventured off the trail to take some pictures. I quickly discovered that it was a bridge in need of serious repair! Notice that almost all of the supports in the middle of the span are broken or missing.

Since Marie isn't crazy about dangerous passages, I simply didn't point out the situation till we were well across the span and had clambered up the ramp!

Another hiker coming from the opposite direction has said "The "stairs" down the west bank to the bridge over the Encampment River are functional, but terrifying..."

The SHT is a portion of the North Country Trail, which follows the north shore of Lake Superior.

Encampment River Bridge
Encampment River Bridge after repairs (photo by Kim Fishburn)
But, thanks to some great work by volunteers, the bridge is repaired, at least temporarily. On the weekend of October 16-18, over 20 people arrived to help. The work was supervised by Han Taylor of North Shore Trail Maintenance.

The project involved hauling in heavy materials about 150 yards from a private driveway, building and placing the stairway anchored to heavy cables on the south side of the bridge, hoisting the bridge up using a come-a-long and cables, re-building the crib out of 6” x 6” timbers, resetting the bridge, and building a ramp on the north side of the bridge.

By comparing the two pictures, you can easily see that the supports have been restored.

The banks were found to be extremely prone to slumping, and it took extra time to do the repairs. The final conclusion is that this bridge must only be considered temporary, and a suspension bridge will probably be the permanent solution. Meanwhile, hikers can safely cross the Encampment River, with confidence.

This segment is on SHTA map 01

See Superior Hiking Trail Association
See hiker egroup

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Controversy at East Sheyenne Grasslands TH

Sheyenne National Grasslands trailhead
Sheyenne National Grasslands east trailhead (photo by JHY)

based on a news article at Fargo-Morehead InForum

The simple access site to the North Country Trail at the east side of the Sheyenne National Grassland (North Dakota) has become a controversial topic.

In 2007, the Forest Service (Grasslands Managers) proposed a project to create a campground at the east trailhead of the NCT. This would provide camping for hikers and horseback riders/ campers. The campground was proposed in order to improve sanitation issues which have become critical due to a large volume of dispersed camping. However, the nearby Sheyenne Oaks Horse Camp and RV Park, which opened in 2009, has gotten the ear of Senator Byron Dorgan (D), and he has requested that the Forest Service abandon this campground project.

The problem is that several other access gates to the Grasslands will be closed as part of the project. One of these was near Sheyenne Oaks, and provided users of that facility easy access. However, they private campground was allowed to build a gate of their own.

Sheyenne National Grasslands manager, Dave Piper, said, "The Forest Service’s proposal is designed to accommodate the needs of all campers desiring to use the area, not just horse use. The goal is not to compete with any private services, but to allow the public to enjoy the Sheyenne National Grasslands."

Dorgan would like the Forest Service to build a trail that links to Sheyenne Oaks. The Forest Service has explained that they "cannot use federal tax dollars to specifically benefit a single, for-profit business at the exclusion of access to others."

Inflammatory media coverage has not helped, with headlines such as, "Private North Dakota campground loses grassland access," which is not even remotely true.

Monday, October 18, 2010

First NCTA Extended Outing Program

camp lunch
Lorana on KP duty

by Lorana Jinkerson, excerpted from the NCT Hikers newsletter, Footprints, fall 2010

Mary Coffin, NCTA BOD member from New York, has lead many Extended Outing Programs for the Adirondack Mountain Club. Modeling it after that successful program, she lead the first NCTA Extended Outing Program from September 8 through September 15 along the Superior Hiking Trail (soon to be officially part of the North Country Trail). I was lucky to be one of the 11 NCTA members on that trip.

We met in Duluth, MN on Wednesday, September 8 for preliminary instructions. Each day we were given several options of possible day hikes/activities and, depending upon weather conditions and the feelings of the group, we chose the hike/activity that was most appropriate.

Our first hike took us north of Judge Magney State Park where we started heading south on the Superior Hiking Trail towards Judge Magney Park. This hike was relatively easy, although there were some steep ups and downs, very similar to some of our segments to the west of Marquette. The afternoon brought us to Devil’s Kettle, a mysterious hole in the ground where water from a waterfall goes, never to be seen again, or so they say.

The next morning, we chose to hike within the Cascade River State Park, to Cascade Falls and up Lookout Mountain. The late afternoon found us in Grand Marais, hiking out to Artist’s point and on the breakwall. With the wind coming in, we donned our rain gear for protection from the wind.

Saturday night it began raining around midnight. We awoke to a light mist and lots of fog. Our hike was up on a ridge and, most of the day, we saw nothing but fog. Finally around lunchtime, we started getting a few breaks. There actually was a sign that said “Hellacious Overhook.”

Monday we broke into two groups to hike. My group headed south on the Superior Hiking Trail from our camp area, including climbing the notorious Drainpipe, a challenging rock climb, ascending for about 150 feet. Luckily my group was going up but it required all points, hands and feet, on the rock at all times.

Tuesday morning we closed up camp and then headed south towards Duluth, stopping along the way at Gooseberry State Park for a hike along Lake Superior, our lunch and a wrap-up session.

I would highly recommend the NCTA’s Extended Outing Program to all of you. In the future, there are hopes more than one a year will be offered. But, for now Mary has one scheduled for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore from Wednesday, August 8 - 15, 2011.

This segment is on SHTA maps 1-4

See North Country Trail Hikers Chapter of the NCTA for the entire article
See Pictured Rocks Extended Outing for info about 2011

Friday, October 15, 2010

Land Purchases Bolster NCT in Wisconsin

submitted by Todd McMahon

Two major land purchases and several smaller ones have bolstered the North Country Trail in Northern Wisconsin. Using state and federal funds, the 3995 acre Nemadji River Tract on Wisconsin’s western border was purchased in August. Also, in late September the State of Wisconsin purchased land northeast of Copper Falls State Park. Plus, several smaller tracts are being purchased near Solon Springs in hopes of eliminating the road walk there.

The purchase of the Nemadji River Tract from the Wausau Paper Company will allow 6 miles of the North Country Trail to be built on that property. Plus, 4 more miles of the trail could be built on adjacent lands. The Nemadji River Tract was purchased using 1.9 million from the State of Wisconsn’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and another 1.9 million from US Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program. The 3995 acres will become part of the Douglas County Forest.

At its September 2010 Board Meeting, the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources agreed to purchase the 720 acre Stilin Properties Tract. The property adjoins Copper Falls State Park to the east, and other state property to the north. In the purchasing agreement, it specifically states that the North Country Trail will be sited, developed and maintained through the property. It will help eliminate the Trail’s dead end at Copper Falls State Park. The land was purchased for $936,00, which includes a $85,028 donation from the John Dolan Dee Estate. The land will become part of the Ashland County Scattered Forest Lands Program and some of the land may eventually become part of Copper Falls State Park.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has purchased 3 smaller properties near Solon Spring. One of the properties is a key link to eliminating the road walk north of town. The two other properties are private properties that the NCT currently is on.

The Brule/St Croix Chapter of the North Country Trail is working on eliminating another dead end by completing the trail from Spring Creek to Gordon Dam County Park. According to Tim Mowbray, President of the Chapter, the trail is already cleared to Gordon Dam County Park, but it passes through some wet areas where boardwalks and a puncheon will need to be built. In order to obtain the permit to build the boardwalk and puncheon, a Certified Floodplan Engineer will be hired to prove the structures will not be a flood hazard. The National Park Service has set aside money to hire the Certified Floodplain Engineer and the Brule/St Croix Chapter has already bought most of the materials for the project. The Chapter is hoping to work on the structures next summer.

This segment is on NCTA map WI-01, 02

See Brule- St. Croix Chapter of the NCTA

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tornado Hits NCT/FLT Near Rock City NY

map of FLT Tornado damage area
map from FLTC

a news release of Finger Lakes Trail Conference

The recent tornado damage from Access 2 (Little Rock City Picnic Area) to Access 3 (Old Seneca CCC Camp) is 0.7 mile long and 0.2 wide and has flattened most trees, closing the trail. A timber salvage operation and trail restoration may take up to two years, so in the meantime, bypass by using Little Rock City and Hungry Hollow Roads (brown squares). Mountain bike trails (purple dashes) may also be used to bypass the damage area shown below.

While Queens, New York, and southeastern Ohio received more publicity about damage from these September storms, the trail was also affected.

This segment is on FLTC map M3/CT3

See Chief Noonday Chapter of the NCTA

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pennsylvania- Watts Mill Shelter

Watts Mill Shelter
(photo by Dave Brewer)

from the North Star, by Dave Brewer

Four miles from the Pennsylvania and Ohio border, landowners Dennis and Cathy Garrett helped us build a backpackers' shelter on their land, by working with us and donating materials. Chapter President, Lee Fairbanks, planned and directed the crews, procured materials, and did as much pre-construction off site as possible. An NCTA Field Grant provided the funding to make the project possible.

In total, sixteen Wampum Chapter members and friends along with thirteen AmeriCorps volunteers contributed their cheerful labor over two days in May to haul in the material and build the shelter.

This segment is on NCTA map PA-03

See Wampum Chapter of the NCTA