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.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Manistee River Trail - NCT Loop Hike

Manistee River
Manistee River (photo by David)

excerpts from Explore the Outside, by David, used with permission. Follow the link to read his entire account.

In February of 2010 I was in a horrific car accident that I was fortunate enough to survive. However, I still managed to break both legs. This would be the most walking or hiking I had done since my accident and I felt that this pace [a three-day plan] was something that I’d be able to safely accomplish.

A goal of this trip was to keep my pack weight low. I managed to get my base weight down to 7.5 pounds and that included carrying a GPS and cell phone (about 1 pound). I packed 5 pounds of food and 2.2 pounds of water for a total starting weight of 14.7 pounds. In addition, I decided to not take my camera (DSLR) to save weight and all of the photos I took were unfortunately with my cell phone.

While visiting my parents for Labor Day I discovered that my father wanted to join me for part of the trip. Because of the broken bones in my legs from the previous year, I had originally planned to take it very slow and just see how it went. Hiking with my father, threw the “take it easy” plan out the window. I’m sure he would have been fine with whatever pace I picked but nonetheless I felt pressure to keep a decent clip. Also, I was pretty certain he wanted to camp at an established campsite.

We started hiking about 3 PM. From this lot [Upper River Road TH] there is a trail that heads north and shortly hits the connecting trail between the NCT and the MRT. At this junction we turned east, hiked to the road bridge over the Manistee River (the Red Bridge Access site we first pulled into) and after crossing the bridge found the beginning of the MRT

We arrived at the first two established camp sites (Camp #8 and Camp #9). These two sites are right on the water’s edge on the top of a 50’ overlook. There is a very nice view of the river. There was a guy playing acoustic guitar and drinking whiskey. Much to our surprise he was actually quite a good singer. He ended up leaving at dark.

[The next day] we arrived at the suspension bridge just after 11 AM. My father and I said our good byes. He took the 1.2 mile connection path back to his car at Seaton Creek Campground and I headed west over the bridge to find the NCT. As soon as I started south on the NCT the trail was very nice and an easy gradual climb with the trail being wide enough for a four-wheeler. I think it was this wide for at least a mile or two and then it went back to “typical” trail width. This section of the NCT was quite different from the MRT. During the entire section I didn’t see the Manistee River once. Towards the end of this section of the NCT there is a short off-shoot trail which leads to an overlook.

Manistee River Trail North Country Trail loop map
MRT-NCT loop (map by David)

At the very top of a significant ascent I decided I would try to finish the entire hike on this day. Why I did this I’m not even sure. I did notice in the beginning of this section of the NCT that it would be difficult to find a campsite because you are basically walking along a ridge with a steep upward slope to your right and a steep downward slope to your left. Unbelievably, I made it to the car just after 7 PM and had done 15.75 miles that day! The NCT is pretty uneventful but still a nice trail nonetheless. There are a few interesting sections and the ascents and descents definitely make for some fun.

I learned that doing 15.75 miles was way too much for my right ankle. Later, I discovered I was basically unable to walk on my right ankle. Finally on the third day I was able to do a decent amount of walking on it.

Overall, it was a great trip and everything I took performed wonderfully.

This segment is on NCTA map MI-06

See Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wetmore Pond Eagle Scout Project

scout troop
Scouts, leader, and Cliff Stammer after a day of work. (photo from NCTH)

from the North Country Trail Hikers Footprints, Fall 2011

In July, Andrew Virch, working towards an Eagle Scout Badge, organized a work crew of scouts and leaders from Troop 309, along with several of our members, to replace and build some puncheon board walk in Wetmore Pond. In a day and a half of work, the project was complete.

Completed puncheon in Wetmore Pond (photo from NCTH)

This segment is on NCTA map MI-12

See North Country Trail Hikers Chapter of the NCTA

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tamarac Wildlife Refuge Celebrates Autumn and NCT

Tamarac Wildlife Refuge
Tamarac Wildlife Refuge (photo by jhy)

based on a news article at Detroit Lakes Online

“Become a Nature Detective” is the theme for this year's annual autumn festival at the Tamarac Wildlife Refuge in western Minnesota. The North Country Trail skirts the eastern edge of the Refuge. This year the festival will be on October 1.

Friends of Tamarac, is a not-for-profit organization that puts on the Fall Festival and other activities at the refuge. The detective theme will be carried throughout the day and will include everything from a CSI Nature Investigation Challenge to Sherlock Shuttles. There will be a nature detective trail, a demonstration of processing wild rice, GPS events, a guided hike, and a silent auction.

A grilled pork sandwich lunch is available for purchase at the festival.

North Country Trail representatives will lead a two-mile hike at 10:30 a.m. Friends of Tamarac are happy to see the NCT there, because it helps to maintain trails that everyone can use.

Friends of Tamarac has dedicated $5,000 each year to bring school kids to the refuge — over 2,000 students a year — for activities that range from science to math, language arts to social studies — all in the great outdoors. “Tamarac Refuge is a wonderful outdoor classroom where students get involved in real life science,” the group says.

Contact Matt Davis

Friday, September 23, 2011

New Hickory Hills Shelter in NY

Hickory Hill Shelter
Hickory Hills Shelter (photo by Jacqui Wensich)

from Jacqui Wensich

In only THREE days, the new Hickory Hill Shelter ...a thing of beauty.

This segment is on FLT map M12

See Finger Lakes Trail

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Attendee Report- Dayton Conference

Clifton Gorge
Clifton Gorge (photo by jhy)

by John Heiam, from the Sept 2011 issue of the Grand Traverse Hiking Club Newsletter

In August Dick Naperala, Rick Halbert, Arlen and Arlene Matson, and Lois Goldstein and I attended the 2011 North Country Trail conference in Dayton Ohio. As many of you know, the NCTA has a conference every August at a different location along the trail. This year it was in Dayton, Ohio. One of the things I enjoy about going to the conference is seeing the beauty that exists in unexpected areas. Two years ago the conference was in North Dakota, and I thought the area wouldn’t have much to offer.

I was really surprised by the beauty in the area. Much of North Dakota consists of rolling green hills, with areas of forest. This year I wondered what an urban area like Dayton could offer. One day we were led on a hike to Clifton Gorge, where a small stream has carved a channel through a hundred feet of rock. While I was at a Board meeting, Lois went on a kayak paddle along the Mad River. On another day, we were led on a thirty-five mile bike ride on a beautiful tree lined paved trail, topped off with a lunch stop at a local restaurant that made its own ice cream.

In Xenia, Ohio just south of Dayton, four long paved bike trails intersect. Downtown Dayton has been transformed from an industrial center to a city laced with parks and an absolutely beautiful river front. One night after the conference presentation by Andrew Skurka, we listened to a free open air concert of a local big band, playing music from the forties and fifties. They played in an ultra-modern open air pavilion along the river. Next to the pavilion is a new bicycling hub, which includes a new building with showers and a bicycle storage area for people who want to commute downtown by bicycle.

The number of paved bicycle trails in the area is astounding.

This segment is on Buckeye Trail map Caesar Creek

See Buckeye Trail

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ed Chappel Boardwalk Completed Through Sterling Marsh

Ed Chappel and John Cooley
John Cooley (left) and Ed Chappel (right) (photo by jhy)

by JHY with additional info from an article by Howard Meyereson

More than a half-mile of raised boardwalk is now complete through Sterling Marsh west of Baldwin, Michigan. This is the culmination of a three-year project by the Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA. The man who has spearheaded the effort is Ed Chappel of Irons, the Trail Work Coordinator for the chapter. Ed is 77 years young, and battling Parkinson's Disease, but this has only served to focus his efforts even more.

Volunteers from the Spirit of the Woods, Home Depot, the Baldwin Rotary Club, the American Hiking Society, an NCTA Volunteer Adventure crew, Manistee National Forest staff, and other people have put in thousands of hours to complete the 2,697 feet of boardwalk. The length is not continuous, but consists of thirteen segments spread over 1.5 miles of trail. With just a little additional work on treadway between the segments, and an improved access south from Jenkns road, the entire section will be wheelchair accessible.

On July 23, 2011, at a chapter meeting, another two-year project was brought to fulfillment. John Cooley, chapter member began planning on the sly to dedicate the boardwalk to Ed Chappel. He researched prices for plaques, obtained permission for the project from the Forest Service, and collected donations from chapter members and friends. No chapter funds were used to purchase the plaque.

Ed Chappel boardwalk dedication plaque
Ed Chappel boardwalk dedication plaque (photo by jhy)

The plaque reads, "In recognition of his vision and unfailing dedication to maintenance and improvement of the Spirit of the Woods section of the North Country Trail, this portion of the trail will henceforth be known as the Ed Chappel Boardwalk."

The miles of trail between Jenks Road and 96th Street, at the southern edge of Lake County, have been some of the most unpleasant off-road hiking in Michigan for years. The ground has always been soggy, and in spring and fall, the trail was often knee-deep in water. Hikers typically avoided the section, although it offers some high quality bird and wildlife watching opportunities. Now, the worst part of hiking there might be the need for a little extra bug repellent.

Section maintainers, John Cooley and Vickie Kelley are also volunteers with the annual frog census, and they canvas Sterling Marsh for identification of the amphibians. Now they can do so without waders.

The Forest Service hopes to create a new access point at Jenks Road so that the boardwalk would be able to be reached by level trail by wheelchairs. Near the center of the longest section is a deck with seating where the dedication plaque is mounted.

The official dedication will be this coming Saturday, September 24. For more information, contact Ed Chappel

This segment is on NCTA map MI-05

See Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA
See Man helps transform North Country Trail from 'swamp walk' into impressive path by Howard Meyerson

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kekakabic Trail Closed Due to Pagami Fire

Pagami Fire Closure Area
fire closure area 9/12

from various sources

The Kekeabic Trail has now been closed, as has a large portion of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. For a much larger map with more detail, see the Closure Area Map from the Minnesota Incident Command. This is a pdf.

In the map above, the red outline is the fire perimeter as of Monday evening. The shaded area is the portion of the BWCAW that is closed. The green line is the NCT/Kekekabic Trail.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pagami Fire Update

Pagami Creek Fire Map
Pagami Creek fire and NCT (green line)

compiled from various sources

The Pagami Creek Fire has now become larger than the Ham Lake Fire of 2007, but does not appear to be threatening the North Country Trail. The closest the fire approached the NCT was just south of Snowbank Lake near the western end of the Kekekabic Trail, with about two miles of forest between.

At this time, the fire is still spreading to the east. Early on, firebreaks were created to the north and these have held. The fire slowed today with light rain and higher humidity, but it has now reached blowndown timber from the 1999 event, and no one expects this fire will be out for a long time.

Command is now unified under Lake County, Superior National Forest, and Minnesota Incident Command. In addition to four Blackhawk helicopters sent by the National Guard, the province of Manitoba is sending two water bombers and an air attack plane.

Pagami Creek Fire Map
Pagami Creek fire and NCT (green line)

For the most current information, see the Minnesota Incident Command

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Pagami Creek Fire Burning South of the Kekekabic

Pagami Creek Fire
smoke from Pagami Creek Fire (photo from a video at

compiled from various sources

The Pagami Creek Fire, in Minnesota, just east of Ely, is still south of the North Country Trail, but is still growing. The fire began on Aug 18, the result of a lightning strike. It was considered a minor blaze until two days ago when high winds suddenly spread the fire 16 miles to the east, to the edge of Polly Lake.

Most of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness remains open, but many access points have been closed. Smoke from the fire has been seen as far east as Illinois, and is affecting air quality. The Pow Wow Trail is closed.

As of this afternoon, the fire has now burned 100,000 acres, and is second only to the Ham Lake Fire of 2007, which burned 120,000 acres, and is considered the most costly fire in Minnesota history. It has been difficult to determine the exact size of this fire area, because of the heavy smoke.

The fire has now spread so quickly that it is threatening to ignite areas which were affected by the 1999 Blowdown where stacked dry wood is like a tinderbox waiting to be lit.

Control of the blaze has now been delegated to a unified command with Lake County Sheriff's Office as full partners of management of the fire. The Governor has called in the Minnesota National Guard and helicopter support. A Red Cross aide station has been established at the Finland Community Center. Finland is a town on the Superior Hiking Trail.

The last map I could find showed this trail still miles south of Snowbank and Parent Lake where the NCT comes out of the woods on to Fernberg Road. But this is definitely one to watch. Earlier today an official incident map was available on line, but now that link seems to have been taken down. I'll add it here if it is put back.

See Kekekabic Trail Club

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chief Noonday Says- "Get Ready for 2012"

Get Ready for the 2012 Annual NCTA Conference!

brought to you by the Chief Noonday Chapter at the 2011 Annual Conference in Ohio.

This segment is on NCTA map MI-02

See Chief Noonday Chapter of the NCTA

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mother Goose Returns to NCT to do Northern Lower Michigan

Bonita Curtner Helton 'Mother Goose'
Mother Goose (photo by mikendyan)

based on the journal of Mother Goose

"Mother Goose," Bonita Helton, came back to Michigan in August to hike some more miles of the North Country Trail. Because she enjoyed Pictured Rocks so much, she began in Marquette and rehiked east from there for about nine days. Her friend, Sue, hiked with her for part of the time. Sue's great talent is reported to be to "yogi" ice and cold drinks from folks in vehicles, which Mother Goose really enjoyed.

Sue writes: "We left camp carrying saturated tents after a night of rain, and slugs. I don't know if it was the four cheesepotatoes or the noises in the creek overnight but I had wild dreams about bears in camp, in which I yelled at Bonita " bark like a dog.... bark like a dog" to scare away the bears. "

With the bugs and humidity so high in the UP, they hitched a ride to the Bridge, and began working south from there. She gives high marks to the trail in most of Northern Lower Michigan. It's not exactly clear where she ended this section of her hike, but somewhere south of Traverse City.

Now, she has returned to the Pacific Crest Trail. Perhaps she'll come back for more of the NCT another year.