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, July 30, 2009

Minnesota Travel Moments

Jerry Trout on new puncheon
new puncheon (photo by JHY)

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!

While driving to the annual NCTA Conference in North Dakota, I stopped to see a few of the new bits of trail work that have been accomplished since my last trip to the area. Here, Jerry Trout demonstrates how sturdy the new puncheon is south of Gage Lake. They have plans for a much larger boardwalk to cross an area that is very much wetter than this one.
Jerry Trout on new puncheon
Gage Lake (photo by JHY)

Gage Lake is a small lake, but supports a beaver lodge.
Itasca Lake State Park south entrance
south entrance (photo by JHY)

Just a bit west of there the trail enters Itasca Lake State Park. The trail used to enter the park at the north entrance, but with the hope of off-road trail soon to be connected to the south entrance hikers should now enter there. They will almost immediately find a kiosk with a map of the trail through the park, westward.
NCT kiosk at Itasca Lake State Park
kiosk (photo by JHY)

The NCT follows the "Boy Scout Trail" west to DeSoto Lake, where there still may be some issues getting through when the water is high. Then it leaves the park trails and continues westward to Gardner Lake.
plaque honoring Rod McRae

Also on the kiosk is a plaque honoring Rod McRae. Rod was an early supporter of the North Country Trail. He scouted and helped build many of the first miles of trail in Minnesota, and wrote a guidebook to the trail through the Chippewa National Forest. In 2007 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for more than 10 years of service to the trail.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Michigan Sampler - Stitched in Steps

North Country Trail passing between large white pines
the NCT east of Marquette passes between large white pines (photo by JHY)

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!

by JHY

A shift in the timing of my next hikes has me still in Michigan on the way to North Dakota and then Minnesota. But one day, even primarily on a gravel, rail-trail, provided mostly pleasant experiences.

A- angels, trail angels: those people who help hikers. Lorana Jinkerson, author of Nettie Does the NCT is letting me stay with her, and Jan Wester spotted me so I could just walk to my car.

B- balsam: I think balsam must be to me what catnip is to cats. Its aroma just makes me giddy with the joy of being in the woods.

C- chickadees: five little birds hovered close around me as I ate lunch. Did they smell the peanut butter?

D- deer: OK, we’re all tired of seeing deer, but it would hardly be a Michigan adventure without one.

E- electronics: with the new digital camera, tape recorder and cell phone, that’s a lot of delicate equipment to thrust into plastic bags in a hurry (see R)

F- fifteen: the number of miles I walked.

G- gravel: over half of the miles were on a gravel rail-trail. Gravel is a horrible walking surface that can turn my feet to hamburger. Tonight they are only sore, for which I am very grateful!

H- humid: well, it’s summer in Michigan (see R)

I- insect repellant: yeah, the mosquitoes and deerflies are still impressive.

J- Jilbert’s ice cream: the local brand. I had apple pie flavor.

K- Kawbawgam Lake, and Lake LeVasseur which began as a beaver swamp, opening gradually to shining waterways winding among islands
Lake LeVasseur
Lake LeVasseur from the NCT (photo by JHY)

L- lake, big: so many Michigan experiences include a Great Lake... this time, I ended at the Marquette Visitor Center of the Lake Superior shore.

M- Mangum Road to Marquette: where I hiked today

N- new flowers: any hike on which I spot a wildflower that’s new to me is awesome! This time it was the bristly sarsaparilla, which holds its flowers above the leaves instead of beneath them, and wrinkled rose so healthy that its blooms were three inches across and the damp air was filled with the scent.
Wrinkled Rose
Wrinkled Rose, Rosa rugosa (photo by JHY)

O- overpass: the trail follows the old Soo Line, and drivers on US 41 zip along under the trail, probably never realizing that a national trail is now over their heads.

P- puppy: an enthusiastic young and wiggly black lab wanted to come with me, but his owner soon came along to retrieve him.

Q- quiet: not really! The rail trail paralleled a busy highway and the woods were filled with bird song.

R- rain: of course, a sudden downpour in the afternoon was timed perfectly so that I arrived at the car drenched to the skin.

S- squirrels and their relatives: I encountered gray and red squirrels, a thirteen-lined ground squirrel and a chipmunk.
red squirrel
red squirrel studying a hiker (photo by JHY)

T- township park: nicely located for a short rest, with a latrine and a picnic table

U- united: it takes so many united land managers to create a long-distance trail. Just in these few miles were two private landowners, the state, a township, a corporation, and the city of Marquette.

V- volunteers: they make the North Country Trail possible. Every foot, every mile, is cleared, and blazed with blue by volunteers.

W- wood thrush: the liquid trills of this secretive bird always seem to make the woods a magical place.

X- eXit: get off the highway and go find a trail to follow!

Y- yummy: a few early blueberries were ripe, along with red raspberries and some serviceberries that actually ripened before the birds ate them. If you have never tasted serviceberries, they are simply exquisite!
serviceberry, Juneberry, shadbush - the purple ones are ripe enough to eat (photo by JHY)

Z- zzzz’s: what I plan to catch a lot of tonight!
Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia (photo by JHY)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Getting the Sterling Marsh Trail Out of the Mud

setting posts for boardwalk
setting the posts for the raised boardwalk (photo by Ed Chappel)

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
from the Spirit of the Woods Chapter

Anyone who has hiked through the Sterling Marsh area of the Manistee National Forest (Michigan), any time of the year except perhaps August or September, knows that you can usually plan on wet feet. In fact, in the spring, you could be wet to your knees.

After many years of negotiating with the Forest Service, the Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA has been given permission to build a raised boardwalk through the wettest area of the marsh. Challenge Cost Share money from the National Park Service was applied for, and granted.

The boardwalk will be built in three phases, over three years time. This year the work was begun in June on 436 feet. To date, 72 feet have been completed, but another work day is scheduled for Friday, July 24.

completed boardwalk section
completed boardwalk section(photo by Ed Chappel)

Trail work coordinator, Ed Chappel says, "Building a boardwalk through a marsh is much more complicated and time consuming than leveling a trail or preparing or constructing log bridges. Our goal this Friday will be to lay out the post locations in the next two sections, 24 ft and 80 ft. Hopefully we will get some post holes dug and poles set in preparation for the club work day on Sat. Aug 8th.

"The other task if we have enough people will be to cut a bunch of 2x6's and 2x8's into 3 ft lengths. That way we can have the generator down on the job and use electric drivers instead of battery ones."

Hopefully, in just a few seasons, Sterling Marsh will be one of the best places for a day hike, instead of one of the worst on the North Country Trail.

North Country Trail Trail

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ride the T.O.M. in the Eastern UP

photo from Tahqua Trekker

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from Tom Funke

Tom Funke is no stranger to the North Country Trail Community. He's a member of the unofficial "Clubs" with over 1000 miles of NCT under his boots.

He was previously director of the Binder Park Zoo in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and is now the Director of Conservation with the Michigan Audubon Society. He has authored the book 50 Hikes in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

His newest venture is to operate a shuttle service for hikers, paddlers and other trekkers in the eastern Upper Peninsula. T.O.M. stands for Trailspotting and Outfitters of Michigan. Funke wants to make it possible for outdoor adventurers to participate in one-way adventures safely, without needing two vehicles.

One portion of the shuttle service will focus on allowing hikers to experience the trails of Tahquamenon Falls State Park without needing to hike both directions. This will be a daily service, no reservation required.

He has a particular soft spot in his heart for the North Country Trail. There will be a regular shuttle service from Castle Rock, just north of Mackinac Bridge, to Tahquamenon Falls State Park. Pickups will operate daily, however, an RSVP is required. Full details are available at the web site.

Tom's motto is "Supporting one way travel of the quiet sports." This is a service long overdue. Here's hoping that enough people will take advantage of Tahqua Trekker to allow for its success.

Tahqua Trekker

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Public TV Documentary to Include WI NCT Segment

Dan Small
Dan Small

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excerpts from Blog the Road, Hiking the North Country Trail, with permission

Another long but productive day in the North Woods. I’m shooting video footage for a Public TV documentary that will accompany the new Ken Burns documentary on the National Park System slated to air in September.

TV crew (Michael Garvin & Gail Grzybowski) and I joined Tom Gilbert, administrator of the North Country and Ice Age National Scenic Trails and a group of volunteers to hike selected segments of the North Country Trail in Douglas County, Wisconsin today.

This amazing segment of trail passes through a white cedar/black spruce bog that lies on the headwaters of the Brule and St. Croix rivers. [We] then hiked a half-mile up the historic Brule-St. Croix portage section of the trail. This leg skirts the bog to connect the two rivers along a route that local NC Trail Association chapter founder and former president Peter Nordgren told us was likely used by the first native inhabitants of the area at the end of the last Ice Age, some 10-12,000 years ago.

Hats off to ... all the volunteers who built and maintain the trail here and through all seven states through which it passes.

Read the full entry at Blog the Road,

Monday, July 20, 2009

Judy Geisler - Following Carolyn's Hoffman's Gameplan - Will Finish NCT in 2010

Judy Geisler
Judy Geisler (photo from her web site)

from communication with Bob Geisler and web site

For the past five years, Judy Geisler has been quietly hiking and biking the North Country Trail, and maintaining a web site about her adventures. But who knew? Not many North Country Trail folks! Judy's plan is the same as that of Carolyn Hoffman who was the first person to follow the route of the NCT in 1978. Carolyn hiked portions that were actual trail, and connected the segments by bicycle on roads.

Judy has hiked many of the sections with a friend, Adele. I actually heard of these two women a couple of years ago, but wasn't able to track down any information about them. When Judy's husband, Bob, contacted me today to join the NCT email group, it all came together. He simply said, "She likes to keep low key." Now that is an understatement!

Judy began in 2005 at Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota. By the end of the summer she had completed North Dakota and Minnesota, except for connecting Grand Marais to Ely. The following year she biked that connection, after hearing all the horror stories about the Border Route and the Kek.

In 2006-7 she also did Wisconsin, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Lower Peninsula was completed in 2008, and Pennsylvania begun. This summer she has finished Pennsylvania, and is working on New York. The plan is to finish in Ohio next summer!

She and husband, Bob, camp in their RV when she is not backpacking. He serves as support vehicle, meeting her sometimes at cross roads, and delivering her bike when there are road segments to ride.

Bob writes, "People always ask 'What do you do while she's hiking?' Well, I have to find the next days end point to make sure I can get to it. I spend a lot of time on one lane sand roads. This is one spot where I had a place just big enough off the road to park and either stay with the car (if the bugs are bad) or hike in to meet her.

This story has to be one of the best kept secrets on a trail that is also one of the best kept secrets in the country! They don't have New York pictures loaded on their web site yet, but you can check out the whole rest of their adventures from the link below. I'll try to find out more details and get Judy and Adele into the "Clubs."

See Judy & Bob's Traveling Pages

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Highbanks- NCT Michigan Hike

alt text
Manistee River (photo by NCT hiker)

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
an excerpt from NCT MI-05 19 mile Rd. to Highbanks Rollaways

The forecast was for rain this day. It was a Wednesday, which meant at least two things, it was my day off and I was hiking somewhere.

Today I would be hiking from 19 mile Rd. to Highbanks rollaways or Baxter Bridge Rd. Because of timing I chose the Highbanks. It ended up being between 8 and 9 miles and followed closely along the banks of the Manistee River. The hike starts off on a high bank and starts to descend to the river in the first ten minutes of the hike to the east.

On this hike was a large sandy bank high above the sharpest hairpin turn I have seen on the Manistee River. That sight alone is worth the hike in. It was cloudy this day and I can imagine what a sight it would be on a sunny winter day.

Wildlife today were many birds, a doe and her fawn up close. Two canoes passed by and zero hikers were met on the trail. It was a no passing zone all the way today.

See Michigan Hikes Blog to read the rest of the entry and more pictures.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Todd McMahon
Todd McMahon (self-photo)

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
guest post, submitted by Todd McMahon, "T-Man"

I just wanted to write a story about one of my experiences when I hiked the Kekekabic Trail in late May. I had stopped early and camped at the Aganok Falls campsite. It’s a truly spectacular falls, and I took lots of photos. My plan was to get up early and hike out to the Gunflint Trail the next day.

So I got up the next morning and started hiking by 6am. About 15 minutes after I started hiking I got to a place where the trail goes up a gigantic hill. Now, backpacking up a steep hill is not my most favorite thing to do, but I kept on thinking that maybe there would be some incredible views at the top. Maybe I would be able to take some great photos. Well, I made it to the top of the hill, and I did see some incredible views. They were incredibly bad.

I was in the burn zone and everything I could see going forward was burnt. It was very sad. I did hike out to the Gunflint Trail that day, but the whole hike, all 12 miles of it was in the burn zone. And the next day I hiked the Magnetic Rock Trail which is a burnt up landscape, too.

After I came home from my backpacking trip I decided to find some information about the fire on the internet. The fire is called the Ham Lake Fire because it started at a campsite on Ham Lake. It is suspected that a canoeist had left the campsite with his campfire still smoldering. The Ham Lake Fire burned over 75000 acres, and was the largest fire in the Boundary Waters in more than a century.

The Forest Service recommends that all campfires should be drown with water. All the embers should be completely soaked. After reading all this I came up with an acronym. Here it is, DYFORYST. It is pronounced like Die Forest and stands for “Drown Your Fire Or Ruin Your Special Trail.” It’s not the most catchy acronym in the world but it makes a powerful point: drown your fire or the forest will die and your favorite trail will be ruined. It doesn’t matter if it a canoe trail or a hiking trail, it will be ruined. The acronym DYFORYST might just be different enough or weird enough that people will remember it.

The canoeist in question was an avid outdoorsman who loved the Boundary Waters. Maybe he made a mistake or maybe the fire started some other way. We’ll never know exactly what happened on May 5, 2007 on the shoreline of Ham Lake. But if you remember DYFORYST, maybe you can prevent a big fire on the date of your next outing.

Border Route Trail
Kekekabic Trail

Friday, July 17, 2009

Finger Lakes Critical Easement from an Interesting Landowner

Jean Pitt
Jean Pitt (photo by Mary Coffin)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
based on an article in the Finger Lakes Trail News, Summer 2009, by Mary Coffin

A small, but critical, segment of the Finger Lakes / North Country Trail is now permanently protected through an easement granted by Mrs. Jean Pitt of Delphi Falls, New York.

The easement allows passage of the trail across 2/3 of a mile which connects the Onondaga Branch of the Finger Lakes Trail to the Highland Forest County Park. From Highland Forest, the North Country Trail proceeds to the east.

Mrs. Pitt (nee Grimes) has emerged as one of the more colorful landowners along the trail. Her father was a son of slaves, and he was the first African-American to purchase land in the town of Pompey. The Grimes family became prosperous farmers, despite the difficulties facing black families in the early 20th century. Using information from Cornell University publications the family raised high-quality produce and eggs, often purchased by Syracuse University.

The land of her childhood memories is important to Jean. She recalls wildflowers and berry picking. She mentioned a year where pockets of late snow allowed the family to make ice cream to eat with their berries.

Jean went on to Syracuse University, and then to Case Western for graduate studies. She had a forty-year career as Director of Social Services at the VA hospital in Syracuse.

Generally speaking, the Finger Lakes Trail has led the way in teaching the North Country Trail folks how to build relationships with landowners. Hikers can undo those relationships quickly when they ignore landowner requests, such as "no camping," "no passage during hunting season," etc. Good trail courtesy will help ensure that the trail will be there for hikers far into the future. In many cases, the trail is allowed across private property only by a handshake agreement. One disrespectful hiker can sour a landowner for a long time.

We all thank people like Jean Pitt who value trails and are willing to enter into a legal arrangement to preserve connections for hikers.

Finger Lakes Trail

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Been to the Boundary Waters? Write and Win!

hiker overlooks northern lake
view from the Border Route Trail (photo by RMA)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
from the Boundary Waters Community
Have you visited the BWCA or Quetico some time in the past? Share a trip report, diary, or story and you may be a winner of a five day Kevlar canoe rental!

Everyone is welcome to participate, amateur or professional.
There is no limit to the number of submissions.
Submissions will be accepted through October 31st, 2009.
If the story is copyrighted, you must be the rightful copyright owner.
Authors retain the rights to their stories.

You are welcome, and encouraged to post photos with your trip report. Photographers retain the rights to their photographs.

This years contest will again be judged by Cliff Jacobson. Cliff is one of North America's most respected outdoors writers, wilderness guides, national and foreign consultants.

The contest winner will receive a five day Kevlar canoe rental courtesy of Voyageur North Outfitters. Like to ice fish? Your prize will also include 3 days 2 nights lodging for this Winter in your choice of Brainerd or Mille Lacs. The stories may also be featured on

Take Pictures Every Month

Everyone is welcome to participate, amateur or professional.
Photos must have been taken in the BWCA, Quetico, or their bordering lakes (photos taken at area resorts are welcome)
Photo must have been taken by the individual who posts it (you can have help posting your images though).
Photos may be from any time of year.
Past entries are welcome.
You may submit up to five images each month.
Photos can be uploaded to the board (preferred method), or they may be hosted on your own server or hosting service (such as photobucket)
Submissions will be accepted through July 31st, 2009.
Photographers retain the rights to their photographs.

This month's contest will be judged by Rhonda Silence. Rhonda serves as editor of the Cook County News Herald, and has been an editor in the area since 1999.

This month's winner will receive 200 free prints on Kodak Royal paper courtesy of dotPhoto, a one day Royalex canoe rental, or a Kevlar Outfitting Upgrade courtesy of Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters and a two day Kevlar Boundary Waters canoe rental courtesy of Voyageur North Outfitters

For complete details, visit Writing Contest
and Photo Contest

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where is Nimblewill?

Nimblewill Nomad
Nimblewill Nomad
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
personal communication and Nimblewill's Journal

Just this morning, Nimblewill Nomad contacted Bruce Matthews, NCTA Executive Director, with the following message, "I'm healthy and hiking strong. Am in Logan, Ohio today. I got behind on my journal entries, then my webmaster got loaded up with other chores. So, the excuses.

Thanks so much for your concern--will try to keep up better for the remainder of this trek.

God Bless, Eb

As of today, his most recent journal entry is June 29, after passing through St. Marys, Ohio. He noted some canal towpath sections that need maintenance badly, and then others that were a joy to walk. He also noted his 100th day on the North Country Trail.

We hiked together,
Hearts of pride.
Far o'er these ancient

from Nimblewill's poem "Through Trails"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

22 New Miles of SHT Set for Fall Opening

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
from the Ridgeline, Summer 2009, used with permission

The last large portion of road walk on the Superior Hiking Trail is between Two Harbors and the north edge of the city of Duluth. This totals about 40 miles. Last year a 6-mile section in the middle, unconnected to other trail, was opened. It is expected to be connected to the rest of the trail this fall.

Good progress is being made on the new 22-mile section of trail from Co. Rd. 301 to Rossini Road. The Superior Hiking Trail Association had hoped to open the trail to the public in July but with the spring ice storm damage that had to be cleared, they decided to delay the opening till September 1.

This way there will be time to get trailhead signs installed, and blazing completed. The new trail is divided into three sections of 10.5, 7.0 and 5.0 miles, with three campsites.

It has an amazing amount of mature maples forest that should really be a treat to hike through in the fall. It will also be a good section to snowshoe.

More information will be listed on the SHTA web site just before September 1.

Superior Hiking Trail Association

Monday, July 13, 2009

Outdoor Blips - News Feed For Outdoor Lovers

Outdoor Blips logo

OutdoorBlips: vote it up!

You may have noticed the chiclet that now appears on the posts near the top. This is for the news feed site, Outdoor Blips.

Very few social networks include categories for outdoor activities. This can be extremely frustrating to those of us who live and breathe such activities. The newest one I've found is Outdoor Blips. There are categories for Hiking & Camping, Hunting & Fishing, Water Adventure, Climbing and Other.

Anyone can submit an outdoor story to the news feed by going to the site. And, more to the point here, if you like any story on this blog, just click the chiclet, and you have voted to move the story higher in the news feed. What a great way to publicize the NCT!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

CNY Chapter Does Drainage Maintenance

volunteers doing trail work
Jill Borgstede and Mary Dineen begin work on a culvert inlet near Old County Road. Drainage here is compromised by improper runoff from the north section of the former Old County Road. (photo from the CNY newletter)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
from the July newsletter of the Central New York Chapter of the NCTA, used with permission

The former Lehigh Valley RR branch line that connected Canastota and Cazenovia was built about 1871— most of the line was dependent on a complex culvert system, one that had three levels of culverts in some locations, to maintain system integrity. The section between the former Old County Road and adjacent to the trailhead on Oxbow Road has many culverts—including a number that the Chapter installed in 2003. West of Nelson Road, there are major drainage issues where the railroad was at the bottom of two drainages. Leaves, earth slides, and other debris clog the surface drainage— hence, the periodic need to perform clearings. Work was done on June 25th— we will be doing some follow-up work shortly.

Volunteers removed leaves and other debris from a ditch that is part of a drainage to the north. Leaves and other debris were moved off the trail. As soon as we get some good drying weather, we will use a member owned, highpowered backpack blower to clear a good share of the leaves away from crucial areas. Culvert openings were cleared with shovels.

We shall return again— the work is never-ending.

See Central New York Chapter of the NCTA

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mother Goose / Lost & Found Do the Kek

campsite on the Kekekabic Trail
campsite on the Kekekabic Trail (photo by Lost & Found)
OutdoorBlips: vote it up!
excerpts from the journal of Lost & Found

Mother Goose and Lost & Found left Ely for the Kekekabic Trail on the morning of June 30. After walking part of the road from Ely to the trailhead they got a ride, and spent the night at Smitty's resort. They started hiking off-road trail the next morning.

Lost & Found reports that the terrain is primary basalt rocks and wet tree roots across the trail. They took a wrong turn and both of them postholed up to the knees in muddy muck. Then they missed a turn to where they planned to camp - Drumstick Lake, so spent the night without water, and had to hike early to reach water for breakfast.

When then reached the Thomas River they found it only knee deep, which was good. It was thigh deep in May when other hikers passed through. But on the spruce lowlands, the trail was overrun with bracken ferns, berry bushes and other plants. The gals had to concentrate on pulling the vegetation off the trail so they would know where to step. There were a lot of steep ups and downs and they also crossed some swampy areas where their shoes sucked muck.
lake in mist on the Kekekabic Trail
morning mist on a lake on the Kekekabic Trail (photo by Mother Goose)

When they reached the Gunflint Lodge, they ordered 8 oz cheeseburgers and fries, and a dark, local brew, then walked on to Heston's Lodge to spend the night.

Mother Goose and Lost & Found eventually decided to skip the Boundary Trail for now. Mother Goose thinks she'll do like Nimblewill and maybe come back to it when it isn't so grown up like spring.

See Mother Goose's journal
See Lost & Found's journal

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sweedish Settlement Area in Chequamegon Cleaned

Sweedish Settlement foundations
A house foundation at the Swedish Settlement area (photo from the National Forest Service)
from the National Forest Service Success Stories, used with permission

During the second week of May the Forest Service partnered with the North Country Trail Association (NCTA), Chequamegon Chapter, to remove trees and brush from archaeological sites along the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT). One of many such partnership activities conducted by the NCTA and Forest Service, the project's goal was to allow hikers to more easily view the remains of a Swedish pioneer community abandoned around 1930. Thanks to the boundless energy and enthusiasm of NCTA members, the project was successful and once again demonstrates how the Forest Service's mission of protecting natural and cultural resources - and providing recreational opportunities - aligns perfectly with that of the NCTA, which is to maintain, protect and promote the NCT.

The Swedish Settlement, a vestige of a once larger agricultural community, consists of two remnant farms and a school now managed as part of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The community's history is both interesting and important in understanding the European settlement of northern Wisconsin. In the late 1800's pioneers emigrated from Sweden to northwestern Wisconsin's frontier, many choosing to settle and farm the Marengo River Valley. Marginal agricultural potential, distance from markets and ultimately the Great Depression, made their task near impossible. While many of those early settlers left farming to pursue other livelihoods, remnants of their farms are still visible and those on Forest Service land have been designated historic sites. Locations such as these are valued resources protected from illegal digging or removal of artifacts, and site locations are generally kept confidential. The location of some, like the Swedish Settlement have been disclosed to provide an opportunity for public appreciation.

The Chequamegon-Nicolet NF has developed a brochure that details the settlement's history and provides a self-guided tour. For those interested in hiking the NCT and visiting the Swedish Settlement, brochures are available at no cost at Forest Service offices in Hayward, Glidden and Park Falls.

For more information, contact Mark Bruhy, Chequamegon-Nicolet NF Archaeologist, 715-362-1361

Thursday, July 9, 2009

NCT Memorabilia - Part 1 - Mugs

North Country Trail mugs
by JHY

Frankly, I'm just plain jealous. The Appalachian Trail actually has a museum society, and now a building. They hope to hold their grand opening on National Trails Day, June 5, 2010. Their home will be at the Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania in a 200-year-old grist mill. The location is within a couple of miles of the mid-point of the AT.

The North Country Trail doesn't even have a definitive collection point for items of interest, or anyone even working seriously on keeping track of things that should be collected.

However, Tom Gilbert, our National Park Service Superintendent, has been working on an agency history of the trail for years. Those of you who attended the 2006 Pennsylvania conference will recall his "wall of history."There is a closet full of gear used by Peter Wolfe, one of the earliest end-to-enders. There are some tapes of interviews with Virginia Fink, an early volunteer, but no one seems to know where the tapes are.

It's killing me! But I just don't have time for another major volunteer project. Meanwhile, I've decided to start an occasional feature of memorabilia on this blog. Clearly, the items I've chosen to feature first probably aren't the most important.

As far as I know, these four drink containers are the only ones with NCT logos. I don't even know for sure what year each of them appeared on the scene. Of course they are all large enough for a good swig of beverage. Hikers need mugs, not teacups!

The white ceramic mug was first offered for sale in the January 1995 NCTA North Star. They sold well, but the logo faded after many dishwashings. This was followed in 2005 by the much nicer, and even larger blue 25th Anniversary mug.

North Country Trail mugs
Of the travel mugs, only the blue one was offered for sale. The white one was issued as a free gift at one of the conferences. Both of the travel mugs have the 7-state map on the opposite side.

Was this fun? From time to time, I'll post some small selection of memorabilia from the history of the North Country Trail. Although it's much shorter than that of the AT, it would be great if it could be preserved.

See The Appalachian Trail Museum Society

Trail Connections to Naples, New York

Grimes Glen Falls
a 60-foot cascade in Grimes Glen (photo from
from various sources

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced $3.3 million in grant awards for 32 trail-related projects around the state as part of the federal Recreational Trails Program. The grant awards were announced June 23.

“New York’s expansive trail system offers four-seasons of recreation for all who live and visit our great state,” said State Parks Commissioner Carol Ash. “Through these grants, New York will help connect people to the spectacular scenery and wide open spaces across the Empire State, while helping to improve the quality of life and economies of host communities.”

Funding is provided through the Federal Highway Administration's Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, usually known as SAFETEA-LU.

In Ontario County, $80,000has been granted for a spur to the Finger Lakes Trail System's Bristol Branch. The four-fold purpose of the Finger Lakes Trail Spur at Grimes Glen County Park project is to improve accessibility and usability of the trail at Grimes Glen, while increasing the overall connectivity between trail resources in the region.

The link will include signage, both route-finding and interpretive, along village streets and sidewalks to connect the Grimes Glen County Park to the entire Finger Lakes Trail, and also to the North Country Trail.

In November 2008, The Finger Lakes Land Trust and Ontario County partnered to acquire and permanently protect the heart of Grimes Glen in the Town of Naples, New York. The 32 acre property was purchased from Naples resident Don Braun.

Funds for the land purchase were raised by the Finger Lakes Land Trust and title to the property was transferred to Ontario County to manage as a public park. The Land Trust retains a conservation easement on the parcel.

Grimes Glen features a trail leading to two 60-foot waterfalls. In the spring wildflowers carpet the glen.

See CNYlink,"County receives park and recreational grant"
See Finger Lakes Land Trust, "Grimes Glen Protected"
See Grimes Glen County Park

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More About Wild Parsnip

Wild Parsnip plant
Wild Parsnip in bloom (photo by JHY)
by JHY

Due to the high interest in this topic, I've added some more information about this plant. Wild Parsnip is a common plant in almost all of the United States. When the plant stems and leaves are broken, particularly when it is in bloom, and the sap comes in contact with skin in the presence of light, a serious rash can be produced that causes lasting scars.

For starters, I went out to a place where the plant grows and got a couple of good pictures. So let's talk about identifying this easily in the field.

The flower
This plant is in the carrot family, Umbelliferae. That means that it has an umbel (a flat-topped cluster) of flowers. Think of another common member of this plant, the Queen-Anne's Lace, or Wild Carrot. But this plant has a yellow flower. There are several other similar plants with yellow flowers.

The leaves
Here is where the leaves come in. If you learn to notice the leaves of any yellow flower shaped like this, you can easily recognize the Wild Parsnip.
Wild Parsnip leaves
Wild Parsnip leaves (photo by JHY)

The Wild Parsnip leaves are the only plants with similar flowers with leaves like this. Note that the leaves are compound and strongly toothed. Compound means that there are multiple leaflets on a single stalk. Of the other choices, both Golden Alexanders and Meadow Parsnip have three-part leaves. Yellow Pimpernel does have compound leaves with many leaflets, but they are not toothed.

So, yellow flowers like Queen-Anne's lace, and compound toothed leaves, and you are good to go!

Denise, at "Life Among the Weeds in Western Wisconsin," sent the following great entry from her blog Warning, It's Wild Parsnip Season
If you are comfortable with the identification of this plant, it is edible Wild parsnip It's like raiding a garden, but better
See Wild Parsnip- Another Plant to Avoid

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wild Parsnip - Another Plant to Avoid

wild parsnip
wild parsnip (photo from NYS DOT)
compiled from various sources

Wild Parsnip has been reported on the Finger Lakes Trail in New York near Hornell on map M9. Actually the plant can be encountered anywhere along the North Country Trail as it grows throughout the United States except in the extreme southeast.

This is another plant to be avoided, similar to poison ivy. Some people can have a reaction to the sap of this plant. While it is not as serious as an encounter with the Giant Hogweed, a blistered rash and long-lasting scars can result.

Phytophotodermatitis is the official name of the condition. When plant juice comes in contact with the skin in the presence of sunlight the skin may blister. The problem is most severe when the plant is flowering.

Wild Parsnip, Pastinaca sativa, is a member of the carrot family, and like the Wild Carrot (Queen Anne's Lace), has an umbel of flowers held above the leaves. The flowers of the Wild Parsnip are usually yellow. The leaves are compound, but not finely divided.

The plant can be safely handled with gloves, and can be killed by cutting the tap root with a shovel below the surface of the ground. It seeds prolifically, and collected plants should be bagged in plastic and landfilled, or burned.

If you do get the sap of this plant on your skin, wash as soon as possible with plenty of water.

See Astoria Boy Scout Troop 105 for much more information.
See Avoid Giant Hogweed - Severe Skin Reactions

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Volunteers and Appreciation from State Agencies

commentary by JHY based on emails from several volunteer leaders

Sometimes it's difficult to understand the reasoning of government agencies. North Country Trail volunteers provide hundreds of hours of manpower to maintain the trail on state-owned lands.

In Ohio, the DNR has re-asserted their rights to 47 miles of Miami-Erie Canal towpath. Volunteers are working hard to restore a treadway which will be off-road NCT. These work parties are allowed to camp for free at an Ohio state park. It seems to me that this is the model that makes the most sense. Everyone benefits from this type of arrangement. The state receives value in work accomplished, the volunteers feel appreciated, and everyone gains safe, usable trails.

In Wisconsin, volunteers may camp for free at Copper Falls State Park group camping during the trail work sessions. However, they must pay the park entrance fee. Only since last year has the Wisconsin DNR allowed volunteers to camp for free at the state forest Two Lakes Campground while maintaining trail nearby. It sounds like Wisconsin has been thinking about sensible solutions.

In Michigan, the situation is much worse. In the Upper Peninsula a volunteer group occupied three state forest campground sites for six nights. During that time the group built a bridge and did other trail maintenance work, often putting in more than eight hours a day. The group was charged $270 in camping fees.

In the lower Peninsula, there have been ongoing similar problems, charging volunteers to camp in order to do work which saves the state money. One particular incident pertains to the closing last year of the Pinney Bridge Campsite. The site was closed indefinitely when the DNR's money ran out (it has since been re-opened). The closure of that site effectively closed an entire section of the NCT to long-distance hikers since that site is the only place camping is allowed in the Jordan River Pathway. It also shut out the volunteers who had been camping there to maintain the Jordan River Trails.

At least one Michigan lawmaker has been notified of this situation.

How do you feel about the attitude of state agencies toward volunteers? Feel free to leave comments.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Couple Backpacking the Buckeye Trail

Peter & Joyce Cottrell
Peter & Joyce Cottrell (photo by Faye McNabb)
based on a news article in the Evening Leader, "Couple Hikes Trail," by Katie Yantis, June 19, 2009

Beginning at the small town of Richmondale this spring in southern Ohio, experienced hikers Peter and Joyce Cottrell plan to return there in September 2009. In 2003 the Cottrells were the first people to backpack the American Discovery Trail. The ADT is concurrent with the Buckeye Trail across southern Ohio. The North Country Trail also follows about 800 of the 1400 miles of the 1400-mile Buckeye Trail loop.

On June 19, the Cottrells reached St. Marys in northwest Ohio. The Heritage Park Trails District Director Allison Brady, who has hiked the Appalachian Trail, said she recognized what the Cottrells were doing. She offered them some help and a day without their 45 pound and 30 pound backpacks. She also bought them dinner and offered a place to spend the night. The kindness of people they meet never ceases to surprise the couple.

The Cottrells said they have enjoyed about Ohio, especially the local people. “I am really loving the birds,” Joyce Cottrell said. “We are really loving the people.” She really enjoyed sharing their story with a group of ladies in a coffee shop in Bremen.

“We get simple pleasures out of the Buckeye Trail,” Joyce Cottrell said. “This is all we do, we live a very simple life, and we are trying to make people understand you can do anything you want to do.”

See the Cottrell's story on the American Discovery Trail
See The Buckeye Trail

Friday, July 3, 2009

Hike Sampler Series in New York

hike sampler graphic
from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference

The Finger Lakes Trail Conference has planned an interesting series of hikes this summer to help people who consider themselves novice hikers to become more comfortable on the trail.

This series of three guided hikes, named Hiking 101, is geared towards the those with little or no hiking experience, and will cover a total of more than 16 miles (each hike is 5 - 6 miles). The hikes will take place in three different New York counties (Allegany, Ontario, and Livingston Counties) and sample some of the beautiful and varied hiking on the Finger Lakes Trail.

Following the final hike there will be a picnic for the participants.

Registration has been extended until July 9, 2009.

For complete information, see Sampler Hike Series

Thursday, July 2, 2009

New National Trails

new National Trails map
from Pathways Across America

One of the results of the Omnibus Public Lands Act, passed by Congress earlier this year, is the creation of three additional National Scenic Trails, and one more National Historic Trail. This brings the total of NSTs to 11, and the NHTs to 16. The North Country Trail is a National Scenic Trail.

Added to the NST system are the Arizona Trail, the Pacific Northwest Trail, and the New England Trail. The new Historic Trail is the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route.

See the Partnership for the National Trails System