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.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hiking Rush Hour Expected on Otter Lake Road

Otter Lake Road
Swamp River Bridge on Otter Lake Road. The Superior Hiking Trail Trailhead is ahead just around the curve, while the Border Route Trail Trailhead is directly behind the photographer (photo by Todd McMahon)

a guest post by Todd McMahon

Otter Lake Road is a remote forest road in northern Minnesota just a few miles from Canada. It doesn’t get very much traffic, probably just a handful of cars a day. But on the morning of Saturday, September 18, 2010 a rush hour will occur on Otter Lake Road, when two NCT affiliates launch organized hikes from the road.

The Superior Hiking Trail Association will be hiking 8.7 miles from Otter Lake Road south to Jackson Lake Road. Meanwhile, the Border Route Trail Association will be doing a Reconnaissance and Maintenance Hike on the Pigeon River Cliffs Section of the BRT.

The SHTA hike will cover the northern-most section of the Superior Hiking Trail, which includes Rosebush Ridge the highest point on the trail. This hike will have beautiful views of Lake Superior along with some challenging ascents and descents. Gayle Coyer, Executive Director of the Superior Hiking Trail Association, will be leading the hike. The hike is free for anyone who wants to attend. Gayle will be camping at Judge Magney State Park and will be hosting a Campfire Program on Saturday Night. Park admission and camping fees will apply to anyone wishing to camp at Judge Magney State Park. Gayle will also be leading a 5.1 mile hike from Jackson Lake Road to the Arrowhead Trail on Sunday, September 19.

Meanwhile, the Border Route Trail Association will be having a hike to find possible locations for new campsites on the Pigeon River Cliffs Section of the Border Route. And they will be doing some trail maintenance, especially in the three timber sale areas on the trail that were clear-cut this spring. Ed Solstad, the BRTA’s Mechanized Trail Director will be leading this hike. The BRTA will be camping at the Otter Lake Trailhead Campsite. This outing will start on Thursday evening, when they will be driving up from the Twin Cities and end on Sunday evening when they drive back. The cost for the trip is $55 per person, which includes transportation from the Twin Cities and all food on the outing except for the pit stops on the way up and back.

According to Gayle Coyer, the last time the SHTA hosted the Northern Hikes over 50 people attended. The BRTA’s hike has a limit of 12 people, due to transportation reasons. For more information about these hikes check out their websites.

See Superior Hiking Trail Association
See Border Route Trail

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Partnership Creates Premier Experience

worker drilling holes for boardwalk
Jim Heaton of Kalamazoo prepares understructure for boardwalk

by JHY

Sterling Marsh? Where the heck is that? Well, thanks to the partnership efforts of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA), National Forest Service (NFS) and National Park Service (NPS), Sterling Marsh should soon become a popular local wildlife watching destination.

Located in Lake County, Michigan, along the course of the North Country Trail, Sterling Marsh has historically been anything but a popular destination. In fact, it’s been one of the more dreaded sections of NCT in Michigan. Sometimes knee-deep in water in spring, and seriously muddy at most any time of year, thru-hikers sighed and slogged through while day-hikers simply avoided the place.

Yet, for the brave, the area is rich in wildlife. Birds enjoy the open water portion of the marsh. Local frog census taker for the state, Vicky Kelly of Baldwin, visits there regularly as a locale on her counting route. She and partner, John Cooley, are also the volunteers who regularly maintain that section of trail. “It can be pretty tough to get through in the spring,” Vicky commented. But that is changing.

muddy area near boardwalk
note old trail and too-low bridge beside new boardwalk- taken in April 2010
For two summers, the Spirit of the Woods Chapter (SPW) of the NCTA has been making a lot of noise in the woods between Jenks Road and 96th St south of the 76th St. trailhead. They are nearing the end of year two of a three-year project to get the Sterling Marsh trail out of the mud by building a raised boardwalk through the area. When complete, there will be over a half-mile of dry wooden walkway. Following a recent group effort by volunteers, over 1700 feet are already complete.

The project is a perfect example of how partnerships create better trails. The NPS is the managing authority for the trail, and in that capacity offers competitive matching funds for improvements to the North Country Trail. The match can be made in volunteer hours. Local groups, such as the chapter, are usually willing to work, but can’t possibly come up with the money to build large projects like this. The NFS comes into the picture because they manage this section of land within the Manistee National Forest. They had to approve building such a project, and in this case they have also supplied some of the materials. This is allowing the chapter to extend the boardwalk even farther than the original plan.

This past week, the chapter hosted a Volunteer Adventure week, organized by the NCTA. People signed up to come camp and work hard for a whole week. Their only reward was free food and seeing a job well done. Over 15 people showed up at various times from as far away as Kalamazoo, Holland and Stockbridge, MI. About half the volunteers were regulars from Spirit of the Woods. With the help of two portable generators to power the drills and saws, and a power wagon to aid in transporting the wood, the workers saw their product slowly snaking behind them through the trees– a lovely raised walkway.

people adding boardwalk decking
Peg Roth and Loren Bach add decking boards
A small deck has been added near the middle of the structure. The NFS has agreed that it makes perfect sense to make the approach to the north end accessible, and will fund construction of this detail. Thus, when complete, the entire boardwalk will be wheelchair friendly, a great addition to local trail opportunities.

SPW trail work coordinator, Ed Chappel of Irons, has overseen the huge project, and reports that thousands of volunteer hours have been invested so far, with more to come.

So, next time you are wondering where to find a piece of premier trail for a stoll, think Sterling Marsh. Happy birding... frogging... hiking!

This segment is on NCTA map MI-05

See Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA

Friday, August 27, 2010

National Geographic Chooses SHT - a Best American Adventure

hill on the Superior Hiking Trail
photo by JHY

from National Geographic

National Geographic has just added 50 new trips to the America's Best Adventures feature, raising the total to 100 iconic escapes. These include not only hiking, but biking, paddling, surfing, climbing, etc. Minnesota's Superior Hiking Trail, which is a portion of the North Country Trail, is one such recently added destination.

NG calls the SHT the "best long hike in the country between the Continental Divide and the Appalachian Trail." Reasons for this high praise include ancient mountains, Lake Superior, and forests of birch and aspen mixed with the boreal balsam and spruce.

The wildness of the area and terrain coupled with its proximity to access and services if needed is a winning combination. Over 30 trailheads and 86 free backcountry campsites provide great flexibility for trip planning. One can hike with only a few encounters with civilization, or follow the entire 287-mile trail with a lodge-to-lodge approach.

The article mentions connections with the Border Route and Kekekabic Trails, but sadly, never mentions the NCT. This may be due to the fact that we are all still waiting for official Congressional approval of their inclusion in the North Country Trail route.

This segment is on maps produced by the Superior Hiking Trail Association

See Superior Hiking Trail Association
See Update on the Status of the Arrowhead Reroute

Sunday, August 22, 2010

24 Hours of the Chip Provides Premier Trail

mowing woods trail
NCTA volunteers Joe Chovan and Barb Pavek mowing during the 24 Hours of the Chip

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condensed from the Star of the North newsletter, Summer 2010

Barb Pavek’s dream of early hiking season maintenance in the Chippewa National Forest turned into an event of wondrous proportions. “24 Hours of the Chip” took place June 26-27. 2010, in the Chippewa National Forest (CNF), which is located between Walker and Remer, MN. The CNF manages about 72 miles of the North Country Trail.

Over the course of the two-day event, 25-30 volunteers completely cleared and mowed these miles of trail, helping to ensure that summer hikers would have an enjoyable trail experience.

The project was truly a joint venture. The National Park Service, through Volunteer Coordinator Dan Watson, provided personal protective equipment, and rewarded participants with a snappy bandana. Local businesses provided t-shirts, and their support is being duly noted by those who live nearby. The Walker Ranger District of the Forest Service made sure the volunteers had enough mowers, tools and gas. They also provided transportation to and from trailheads, and radios for communication

A central command post for check-in, rest time, lunch pick-up, and porta-johns was also maintained by the rangers. Free camping was provided for the workers.

Matt Davis, North Country Trail Association Regional Coordinator, helped with logistics Having never done anything like this before, it was difficult to know how long it would take to mow and clear sections of trail. When the variables of weather and trail conditions and various people were added in, it was amazing that things went so smoothly. Some groups finished earlier, some later than expected. Some mower breakdown issues occurred. But overall, the plan came together, and the schedule was relatively intact.

People came and went all day, both days. The trail was entirely mowed through the Chip with the exception of the few miles where logging was being done. Teams of 2-5 were assigned trail sections to mow, two mowers wide. Some went in front to clear fallen branches and other obstacles, while others pushed trimmer mowers. With two mowers, they did longer sections, tandem mowing. Smaller groups with one mower went out and back, doing shorter sections.

Tom Schackman, a CNF Ranger, commented that this is the earliest the trail had been completely mowed in the year. It’s like a walk in the park now. The plan is to make this an annual event and maintain the Chip a destination for a premier hike on the North Country Trail.

This segment is on NCTA map MN-09

See Star of the North Chapter of the NCTA

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wabash-Cannonball Connection Seriously Damaged

alt text
The photo shows the state of the damage on Nov. 11, 2009. View to South, from the trail centerline showing bulldozer and backhoe damage of NORTA property. Water flowing onto the trail ditch on S. side of trail approx 1800 W. of Co. Road 16

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from the Cannonball Courier, the NORTA newsletter, July 2010, by Jay Budde

In November 2009, the NORTA Board of Directors learned of a serious incident of damage to the trail in Williams County between Williams County Roads 16 and 15. The damage appeared to have occurred as part of an adjacent landowner’s attempt to drain his land. Heavy equipment, believed to include a bulldozer and backhoe entered NORTA property, crossing and destroying a fence that was clearly marking the southern boundary of NORTA property. Earthmoving equipment cut through a natural embankment blocking drainage from the adjacent landowner’s property and opened a 4 foot wide by 5 foot deep trench draining directly onto the trail.

During the spring and summer of 2010, surface drainage flows, as a result of this damage and heavy spring rains, have eroded the trail surface in this area. The Board is attempting to work with the parties believed to have caused this damage to restore the trail to its condition before the damage.

Although this is slightly west of where the North Country Trail leaves the Wabash-Cannonball trail and heads north, the resources needed to deal with problems of this magnitude divert attention from other improvements.

NORTA, Northwest Ohio Rails to Trails Association

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chief Noonday Recognized for West Michigan Influence

chief noonday, Noahquageshik, Nawquageezhig
Chief Noonday statue

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complied from several sources

"By learning about our past," Peter Secchia said, "we then therefore understand a little bit better what we have become."

This statue of Noahquageshik or Nawquageezhig, also known as Chief Noonday, was unveiled August 10, 2010 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Chief Noonday Chapter of the North Country Trail Association bears his name in honor of his influence in West Michigan. The chapter covers Barry, Calhoun, and Kalamazoo Counties on the North Country Trail. Kent County, where the statue was placed, is actually covered by the West Michigan Chapter.

It is outstanding to see recognition given to an important historical figure. Grand Rapids is erecting a series of 25 bronze statues, the Grand Rapids Community Legends Program, to commemorate some of the city's most influential people.

Chief Noonday's likeness is placed on the west side of the Grand River, near the Blue Bridge on the campus of Grand Valley State University. The statue is a gift of the Peter F. Secchia Family Foundation. It is unclear how historically accurate the facial features are.

The Pottawattomi's "influence was felt among all tribes in this section of the country. He was a leader for the British in the war of 1812, witnessed the burning of Buffalo, and was at the side of Chief Tecumseh when the latter was killed," states the Chief Noonday Chapter web site. Very few historical records document his actions, but he was instrumental in opening Michigan to settlement.

See Chief Noonday Chapter of the NCTA
See Chief Noonday statue unveiled in Grand Rapids from M-Live
See Chief Noonday statue unveiled in Grand Rapids from WZZM-13

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

Sunday, August 8, 2010

2010 Ashland Conference, Saturday

Florence Hedeen hiking on the NCT (photo by JHY)

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by JHY

The final day of the 2010 annual North Country Trail Association conference was filled with all the kinds of events that build and cement friendships across the seven trail states. Hikes ran all day long. Various tours were offered for those who wanted more sight-seeing type adventures.
Ed Sidote
Ed Sidote (photo from the FLTC)

A highlight of the evening was the annual awards ceremony where volunteers and various agencies are honored for service to the trail. The final award given every year is the Lifetime Achievement Award, given to someone who has served and promoted the North Country Trail for more than ten years. Ed Sidote, from the Finger Lakes Trail Conference, received this honor. Ed, at 92, has been a promoter of the NCT since it first became concurrent with a portion of the FLT. He has worked tirelessly to advance the joint cause of the trails, and has become such a legend in FLT circles that an annual hike is now named for him.

Full details of all award recipients will be presented in the next North Star, the quarterly magazine of the North Country Trail Association.
square dancers
folk dancing (photo by JHY)

The evening ended with folk and square dancing, called and accompanied by the Red Barn Resonators.
Jill DeCator and Lynne Nason (photo by JHY)

There is so much that goes on behind the scenes to make a successful conference. This year's, at Ashland, Wisconsin, was the largest ever with about 240 people registering for some or all of the weekend. People like Jill DeCator, NCTA staff, and Lynne Nason, NCTA volunteer, worked constantly to ensure that everyone has a good time, required equipment appears on time, and all of those necessary details.

Think about joining us next summer, August 4-7 at Wright State University, Dayton, OH!

See the Superior News Telegram for more news
North Country Trail Association for more information about the trail, or to join

Saturday, August 7, 2010

2010 Ashland Conference, Friday

people in a workshop
Chapter Leadership workshop (photo by JHY)

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by JHY

This year's conference focused on hikes, tours and lots of good times outdoors. Yet, Friday morning was devoted to workshops to help volunteers build their skills to benefit the North Country Trail. Above, Bruce Matthews, NCTA Executive Director, leads a session on Chapter Leadership.
people hiking
hikers in the Chequamegon National Forest (photo by JHY)

A number of different hikes were offered for the afternoon. Here a group walks through the Chequamegon National Forest on the NCT, on the way to the Brunschweiller River.
auction offerings
auction items (photo by JHY)

The silent and live auctions are always a popular part of the conference. Here, Bobby Koepplin, Board of Directors President, and Matthews model the ever-popular animal hats.
Frida Waara
Polar Traveler Frida Waara (photo by JHY)

The evening concluded with a funny and inspirational talk by Frida Waara, who skied to the North Pole in 2001 with 12 other women. She inspired us to pursue our dreams and that everything is more fun with snow!

See the Superior News Telegram for more news

Friday, August 6, 2010

2010 Ashland Conference, Thursday

2009 Hartzog Award Winner
NCTA receives Hartzog Award from National Park Service (photo by JHY)

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by JHY

The 2010 North Country Trail Association Conference kicked off today with the presentation of the George and Helen Hartzog Award from the National Park Service. This is awarded to an individual or organization for outstanding volunteer service. In 2009 the volunteerism increased a significant amount within the NCTA, and from a field of 58 organizations the NCTA was the selected recipient. The award was presented by Dan Watson of the NPS to Bruce Matthews, Executive Director and Bobby Koepplin, Board President.
2009 Hartzog Award
Hartzog Award (photo by JHY)
2500 hour volunteers
2500 hour volunteers (photo by JHY)

Next the NPS awarded individual volunteers for their hours of service to the North Country Trail. Recognition is given at 100, 200, 400, 500, 1000, and 2500 hours. Shown here are the winners of a jacket, for 2500 hours of volunteering. Shown are Rolf Swanson, John Heiam, Garry Dill, Marty Swank, Stan Kujawa, Kay Kujawa, and Ed Scurry with Ranger Dan Watson.
Take 3 Folk Band
Take Three (photo by JHY)

Following the awards, the folk band, Take Three provided entertainment. And at the close of the evening, everyone got to join in with some singing around the campfire. Good weather is predicted and tomorrow is filled with workshops, hikes and tours.
Campfire Sing-a-long(photo by JHY)