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, May 28, 2011

Tangled to Trail in NY

Bill Zimmerman and Jersey
Bill Zimmerman and Jersey

from the Central New York Chapter newsletter, May 2011, by Bill Zimmerman

Anyone who worked on convertng the LVRR former rail-bed, which had been abandoned for 40+ years, to a fine trail from Nelson Road West to Cottons Crossing, [near Cazenovia, NY] will remember the tangled mess of grapevines, downed trees and honeysuckle bushes. Work was slow, as the narrow path was cut into the thick brush and only a few volunteers could cut at the lead with others passing the cut brush to the rear. Other folks worked on finding and clearing places to pile cut brush off to the side.

Today, this trail winds gently and is still very narrow, meandering along the Canastota Creek. With much of it barely four feet wide, it doesn’t have the appearance of an old railroad bed. To begin with, the new trail was rough and needing improvements to the walking surface including removing stumps, surface vines and some fallen trees. People have been slow to find this trail but usage is steadily increasing in number including hikers, dog walkers, cross country skiers and even some horses.

Horses are not authorized for the trail because it is very narrow and the walking surface can’t support them. This past year, I requested, received, and put up a trail register box which is about 100 yards West of Nelson Road. It was exciting to see an entry the same day the box was installed. Most entries are just a date and name but some are interesting.

Even though Jersey and I walk this trail almost every day, the new register shows more folks are using it than what we have seen or thought. The trail register is a good tool to gauge the usage of a trail. So if you want a different hiking experience, please come to Nelson Road West-Cottons Crossing. Parking is available at both trailheads.

See Central New York Chapter of the NCTA

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Timber Sale May Cut Across New Minnesota Trail

alt text
Splashes of color in the forest: The blue marks the North Country Trail and the red shows the boundary of a temporarily delayed timber sale, just feet from the trail on county tax-forfeited land in Round Lake Township. (photo from Detroit Lakes OnLine)

based on news stories in Detroit Lakes OnLine and Minnesota Public Radio

New trail in western Minnesota's Becker County near Detroit Lakes will soon be stressed by timber interests. Tax-forfeited lands in the county are added to the county forest system, where 1200 acres a year are harvested for revenues. Recently built North Country Trail is right in the path of one projected cut.

Ryan Tangen, who handles the timber sales, said "We want to make sure that area is preserved along the trail." Although the red boundary markers look ominous, the county is proposing to selectively cut for aspen, birch, red oak and basswood.

But the Stewardship Association says that logging equipment will scar the landscape and even species-specific logging will damage the fragile ecosystem of what is essentially a 100-year-old forest. They would prefer that tourism be considered more strongly in management of the tax-forfeited land. "Fully developed forests are what you need — that’s what people want to walk through," said Willis Mattson.

In 2010, timber sales contributed just over $167,000 to the county's $38 million budget. Some have noted that this isn't a very significant contribution and that tourism could probably provide just as much money.

A public hearing tonight may shed some light on what local citizens would like to see in a recreation plan.

See Laurentian Lakes Chapter of the NCTA

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why Stealth Camping is Not a Good Idea

small campsite in woods
a typical stealth camp (photo by JHY)

by JHY

Most of us long-distance hikers have done it: stealth camping- the practice of sneaking off into a corner of a fencerow, a woodlot, or some other spot where we are pretty sure we won't be discovered overnight, even though we know it's illegal to camp there. "What's the harm," we ask. Most of us practice leave-no trace camping. We pitch a small tent, light no fire, break no branches, and are gone in a few hours. If we are careful, no one will ever know we were there.

But, stealth camping has the potential to cause lasting consequences for hikers who will come after us, if not for ourselves.

Personal Consequence
Let's say that you are illegally camping on public land. For example, in Michigan you can't camp in State Game areas in the summer. If you are caught there, you are likely to get a hefty fine. If you are illegally camping in a wildlife preserve, not only might you get a fine, but the rule was probably set in order to not disrupt wildlife. You've challenged the entire reason that the land was set aside in the first place. If you are on private land, you could be subject to criminal trespass law.

Consequences for the Trail
If enough people (and this might only be one person) camp illegally, there is the chance that the trail would lose the privilege of crossing that land. This is particularly true in New York along the Finger Lakes Trail, and Minnesota along the Superior Hiking Trail. Agreements with many private landowners have created continuous portions of off-road trail, but usually with the stipulation that no camping is allowed. Your one night of enjoyment might remove miles of off-road trail from the North Country Trail system. If the lost section is between a couple of other pieces needed for connections, if a road walk must be substituted, it might be much longer than the piece lost from one owner.

If public land is involved, consider how significant the ramifications might be. In Pennsylvania, you can't camp in State Game Lands at any time of year. Think about what the states might do if a lot of people were caught camping in State Game Lands. The North Country Trail is there at all by permission. Those lands were not set aside for hikers, but for hunters. The trail is a guest. Think of all the years of work creating routes and building trail that could be lost if a few people decide that they think the rules are silly, and the NCT would be asked to leave.

Don't Ignore It
Bragging about stealth camping to our friends should not result in smirks and knowing nods in commiseration of the difficulty of backpacking along the entire NCT at this point. It should result in worried looks and admonitions. People who are friends of the North Country Trail for the future will not stealth camp, or encourage it in others.

Look for ways to get involved and promote the creation of legal campsites at appropriate distances along the trail. . Farmers are often willing to let you camp in their fencerow if they are asked. Nature preserves' rules should not be challenged by a flippant hiker. Planning ahead well can often solve the logistic problems. I now try to avoid the practice... Let's look ahead to a great completed trail, not just to our own personal pleasure for a weekend.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Note from Admin- Entrecard

I have had to re-apply to Entrecard, as they deleted my blog when Blogger accidentally flagged it as spam. If you had pending ads here, they are all gone, and I have a new EC account number. My apologies for any inconvenience, I hope your credits were given back and that you won't hesitate to advertise here again.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tom Gilbert Retires

Tom Gilbert
Tom Gilbert (photo by JHY)
by JHY

Today marks the end of an era for the North Country Trail. For the almost 31 years since the NCT was authorized by Congress, we have had one National Park Service Manager, and that person is Tom Gilbert.

Tom's involvement with our trail begins even earlier. In the 1970's, Tom helped author the initial study of the trail, which led to its authorization by Congress in 1980. Tom also was instrumental in the development of the trail's 1982 Comprehensive Plan. It's probably safe to say that no one other person has had as much influence on the trail, both in its physical and philosophical routes.

Tom's dedication, skills, accomplishments and depth of experience have earned the admiration of his peers throughout the National Trail System, as well as the appreciation and gratitude of a multitude of volunteers and partners along the North Country Trail. He is a friend to many of us who are in love with this trail.

Today, Tom wrote:
Today is my final day. Tomorrow I will be in the ranks of the retired.

It was the dream of my life, beginning at age 12, to work for the National Park Service. The final 30 years of my federal career has been spent doing just that in a most interesting and challenging avenue--establishing and administering National Scenic and National Historic Trails. I have much to be thankful for.

Mostly I am thankful for the many good colleagues, partners, and friends I have made and enjoyed over the years and the assistance and support they have given me. I have also enjoyed working for many good supervisors who have mentored me and shown confidence in me.

I do not intend to leave my involvement with these trails "cold turkey." I will continue to be interested and involved, probably in a variety of volunteer roles, but will spend less time on trails so that I can expand my involvement in areas of life that have been waiting for my retirement.

ribbon cutting for North Country Trail in Valley City North Dakota
Gilbert (center) celebrates the opening of new trail in Valley City, ND, in 2002. Congressman Earl Pomeroy cuts the ribbon while Valley City Chamber of Commerce President, Jan Stowman looks on. (photo by JHY)

Tom has been gathering documentation for years about the origins of the North Country Trail. He has written the only known history of the trail, and presented a timeline of his findings at the Annual Conference in 2004. Perhaps a book is brewing? Perhaps he'll now have time to do more walking, instead of riding a desk?

Whatever he does, we wish Tom well. We can only hope that our new manager will have half of Tom's dedication to the best interests of the North Country Trail.

See North Country Trail Association