The North Country Trail


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An overview of the NCT by NCTA fouding member Werner Viet

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The North Country Trail

  1. 1. The North Country National Scenic Trail Its blue blazes someday will stretch 4,600 miles from New York to North Dakota.
  2. 2. Already half-finished. The NCT will become America’s longest hiking trail, dwarfing the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest Trails.
  3. 3. The trail links 10 national forests and shows old growth giants in the Chippewa National Forest in Minnesota...
  4. 4. Or dark cedar swamps in Upper Michigan’s Hiawatha National Forest.
  5. 5. Throughout its length, the trail encounters Historic and familiar landmarks Some Examples:
  6. 6. Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, NY, and three other national park areas.
  7. 7. Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park and Wright Brothers Memorial in Ohio,
  8. 8. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula,
  9. 9. And the Saint Croix National Scenic River Waterway in Wisconsin, made up of the Namekagon (left) and the Saint Croix Rivers. The trail links many other historic and scenic landmarks. Among them:
  10. 10. McConnel’s Mill in Pennsylvania,
  11. 11. The Miami Canal in Ohio and the Erie Canal in New York State,
  12. 12. And in Michigan, Fort Custer National Cemetery….
  13. 13. The Showboat on the Flat River here in Lowell, site of the Association’s national headquarters,
  14. 14. The covered bridge in Fallasburg Park in Ada Township,
  15. 15. Fort Michilimackinac on the Straits of Mackinac,
  16. 16. Father Marquette National Memorial in St. Ignace,
  17. 17. And the AuSable Lighthouse in the Upper Peninsula.
  18. 18. Flora and Fauna add spice for the trail’s hikers.
  19. 19. Chipmunk peers warily out of his lair.
  20. 20. Suspicious snake risks a look from its hiding place.
  21. 21. Wild columbine, a showpiece of the Northern forests.
  22. 22. Showy lady slipper along the trail in Michigan’s Wilderness Park.
  23. 23. Mushroom breaks through an acorn-littered sod.
  24. 24. And shelf fungi cling to an hospitable oak.
  25. 25. It’s late Spring along the trail in the Lower Peninsula: the season for Canada geese to introduce their offspring.
  26. 26. The Manistee River is a premier trailside habitat, a fine spot for spotting a Bald Eagle on patrol high above the River.
  27. 27. Or a dying Salmon that had come up the River to spawn.
  28. 28. Enormous White pine in Taquamenon State Park would provide enough lumber for five houses.
  29. 29. The trail is being constructed by the volunteers of the North Country Trail Association.
  30. 30. A trail crew from the Western Michigan, one of 25 chapters and nine affiliate hiking organizations creating and maintaining the North Country Trail. Like this trail crew from the Western Michigan Chapter.
  31. 31. The Western Michigan Chapter is allied with the Association’s 24 other chapters (including 11 in Michigan) and these affiliates: In New York: • Finger Lakes Trail Conference In Pennsylvania: •Rachel Carlson Trails Conservancy •Butler Outdoor Club In Ohio: •Buckeye Trail Association •NW Ohio Rails to Trails Association In Michigan: •Friends of the Jordan River Hatchery In Minnesota: •Superior Hiking Trail Association •Border Trail Route Association •Kekekabic Trail Club •Parks and Trail Council of Minnesota
  32. 32. Most of the construction is accomplished with hand tools. Crosscut saws are a favorite even with big logs because U.S. Forest Service rules prohibit the use of chain saws except by certified sawyers.
  33. 33. A significant number of these certified sawyers are women who have completed the Forest Service’s rigorous training program.
  34. 34. Yes, we shoveled, too Some of our Western Michigan chapter members have cared for their sections of trail since Congress authorized the NCT in 1980.
  35. 35. In Minnesota, a tired trail crew gets a little help from the Conservation Corps.
  36. 36. Volunteers create a connection to the North Country Trail. Like the Birch Grove Loop Trail north of White Cloud in the Manistee National Forest. Near population centers, chapters often build loops for easy day hikes.
  37. 37. The new loop gives access to the Loda Lake wildflower sanctuary with its spectacular display of water lilies.
  38. 38. Volunteers not only have to build trail but clean up and repair it like in this flood aftermath project.
  39. 39. Or removing eyesores from the trail side like this junker tossed into a ravine in the Lowell State Game Area.
  40. 40. Testosterone-fueled machines, like all-terrain vehicles, ORVs and dirt bikes can raise havoc. Unfortunately, signs don’t discourage all the boys and their toys.
  41. 41. Yet the volunteers persist, even building a bridge through a driving rain storm.
  42. 42. Let’s head out on the NCT, blue blazes will show the way.
  43. 43. Starting from the East In New York State
  44. 44. The current Eastern Terminus: Crown Point, NY, on Lake Champlain.
  45. 45. Looking East and to the future: to the Green Mountains and Vermont.
  46. 46. Along the present route in New York State, the spectacular Watkins Glen State Park is one of the reasons the trail was named the North Country National Scenic Trail.
  47. 47. Much of the route in New York, follows the Finger Lakes Trail.
  48. 48. But deep woodlands and quiet streams also attract hikers.
  49. 49. Hoffman’s Notch in the Adirondack State Park
  50. 50. A simple stile will do to cross an inconvenient fence.
  51. 51. Finger Lakes in Mid-May: Spring doesn’t come any earlier than in Michigan.
  52. 52. Next: the Northwest Corner of Pennsylvania
  53. 53. Blue blazes mark the trail throughout as here where it crosses into Pennsylvania.
  54. 54. View of Kinzua Creek from the North Country Trail in the Allegheny National Forest.
  55. 55. Abandoned dam produces a waterfall in Clarion County.
  56. 56. Through hikers can overnight at our cabin in Davis Hollow State Park.
  57. 57. Ohio
  58. 58. Old Man’s Cave State Park, a favorite stopover on the Buckeye Trail section of the North Country Trail.
  59. 59. The entrance to Old Man’s Cave.
  60. 60. The approach to the entrances of the cave.
  61. 61. Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve in the Caesar Creek Section.
  62. 62. Two sections of the Wayne National Forest mark the southernmost portion of the Buckeye Trail section.
  63. 63. The trail affords a bird’s eye view of Yankee Springs.
  64. 64. And the South Chagrin Reservation near Bedford.
  65. 65. An abandoned railroad bridge provides a crossing in northern Ohio.
  66. 66. This is actually a modern bridge, built by Ohio trail volunteers.
  67. 67. Michigan has the most completed miles
  68. 68. Downtown Lowell, site of the North Country Trail Association’s national headquarters, marks the approximate halfway point between New York and North Dakota.
  69. 69. Members of the Association’s Western Michigan Chapter parade down Main Street during parade in Lowell.
  70. 70. They parade in the Winter, as well.
  71. 71. Out on the trail, Winter doesn’t stop activity, either.
  72. 72. Or on foot. Whether on snowshoes,
  73. 73. The reward: Winter vistas like Hoo Doo Lake in Wisconsin.
  74. 74. Or Bowman Lake in Michigan’s Lake County,
  75. 75. Or the snowy splendor along the Boardman River in Grand Traverse.
  76. 76. There’s warm shelter in the old Birch Grove School near White Cloud.
  77. 77. The historic schoolhouse, built in the lumbering era and restored by the Western Michigan Chapter, serves as an overnight stop, training facility and jumping off point for many favorite day hikes along the trail.
  78. 78. Back on the trail, along Highbanks Lake in Newaygo County.
  79. 79. And Conlon Lake, another among the scores of lakes in the Manistee National Forest, visited by the trail.
  80. 80. Farther north, bench in the High Rollaways section, high over the Manistee River Valley, was built by volunteers.
  81. 81. And this is their view of the River
  82. 82. The route still finds peaceful wetlands in the Lower Peninsula.
  83. 83. And enters the Valley of the Giants in the Pere Marquette State Forest.
  84. 84. The valley was never logged and quite wet so the giants survived Michigan’s great forest fires in the early 1900s.
  85. 85. The valley is populated mostly by old growth red and white pines and this one giant oak. Foresters estimate its age between 500 and 600 years.
  86. 86. Farther north still, the trail winds high above the Jordan River.
  87. 87. And reaches Wilderness State Park in the farthest northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula.
  88. 88. Where it meets Lake Michigan at Sturgeon Bay.
  89. 89. Upon arriving at the Straits, walking across is permitted just once per year, on Labor Day. For other times, there is a bus.
  90. 90. The stretch through Pictured Rocks is a favorite among trail hikers.
  91. 91. Too old for the Lake Superior’s big bluffs? Not this veteran hiker.
  92. 92. Throughout its 320-mile, East to West width, the Upper Peninsula abounds in exciting waterfalls .
  93. 93. Overlooking Rob Falls in Presque Isle County.
  94. 94. Sandstone Falls carves a path in the Hiawatha National Forest.
  95. 95. The Black River is punctuated by falls on its way to Lake Superior.
  96. 96. The Presque Ile River’s final plunge before emptying into the big lake.
  97. 97. Overlook Falls in Porcupine Wilderness State Park.
  98. 98. And, of course, mighty Taquamenon Falls, Michigan’s patriarch.
  99. 99. Two last vistas in Michigan: The Porcupines’ Lake of the Clouds,
  100. 100. And the shore of Lake Superior.
  101. 101. The trail now heads westward for 200 miles in northwestern Wisconsin . More than 120 are finished and ready to hike.
  102. 102. As in the UP, trailsides in Wisconsin abound in quiet lakes and rushing rivers. Atop, a resting place along a lily pond. At left, the path skirts Upton Lake in the Iron County Forest.
  103. 103. Not all the waterways are dramatic; a volunteer-built bridge spans a forest creek along the trail.
  104. 104. The route also brings the gift of solitude and the evening hush at Morris Pond.
  105. 105. And follows the Brule River into Minnesota.
  106. 106. In Minnesota , much of the NCT follows the existing Superior Hiking Trail along the big water and the Kekekabic Trail heading into the Boundary Waters.
  107. 107. Another rushing river, the St. Louis in Jay Cooke State Park greets the North Country hiker.
  108. 108. Trail passes Lake Itasca, source of the Mississippi River.
  109. 109. Falls on the Split Rock River along the Superior Trail stretch.
  110. 110. Trail view from Oberg Mountain.
  111. 111. Another Mountain View, this one from Carlton Peak Much of the NCT along the Superior Hiking Trail climbs up and down the rugged ridges that parallel Lake Superior.
  112. 112. At Grand Marais’ rocky shore, the trail parts from Lake Superior and heads inland and west.
  113. 113. Where the trail once again encounters the deep Northern forest.
  114. 114. Early morning on the edge of the Border Route.
  115. 115. Once clear of the Border Route, the Itasca-Moraine section offers rocky challenges on the way to North Dakota.
  116. 116. With 223 miles complete, the trail in North Dakota is just about half finished.
  117. 117. Prairie, grasslands and man-made lakes describe most of the trail in North Dakota.
  118. 118. Fields of sunflowers, waving in the wind, display their blooms along the trail.
  119. 119. The lakes and sloughs dotting the prairie and grasslands provide ample habitat for wildlife as here at Lake Audubon.
  120. 120. Or here at Lake Ashtabula, a haven for waterfowl.
  121. 121. The trail’s end. At least for now.
  122. 122. Photographs by Dave Alexander Jo Anne Baron Clare Cain Mike Dallos Matt Davis Tom Gilbert Paul Haan John Heiam Dave Kenyon Bill Menke Roger Meyer Lynn Moore Corey Morse Peggy Muzzall Andrew Mytys Aaron Phipps Sharon Phipps Ryan Sim Bart Smith Candy Stackable Werner Veit Joan Young Maps by Matt Rowbotham