Page 1

January-March, 2016

The magazine of the North Country Trail Association

Volume 35, No. 1

north star 2015 State of the Trail Struck by Lightning! Plan to Attend the 2016 NCTA Celebration in Fargo Trail Magic, Trail Angels

In This Issue

Mushrooms five miles south of Alba, in northern lower Michigan. How can we have in focus both the foreground and the distant trees? Two photos were exposed for foreground and background, then combined using a Photoshop mask. Clever photography and Photoshop work by Eugene Branigan.

Spectacular Trail Gateway Invites New People................................3 The Many Faces of the NCT: Meet Andrea Ketchmark..........................5 2016 NCTA Celebration, Fargo!............7 Fall “Softies” Hike.................................8 NCTA Chapter/Affiliate/Partner 2015 Honor Awards............................10 Annual NCTA Awards Call for Nominees...............................11 A Lightning Trail Tale..........................12 Welcome, Glacial Edge Chapter!...........16 Trail Magic, Trail Angels.......................18 Dan Watson Bids Adieux.....................20 Ten Thousand Hour Award!.................22 Hike 100 Challenge............................23 2015 State of the Trail..........................26 Proposed Extended Outing..................46 Critical Trail in Wisconsin Open...........47

Columns Matthews’ Meanders...........................4 Trailhead.............................................6 NPS Corner......................................17 The Old Maintainer: Tending Benched and Sidehill Trail .........19

Departments Next Deadline for Submissions...........5 Hiking Shorts....................................14 Where in the Blue Blazes?..................22 Who's Who Along the Trail?.............24

About the Cover:

Porcupine Wilderness in light early snow, so Marty Swank heads out for trail maintenance in northern Wisconsin. Photo by Vickie Swank, Chequamegon Chapter.

North Star Staff Irene Szabo, Mostly Volunteer Editor, (585) 658-4321 or treeweenie@aol.com Peggy Falk, Graphic Design Lorana Jinkerson, Becky Heise, Joan Young, Tom Gilbert, Christine Ellsworth, Amelia Rhodes, Editorial Advisory Committee The North Star, Spring issue, Vol. 35, Issue 1, is published by the North Country Trail Association, a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization, 229 East Main Street, Lowell, MI 49331. The North Star is published quarterly for promotional and educational purposes and as a benefit of membership in the Association. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the North Country Trail Association.


The North Star


David Cowles Director of Development dcowles@northcountrytrail.org Jill DeCator Administrative Assistant/Membership Coordinator jdecator@northcountrytrail.org Matt Davis Regional Trail Coordinator Minnesota/North Dakota mdavis@northcountrytrail.org Andrea Ketchmark Director of Trail Development aketchmark@northcountrytrail.org Laura Lindstrom Financial Administrator llindstrom@northcountrytrail.org Bruce Matthews Executive Director bmatthews@northcountrytrail.org Bill Menke Regional Trail Coordinator Wisconsin bmenke@northcountrytrail.org Michelle Mangus Administrative Assistant mmangus@northcountrytrail.org Amelia Rhodes Marketing/Communications Coordinator arhodes@northcountrytrail.org Matt Rowbotham GIS Coordinator mrowbotham@northcountrytrail.rg Kenny Wawsczyk Regional Trail Coordinator, Michigan kwawsczyk@northcountrytrail.org

National Board of Directors Terms Expiring 2016 Jaron Nyhof, First VP, At Large Rep. (616) 786-3804 · jnyhof@wnj.com Brian Pavek, At Large Rep. (763) 425-4195 · pavekb@comcast.net Larry Pio, Lower Michigan (269) 327-3589 · nalcoman1@aol.com Doug Thomas, Treasurer, At Large Rep. (612) 240-4202 · dthomas7000@gmail.com Jerry Trout, Minnesota (218) 831-3965 · jjtrout@tds.net Gaylord Yost, VP West, At Large Rep. (414) 354-8987 · gaylyost@aol.com

Terms Expiring 2017 Ruth Dorrough, Secretary, New York (585) 354-4147 · rdorrough@hotmail.com Jerry Fennell, At Large Rep. (262) 787-0966 · jeroldvfennell@hotmail.com John Heiam, At Large Rep. (231) 938-9655 · johnheiam@charter.net Lorana Jinkerson, At Large Rep. (906) 226-6210 · ljinkers@nmu.edu Kirk Johnson, Pennsylvania (814) 723-0620 · kjohnson@pawild.org Tim Mowbray, At Large Rep. (715) 378-4320 · tmowbray@earthlink.net Peter Nordgren, Wisconsin, and U. P. of Michigan (715) 292-3484 · pnordgre@yahoo.com Terms Expiring 2018 Mike Chapple, At Large Rep. (574) 274-0151 · mike@chapple.org Dennis Garrett, At Large Rep. (724) 827-2350 · dcgcag@gmail.com Tom Moberg, President, North Dakota (701) 271-6769 · tfmoberg@gmail.com Lynda Rummel, VP East, At Large Rep. (315) 536-9484 · ljrassoc@roadrunner.com Paul Spoelstra, At Large Rep. (616) 890-7518 · spoelymi@comcast.net Jeff Van Winkle, At Large Rep. vanwink5@yahoo.com

Gary Narum

Gary Narum

Minnesota Highway 34 can be seen in the background when looking through the backside of the kiosk archway.

Spectacular Trail Gateway Invites New People

The kiosk has two display panels, one for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and one for the North Country Trail. The one pictured provides a registry, NCT brochures, maps, and trail information for hikers.

By Gary Narum


Ray Vlasak


he NCTA’s Laurentian Lakes Chapter (LLC) is responsible for North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) construction and maintenance in Clearwater and Becker Counties in west-central Minnesota. The chapter is nine years old and faces the challenge of marketing the NCNST in an effort to encourage hikers to use the Trail. The chapter has publicized and held guided hikes, constructed kiosks, erected signage along highways, joined local chambers of commerce, walked in local parades, set up and staffed display tables at county fairs and various outdoor recreation events, and spoken to organized groups wishing to learn more about the North Country Trail. All of this has worked as the chapter has been able to grow its membership to around 90 and has had guided hikes as large as 30 hikers. With the Trail crossing Minnesota State Highway 34, LLC board members recognized an opportunity for promoting the Trail at a very visible access point. The Trail intersects two-lane Highway 34 connecting Detroit Lakes and Park Rapids, and is one of the busiest highways in this part of the state with an average traffic count of over 4,000 vehicles per day. The crossing for the Trail is a parking area for the Hubbel Pond State Wildlife Management Area, managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The chapter proposed creating a partnership with the DNR that not only would promote the Trail but also promote Hubbel Pond as a wildlife asset for the public to experience and enjoy. With the acceptance and approval from the DNR, the project was a go. Several board members set out to design a kiosk that was visually appealing and curiosity-arousing for passing motorists. The final design included an archway over the actual trail, benches, and two 8 foot x 4 foot high display panels, one for the DNR and one for NCTA Laurentian Lakes Chapter. Plans for the site also included a terrestrial invasive species boot-brush station, highway signage, and a graveled parking lot ringed with large boulders. Materials were assembled with some of the construction occurring

LLC construction crew members erecting the kiosk archway. Left to Right: Jim Rakness, Roger Hanson, Gary Narum, Wally Sizer, John LaFond, and Roger Hanson, and Jim Eisele.

offsite. Toward the end of summer a large crew of LLC members erected the kiosk. No sooner had construction been completed when passersby were stopping to learn more about the North Country Trail and Hubbel Pond WMA. Currently the display board has a brochure holder, a registry, maps, and the new 3´ x 4´ display board made available by the NPS. One of the first individuals to inquire about the site was a reporter for one of the local newspapers. Within a few days an article entitled, “New eye-catching hiking gateway installed along Hwy 34 appeared.” Throughout the day, it is not uncommon to see vehicles parked at the site. The challenge has been to keep the brochure holders stocked with NCT and LLC brochures, as the slots are frequently empty. As one LLC member noted “It has become one of our best ‘public relations’ efforts for creating public awareness of the Trail.”

January-March 2016


Matthews’ Meanders Bruce Matthews Executive Director


ood organizational governance requires a regular review and updating of organization policies. This helps keep policies current and ensures the staff and Board of Directors are aware of and operating in accordance with these policies, particularly over time and as the members of both the Board and staff change. NCTA’s Policy 308, “Mountain Bike Use on the NCTA,” was last approved by the Board of Directors more than 12 years ago. Several factors suggest a re-examination of Policy 308 seems timely: the new “Nature and Purposes” statement in the National Park Service’s 2015 Foundation Document for the NCNST, NCTA’s revisited mission as part of the 2014 strategic planning process, several recent national level discussions occurring among various players in the humanpowered outdoor recreation arena, and recent successful experiences working locally within the NCNST/mountain biking interface. For some in the NCTA, and most particularly in areas where the NCNST has always been hiking only, any mountain bike use on the NCNST is a hot-button item. Debate centers on the appropriateness and legality of using a mountain bike on the NCNST, and convictions are strongly held. So, should Policy 308 be modified? Here are the facts providing some context for the discussion: • Significant portions of the North Country National Scenic Trail have been built and are being maintained for the express purpose of “hiking only.” About 62% (almost 1700 miles) are designated “footpath only.” NCTA opposes any changes to these sections of trail. • The NPS’s Foundation Document stipulates that the NCNST be a “non-motorized trail offering worldclass walking and hiking experiences.” Within this framework, the NPS delegates the determination of allowable uses to the land managers. Presumably any non-motorized uses of the NCNST that diminish the “world-class walking and hiking experience” would prevent the NPS from certifying that section of the trail, and conceivably be cause for relocation. • Approximately 900 of the existing 2750 “completed” (not necessarily certified) miles of the NCNST are currently open to biking (mountain and other types). • Mountain bike groups are known to be working in partnership with certain local NCTA chapters to build and maintain trail in both hiking only and multiple use sections.

The issue(s) Policy 308 ought to be addressing is not the permissibility of mountain bikes on the NCNST (they’re already allowed in places where the land manager deems it appropriate), but under what circumstances and guidelines. In other words, where land managers dictate multiple use on the NCNST, what guidelines can NCTA offer that will minimize any negative impacts from a shared tread, if that’s the only option given to us? Things to consider could be trail construction and design, environmental impact and trail sustainability, user safety and perceptions, opportunities for and investment in user education, signage, local mountain biker support, etc. NCTA President Tom Moberg has appointed an ad hoc committee to guide the discussion on whether or not to revise Policy 308, and if so, to recommend the updated language. The committee is headed by Ruth Dorrough and includes Trail Development Committee Chair Jaron Nyhof and Governance Committee Chair Gaylord Yost, as well as NCTA Trail Development Director Andrea Ketchmark. The committee is charged with gathering input, making an interim report at the May Board of Directors meeting with a final report at the September meeting. To review the current wording of Policy 308 (or any other NCTA policy) go here: https://sites.google. com/a/northcountrytrail.org/inside/ Home/policies.

A Heartwarming Story About The Kindness Of Hikers

I put my wallet in my backpack when we left for the Friday hike in N.Y. during Rendezvous. When I took out my lunch, I accidentally knocked my wallet out of the backpack onto the ground. I noticed that my wallet, with room key, money, credit cards, driver's license, meal tickets, etc., was missing when I got back to the room. Both Mary and I felt awful about the impact that loss would have on our driving/ flying/hoteling trip. After some thought, we concluded that the most likely spot for losing the wallet was on the hike so planned to re-hike that route on Saturday. Then we tried to put it out of our minds and went to the Friday night party. When we got back to the hotel, I had a message at the desk (and both e-mail and a text message) from a young couple, who must have been hiking the trail right behind us, saying they had found my wallet. They had gotten my contact info from the wallet and tried every means possible to reach me. I immediately called them and arranged to drive out to the place they were staying south of Ithaca on Saturday morning. That was why we missed the trip to Watkins Glen. Although it was not nearly adequate thanks, we gave each of them a bag of FLT goodies to express the gratitude we felt. Their honesty and thoughtfulness saved us an immense amount of inconvenience and hassle. God bless the hikers! —Tom Moberg


The North Star

Andrea Ketchmark: Director of Trail Development Ted Bentley

Andrea stopping to rest while hiking to Glymr Falls in western Iceland.

By Christine Ellsworth

If there was ever a more perfect professional fit than Andrea Ketchmark for the Director of Trail Development for the North Country Tail Association, I have never encountered it. I think Andrea was made for this job. Her path leading to the NCTA began back in Toledo, Ohio, where she grew up. "I attended Ohio State University for a couple years," Andrea says, "taking environmental science classes." But she landed in Colorado, where her dad lives, to earn her degree in Natural Resources Recreation and Tourism at Colorado State University. "What's cool about that," she says, "is that this degree is geared toward the human dimensions of natural resources management, the way people interact with the outdoors." After graduating, Andrea took an internship with the American Hiking Society in Washington, D.C. The internship was originally planned to last for 10 weeks, but the AHS hired her on permanently. It was there Andrea learned of the North Country Trail Association, and became acquainted, in the natural course of the job, with Bruce Matthews. Although she enjoyed her work with the AHS, over her five-year tenure there it became increasingly clear she was spending too much of her time in an office in a big city. "I sat in an office and organized


volunteer projects about trails. I realized I wanted to work on one of those trails." So in 2009 when Andrea learned of the opening for the Director of Trail Development position with the NCTA, she already knew exactly whom to contact, and Bruce surely knew he had the right person for the job. She says: "To have a dedicated trail to wrap my mind and hands around was so exciting!" See what I mean? Ever heard of a better candidate for a job? And now, she can literally pop across the street and get out on the Trail during a lunch break any day of the week! She makes a point of getting out on the Trail for a run or a hike often, but she needs to budget time wisely; Andrea is one busy person. Check out what her job duties include: "Comprehensive trail management. I develop policies and training and advise trail management design and layout." She deals with timber harvesting along the Trail and works to settle user conflicts. Additionally, Andrea manages three grant programs: the annual Trail Project Funding program, quarterly Field Grants and Trail Protection Grants. While the funds for these programs are from different sources—membership, donations, grants and the NPS—all are granted through NCTA. The Director of Trail Development also coordinates the bigger partnerships with the National Park Service and the United States Forest Service. She manages the Trail protection program and select Trail and land protection projects as well as provides guidance to volunteers working with landowners. Oh, and Andrea also offers each chapter leadership guidance and training, helps them work on bylaws and elections, and handbook development, a job bigger than it sounds. "Just getting acquainted with the Trail took the first five years," Andrea notes. "Doing my best to get to know all thirty chapters took some time." She notes, however, that she is still taking time to "get to know" all the chapters! What does she see for the future of the Trail? "Pretty great things," she says with a smile. "I see us getting more organized as an entire trail. I've been hearing a lot

more people talking about it as one big unit instead of 30 different individual chapters." To get it all together, Andrea sees the need for better marketing and better training to get the recognition that the North Country National Scenic Trail is as important to the public as the Appalachian Trail. And to get there, we need to focus on permanent protection. "We won't have a trail if we don’t focus on that," she asserts. But because we have Andrea and, as she points out, all the other NCTA professionals in Lowell and those spread along the Trail on the job, we do have a Trail. Andrea puts it so well: “We want to be a team with everybody.” Now there’s a perfect fit for you, fellow volunteers and members; you were made for this team, too!

North Star Submission Guidelines Without your material, we cannot have a magazine, so we eagerly request your submission of pictures and text for every issue. Please send both to Irene Szabo at treeweenie@ aol.com, or 6939 Creek Rd., Mt. Morris NY 14510. Please do not embed pictures within your article, but send them separately as .jpg attachments. In all cases, please supply photographer’s name. Front cover photo candidates: prefer vertical format, and if digital, at least 300 dpi or greater than 3000 pixels, AND we are always looking for great cover photos! Inside pictures look much better with one dimension over 1000 pixels, too, preferably 2000. Next deadline for Vol. 35, No. 2 is April 1, 2016. Remember that 900 words equal approximately one page of dense text, so very few articles should exceed 1800 words in this size of magazine. Thank you! —Your editor, Irene (585) 658-4321)

January-March 2016


Trail Head

Tom Moberg President


Tom Moberg

Pedestrian bridge over the Red River. Join us here in September.


The North Star

Karen Stenberg

Cambria website with the Hospitality Manager’s permission

Cambria Hotel – Celebration Headquarters.

Tom Moberg

our NCTA Board of Directors held the last meeting of the year in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on December 4-5, 2015. It was a busy but effective meeting that required the board to wrestle with a wide range of important issues. But it was not all work. Executive Director Bruce Matthews and his wife, Linda, along with the rest of staff, hosted a sumptuous holiday party for the board members and their guests at the Matthews’ home. Several board members noted that the holiday party alone made their board service worthwhile. Several key issues occupied much of the board’s time at the December meeting including approval of the 2016 NCTA budget, creation of a new committee to develop a more comprehensive endowment fund structure, and re-establishment of a committee to lead the board in fund raising activities. A related accomplishment was a summer fund raising campaign in which every member of the board, for the first time ever, participated in helping raise money. All this work is indicative of the board’s commitment to serious support and oversight of the NCTA finances. The board and staff are in the second full year of using our ambitious Strategic Plan to guide organizational priorities. Our intent is to evaluate the NCTA’s progress and recalibrate our goals annually. With a great deal of help from the staff, the board reviewed and adjusted the goals, priorities, schedules, and budgets for 2016 as necessary to reflect the current realities and accomplishments. The board also had in-depth discussions about redefining NCTA membership, long-range plans for Regional Trail Coordinator staffing, and chapter engagement strategies. You will hear more about those issues in the near future. One of the most rewarding agenda items for the board was approving the Charter of the new NCTA Glacial Edge Chapter in western Minnesota. It is gratifying to see a new group of volunteers organizing to tackle the tough job of building the NCNST between Maplewood State Park and the Red River, currently one of the longest road walk sections of the entire trail. If the chapter name is puzzling, think about the origin and location of Lake Agassiz…

As President, I feel privileged to work with this unusually strong, smart and active board. The amount of work accomplished by committees in the interim between board meetings, as well as during the board meetings themselves, is extraordinary compared to other boards on which I have served. The NCTA staff does a terrific job providing information for the board and helping ensure that the meetings are productive and efficient. As 2015 limps to the end of its year-long trek and 2016 sets out nimbly on its journey (on snowshoes, in some places), we need to give ourselves time to reflect on our trail building accomplishments and enjoy the clear, quiet winter days in the north country. Building the North Country Trail may be our greatest legacy for the future. Taking the long view of that will help us cope with the fear, anger, anxiety, bombast, irrationality, and falsehoods that seem to dominate the country’s perspective these days. Take deep breaths and a long hike. I hope that will help you have a safe, calm, healthy, productive, and adventurous 2016. The iconic Fargo Theater.

Swans on a Minnesota lake near the NCT, where we’ll hike together in September.

Karen Stenberg

Matt Davis

Long NCT puncheon in the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Left: The NCT in Minnesota. Tom Moberg

The 2016 NCTA Annual Celebration, Sept. 15-17

Meet Us in Fargo, North Dakota!

NCT puncheon across a prairie swamp.

Tom Moberg


The eastern North Dakota terminus of the NCT at Fort Abercrombie.

Tom Moberg

Please start making your plans to attend the 2016 NCTA Annual Celebration from September 15-17 in Fargo, North Dakota, hosted by the Dakota Prairie Chapter. The primary activities will be hikes that highlight new sections of the North Country Trail in the prairies and woodlands of eastern North Dakota, the Red River Valley, and northwestern Minnesota. Story tellers on buses and hikes will point out the scenic, natural, cultural, and historic features of these areas and explain how the environment and history affect trail building activities in unique ways. The Celebration is designed especially for members of the “North Country Trail Tribe” from Vermont to North Dakota and is also open to the general public. Generous sponsorships will allow us to keep attendee costs low while still providing a first class event. The Celebration schedule will give attendees time to hike, learn, socialize, and relax. The Celebration headquarters will be the new Cambria Hotel and Conference Center in West Fargo. The human and pet friendly Cambria provides easy access to major highways, great rooms and food services, ample meeting and dining spaces, and free Internet access, airport shuttle and parking. Half and full day hikes, designed for all ages and hiking abilities, as well as at least one non-hiking activity, will be concentrated in one area each day. You will travel to the hiking venues on comfortable, air conditioned coach buses with snacks and beverages provided. Thursday hikers will be able to select guided or self-guided hikes on interesting riverfront trails in Fargo-Moorhead. On Friday, the Laurentian Lakes Chapter is planning a variety of NCT hikes in the magnificent Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Minnesota, the first such refuge to be crossed by the NCT. Saturday hikes in North Dakota will highlight interesting features of the Red River Valley and tall grass prairie - oak savannas, sand hills, native prairie, pastures, river bottoms, pioneer trails - including the Fort Abercrombie Historical Site, the private Ekre Grassland Preserve (an historic working farm), and the Sheyenne National Grasslands. Ruth and Dan Dorrough, NCT members from New York, intend to complete their multi-year, end-to-end hike of the entire NCT in 2016. As a special treat, Celebration attendees will be able to hike the last 6 miles of the Dorroughs’ incredible trip with them. On Saturday evening, they will show photos and talk about their entire epic adventure. You will be entertained on Thursday evening by Steve Stark, a local story teller, illustrator, and reenactor, who will present a humorous historical view of the Red River Valley. Other evening activities at the Cambria Hotel will include pre-dinner receptions, buffet dinners, musical entertainment, the NCTA and NPS award presentations, and possibly an auction. Join us for this exciting Celebration in September! Celebration information available on-line at: https://northcountrytrail.org/get-involved/special-events/2016-celebration-fargo-nd/ For additional information, contact co-chairs Mary and Tom Moberg at 701-271-6769; marymoberg@gmail.com; tfmoberg@gmail.com.

The NCT through an oak savanna.

January-March 2016


Fall “Softies” Hike Boasts Hikers from Four NCTA Chapters! Story by Carole Bard Pictures by Chris Tews


f course it could have been the location of the NCTA NCT Hikers Chapter’s Fall Softies hike, in the stunningly beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But what started out in 1992 to be just a small group with occasional “guests,” this Fall had hikers from four Chapters and two states! From our own NCT Hikers Chapter were Marge Forslin, Lorana Jinkerson, Jim and Norma Matteson, Dave and Irma Powers and Carole Bard. With us were Peter Wolfe Chapter’s Chris Tews, though she lives in Eagle River, Wisconsin, Angie and John Willis, Grand Traverse Hiking Club, the Chapter for the Traverse City, Michigan, area, and Ron Sootsman, Chief Noonday Chapter in lower Michigan. Also with us were John Forslin, our safety tracker and driver to and from trailheads, and Linda Sootsman. Our Softies hike this Fall was over four days, October 1-4, and the weather, always iffy at this time of year in the U.P.,


The North Star

was quite cool, but sunny. It really showed off the grandeur of this magnificent section of the NCNST, turning the waters of Lake Superior an electric blue, and making the colors of the sandstone cliffs really live up to their name. We even passed a lovely waterfall. And we’re happy to report that there were many other hikers on the Trail to whom we proudly pointed out that they were on a section of the NCNST! The Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is maintained by the National Park Service and there are many campgrounds near the Trail, so there were lots of folks taking advantage of these as well, but not our Softies of course! See the end of this article for a brief history of the “famous” Softies. A hike of this complexity is not just a matter of meeting at point A and leaving the trail 4 days later at point B! We are very fortunate to have Marge and John Forslin, who with the aid of GPS, the Internet, physical travel to all access roads along our route, many emails, and a huge amount of time and patience,

make everyone else’s hike…well, just a great hike. Not everyone mentioned above hiked all four days, but together the hike covered more than 34 miles, 6 miles on Thursday afternoon, almost 12 on Friday, about 10 on Saturday, and 6.5 on Sunday morning. Since we were all many miles from our home base this year we spent overnights in a wonderful 3 story, 5 bedroom lodge in Grand Marais, Michigan, complete with cable TV, internet, an infrared sauna and hot tub! The lodge was another added bonus as we had time together in the evenings to share stories, get to know each other, and dine on a fabulous “potluck” supper on Thursday with enough leftovers for Friday! So, another Softies is in the books, but come May, we’ll take up where we left off on our trek eastward across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and we’re still close enough to that great lodge in Grand Marais that we’ll be staying there again. Here is the origin of the “Softies,” for those who may not have read about it in previous articles in the North Star: (History is courtesy of Jan LindstromWester, one of the Softies founders.) “The Softies started in September 1992, when Del Parshall, Shirley LaBonte and I decided we were done with backpacking and would shift to day hikes, with the goal of traveling the NCNST all the way across the Upper Peninsula (U.P.), going from east to west. We planned to do two 3-day hiking trips a year, one in spring and one in fall, ideally before and after bugs, staying in motels (preferably with pools and hot tubs) and dining in restaurants. In spring 1993 several other NCT Hiker Chapter members joined the project, and at the suggestion of Bev Laughna, we named ourselves ‘the Softies.’ In spring 2006 we reached the westernmost U.P. Trailhead. As I mention in the article [previously published in the North Star], hiking was very different at that time. We had started with no complete NCT maps, using topographicals, various agency maps, county section maps, and compasses. The best resource we had was a publication called Hunt’s Guide, which was a self-published trail guide written by a couple who had hiked


Lorana Jinkerson, Irma Powers, Marge Forslin and others hiking along Lake Superior in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Spray Falls at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

much of the NCT with a measuring wheel. In those days it was a big find on the Trail if we got to a yellow sectional marker nailed to a tree, because that was one of the few ways we knew exactly where we were. And as I recall that was before cell phones [were common] so we were on our own in the woods. By the time we reached the end of the Trail at Copper Peak (which was as far as the trail went at that time) we

had GPS, cell phones, amateur radio communication, and a van driver (John Forslin) who paralleled our track and provided shuttle service. When the question of what to do next inevitably came up, it was a ‘no brainer’ that we start back across the U.P. from west to east…which brought us to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore October 1-4, 2015.”

January-March 2016


As a final note, the “Softies” concept is spreading. Our chapter recently received a note from Peg Myers of the Jordan Valley 45 Chapter and she and a group of their members were here in the Marquette area this fall. Peg wrote to us, “We’ve been doing a “Softies-like" hike from Petoskey to the Bridge and westbound across the UP.” How about others? We don’t all have to backpack to enjoy a trek on this great Trail. Get a “Softies” group going in your area or come join us next spring.

Lorana Jinkerson, Ron Sootsman, Marge Forslin, Angie and John Willis and Carole Bard eating lunch overlooking Lake Superior.

Angie Willis and others hiking the NCT along Lake Superior in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.


The North Star

NCTA Announces Fall 2015

Chapter/Affiliate/Partner Honor Award Winners By Lorana Jinkerson, Chair, NCTA Awards Committee

The Fall 2015 NCTA Chapter/Affiliate/Partner (CAP) Honor Awards were selected by each local organization, going to volunteers who demonstrate loyalty, commitment and hard work annually to the local organization’s chosen activities. This year 26 organizations honored the following with a framed photograph. The 2015 CAP Honorees are:



Sheyenne River Valley Chapter

Daryl Heise

Dakota Prairie Chapter

Mary Moberg, Ron Saeger

Laurentian Lakes Chapter

Jim and Jeri Rakness

Itasca Moraine Chapter

Phoebe Alden

Brule St. Croix Chapter

Tim Mowbray

Chequamegon Chapter

Mel Baughman

Heritage Chapter

Margaret Paulson

Ni-Miikanaake Chapter

Curtis Slabaugh

Peter Wolfe Chapter

Steve Maass

North Country Trail Hikers

Lorana Jinkerson

Hiawatha Shore to Shore

Walter and Kathy Colyer

Jordan Valley 45º Chapter

Doug Seaney

Friends of the Jordan River Fish Hatchery

Roger Gordon

Grand Traverse Hiking Club

Betsy Duede

Spirit of the Woods Chapter

Bob and Patti Dunning

Western Michigan Chapter

Chuck Vannette

Chief Noonday Chapter

Mike Wilkey

Chief Baw Beese Chapter

Ralph Powell


Bob Hofbauer

Great Trail Sandy Beaver Canal

Ron Gorman

Wampum Chapter

JoEllen Sokoloski, Jim Houk

Butler County Chapter

Dick and Sue Boettner, Mark Smith, Dan Mourer

Butler Outdoor Club

Steve and Carol Bickel, Patty Brunner

Allegheny National Forest Chapter

Gene Cornelius, Bill Massa

Finger Lakes Trail Conference

Jet and Shirley Thomas

Central New York Chapter

Edmund Ressler

Call for Nominees—2016 NCTA Annual Awards

Recent Award Winners: Lynda Rummel

Dave Potzler Trail Maintainer

Lori Honrath

Connie Julien Trail Maintainer

Bill Menke

Vanguard: A legislator or other public official whose leadership, actions and advocacy have substantially benefited the North Country Trail over a chapter/affiliate/partner’s area or larger, not just a short segment.

John Pearson Sweep

Bobby Keopplin

Deb Keopplin Distinguished Service

Carter Hedeen

Florence Hedeen Leadership


hether you are curled up in front of the fireplace or are outside going for a snowshoe hike, it is that time of year again to don thankful hats and consider those we know who are deserving of an NCTA Annual Award. So, who are you thankful for in your local chapter, state or region, someone who is special in their commitment and enthusiasm for the NCT, volunteering their time, money, materials and energy to further our mission but also meeting the criteria for one of the following award categories? Anyone can make a nomination but be sure you give the NCTA Awards Committee enough detail to compare your nominee adequately to others in the selected category. Give us details, examples or stories to support your nomination. Nominations are due May 1 and can be completed online at northcountrytrail.org/ members/awards, via the e-mail form sent to all chapter, affiliate and partner leaders or by sending the following information to nct@northcountrytrail. org or mmangus@northcountrytrail.org: Chapter/ Affiliate/Partner name, award category nominated for, nominee’s name, address, city, state, zip, phone and e-mail as well as your name, address, city, state, zip, phone and e-mail. Include a one to two page statement that explains the reason why this person should receive this particular award.

Trail Builder: A volunteer, whose work in Trail planning, landowner negotiations, layout and design, and/or construction, have resulted in the development of outstanding new trail or facilities over a three (3) or more year period. Trail Maintainer: A volunteer, who has demonstrated exceptional dedication or achievements over a three (3) or more year period in maintaining or restoring pre-existing Trail segment(s). Leadership: A volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional leadership over a three (3) or more year period leading to significant local achievements or highly successful events. Outreach: A volunteer whose efforts to build coalitions, partnerships or other forms of local support have contributed significantly to the ongoing success of the Trail. Communicator: A volunteer, for exemplary work in promoting the Trail or the NCTA through a communications medium (newsletter, web site, brochure, etc.) or personal contacts over a three (3) or more year period. Rising Star: An NCTA member between the ages of 8 and 25, who has made significant contributions to the Trail and seems likely to continue, and whose dedication to the Trail and the NCTA sets an example to other youths and shows exceptional promise.

Trailblazer: A business or foundation for far-sighted vision and support, demonstrated by significant contributions to the Trail or the NCTA.

Sweep: A volunteer, for tireless work and achievements behind the scenes on behalf of the Trail or the NCTA over a three (3) or more year period.

Lifetime Achievement: An individual, in recognition of fifteen (15 ) years or more of true dedication, exceptional service and outstanding contributions towards the dream of the North Country Trail or the success and growth of the NCTA, not just local service. Service may be performed in a voluntary or paid capacity.

Friend of the Trail: An employee of a unit of governance or an organization whose leadership, accommodations and active collaboration have substantially benefited the North Country Trail or the NCTA, not working solely in the capacity of an NCTA member.

Distinguished Service: An individual, in recognition of exceptional volunteer service in furthering the goals of the NCTA, and outstanding contributions toward the dream of the North Country Trail. Individual should have made a significant commitment and accomplishments over eight (8) or more years. Not more than one of these awards may be granted each year to an individual who is not a member of the NCTA or an Affiliate.


Outstanding Private Landowner: A private landowner whose leadership, accommodation and active collaboration have substantially benefited the North Country Trail. Blue Blazes Benefactor: An individual or household demonstrating vision and generosity through significant monetary or in-kind contribution(s) to the North Country Trail or the NCTA.

January-March 2016


The Odds Versus the Risk: A Lightning Trail Tale By Andy “Captain Blue” Niekamp

Photo by Peter Zelinka. Fortunately for Peter’s health, this storm was going away from him but still provided lots of stunning lightning near Canfield, Ohio.


bought two lottery tickets in Greenwood Lake, New York, on Sunday night, May 31, 2015. I was feeling like the luckiest guy in the world after surviving a lightning strike on Black Mountain in New York on the Appalachian Trail (AT) earlier that day. I was fortunate to be able to walk off the mountain. Dozens of people each year across the U.S. aren’t so lucky. Lightning kills, and being caught in an electrical storm is risky business. It’s a reminder that came to me hard and fast that afternoon on the AT in Harriman State Park. Here’s my story. I was making good progress Sunday morning. My goal for the day was to hike an ambitious 19-mile trek from N.Y. 17, a highway crossing of the AT, to Bear Mountain State Park along the Hudson River. Rain and possible thunder storms were in the forecast that day, and this section is not as easy as the elevation profile suggests. The terrain is rugged with lots of boulders and short, steep climbs that would be slippery in the rain. As an experienced long-distance hiker working on my fourth end-toend completion of the AT, I was aware of the risk. Over the past 26 years and 8,400 miles of AT hiking, I have endured many thunderstorms. My hope was that I could make the short 250 foot elevation change up and over Black Mountain before the thunderstorms hit. I was undeterred by the danger, but looking back now I realize I was more complacent than concerned about the risk. Good hiking weather prevailed throughout the morning, and I was moving quickly. By early afternoon, I was 10 miles in. I took a short break at the William Bryant Memorial Shelter where I met three other northbound hikers. We exchanged pleasantries, and I kept moving, determined to meet my day’s mileage goal. A light rain started about 45 minutes later but quickly became increasingly heavy. Stopping to put on my rain gear, I could hear


The North Star

the sound of thunder in the distance. I happened to spot one of the three hikers I had met earlier at the shelter. Papa John (PJ) had decided to wait out the thunderstorm on lower ground. He hated hiking in thunderstorms. I hated hiking in thunderstorms and should have stopped at that point. But I convinced myself that “it wasn’t that bad,” and pressed ahead. I turned a blind eye to my personal safety. I reached a flat, open, exposed area and, on a clear day, would have stopped to take in the spectacular views of the valley. But the storm would soon be on top of me, and serious concern began to take hold when I realized that the descent down the other side of Black Mountain was not imminent. I had one more rise to climb. By this time, the rain was pouring, and water was accumulating fast in the hollow of the trail. The trail had become a stream. I was wet, soaked from head to toe. The concern of a lightning strike became more palpable. I decided to carry my hiking poles instead of placing them in the ground and headed toward the final rise. A quick scrabble up and over would take me to the safety of the lower areas. Then it happened. I felt a tremendous electrical surge hit my entire body. My back arched. Every muscle in my body clenched. The intensity of the contracted muscles could have broken a bone. I gasped for air. I was blinded by an orange flash of light and lost most of my hearing. The jolt knocked me backwards on my backpack down an incline. I smelled a whiff of something burning. The excruciating pain lasted a brief millisecond. Yet, in the aftermath, I had no pain except for a sensation of complete numbness in my feet. I lay sprawled on the ground fully conscious of what had just happened. As the thunder, lightning, and rain continued, there was no time to panic. I scrambled to take evasive action. Moving any

This is a picture of a multicolored cloud formation above a very dark threatening cumulonimbus cloud formation that produced a rapid temperature drop, hail, lightning, and thunder on the Trail, October, 2015. “I had never seen such shades of pink, gold, and turquoise before. Despite its beauty, it is a good reminder to look up and pay attention to weather that can easily injure us.” Dr. Eric D. Rehorst, North Country Trail Hikers Chapter.


Gookin, J. (2010, April). Back country lightning management. Paper presented at the 21st International Lightning Detection Conference and the 3rd International Lightning Meteorology Conference, Orlando, FL. Retrieved from http://www.nols. edu/nolspro/pdf/Lightning_Gookin_WRMC2010printmaster.pdf

Jim Bolton

significant distance to lower ground was not feasible, and the tall trees overhanging the trail were potential electrical conductors. I took my only option. I threw my poles as far away from me as I could to get rid of any metal around me. I retreated to a low, grassy area and unfurled my foam sleeping pad. I assumed a low body position on the ground, praying the pad would insulate me from a second or third strike, should they come. But I knew that there is no safe place outside during an electrical storm. I waited. The thunder storm started to move. It was no longer directly above me. As the danger passed, my wilderness first aid responder training kicked in. I knew that lightning strikes are very serious. Untreated cardiac events are often fatal. Serious burns can occur at the entry and exit points of the electrical charge. Strikes have other serious side effects, too, that affect the body’s entire neurological function. I took a quick assessment. I had no apparent injuries that I could diagnose and was slowly regaining strength and sensation in my feet. I was able to talk, to stand, and to walk. I knew I was only one mile from the Palisades Parkway. But I made the wise decision to call 911. The dispatcher patched me through to the State Park Police who would help me get medical attention. As I waited for instructions from the ranger as to the meet-up location, I spotted PJ. I waved him over to explain what had happened. The threat of lightning had passed, and he agreed to walk out with me in case I collapsed on the mile-long hike down to the Palisades Parkway, the nearest road. I felt OK, but heart failure or stroke was a real possibility so soon after such major trauma. I was transported to Nyack Hospital in an emergency vehicle. Lucky for me, my blood work, EKG, and chest x-rays came back normal, and I was discharged a few hours later without requiring medical treatment. I have replayed all of the “should haves” in my mind a dozen times. I should have checked the weather radar; I should have sought shelter at the first sound of thunder; I should have retreated to a lower elevation when I realized the summit of Black Mountain was flat. I should not have allowed the mile goal that day to obscure my judgment. I do a lot of hiking, and I lead group hikes including hikes on the AT. I would never have taken this risk with others since their safety is always my primary concern. As difficult as my disregard for my own personal safety is to admit, I want fellow hikers to

avoid making the mistakes I made by sharing my experience and concluding with important reminders for all back country hikers from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS). “Backcountry Lightning Risk Management” by John Gookin of NOLS lists these four precautions (pp. 4-6): • “Time visits to high risk areas with weather patterns. Study weather patterns and know what the forecast is for your hike area. Be prepared to change your hiking plans if a storm is forecasted. • Find safer terrain if you hear thunder. When you hear thunder, move to lower ground. It means that the storm is ten miles or less away. Avoid ridges and peaks because lightning tends to hit higher points of contact. Lower ground reduces your risk. If possible, descend on the side of the mountain without cloud coverage. If possible, avoid wet ground. Current travels faster along wet terrain. • Avoid trees and long conductors once lightning gets close. Avoid standing near bushes and trees. Plants generate a charge that attracts lightning. Never stand in water, under power lines, or near metal surfaces. • Get in the lightning position if lightning is striking nearby. Any electrostatic sensation on hair follicles should be taken as a warning of imminent danger. Take steps to minimize the impact. Put your feet together and assume a crouch position, wrapping your arms around your legs. The lightning position will not reduce your risk but it may lessen the severity of the serious injury you suffer.” These tips are ways to reduce the odds of incurring a strike, but keep in mind, the risk of a strike is always present. The best precaution is to be indoors. By the way, my hopes of a lottery win didn’t transpire. Statistics say that there’s about a one in 3,000 life-time chance of being killed by a bolt of lightning. The odds of winning the Power Ball lottery in New York are a lot higher. Another lesson learned: getting struck by lightning is more likely (and more dangerous) than winning the lottery.

Andy Niekamp ready to hike in Dayton, Ohio.

January-March 2016


Hiking Shorts

Konstantine Pokrovski and his wife Kasia Dec are shown working at covering boardwalk with the steel mesh. Konstantine, an A100 competitor, and Kasia journeyed all the way from Rochester, N.Y., to help out!

Tina Toole

Some trail workers are photographed on new sections of bog bridge that they helped build. Left to Right: Standing in back are Joe Torok, Mike Toole and Randy Thomas. Left to Right: In front are Tina Toole, Shelby Gangloff, Konstantine Pokrovski and Kasia Dec. Konstantine and Kasia have their feet resting on a section of NCT bog bridge that the beaver built their dam on. Right: In the foreground is a boardwalk that the beavers used to build their dam against. In the background are a repositioned bog bridge and then a new bog bridge built over a beaver waterway.


The North Star

Tina Toole

NCTA Allegheny National Forest Chapter members have been busy at trail work days this summer and fall. In July, water drainage work, mowing and weed whacking were done on both sides of Henrys Mills. In August, volunteers lopped and weed whacked from the new shelter north to the site of the proposed reroute around the Gibbs Hill swamp. Also the proposed reroute was flagged. In September, the Two Mile Bridge was painted. Then a quarter mile reroute was built to direct the Trail around new well pads south of Henrys Mills. Members spent the last two trail work days finding creative ways to work around beaver damage to the Trail in the Little Salmon Creek valley. The beaver were busy all summer building an elaborate system of dams and waterways. Beaver had even used boardwalk built on the North Country Trail to support parts of their dam! To carry hikers over the impacted areas several bog bridges were built. Water channels were also dug to drain water off the Trail. Finally, steel mesh was placed on some bridges and walkways in Little Salmon Creek valley to make them less slippery. The placement of steel mesh is part of a long term goal of treating most bridges and boardwalk on the 100 miles of NCNST in the ANF. Ace Hardware in Warren, Pennsylvania, assisted the Chapter by supplying the steel mesh at reduced cost. The mesh is expanded metal that’s used for stucco reinforcing mesh. It’s called “galvanized metal lath.” Tina Toole and Randy Thomas ANF Chapter NCTA Trail Co-coordinators

Tina Toole

Allegheny National Forest Chapter Summer And Fall

Hiking Shorts Tour De Clarion Fred Robson of the Forest Service.

The new bridge at Four Mile Run has two 26 foot by 10” by 10” beams for support. The beams were skidded to the site using a Forest Service 6-wheeler. Again, we installed galvanized steel mesh to avoid slippery boards.

Four Mile Run Bridge

Mike Ciccone

Last month a failing bridge over Four Mile Run, south of Kelletville, Pennsylvania, was removed and rebuilt along the North Country Trail. Financial support for this project was provided by Seneca Resources, a gas extraction company working in the National Forest. The project was made possible because of the cooperative effort from members of the Allegheny National Forest Chapter of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA), personnel from the Allegheny National Forest (ANF), a work crew from Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) McKean, and Allegheny Outdoor Club (AOC) members. Bisett Lumber of Bradford and Oneida Lumber Ace Hardware of Warren helped with materials procurement. Three members of the NCTA ANF Chapter, Mike Toole, Gene Cornelius and Bill Massa, were instrumental in securing the grant from Seneca Resources and planning the project. AOC members Jim Eberly, Connie Morrison, Charlene James, Mary Massa and Bill Massa along with ANF chapter members Tina and Mike Toole cleared over 1 mile of trail to provide easy access to the bridge location. ANF personnel supplied the labor and equipment to transport materials to the work site. Bridge demolition and the new installation were accomplished over 3 days by the work crew from FCI McKean, ANF personnel and ANF chapter members Bill Massa, Gene Cornelius and Jeff Manelick.

The Clarion Chapter of the North Country Trail Association invites you to challenge your hiking skills with the 2016 TOUR DE CLARION. The challenge, covering the 93 miles of the Clarion Chapter, is a series of monthly hikes beginning in January of 2016 at mile marker one in Parker (the southernmost point of the Clarion section) and continuing northward to mile marker 93 near Vowinkel, finishing in December of 2016. Each participant will be given a passport to track his or her progress. The Clarion Chapter section of the North Country National Scenic Trail follows the Allegheny River from Parker through the Rockland and Kennerdell tunnels to the Belmar Bridge. From the Belmar Bridge the trail follows Sandy Creek Trail, then goes east and north through a great variety of places and trails to a final state forest. Each monthly hike will be organized and shuttle service provided by the Clarion Chapter. The Clarion Chapter will use the honor system to credit mileage for anyone who completes sections not on the monthly schedule. Any hiker completing the challenge will receive a long sleeved shirt noting the accomplishment. Additionally any mileage accrued during this event can be applied to the North Country 100 mile challenge for 2016 commemorating the 100 years of the National Park Service. Anyone hiking 100 miles or more during 2016 on the North Country Trail will be entered into a drawing for prizes, but they must register online. See page 23. For more information and a hike schedule, contact Dave Galbreath at 814-226-5574, email dgalbreath@zoominternet.net. —Ed Scurry

Trail along Clarion River.

—Tina Toole


January-March 2016


Hiking Shorts Vickie Swank

Vickie Swank

New Chapter formed in Minnesota: the Glacial Edge Chapter Matt Davis

Mel Baughman was presented with the 2015 NCTA Chapter Honor Award.

Ellie Williams and Kevin Schram merited the Chequamegon Chapter VIP Volunteer Award.

Chequamegon Chapter Presents Awards

By Matt Davis, Regional Trail Coordinator, Minnesota

The Chequamegon Chapter of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) presented the 2015 NCTA Chapter Honor Award to Mel Baughman and the 2015 Chequamegon Chapter VIP Volunteer Award to Ellie Williams and Kevin Schram. The awards were presented at the Chapter’s Annual Business/Planning Meeting at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland. Mel prompted volunteers to dig a little deeper to make three trail re-routes in the Marengo Semi-Primitive Area pretty close to perfect, and contributed to most of the Chapter’s trail maintenance efforts this year. Besides being regular volunteers on the Chapter’s Trail Maintenance events, Ellie and Kevin have taken increasing roles in the management of the Chapter. Already the Recorders of Volunteer Hours, Kevin was elected Chapter Vice President and Ellie will be the Chapter’s Co-Secretary. The Chequamegon Chapter would like to thank Mel, Ellie, Kevin and all of the other North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) volunteers who have contributed their time and talents this year to make our sections of NCT a premier hiking trail. For more information about our Chapter’s region and free downloadable maps please go to our website at http://www. northcountrytrail.org/che/ —Marty Swank

fter three years of community outreach and organizing, there is a brand new NCTA Chapter in Minnesota! The Glacial Edge Chapter was officially approved by the NCTA Board at their December meeting and its small group of diehard volunteers is already hitting the ground running. The Chapter’s leadership took on responsibility for the NCT from the North Dakota border at Fort Abercrombie southeast and then northeast across Wilkin and Otter Tail Counties to Frazee (where the Laurentian Lakes Chapter takes over). This roughly 100-mile section currently has only 3 miles of certified trail in Maplewood State Park with no marked road walk. Much of the original planned route was to use abandoned railroad grades that are no longer viable options. It is one of the biggest challenges for trail development across the entire 4,600 miles. A majority of the Chapter’s route section (North Dakota to Maplewood State Park) was just analyzed by Luke Jordan in his Optimal Location Review (OLR) project. Part of the NCT’s route crosses the intensively developed agricultural Red River Valley while the other half heads through a landscape mix of forested hills, crop fields and pasture, abundant lakes and wetlands, rural residential lots, and large lakes with expensive summer homes. Nearly all of the land is privately owned. Needless to say the Chapter’s task will be a big challenge. Initially, the Chapter will focus on developing a 9-mile loop trail within the City of Fergus Falls that will be half off-road footpath and half urban trail using City sidewalks and paved trails. Fortunately for the Chapter, there are already some fantastic existing hiking trails on the edge of the City and the planned route will tie them all together with some new trail segments. A lot of partner support has already been cultivated by the Chapter volunteers. The Chapter will be hosting a kickoff membership event this spring at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center that will introduce the NCT to the community and showcase the existing hiking trails in the area. You can follow the Chapter’s activities via the Minnesota Facebook page (www.fb.com/NCTinMN) and also the Chapter’s Meetup group (www.meetup.com/Otter-TailOutdoors/).


The North Star


National Park Service


Mark Weaver Superintendent, NCT


ig news everyone! Luke Jordan is now an Outdoor Recreation Planner for the Trail! You all know him, one of our 2013 one-season end-to-enders, so no need to go into details of his past exploits. Luke will be working with Chris Loudenslager on Optimal Location Reviews and statewide inventories, along with performing some internal NPS-required tasks that have long been sidelined. He’ll be in training as our Volunteer Coordinator as well, replacing Dan Watson who has shifted his duties to 100% Ice Age Trail. Luke will be working from Minnesota until mid-February, and then taking three months off to hike the proposed Great Plains Trail. He’ll move to Lowell in mid-May. Looking forward to having you here, Luke! And even BIGGER NEWS! The Agreement with the State of New York about the status of the Trail there is now in the signature process! Press releases should be forthcoming in January. Agreements with the Forest Service and the state of Michigan will be updated in early 2016

Natural And Cultural Resource Protection


Statewide Inventories

I think we can all agree that knowing what we have, knowing what condition it is in and how we can all help things get done faster and smarter is a good thing. We can also agree the bureaucracy can often mess up a good idea, and that good things happen more often in the field than at headquarters. That being said…. While good things will continue to be done in the field, we also need to be aware that we need to have our “planning and protection ducks in a row” when Washington calls and asks for information, or more importantly, when they call offering financial support for something. There is nothing worse than responding to an offer of money by saying “Uh, I don’t know. Let me get back with you.” We need to have our priorities identified and be united in those priorities. This means not working in a bubble but rather working in Lowell AND in the field to identify those priorities. Hence, the Statewide Inventory. New York (CNY Chapter) and Ohio (Buckeye Trail) are the beta tests. We’ll move to other states once we nail down the specifics. But in general, the inventories will identify and PRIORITIZE the planning and protection needs of the Trail. They will identify the status of certification of each segment and link it with the certification documents; inventories will identify the planning status of each segment, the need for Optimal Location Reviews, and identify priority acquisition needs. Once a rough outline of the basic information is gathered we will get with the chapters and others to discuss the information gathered, enrich the information, and work out the priorities collectively. The NCTA Board is developing a committee that will help consolidate the statewide information into a trailwide strategy. The result will be a unified strategy for planning and protection of the Trail. And let’s not forget Matt Rowbotham who has developed a HUGELY valuable graphic map that helps explain the information easily and of course, colorfully! (Really, it’s great!)

Optimal Location Review

The revised and simplified OLR (Optimal Location Review) template is done. It is much simpler and more straightforward than previous versions. Its purpose is not to create more work; rather it is to defend the Trail route, to be able to say, “Yes, this potential route best reflects the Trail’s scenic, natural, cultural and historical qualities.”OLRs are best prepared in the field (coordinated by Regional Trail Coordinators per the priorities of the Statewide Inventories), utilizing the OLR template, with NPS offering guidance in the preparation of the Review. Signed acknowledgments will be by NPS, NCTA, and to-be-determined local signers. Small gaps may not even require an OLR, rather, just a note to the file. If you have any questions, give me or Chris a call: Mark: (616) 430-4395 Chris: (616) 970-7026

— Mark Weaver

January-March 2016


Irene Szabo

In October, Chris and I went to Omaha and held a half day work session with key planning and natural and cultural resources staff to work out how to apply natural and cultural protection laws to the Trail. The laws are pretty explicit when applied to the typical “box” park where most of the land is federally owned. But as you all know, North Country Trail is not “typical.” There was a lot of gray area that needed clarification, and to be honest I wanted to be given permission before the fact rather than ask forgiveness after the fact. Our conclusions regarding complying with natural and cultural resource protection laws are: • If land is to be purchased by NPS for the Trail, compliance laws kick in. • If Trail is built on NPS/NCT owned land, compliance laws apply. • If federal funds are used to build Trail in a specific location, compliance laws kick in. • If trail work is performed on federal land (Forest Service, USFWS or another NPS unit) compliance laws apply. • Compliance laws do not kick in with the preparation of Optimal Location Reviews. So, only in the above situations (1, 2, 3 and 4) will compliance actions such as Environmental Assessments, Cultural Resource Review, etc. be required to be considered by NPS. There will always be anomalies in the above, of course, but we’ll tackle them as they arise. However, this doesn’t mean that in all other situations we don’t maintain vigilance, awareness and protective responses to the resources on the Trail. We will be working with NCTA to develop an optional resource awareness training program to ensure that

our good work on the Trail doesn’t compromise the natural and cultural resources we want to appreciate on our hikes.

Trail Magic, Trail Angels Trail Magic, Trail Angels By Lorana Jinkerson


ou’ve been hiking for miles and miles. You are tired of putting one foot in front of the other over and over again. The weather has been hotter than heck and the bugs have eaten you alive. You’d do anything to soak your feet. You’re hungry for some real food. You could really use a shower. A four-legged, foam mattress bed sounds like heaven. A cold one sure sounds refreshing. Your clothes reek with sweat and dirt. You’d love to talk to someone besides yourself. Getting all your gear dried out would be fabulous. But what can you do? You’ve set this goal of hiking X miles, and by gosh, you’re going to do it. You’re pinching pennies just to do this hike and you’re miles from any civilization, or so you think. What is that you see up by that big hemlock tree? Are you hallucinating? Have you really gone bonkers out here all alone? Or, could that really be? Looks like a picnic basket with a note attached. Hmmm, you wonder. As you approach, sure enough, it is a picnic basket and upon reading the note and opening the cooler, you are flabbergasted. A trail angel has invited you to come stay at her cabin by the lake just around the corner and the picnic basket is chock full of salty, high calorie treats, fruit and cold drinks. Is there any doubt what you will do? According to the Zachopedia , a Trail Angel is “a person who delivers Trail Magic,” and Trail Magic is “a random act of kindness uniquely provided to long distance hikers in need: most commonly in the form of food, beverage, and/or transportation. Trail Magic has a knack of occurring when a hiker’s spirits are approaching the danger zone. Pure serendipity.” Based upon my experience, I’d like to extend that definition to include a host of other supporting roles Trail Angels provide long distance hikers. Let’s start with Trail Magic on the trail itself. This is where a hiker comes across a cooler/basket or any container bursting with snacks and/or beverages as in the opening paragraphs. Ideally, a Trail Angel should NOT leave Trail Magic of this sort on the trail Peggy Falk as an animal may consume it, which could potentially be harmful. Second, there is no guarantee a hiker will find it before spoilage occurs. Third, there becomes the issue of who is responsible for taking out the trash that resulted from the treat? A better solution is for the Trail Angel to meet a hiker and pass the Trail Magic directly. This offers the added possibility of extending the Trail Magic to additional needs the hiker may have.


The North Star

So, what additional needs might be satisfied by a Trail Angel? The list is endless but certainly the following are all possibilities. • Transportation: shuttle, town, post office, grocery, laundry, bus depot, trailhead, outfitter, library, restaurant, motel, walk-in clinic. • Services: lodging, laundry, shower/bath/sauna, bed, meal(s), phone charging, internet, overnight parking, a place to camp, pet sitting for areas that do not allow pets. • Personal: repair gear/clothing, arrange media interviews, engage in conversation, provide encouragement. • Hiking: slack packing, GPS, maps, information, contacts going forward (chapter leaders & Trail Angels). The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has some Trail Magic suggestions that support the Leave No Trace principles and specifically recommends not providing alcoholic beverages, stating, “Don’t risk the legality and liability associated with serving minors, over-serving adults, or the safety issues associated with intoxicated hikers.” In return for the Trail Angel’s kindness, what are the responsibilities of the hiker? First, always acknowledge Trail Angels with thanks, offer to pay for support; i.e., a meal, gas, or make a donation to the Trail Angel, local chapter or Association. Of utmost importance is not to take advantage of their generosity. They are not at your beck and call. Respect their time, efforts and money. Most Trail Angels don’t do it for money or even recognition. They do it because they love the trail and the hikers, learn from them and enjoy their company, but do appreciate being acknowledged for their efforts. The NCTA is developing a database of Trail Angels to be administered by volunteers. If you are interested in helping us with this project or if you are interested in serving as a Trail Angel for the NCT, please contact nct@northcountrytrail.org with the subject line “Trail Angels,” your name, address, phone, e-mail, your location in relation to the Trail, chapter/affiliate and the services you are willing to provide (see list above for possibilities). Your information will be kept private from the general public but shared with long distance hikers who inquire about your area.

As a hiker, when you prepare for a long distance hike, whether for over a weekend, a couple of weeks, a month, or longer, please contact HQ@ northcountrytrail.org to get specific Trail Angel information for the area(s) you plan to hike. Allow time for a researched response. Contacts and services provided will be communicated to you. In addition a Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/groups/ trail00angels00of00the00NCNST/ has

been set up to connect long distance hikers with Trail Angels across the Trail. Finally, it is highly recommended that you contact the local chapter leaders to alert them of your presence in their locale. They can provide you with up-to-date information as well as Trail Angel support. See the chapter leaders listing in the North Star or https://www. northcountrytrail.org/get-involved/ whoswh/ for contact information.

Tending Benched or Sidehill Trail By T.O.M., The Old Maintainer

1 http://zrdavis.com/appalachian-trail-magic-and-trail-angels/

2 https://www.appalachiantrail.org/docs/default-document-library/suggestions-for-providing-trail-


The Finger Lakes Trail in New York, host to more than 400 miles of the NCT, has had a system of just such helpers for some years now, and the regional volunteers, who sign up to help only within a distinct geographic area, have been providing logistical help to many hikers, most often by giving rides to hikers away from their own cars, so that they can walk back at their pace, and avoid taking two cars great distances. The FLT system also keeps some anonymity for the volunteers, by sharing the car spotter list only with those who inquire of the central volunteer, whose contact info is published in every issue of the FLT News, and is on the website. Car spotters often also offer a place to camp, a shower, whatever. It’s a great system of giftgiving to hikers, whether day-hikers miles from home or long-distance hikers. Last summer an ambitious young woman backpacked our entire FLT system, both main trail and all branches, in one continuous hike of nearly a thousand miles. So to avoid hiking the several branches out and back, she enlisted help from the car spotter list and still created a record-breaking hike! Not only were critically-needed rides arranged, but she also enjoyed many a meal, shower, and overnight stay from friendly trail angels all across the state. —Editor


Irene Szabo

Trail Magic

Heather Houskeeper, who walked the entire Finger Lakes Trail System last June, the main trail and almost as many miles again on the branch trails, did the branches by utilizing the help of the FLT car-spotters. Here she was dropped off at the north end of the Letchworth Branch, where she could walk twenty-some miles southward back toward the main east-west trail. She had spent the previous night at a magician’s house, too.

A couple of years ago I hiked a new section of trail that included more than a half-dozen switchbacks to get itself up a long steep hill. The trail was admirably well-built, but on this early spring day the sharp angle between “wall” and “floor” was filled with winter’s mushy leaf piles. So the place where I was supposed to put my feet wasn’t abundantly clear, and I tended to walk toward the outer or downhill edge of the footpath, which is risky behavior for the health of the tread. That trail section’s steward needed to learn about cleaning out his or her benched trail! And just today I was reminded of that same lesson on a piece of my own path. It’s a short section of lightly side-hilled trail, with no big vertical “wall” to define the footpath, so at the peak of leaf-drop on November 5th, the trail looked like no more than a sloped heap of leaves. This section is under mostly ash (all leaves long fallen), hickory (also mostly down by now), and lots of oak, maybe half fallen at this November date, so this is why the actual tread wasn’t clear at all. Little sticks were mixed in with the unbroken slope of leaf litter, so the trail really stunk for a person trying to walk it. It was even slightly slippery even though dry, and the hiker had no idea where to put his feet. There is no solution for it except to rake, yes, rake all those leaves to the downhill side, along with the sticks. I used my trusty weed whacker with the serrated blade to do the job. NOW users can see where to put their feet, and will help keep the tread where it belongs instead of slipping onto the downhill sloped side. There are no excuses for where the deer put THEIR feet. Of course, as I walked out, more golden and russet oak leaves kept wafting down in the low sunlight, so I may have to come back this season and do it all again. My back hurts.

January-March 2016


NPS Volunteer Coordinator Dan Watson Bids Adieux Listed by year of recognition, those outstanding volunteers are: 2011 Al Larmann, Bill Coffin, Dave Cornell, Ed Scurry, Gail Blakely, Gaylord Yost, Irene Szabo, Jerry Trout, Joan Young, Joe Dabes, John Leinen, Kay Kujawa, Marty Swank, Mary Kunzler-Larmann, Rick Adamson, Ron Rice. 2012 Richard Kroener, Stan Kujawa, Arlen Matson, Ray Vlasak. 2013 Joyce Appel, Brian Pavek, Ron Sootsman. 2014 Karen Klos, Mick Hawkins, Lorana Jinkerson, David Brewer, Larry Pio, Keith Klos, Tom Moberg, Rolf Swanson. 2015 Bruce Johnson, Richard Naperala. By 2011 it also became apparent that we had volunteers so giving of their time that the NPS Recognition and Award Program could no longer keep up with their accomplishments. Imagine that—volunteers so giving that they outpaced the actual recognition program! Gee, what a great problem to have!! So, in an effort to keep at least a half step ahead of our super volunteers, we added the 10,000 Hour level of recognition to the program. Folks, volunteering 10,000 hours is the equivalent of working a job full-time 40 hours per week, non-stop, no vacations, for almost nine straight years. And since 2011, Al Larmann, John Leinen, and most recently Kay Kujawa, have been presented with that most prestigious recognition plaque. Stop for a moment the next time your paths cross with theirs to shake the hand and pat the back of the volunteer who has set aside such a significant part of their lifetime for the North Country NST. I’m offering my thanks again right here and now. Al, John, and Kay, you are all superstars. Congratulations.

Let us admire and emulate Mel Baughman’s good work in carving out this tread in the forest.


The North Star

Vickie Swank

Dear NCTA Volunteer Friends, By the time this edition of the North Star reaches you, my time working at the North Country National Scenic Trail will have largely come to a close. As most of you know, my position as Volunteer Coordinator for the North Country NST has been a split position shared with the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The volunteer programs of both trails have grown over the years, and things have reached a point where, in order to do justice to both programs, each trail needs its own person focusing on taking the volunteer program to the next level. I’ll be doing that full-time for the Ice Age NST from now on. As with all transitions in life, things have a way of being a bit unsettled for a time. Anyone who knows me knows that I detest unsettled issues, so for the short-term please trust that I will continue to be available to the staff of the North Country NST as an advisor and assistant to those assuming my traditional duties while they get their feet firmly on the ground. Together, we will work to ensure that this transition phase for the NCT Volunteer Program is as seamless, painless, and shortlived as possible. I’d like to take advantage of the space I have left in my final contribution to the North Star to celebrate some of the awesome accomplishments you have all made over the past eight years. Not everybody is a “numbers” person, but I always find it both enlightening and surprising to look at certain things from a statistical point of view. 2008 was the first year that I started submitting the annual volunteer data for the North Country NST (when we reported 664 active volunteers), and this year marked the eighth time I’ve done so (with a reported 1,095 volunteers for 2015). Now check this out…. from 2008-2015 you all have collectively provided 539,939 hours of your time, talent, and passion to making the North Country NST what it is today! Arithmetic isn’t my strong suit, but my calculator tells me that equals a clock ticking non-stop for more than 61.6 years. We’re all familiar with the NPS Recognition and Awards Program, and it’s fitting now to look back and give another round of thanks to some very special people who have been donating their time and talents at the very highest levels. Volunteers who contribute 4,000 hours or more of their time are eligible for the President’s Lifetime “Call to Service” Award, and from 2011-2015 the North Country NST has proudly honored 33 individuals who reached that milestone.

So far we’ve been spotlighting volunteers who have reached our highest milestones of volunteer recognition—that is, hours of time volunteered to the North Country NST. Recognition is the proper term for that, not award. Volunteering one’s time is not a competition to earn “awards.” It is a selfless act of giving worthy of formal recognition, which is what the NPS is doing when we present volunteers with a certificate, water bottle, VIP clothing item, or the recognition levels mentioned above. However, there are a variety of award programs in the NPS which are exactly that—awards. Parks from all over the country nominate their volunteers, partner groups, and programs to be judged, scored, and held up for scrutiny against all other nominations. And yes, I confess, I’m both competitive enough and proud enough of what we mutually accomplish on the North Country NST always to throw our hat in the ring. Whenever we have a winner in these various award programs (and by the way, your collective trophy case has begun to bulge at the seams these past several years!), it isn’t because of anything I’ve accomplished; it’s what YOU have accomplished. Let’s look back for a moment at YOUR award-winning accomplishments. The George and Helen Hartzog Awards were established by the National Park Service to honor volunteers—only volunteers. If you aren’t a volunteer of the National Park Service, you cannot win a Hartzog Award. It is the highest honor the National Park Service offers a volunteer or group of volunteers. The first round of Hartzog Award nominations compete at the regional level, meaning that our nominations compete against all other nominations from the more than 60 parks and trails within the 13-state Midwest Region of the National Park Service. Those winners then go on to compete nationally against all other regional winners from the other six regions of the NPS. How can we ever stack up against the likes of Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Gettysburg National Military Park, the Statue of Liberty National Monument, or Everglades National Park? Well, here’s how you have done exactly that, time and again: • In 2009, the North Country Trail Association won the Midwest Region Hartzog Award for “Outstanding Volunteer Group.” • In 2010, Al Larmann won both the Midwest Region and Servicewide Hartzog Award for “Enduring Service” (Lifetime Achievement). • Also in 2010 the North Country NST shared the Midwest Region Hartzog Award for “Outstanding Park Volunteer Program” with the Ice Age NST. • In 2011 the Brule-St. Croix Rovers won the Midwest Region Hartzog Award for “Outstanding Volunteer Group.” • In 2013 Rick Pomerleau and Mary Stenberg won the Midwest Region Hartzog Award for “Outstanding Individual Volunteer.” • And, to top it off, this year Tom Moberg was presented both the Midwest Region and Servicewide Hartzog Award for “Outstanding Individual Volunteer.”


Ah, but the Hartzog Awards aren’t the only ones you all have won. In 2011 the NPS Midwest Region developed a new “Partnership Awards” program. “Who better to nominate than the North Country Trail Association?” was the thought that jumped to my mind. Guess what? The NCTA won that inaugural award competition by such a staggering margin that, in 2012, the NPS created a separate category in the Partnership Awards program strictly for “Trail Partners,” just to make it fair to the other 60+ parks in our region! Hang on, we aren’t done winning awards yet… In 2014 the North Country NST Safety Program (of which you are all a part) won the “Director’s Safety and Health Achievement Award” for, among other things, successfully reducing injury rates in multiple years, culminating in an injury-free year in 2014. Hey folks…that was a Director’s Level Award. Straight from the man who runs the entire National Park Service, from sea to shining sea, to us, the employees, partner staff, and especially the volunteers of the North Country NST. The moral of the story? North Country NST volunteers most definitely do have a seat at the NPS table alongside those from Yellowstone, Denali, Grand Canyon, or any other National Park or trail you want to name. Keep that bigger picture in mind whenever you’re staring down at a few feet of trail at your boot tips, and feeling like that short stretch of real estate is somehow insignificant. It isn’t, and neither is what you are working toward… a few feet at a time. When I came to work for the trail in 2008, I didn’t have any formal training in managing a volunteer program. So I got some. And during that week-long training course the thing that was constantly impressed upon those of us seated in the classroom was that there isn’t anything more important in working with volunteers than to simply say “Thank You.” Because in reality, there is nothing simple about the words “Thank You.” It tells the volunteer that their time, effort, and passion is both recognized and appreciated. I’ve tried to put it into words as best I can at various annual gatherings we’ve all attended, and I’ll try again now. Each of us has a limited time in this lifetime to spend how we see fit. Once that time is used up, it’s gone…no way to get it back. Time is the most precious and limited treasure any of us has, made more so because none of us knows exactly how much is ever left to us. How we choose to give of that finite resource speaks volumes. You who volunteer on the North Country NST are all speaking volumes about yourselves by doing so. And so, let me say again to each and every one of you, “Thank You.” Sincerely, Dan Watson

January-March 2016


Where In The Blue Blazes? Tom Walker

Dennis Peronto, president of HSS chapter, presents award to Kay Kujawa.

Ten Thousand Hour Award! By Tom Walker, VP of Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter


The North Star

Last issue we asked you where this photo had been taken.The gnarled diseased beech stump submitted by Lorana Jinkerson is at NCT Hikers Segment 5, Peter White Road to Magnum Road, at N46.41748° W87.09437°, east of the road walk on Segan Road, up the hill, across the stream and around the corner at a perfect location for a camp. http://northcountrytrail.org/ nct/PeterWhite.htm Only Cliff Stammer, hard-working trail volunteer with the NCT Hikers, knew just where it was.

Dove Day

In 2015 the National Park Service presented their 10,000 hour award to Kay Kujawa, an honor only rarely bestowed. After all, how many people accumulate that many volunteer hours? Kay has written many articles for North Star but always credits others for the projects she describes. Here is a hint from chapter member Tom Walker about what she routinely accomplishes on behalf of the Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter: Her current title is Communications Coordinator and she is a recent past president of HSS. She keeps the current officers on track with what needs to be done. She keeps track of the e-mail contact list and sends LOTS of e-mails to everyone on it. She writes grant applications and press releases, organizes work crews and work days/weeks, paints blazes, finishes tread, lops faceslappers, bushwhacks to find new routes for the Trail, sweeps on group hikes, delivers chapter brochures to a multitude of tourist information centers, keeps in touch with the local US Forest Service and Michigan State Park personnel, and attends several meetings each month of various boards and councils representing HSS and the NCNST. These groups include Friends of the Forest, area Chambers of Commerce, various health initiative councils, the local Wellness Coalition, Great Waters, Quiet Waters, M-123 Scenic Byway, and others. She keeps in contact with the American Hiking Society, Winter Trails/SIA Nordic, and organizes local Trails Day events in conjunction with those national organizations. She works with the various trail running groups and supports them in organizing their runs and relays. This list is the result of only a cursory review of what Kay does for the NCT and the HSS. She practically IS the Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter. The rest of us give what we can when we can but Kay is DEDICATED. She gives without complaint. She inspires all of us with her love of hiking and the wonderful Trail we have for hiking. We are very blessed to have her involved with the Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter.

In this regular feature of North Star, we challenge your knowledge in a friendly competition to name the location of a detail or point of interest along the 4600+mile North Country Trail. Any of our readers can submit a photo for consideration for the next puzzle, or play our game by answering the question: Where in the Blue Blazes can this location be found?

Linus Branigan by Dove Day

Linus is quite the young man. He does trail maintenance with his dad and has hiked A LOT of NCT miles. He's probably going to have all of the Michigan NCT hiked by the time he's 18! He and his dad took advantage of the nice warm December weather we had in Michigan, and went out to touch up some faded blue blazes. We're pretty lucky to have Linus and his Dad as trail adopters for our JV45º Chapter!

Deanna Sinclair

Connie Cox, Minn. DNR

Left: Deanna Sinclair and friends hiked January 2 in Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge near the NE part of Johnson Lake. From the front: Kody (dog), Candy Cox, Lucy Johnson, Nancy Veronen, Lauren Sinclair (not pictured: Deanna and her dog, Cash).

Amelia Rhodes

Over 50 hikers gathered at Itasca State Park in Minnesota to start the Hike 100 Challenge.

Dove Day Bruce Matthews

John and Dove Day and Cyndi and Terry Dickey hiked 3.9 miles on New Year's Day along the NCNST through the Muncie Lakes Pathway, west of Kalkaska, Michigan.

Hike 100 Challenge Launched January 1

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis holds a sample Hike 100 Challenge patch and certificate presented to him last fall by NCTA Executive Director, Bruce Matthews.

By Amelia Rhodes, NCTA Marketing/Communications Coordinator


Jeremy Holt

If you haven’t heard already, the North Country Trail Association is having a year-long celebration in honor of the National Park Service’s Centennial Anniversary in 2016. Anyone who hikes 100 miles on the North Country Trail in 2016 will receive a commemorative patch and certificate. 100 miles for 100 years of National Parks! You can hike the 100 miles all at once, or one mile at a time over the course of the entire year. You can hike the same miles over and over, or you can hike 100 different miles. You can hike, snowshoe, or cross-country ski the miles. How you complete the challenge is up to you. The only requirement is that the miles all be done on the North Country National Scenic Trail. If you haven’t signed up yet, please visit www.northcountrytrail.org/ hike100challenge for details and to sign up. A number of chapters and individuals started on January 1 with New Year’s Day hikes. We are enjoying hearing the stories of your adventures with the Hike 100 Challenge. Please keep the stories coming and spread the word about the challenge. Share your Hike 100 Challenge photos and stories with us by using #hike100NCT on social media. You can also e-mail arhodes@ northcountrytrail.org.

Jeremy Holt hiked the first 1.5 miles of the NCNST at Lake Sakakawea State Park, North Dakota, on January 1. He saw no other tracks but deer and pheasant on a cold but beautiful sunny day.

January-March 2016


Who’s Who Along the North Country Trail? If you have questions about the North Country Trail, there are many different places to go for information. When in doubt, try NCTA Headquarters: If you’re not sure whom to contact, your best bet is to connect with the NCTA’s National Office. Staff members are listed on page 2. North Country Trail Association 229 E Main St, Lowell, MI 49331 Toll-free: (866) HikeNCT Fax: (616) 897-6605 www.northcountrytrail.org HQ@northcountrytrail.org Visit our web site. Here you can join or contribute to the NCTA, browse the events calendar, explore NCTA Chapter pages, purchase maps and Trail-related products, follow links to Partner organizations, read up-to-date news items, report volunteer hours, and, of course, learn more about the Trail itself! National Park Service: The NPS is an excellent technical resource for volunteers, agencies, partner organizations, and the media. As our official Trail administrator, the NPS sets Trail standards, determines Trail route, and provides the overall vision for the Trail. NPS-NOCO Office P.O. Box 228, Lowell, MI 49331 www.nps.gov/noco Mark Weaver, NCNST Superintendent Mark_Weaver@nps.gov • (616) 430-3495 Chris Loudenslager, NCNST Trail Planner christopher_loudenslager@nps.gov • (616) 970-7026 Luke Jordan, NCNST Volunteer Coordinator Luke_Jordan@nps.gov • (616) 250-6714 NCTA Chapters: For information about local activities or volunteering, contact the Chapter representative for your area of interest. We have almost three dozen local volunteer clubs scattered along the Trail that are Chapters of the NCTA. Chapters build and maintain trail, host hikes and other events, and work to promote the Trail and the Association in their areas. Affiliate Organizations: The NCTA enters into affiliate agreements with other organizations who also envision the completed Trail. Trail Maintaining Affiliates are independent organizations who also work to build, maintain, and promote sections of the Trail. Supporting Affiliates are independent organizations who work with us to help fulfill our Mission, but are not responsible for a specific section of Trail. If you have questions about a section of Trail that is managed by one of these organizations, your best bet is to contact our Affiliates directly.


Future official route of North Country National Scenic Trail pending Congressional approval.


The North Star




5 3

1 Lonetree Wildlife Management Area Matt Davis • (701) 388-1883 mdavis@northcountrytrail.org 2 Sheyenne River Valley Chapter Bobby Koepplin • (701) 845-2935 bkoepplin@kwh.com 3 Dakota Prairie Chapter Gail T. Rogne • (701) 367-9410 • gtrogne@gmail.com


4 Glacial Edge Chapter Allan Schroden • schroden@prtel.com 5 Laurentian Lakes Chapter Ray Vlasak • (218) 573-3243 • llc@northcountrytrail.org 6 Itasca Moraine Chapter Eric Haugland • (218) 732-3910 • erichaugland@yahoo.com 7 Star of the North Chapter Kim Fishburn • (612) 810-3732 • outhiking_55@yahoo.com 8 Arrowhead Chapter Doug Baker • (218) 326-4030 • arw@northcountrytrail.org 9 Kekekabic Trail Chapter Mark Stange • info@kek.org 10 Border Route Trail Association

* * *

(Trail Maintaining Affiliate):


(Trail Maintaining Affiliate):

Ed Solstad • (612) 822-0569 • info@borderroutetrail.org 11 Superior Hiking Trail Association

Gayle Coyer • (218) 834-2700 • hike@shta.org


12 Brule-St.Croix Chapter Mark VanHornweder • mvanhorn74@yahoo.com 13 Chequamegon Chapter Marty Swank • (715) 682-2254 • martynct@gmail.com 14 Heritage Chapter Michael Stafford • (414) 403-4575 htg@northcountrytrail.org


15 Ni-Miikanaake Chapter Dick Swanson • (906) 229-5122 nmk@northcountrytrail.org 16 Peter Wolfe Chapter Connie Julien • cjulien7@gmail.com 17 North Country Trail Hikers Chapter Lorana Jinkerson • (906) 226-6210 nct@northcountrytrail.org 18 Superior Shoreline Chapter Tim Hass • SSC@northcountrytrail.org 19 Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter Kay Kujawa • kay1940@lighthouse.net

4 2

6 3


49* 10* 5 8* 77

11* 15



12 9 14 8 13

17 17

LEGEND Chapters Partners Not Yet Adopted

19 19 20


39* 39*


22 38

24 24



37 37 26

36 35 35


20 Harbor Springs Chapter 31 31 34 Jim and Nancy Stamm jimandnancystamm@gmail.com 33 228 21 Jordan Valley 45° Chapter 32 2 28 Duane Lawton • delawton@torchlake.com Friends of the Jordan River 28 3 30 National Fish Hatchery (Trail Maintaining Affiliate): (231) 584-2461 • pmyers@freeway.net 29 22 Grand Traverse Hiking Club Chapter Jerry Freels • (231) 922-1801 • jfreels@hotmail.com PENNSYLVANIA 23 Spirit of the Woods Chapter 32 Wampum Chapter Loren Bach • (231) 510-1983 • spw@northcountrytrail.org Dennis Garrett • (724) 827-2350 • Dcgcag@gmail.com 24 Western Michigan Chapter 33 Butler County Chapter Beth Keloneva • (231) 215-3552 • bkeloneva@gmail.com Ron Rice • (724) 538-8475 • rlrice@zoominternet.net 25 Chief Noonday Chapter 34 Clarion County Chapter Larry Pio • (269) 327-3589 • nalcoman1@aol.com Ed Scurry • (814) 437-1168 • EDSDC85@yahoo.com 26 Chief Baw Beese Chapter 35 Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy Bruce Dziadzio • brucedziadzio@aol.com (Trail Maintaining Affiliate): Patty Brunner • (724) 325-3224 • info@rachelcarsontrails.org OHIO 36 Allegheny National Forest Chapter 27 NW Ohio Rails-to-Trails Association Jeff Manelick • (814) 563-7934 • anf@northcountrytrail.org

(Trail Maintaining Affiliate):

Tom Duvendack • (419) 822-4788 tomfortrails@windstream.net 28 Buckeye Trail Association

(Trail Maintaining Affiliate):

Andrew Bashaw • (740) 394-2008 director@buckeyetrail.org 29 Adams County Chapter hq@northcountrytrail.org 30 Ohio Valley Chapter hq@northcountrytrail.org 31 Great Trail-Sandy Beaver Canal Chapter Keith Brown • (330) 264-5118 • kanddbrown@aol.com



37 Finger Lakes Trail Conference

(Trail Maintaining Affiliate):

Quinn Wright, Executive Director • (585) 658-9320 FLTinfo@fingerlakestrail.org 38 Central New York Chapter: Jack Miller • (315) 446-7257 • jacobr7@yahoo.com


Middlebury Area Land Trust: * 39 (Trail Maintaining Affiliate):

Carl Robinson • (802) 388-1007 • carl@maltvt.org

January-March 2016


State of the Trail

What follows are State of the Trail Reports from our compatriots in enthusiasm along the North Country Trail, sharing with you the highlights of their efforts in 2015. Feel free to steal good ideas or gobble up some inspiration: that’s what this annual section is for! We enjoyed a great spread of submissions this year from our various trail groups.

Steve Kinne

A crew that built multiple puncheons in an increasingly muddy stretch in the Stone Quarry Art Park. Pictured here are (standing) Mark Wadopian, Don Feola, Kathy Eisele, Mike Lynch, Doug French, and (kneeling) Jack Miller.

Central New York Chapter

NEW YORK - First, I’d like to thank Jack Miller for his 4 years of service as president of the CNY Chapter and for his continued mentorship of me after I assumed the President’s 2 position this summer. Despite the particularly cold winter, the year started off with a challenging snowshoe hike in the Stone Quarry Art Park led by intrepid hiker (and trail steward coordinator) Scott Sellers. As winter then gave way to spring and birds returned from the south, we did another birding hike in the Tioughnioga Wildlife Management Area. Although the migration pattern was different this year, we still identified over 25 bird species on the short half-mile walk back to the beaver dam. As spring progressed further, Mary Dineen led a group on her annual wildflower walk in the Nelson Swamp Unique Area. Work sessions on the Trail focused on puncheon repair and replacement, short re-routes, road crossing signage, and erosion control (e.g., construction of knicks and rolling grade dips). A special project involved construction of a split log bridge over a deteriorating beaver dam. The latter project took advantage of a 24-inch diameter maple tree that had come down over the Trail near the beaver dam. A 17-foot length was cut and then split using chainsaws, wedges, and sledge hammers. Then, the two sections were manually moved using ropes and roller logs into position onto pre-cut log footers and secured. Hikers can now cross the partially flooded section of Trail and over the dam in a safer (and drier) manner! Trail days in September found Jack Miller leading a hike along


The North Star

the Black River Canal Trail north of Pixley Falls State Park heading to Boonville. This was timely as the section of our Trail between Rome and the Adirondack Park “Blue Line” has taken on new importance. As most of you are aware, this past September saw Gov. Cuomo signing off on the North Country Trail routing through the Adirondack Preserve, culminating years of work by Mary Coffin and a host of other advocates. This injected new energy into our chapter for securing a better route between the city of Rome and Pixley Falls State Park (one that would both take hikers off busy Route 46 and also take advantage of existing state forest land just south of Pixley Falls State Park). Jack Miller, Mark Wadopian, and I re-started scouting of the area, building upon the extensive groundwork done in the past by Mary KunzlerLarmann and others. Further work and meetings with key players is presently underway. In other news, we still await the final Memorandum of Understanding between New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historical Preservation (OPRHP), NYS DEC, NCTA, and NPS… this all following the major conflict our chapter had with OPRHP over the previously NPS-certified Lehigh Valley Railroad (LVRR) section. The draft MOU has been signed off by three of the four parties, but changes within the DEC top leadership have delayed the final signature there. Unfortunately, the entire extent of the old railbed administered by OPRHP was re-designated “multi-use,” so any segment’s future as a footpath (only) is doubtful. Still, we have opened communication with the new OPRHP local managers to see how we can best help maintain the remaining LVRR sections, since it’s a perfect route through miles of private land.

State of the Trail


Finger Lakes Trail Conference

NEW YORK - 2015 was another ambitious year for our AlleyCat crews, trail maintainers and other volunteers, who generously donated their time towards the enhancement of the FLT and NCNST system. With census numbers starting 2 to trickle in, we hope to eclipse the 12,829 hours our volunteers logged the previous year on the 434 miles of our shared Trail. This total represents the combination of time spent on trail work, administration, interpretive activities, training and general resource work. Alley-Cat projects for the year included two new shelters, the traditional log constructed Locust Lean-to on Bock-Harvey Forest Preserve land in Tompkins County, and the Bob Muller Lean-to, a post and beam style structure at Irene’s Camp near Hammondsport in Steuben County. Both of these shelter projects were highlighted in detail in the December 2015 edition of the North Star. Other major FLT projects in 2015 featured the replacement of a flooddamaged 2-span bridge in Birdseye Hollow State Forest in Steuben County with a “new” 20 foot utility pole bridge while reusing the hardwood decking from the existing structure. Two major Trail reroutes were also completed this year, a nearly two mile section east of Swift Hill State Forest in Allegany County and just over a mile of Trail adjacent to Baker Schoolhouse State Forest in Cortland County. Visibility of our trail system was given a big boost with the construction of three kiosks at prominent locations across the state. The Pleasant Valley Trailhead, conceived by the Friends of Hammondsport Area Trails and Parks, was constructed with well over 100 hours of volunteer labor and consists of a forty foot circular area of stone pavers, landscaping and a robust kiosk. Yet to be added are three steel benches and a routed destination sign by a local Boy Scout. This trailhead is situated at the base of the heavily used Passport Hike along the Mitchellsville Gorge, just south of Keuka Lake, in the midst of New York’s wine country. Here the Trail hits the valley level between high forested hills on each side, east and west. A second kiosk was erected in Rock City State Forest, again with more than a hundred hours of volunteer work, near the very popular Little Rock City

Dave Oliver

Al Larmann continues his invaluable NCT advocacy efforts with the politicos in NYS and on a national level. This is a task most of us flee madly from, so we are in awe of people like Al who are willing to do it year after year! Al was also instrumental in the chapter garnering a $1,000 grant from the NCTA to help the Cazenovia Preservation Foundation (CPF) offset the costs of a major drainage project on a section of their Gorge Trail where the NCT piggybacks on it. The 2.7-mile Gorge Trail winds along the steep banks of Chittenango Creek on an old railbed heading out of Cazenovia, ironically a different segment of the same railroad from that owned by Parks. Congratulations go out to Ed Ressler, recipient of our chapter honorary award for his tireless work on the Central New York Trails website and its contribution to public awareness of our Trail. We are presently working with NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation on a new Volunteer Service Agreement (VSA) which replaces the old Temporary Revocable Permit system. This new VSA appears less cumbersome and will help ensure that all of our volunteers are registered to work on state forest lands, and that they are assured liability and Workmen’s Compensation coverage while working. Finally, our chapter faces some big challenges in the future, not the least of which is membership (both recruitment and retention). Several new ideas are being tried to increase awareness of the trail and what it has to offer in the hopes that this will increase membership. One particularly notable idea was the “door hanger” project carried out in two communities near the Trail. There was a lot of positive feedback from this effort and we are waiting to see if it brings in any new members. We are also looking to expand awareness through increased coverage by local newspapers and through possible involvement of local colleges. A potential factor in our membership recruitment and retention is that much of the Congressionally-approved route in CNY north of Canastota follows the multi-use Old Erie Canal State Park towpath over which we have little control or involvement (other than maintaining blazing), so it’s hard to get people excited about it. However, the possible off-road routing north of Rome has the potential to excite and attract new members. But, it is a fair distance northeast of our core membership and there are only a few active members in Oneida County. I believe that attracting and involving interested folks from this area will be essential to getting that project completed. These are not insurmountable challenges; however, they will require some innovative ideas and lots of legwork to accomplish them. —Steve Kinne, President, CNY Chapter

New trailhead bulletin board in town pocket park where the Finger Lakes Trail and North Country Trail cross the low valley near Hammondsport and Keuka Lake with steep hills on either side; naturally the Trail comes down and goes back up those danged hills. This park will feature daffodils and other plantings next spring; water and bathrooms available at new town office building during business hours.

January-March 2016


State of the Trail


The North Star

Allegheny National Forest Chapter

PENNSYLVANIA - A grant was used to purchase a new trailer for the Chapter. The aluminum trailer will provide a low maintenance means to transport our DR mower and other trail maintenance equipment. Our prefabricated shelter was assembled north of the Route 6 trailhead near Gibbs Hill during the April 25 trail workday. Funds from last year’s A-100 Hiking Challenge were used for the project. The outside of the shelter was stained later in the summer by a YCC crew. The Two Mile Bridge was also stained this summer. In May, we conducted an in-house CPR course for a Chainsaw Certification class that followed. The blazing of the southern 50 miles of the ANF section of trail was completed prior to the A-100. The 2015 A-100 Hiking Challenge, held June 12-14, was a success once again. The 2016 A-100 will be held June 10-12, 2016. A reroute west of Henry’s Mill was completed. The Tionesta Scenic Area reroute has been approved and will proceed once the weather permits. Numerous trail workdays focused primarily on clearing the Trail for the A-100 early in the year and water management in the following areas: Henry’s Mill, Chapel Bay and Little Salmon later in the year. The bridge over Four Mile Run was replaced in November. The project was funded by Seneca Resources. NCT and Allegheny Outdoor Club (AOC) volunteers along with the Forest Service and a prison crew provided the labor. A special thanks to Bill Massa and Gene Cornelius, who are both AOC and NCT members. —Jeff Manelick

New Art In Stone Quarry Hill Art Park

The NCT passes through this park in Cazenovia, N.Y., and these horses are new since our last feature article on this unique place. Title: "Bucking, Rearing, Shying" Artist: Esther Benedict Date: 1993/1994 Material: reinforcing steel (rebar) These life-size horse sculptures, commissioned by Tiny Rubenstein, were originally installed elsewhere. They were given to the Art Park by Jeff and Julie Rubenstein in 2014.

Jeff Palmer

picnic area in Cattaraugus County. This is a special place on the NCNST route where the Trail winds through a maze of giant crevices between huge rocks and hanging ferns. The third kiosk was constructed as part of the lean-to project on the BockHarvey Forest Preserve that is owned by the FLTC, maintained by the Cayuga Trails Club, and protected by a conservation easement held by the Finger Lakes Land Trust. Trail preservation has also ramped up under the leadership of our Vice President of Trail Preservation, David Newman. This year we secured two more permanent easements, both in Steuben County, from the Oliver family and the Hammondsport United Methodist Church. Dave is on a crusade to target and protect the Trail on critical pieces of private property, especially those that lie between public land parcels and between public lands and roads. We also received one fee title property donation situated along lovely Cayuta Creek in Schuyler County from the Braff and Sydelko families. Looking to the future, we are in the planning phase for seeking and securing Trail Town designation for the Villages of Watkins Glen and Hammondsport in the heart of the Finger Lakes region. We also have several major structures pegged for 2016 including a new lean-to and bridge in Hoxie Gorge State Forest in Cortland County and a new lean-to with donated material on private property near Hornell in Steuben County. Also in Steuben, separate Eagle Scout projects propose to build two new trail bridges, one just west of Burt Hill State Forest and the other on the eastern border of the same Forest land. A new bridge north of Ellicottville in Cattaraugus County rounds out the structure projects for the upcoming year. Turning to the Trail, we will be constructing over 1.5 miles of newly routed track through Elkdale State Forest in Cattaraugus County and nearly 2.5 miles of Trail in Tompkins County. These reroutes will eliminate substantial road walks resulting from the loss of landowner permissions. The Cayuga Trails Club also plans to repair 1.5 miles of trail east of Watkins Glen in Schuyler County that were badly damaged by severe late spring storm events, and had to repair or replace eight bridges closer to Ithaca after last June’s violent rains. Rounding out our success stories from 2015 was the FLTC and NCTA Rendezvous, hosted by our Conference at Hope Lake Lodge adjacent to Greek Peak Ski Area in central New York from September 10th through the 13th. Skillfully planned and organized by our editor, Irene Szabo, there were multiple hike offerings, training sessions and presentations that were enjoyed by all as aptly described by Ruth Dorrough in the December edition of the North Star. This fall and winter our office has experienced upheaval and renewal on several fronts. Not only are we redecorating the offices in the house at the Mt. Morris Dam that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers leases us for free, but we have all new faces working there, too! We are searching for a new Executive Director and have two new staff members due to retirement and relocation of the previous office staff. Member Quinn Wright is serving as Interim Director while we search.

State of the Trail Dave Brewer

Ron Rice

One of our new and renovated Butler County Chapter wayside signs.

Butler County Chapter

PENNSYLVANIA - In 2015 the Butler County Chapter built 2.7 miles of new Trail after getting permission from two new landowners (Wayne and Joanne Dallos and Charles Dallos). After flagging, building, blazing, and measuring with a calibrated wheel, we found that we had 0.9 mile of new Trail on the Wayne and Joanne Dallos property and 0.9 mile on the Charles Dallos property and 0.9 mile of relocated Trail on Waste Management property. This gives Waste Management a total of 1.7 miles of Trail on their property. We also built an 80´ x 40´ trailhead parking lot on the Wayne and Joanne Dallos property after receiving permission to do so. We spread 32 tons of limestone on this parking lot. We built three new signposts and planted them, plus renovated and repainted another. We built an 8 ft. bridge and an “ATV restrictor.” We hosted a Keystone Trail Association work week from May 26 to May 31. The KTA work crew stayed at the NCT Cabin in Moraine State Park and worked on the new 2.7 miles of Trail near West Sunbury. The monthly Butler County Chapter hikes are under the charge of John Stehle. We had a hike in every month of 2015. Our most famous hike is the “Cherry Pie Hike” which was on February 21st this year. We have done this Cherry Pie Hike every year since 2000. We are the only chapter in the NCTA that has historical proof that George Washington with Christopher Gist passed near where we have our “Cherry Pie Hike “and was shot at as he crossed the Connoquenessing Creek in Butler County near Evans City. In 2016 we are collaborating with “Washington’s Trail 1753” for our “Cherry Pie Hike” on February 20. They will provide speakers to talk about George Washington’s trip in this area, and to provide re-enactors to show highlights of his trip. We hope that George Washington survives being shot at, as he did back in 1753. We had a “Trail Town Ceremony” on September 26th for the City of Parker. Thirty-five people attended and were led on hikes afterwards. Dan Mourer did the hard work to get this arranged. Dave Adams continues to do an excellent job on our Butler County Chapter website and other communications as well as working on the Trail. Joyce Appel handles our social events. —Ron Rice


Wampum Chapter carving hiking sticks at the Lake Arthur Regatta in August as part of our display there. Notice the “event vest” in the foreground.

Wampum Chapter

PENNSYLVANIA - The volunteers of the Wampum Chapter worked steadily on the mission of the North Country Trail Association in 2015 as we built, maintained, and promoted the Trail in Beaver and Lawrence counties of Pennsylvania. Over 3,600 hours of volunteer effort were recorded as we added new off-road NCT, worked on existing sections to upgrade and improve them, and built awareness of the Trail throughout our communities. Our trail building projects were in Beaver County as we added an additional 2.8 miles of off-road trail which replaced a mile and a half of road walk, and added .4 mile access trail to a parking area. Work on the new section between the Ohio state line and the NCTA Trail Town of Darlington commenced in January and we worked steadily throughout the year, which resulted in having a walkable pathway available for a community hike in early October. As part of this project our volunteers hauled in materials and built three new bridges and installed numerous Carsonite signing posts, and also completed the blazing along the entire length of the new section. The chapter appreciates our seven new landowners who made this new Trail possible. A major trail improvement took place in Beaver County as well as the Chapter, working with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, built a parking lot at the Ohio and Pennsylvania state line that provides a safer, more secure parking situation for the many hikers who take off on the North Country Trail from that point. Appreciation goes out to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the local Game Lands Manager, the NCTA, the National Park Service, the Beaver County Sportsman League from Baden, ESB Bank of Ellwood City, and Bessemer Concrete for the financial support of this project. Our volunteers also worked on a short Trail reroute closer to Darlington, and installed a bench on the Kirkwood Farm at a beautiful resting spot atop a hill overlooking Game Lands 285. In Lawrence County, the Wampum Chapter worked with the Wampum Revitalization Committee as they converted a long neglected railroad building and property into a community

January-March 2016


State of the Trail Dave Brewer

New trail grubbing In Beaver County, Wampum Chapter Crew.

Dave Brewer

In promoting the North Country Trail, our group participated in six community programs, 3MJC’s Winterfest, Ellwood City’s Earth Day Celebration, Darlington Days, the Ohio River Trail Council’s Gear and Cheer Fest, the Lake Arthur Regatta at Moraine State Park, and the McConnell’s Mill Heritage Festival. We enhanced our representation at these events by acquiring new, blue “Event Vests” complete with the NCT logo, and North Country Trail Blue flags to help visitors find our information tables. The chapter organized and led a series of monthly hikes on the NCT, both in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and celebrated with the Great Trail and Sandy Beaver Canal Chapter across the border in Ohio the opening of their new off-road Trail section on National Trails Day in June. In early October the chapter worked with the local Knights of Columbus in supporting their Health Hike, a fundraiser for children with developmental disabilities. In addition to conducting our annual community Pumpkin Pie Hike later in October, we established a new tradition of the St. Patrick’s Day Hike/Hot Dog Roast/Pot Luck on a section of the NCT in Lawrence County each spring. We continue to maintain a Wampum Chapter Meetup group and also post our hikes, events, and trail work schedule on a fellow Meetup that focuses on outdoor activity in Beaver County. —Dave Brewer

Great Trail–Sandy Beaver Canal Chapter

Wampum crew members building bridge supports on a new section of Trail In Beaver County.

park, meeting place, and recreational trailhead for hikers, bikers, and boaters. The Chapter dedicated the water fountain that we donated towards the project, and supported the grand opening of the facility by attending and representing the North Country Trail. Elsewhere along the Trail in Lawrence County a deteriorating foot bridge was replaced on Cemex property, a half-mile reroute on the Mines and Meadows ATV Park property was scouted and flagged, and permission was obtained to create a trailhead parking area and campsite for hikers there. We spent a spring weekend with a Student Conservation Association crew out of Pittsburgh working on tread improvement projects at McConnell’s Mill State Park. Seeing the need for more consistency in regards to maintaining existing sections of Trail, the Wampum Chapter instituted a more formal program of recruiting adopters for specific trail sections and established written guidelines for frequency of visits and the objectives to be achieved while maintaining. Follow up is done monthly by our new Volunteer Adopter Coordinator to find out where we have opportunities to do a better job of keeping the Trail in good shape for our hikers.


The North Star

OHIO - 2015 will be remembered as the year the Sandy Beaver Canal Chapter awakened from a long slumber. Hikers will now find all nine miles of our off-road Trail well marked and in good condition. On National Trails Day we celebrated the opening of 2.5 miles of new Trail through pristine forest of maple, poplar, beech, sycamore, pine and spruce. One mile of it goes through Sheep Skin Hollow Nature Preserve and one mile through private land protected by a conservation easement. Nearly 40 local people hiked the Trail and a dozen signed on to receive e-mail notices of our activities. Four people who live in the area have become adopters so all developed Trail is now adopted. Ron Gorman received the NCTA Chapter Honor Award this year for his dedicated work on the Trail and for his work in planning this event. Hiker activity has greatly increased this year. In response to hiker suggestions we are asking ODNR for approval to construct a parking lot on ODNR land where the Trail crosses the north fork of Little Beaver Creek. The entire Trail through Beaver Creek State Park has been upgraded including a .3 mile relocation which moved the Trail off a dangerous rocky section. Most of our planning and business activity this year was accomplished by e-mail and over lunch hours while doing trail work. I have come to realize that everyone cannot or may not wish to do trail work but may have other skills an active Chapter needs. Thus, this year we plan to meet at least quarterly to organize and do the planning necessary for a successful future. —Keith Brown, President

State of the Trail Chief Baw Beese Chapter

—Bruce Dziadzio


Larry Pio

LOWER MICHIGAN It was a busy year for the Chief Baw Beese Chapter in Michigan’s southernmost lower peninsula. Our small chapter had eleven different members actively help build and maintain our section of the Trail this past year. In the Lost Nation State Game area, where we spend most of our efforts, we completed several reroutes and completed clearing the Trail and updating the blazes where needed. This completion has been several years in the making and is a result of the vision and dedication of our most active volunteers. This section of Trail is our crown jewel and now just needs regular maintenance to have all enjoy this beautiful stretch with lakes, beaver dams, streams and hardwood and coniferous forests. Like every heavily wooded area, it always needs constant attention to clear windfall large and small along with trimming or removal of invasive species. We completed a new section of Trail near the new Trail Town of Litchfield that connects to an existing nature trail just south of town. We look forward to marking this new Trail and working with the city to complete their new Trail Town website and invite hikers travelling through this area. We also were able to buy some new equipment to ease the burden of clearing the trail in remote areas. Although we still have long stretches of road walks, we have ensured the route is marked so hikers from the north or south don’t lose their way. Next year we plan to work on the Trail around Litchfield, complete the Trail Town unveiling and hope to add a campsite. We also are hoping to work with the Michigan DNR to build some footbridges in Lost Nation.

New Chief Noonday Bridge in Fort Custer Recreation Area.

Chief Noonday Chapter

LOWER MICHIGAN - The Chief Noonday Chapter worked on three major projects this year, and a lot of smaller ones. We continued to upgrade our puncheons in the Fort Custer National Cemetery section (we had a lot of snow melt early in the spring that put almost all of the old ones under a couple inches of water). With a new partner, the Circle Pines Center, we were able to add about a mile and a half of new trail. And finally, we completed the construction of a new bridge in Fort Custer Recreation Area in just over a month, relying on 33 volunteers plus 28 Michigan Youth Challenge Academy cadets, who together contributed over 700 volunteer hours on the project. Our partners in Middleville and Albion are planning extensions of multi-use trail within their communities, and we assist them when we can. Our Optimal Location Review team is ramping up, and we are focusing primarily on the southern Barry County section, while still working on many other areas of interest. Tom Ackerman won our 6th Annual Chief Noonday Hiker Challenge, with 601 miles in 2014. Jane Norton is our current leader at 295 miles for 2015. We have continued with a pretty heavy schedule promoting the Trail via the outreach opportunities that are offered to us, with almost all of our active members involved in at least one opportunity during the year. A highlight this year was working with Mark Weaver on a program to get some of our urban youth outdoors, with four hikes taking youth out with cameras, and then displaying their best photos in public forums. Our Facebook “likes” have more than doubled in the past year, with 679, and this medium has allowed more folks to know what we are planning. Attendance at our monthly hikes has continued to grow, and we will be kicking off 2016 with our 5th Shoe Year’s Day Hike in partnership with Yankee Springs Recreation Area. — Larry Pio

January-March 2016


State of the Trail North Country Trail Association Headquarters

LOWER MICHIGAN - 2015 has been another exciting year at the NCTA Headquarters. Check out some of our major accomplishments and what we have in store for the new year. Outreach and Marketing: • NCTA developed more webinars and online tutorials to train our volunteers and engage the public. Topics included GPSing the Trail and how to use our online map. View these new resources at: https://northcountrytrail. org/trail/maps/. • We launched an online data portal that will make it easier to share our trail information with land managers and partners. The portal also allows for downloads of our data for GPS use for volunteers and hikers. View the portal here: http:// gis.nct.opendata.arcgis.com/ and watch a tutorial on using the portal here: https://vimeo.com/134120543. • We continued to develop our Trail Town program for a total of 19 Trail Towns! We also added story maps to our Trail Town webpages and have a new Trail Town Handbook in development. https://northcountrytrail.org/trail/trail-towns/. • We improved our online presence with more blog posts, and engaged more people on social media than ever before. Our web visits have doubled and our Facebook “likes” are up 12% View our blog posts here: https://northcountrytrail. org/insight/. • We developed and launched the Hike 100 Challenge to celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service. Join the Challenge here: https://northcountrytrail.org/getinvolved/special-events/hike-100-challenge/. Trail Management and Protection: • The New York Department of Environmental Conservation approved the plan for the NCT in the Adirondack Park, a long awaited triumph for our volunteers and partners who have worked for more than a decade on the route. See the news here: https://northcountrytrail.org/north-countrytrail-in-the-adirondacks/. • Worked with the National Park Service to adopt and train our volunteers in the Optimum Location Review (OLR) process to locate the Trail in the best possible location. • Developed a partnership with The Conservation Fund in Michigan in an effort to protect select locations along the Trail. Secured funding to bring on a Regional Trail Coordinator for Michigan. • Improved our partnership with the USDA Forest Service by working with the Regional Office to improve consistency of management and began a funding agreement with the Forest Service to improve the Trail in select locations each year. • The long-awaited Memorandum Of Understanding between NCTA, NPS and New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was signed, paving the way for increased cooperation among managing agencies and greater protection of the NCNST on the New York lands they manage.


The North Star

Organizational Capacity: • Most notably, this was a big year for growing NCTA staff. We were able to bring Matt Rowbotham (GIS/Mapping coordinator) back on full-time, we hired Amelia Rhodes as our Marketing /Communications Coordinator, and we were able to bring on Kenny Wawsczyk as our Michigan Regional Trail Coordinator. In addition, Michelle Mangus came on board to fill a vacancy in our administrative staff. • We revised our Chapter Leadership Handbook and held and recorded leadership webinars that are now online for all to view at https://vimeo.com/northcountrytrail. Advocacy and Policy • We continued to grow our Advocacy Committee and recruited State Chair positions that will organize further in each given state. We now have a Chair for every state, and a well-functioning committee with very capable volunteer leadership that is making a dramatic difference in NCTA’s presence in Washington. • We’ve been very successful in growing support for the NCNST Route Adjustment Act (HR 799 and S. 403). Both bills have bi-partisan sponsorship (HR 799 with 23 co-sponsors—11 Republicans and 12 Democrats; S. 403 with 10 co-sponsors—8 Democrats, 1 Republican and 1 Independent). S. 403 has been reported out of Committee and we’re hoping we can get a floor vote, or have it wrapped into an omnibus bill before this 114th Congress ends. • We participated with many partners in a successful effort to re-authorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, all the more noteworthy in this very contentious political environment. • Your NCTA staff is grateful to be supporting Chapter and volunteer efforts along the entire 4600 miles of NCNST— uniting the Red Plaid Nation!

Western Michigan Chapter

LOWER MICHIGAN - Build, Promote, Maintain. This is our standard refrain. Even though this was a slow year for the Western Michigan Chapter in terms of trail building (we rerouted two sections of Trail in the Manistee National Forest), it was, however, a major transitional year for our chapter in other ways. Two of the pillars of our chapter, trail manager Paul Haan and chapter president Chuck Vanette, have moved on after a decade of service. Both will be sorely missed but the Chapter is very grateful for all they have done over that decade. Furthermore, board members Stephanie Black, Andy Mytys, Roger Meyer, Charles Chandler, and Chuck Hayden all retired. Again we are grateful for their service. Knowing these changes were coming, we began the year by engaging in a workshop on organizational development for non-profits facilitated by the Johnson Center for Philanthropy of Grand Valley State University and assisted by Andrea Ketchmark of the NCTA. This process continued for several months and culminated in November with the chapter’s adoption of a new set of by-laws and the election of an almost entirely new leadership board: Beth Keloneva – President, Jim Bradley – Vice President,

State of the Trail Spirit of the Woods Chapter

LOWER MICHIGAN We have had a quiet year here in the Spirit of the Woods section. We finally completed a small re-route after having an area of Trail that followed the Manistee River slip due to the unstable soil on the riverbank. The re-route avoided some disputed land ownership issues. It doesn’t change the route substantially, but it does necessitate a road walk of less than a mile due to the terrain and the area of disputed land. Other trail work days involved some repair of trouble spots, like log bridges, but nothing major went wrong and weather events were mild. Here’s hoping for a similar 2016. We continue to have monthly hikes, usually the first Saturday of the month. The hikes are well attended and are publicized in local papers, online and sent out in an ever growing email list. Our plans in 2016 are to host our monthly hikes on the North Country Trail only (rather than including other area trails) so we can help those who might want to work towards the Hike 100 Challenge on the North Country Trail and earn the patch for the Centennial of the National Park Service. We feel fortunate that we have so much forested land in this area and that most of our chapter’s miles are in the Huron Manistee National Forest. We hosted a long distance hiker (Dan W.) and helped with a food drop for some other folks. Our chapter locally is very small but we like to help other hikers. —Loren Bach

Loren Bach

Dianne Taylor-Chandler – Treasurer, and Members at-large Mark Bryson, Mike McKendrick, and Ted Mauger. In addition, we elected Jim’s dog Moxie as official trail mascot for the chapter! This year also represented a major shift of our focus in trail development. The West Michigan Chapter is responsible for the Trail through two Michigan counties, Newaygo and Kent. Newaygo County is rural and much of it lies in the Manistee National Forest. Thus our chapter has primarily focused on developing and maintaining Trail in the National Forest. The result is a beautiful, high quality section of Trail of which we are (justifiably) proud. While that section still needs to be maintained, the development work is pretty much done. So our focus is shifting to Kent County, a very different situation. With a population over 620,000, Kent is probably the most populous county the NCT passes through. The Trail enters the county in the southeast, skirts its eastern edge for roughly 20 miles, then runs roughly northwest until it enters Newaygo County. The eastern edge of Kent county is rural, mostly farmland; however, the eastern side is also home to some of Grand Rapids’ most upscale suburbs and these are gradually sprawling in an easterly direction. At present most of the Trail in Kent County is road walks and the land available for trail development is limited. The NCTA’s trail developers have laid out a viable route through the county combining land from county parks, a State of Michigan linear park, two state game areas, township parks, an abandoned railroad bed, part of a golf course, and (we hope) some private land. Much of this requires approvals that may not be easy to get; nevertheless, we recently submitted a proposal for a trail route through Seidman Park in the hands of the Kent County Parks administration. But much remains to be done. It’s a kind of work different from what we have done in the past and it will be a challenge. Work is also being done by an active group in the Cedar Springs area north of Grand Rapids to create another Trail Town by rerouting the Trail into Cedar Springs. Again, it’s challenging work involving many interested parties. We promoted the Trail throughout the year at various local events, the largest of which was the White Cloud Trails Town Celebration. This was a collaborative event with many local agencies supporting and participating. Hundreds of people of all ages participated in runs, hikes, kayaking, music and camping. This is planned to be an annual event, so mark your calendars for Saturday, September 24, 2016 at the White Cloud County Campground. Contact Charles Chandler to participate or volunteer at amt3866.2007@gmail.com.

Jim Bradley

—Jim Bradley, Chuck Vannette, and Beth Keloneva

Spirit of the Woods Chapter Hike.

Moxie on the Trail.


January-March 2016


State of the Trail Duane Lawton

Ruth and Dan Dorrough joined us for our May 2nd Skyline trail group hike.

Jordan Valley 45º Chapter

The North Star

Duane Lawton


—Duane Lawton

Work crew who finished erecting the Skyline Camp shelter (yurt) July 25th. Duane Lawton

LOWER MICHIGAN - At our annual meeting in January we were privileged to have Andrea Ketchmark as our featured speaker with her update on the NCTA! Our annual “Big Foot” award went to Amy Wilks, our intrepid communications coordinator and newsletter editor. For our annual election we finally began to follow our bylaws and stagger officeholders. We have new trail coordinators, Dove and John Day. We again represented the NCTA at the Quiet Water Symposium in East Lansing in March (along with West Michigan and Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore chapters). On National Trails Day we held our Third Annual Petoskey Trail Town Celebration in the Bear River Recreation Area with speeches, booths, food, prizes, music, games and hikes. Our Petoskey Trail Town Coordinator, Jen Winnell, was again successful in enlisting many local sponsors for the event. We continued erecting new registration boxes along the Trail. The boxes provide a registration book, brochures, and a hikerscale distance sign. These “plantings” made good opportunities for group hikes, and we greatly enjoyed them: Charlevoix and Emmet County Line and Cherry Valley Overlook on July 11th (with Luke Jordan and Ed Talone), at the NCT westbound junction in the Warner Creek Pathway on August 8th, and at the 45th Parallel in the Jordan Valley on September 26th. We continued development of the “Skyline Camp” on Doug and Pam Boor’s property near the Trail south of Petoskey, by completing erection of the shelter (“yurt”), start of an outhouse, and a “camp rules” sign. Besides being a welcome stopping point for longer distance hikers, the Skyline Camp will be a draw for

local youth groups and should increase awareness and interest in the NCT and the NCTA. Regrettably, Jeff McCusker’s departure has interrupted work on our candidate NPS safety-related trail project to avoid the walk on the shoulder of US-131 by making Trail in the State Forest. We hope to get busy again on the OLR in 2016, working with Chris Loudenslager and Kenny Wawsczyk. In September 2013, a bridge in the Jordan Valley collapsed. In addition, there is destructive beaver activity and a stand of invasive phragmites that also challenge the Trail in the iconic “beaver ponds” area. A detour had been posted by the DNR. As a result of a “kickoff” meeting with the DNR in April, it was decided to go along with their direction of abandoning that trail section and building a new section that circumvents the beaver ponds upslope. This Trail was jointly cleared and blazed with the DNR on June 4th. We are hoping that “Iron Belle Trail” publicity will encourage restoration of the beaver ponds route, because it was beautiful. Beaver usually win, so we’re in denial. We held our first annual “Adopter Appreciation Dinner” October 17th, an innovation of our trail coordinators, the Days. Mary Campbell was chief cook (yum). Dove and John Day have been outstanding as our new trail coordinators; we now have 100% of our trail sections adopted, and our “adopter dashboard” of trail maintenance conditions is now ALL GREEN! John was also instrumental in marshalling our response to the August 2nd windstorm that dropped thousands of trees, many on the Trail. Bimonthly chapter meetings continue, and we had an interesting hiking presentation at each. We continue to publish our chapter newsletter on opposite months, thanks to our editor Amy Wilks. Our website is also being maintained, thanks to Josh Berlo.

Left: Cake served at First Annual J45º Trail Adopters Appreciation Dinner.

State of the Trail Harbor Springs Chapter


Nikki Craig

LOWER MICHIGAN - Our section seems to be getting wetter, as we keep finding places that need boardwalk. This year we built 450 feet of boardwalk, much of it done as an Eagle Scout Project! A huge thank you to all the Scouts and their parents who worked on a soggy, wet section during mosquito season! Re-blazing is ongoing, and this year we managed to re-blaze 35 miles of the 46 miles that we maintain. Re-blazing is something we all like to do, as it’s easy and peaceful, although quite messy for some of us! Mowing is an un-ending summer chore, as much of our section is quickly overgrown with ferns and blackberries. Many hours were spent clearing the Trail after the winter and severe winds of summer storms. We had two members get chain saw certified this year, and they put their training to good use. Do trees have a contest to see which blow-down can block the Trail most thoroughly? It sure seems like it after a wind storm. All the time spent maintaining is worth it, especially when reading the comments written in our log books. We are proud of the fact that long distance hikers often comment that our 46 miles are some of the best maintained and marked that they’ve hiked. We schedule public group hikes throughout the spring and summer, which gives us another opportunity to increase membership. Our annual Mother’s Day hike is always a success, with trillium, jacks-in-the-pulpit, and other spring wildflowers out in abundance. Then dinner at a local restaurant after the hike made this the perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day! The hike in June is planned to take us on the section of Trail where the lady slippers grow. It’s always chancy because of the weather. Will the orchids be blooming or not? We weren’t disappointed this year! There were more flowers than ever. Absolutely stunning! Mid-summer hikes take us around area lakes. French Farm and Wycamp Lakes are surrounded by state land, and are completely undeveloped. It’s not uncommon to see eagles, otters, and beavers. Our hikes wouldn’t be complete without eating Nancy’s cookies during our rest stops. Believe me, it would be worth a trip here to hike with us just to get one of her cookies! Our former President, Jerry Keeney, was instrumental in forming the group “Getting Kids Outdoors.” This year they had an outdoor event at Pond Hill Farm in which we and Jordan Valley 45° Chapter took part. Our section stops just north of Petoskey, so we like to team with Jordan Valley 45° when we can for events. It was fun talking to parents and young children about the Trail, and also getting to become friends with the JV45° group. Those who weren’t out hiking on National Trails Day were again with the Jordan Valley 45° for festivities in Petoskey along the Bear River. It’s always a great time educating people about the Trail, and gaining a few members in the process. Unfortunately, because so much of our section runs through State of Michigan land, logging rights are sold off. We end up spending a lot of time cleaning up after the loggers. Does anyone else out there have this problem? How do you handle it? Has anyone come up with a way to curtail logging next to the Trail? Our yearly barbecue meeting was held at Jim and Nancy Stamm’s house. The BBQ is always a great time: good food, wonderful people, and terrific conversation. It’s a good thing Jim

and Nancy have a big garage, however, as it rained buckets this year! We were nice and dry, though, and happy to be surrounded by good friends. The county road commission acted on our request, and widened the shoulder of the road at one of our trailheads. It was a dangerous spot with no parking, so we are very grateful to the road commission for doing this project. Our year officially ended in October with the annual meeting and pot luck. (Reading over this, it sounds like we like to eat as well as hike!) We usually try to get out snowshoeing several times during the winter, but with no snow yet, we’ll happily continue to hike. —Anne Billiard

Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter's Tahqua Trail project structure.

Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter UPPER MICHIGAN - The Tahqua Trail Project is more than a year ahead of schedule. Adopt A Section Coordinator, Walter Colyer, reported that the HSS volunteers maintained their sections with assistance from the Roving Crew. Reroutes were scouted around beaver and water issues and getting the Trail off the road. A beaver deceiver was invented and installed north of Tahqua Trail. At last check it was still working! Events were worked in with monthly hikes when possible to make the best use of volunteer time. The Business Membership Drive nearly doubled the number of our business members. HSS has the most NCT Business Memberships. Our Roving Crew works on larger projects throughout the year. The crew completed 21 structures in the Tahqua Trail Project, built two 120 foot sections of boardwalk at Whitefish Bay National Scenic Byway, scouted three reroutes at Tahquamenon Falls and Curley Lewis Highway, supervised and worked with an Eagle Scout in the Little Bear Creek Project, and found a temporary solution to the beaver issue north of Tahqua Trail. Other volunteers worked for the NCT from their homes and offices. Greg Smith from Lansing volunteers as our webmaster, while Rebecca Jones from Sault Ste. Marie is our media specialist. HSS Vice President, Tom Walker, leads our Facebook January-March 2016


State of the Trail team. Kathy Colyer writes Thank You notes all year long to our membership! Kathleen Joustie is one of many photographers and made NCT photography presentations. HSS Volunteers man the NCT display and make presentations throughout the year. The Chapter is often invited to have the display at Sault Tribe and State Park events. Volunteers sit on the Tri-County Wellness Coalition which connects HSS with the tribe. The Chapter coordinated the June hike with the tribe’s “Let’s Get Moving” program. June 27th Lesley Aker and Marilyn Chadwick manned the display during the Two Hearted Hike at Tahquamenon Falls. The Roving Crew has had another productive year working on the Tahqua Trail Project during Michigan Trails Week and throughout the fall. Twelve more boardwalk structures span the gullies and the trail tread has been improved. The project moved the Trail off Tahqua Trail road to the banks of the Tahquamenon River for six miles. Work began on the project in 2014. This section is not your usual wilderness experience, but is rapidly becoming a day hike destination for the Eastern UP. The Upper Peninsula Sustainable Forest and Wildlife Fund, a Great Water Society grant, a NPS Annual Funding Request, and a NCTA Field Grant funded the materials for the structures. The project was officially opened on October 10th with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a hike of the project. Over 30 people attended the ceremony and hike. This section will be used for a hike on New Year’s Day to begin the NCT Hike 100 Challenge and during the Paradise Winter Carnival January 30th. —Kay Kujawa

Superior Shoreline Chapter

Nikki Craig

Another Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter's Tahqua Trail project structure.

UPPER MICHIGAN - As winter wears along, especially on one’s nerves and sense of humor, one’s thoughts naturally turn to spring and the planning of that early season “BTB” hike.* As enjoyable as it is to plan the trek, it is also energizing for the Chapter as we gladly assist the determined hiker. They are likened to the first robin, the harbinger of spring and good things to come! However, as hikers asked last winter about what to expect along the Trail along the shore of Lake Superior, the home of our Chapter, their patience wore...well, thin, as we had to tell them that their hike would not happen in March, nor April and likely not until mid-May at the earliest. As the last week of April appeared on the calendar it seemed a fairly good bet that we would be able to drive near a trail head in a week or so, maybe three, to commence readying the Trail for the first of the distance hikers. Finally, plans were finalized to re-open the Trail for spring and a contingent of dedicated trail workers headed out on May 15 to discover that they might be experiencing a bad case of cabin fever and might need to delay trail clearing, at least for a bit. The snow on the Trail was hip deep. When it finally did melt we were faced with numerous trail collapses due to the erosion from high water in Lake Superior, coupled with multiple dozens of blow downs from the strong winds off the lake. A great deal of work remains in places where the Trail collapsed (15 in all throughout the season) convincing us that the Trail must be relocated farther back from the edge of the dunes overlooking the lake. If we were being paid for our efforts we definitely would have job security! The area encompassing 30+ miles of the Trail along the shore of Lake Superior is designated as “Critical Dunes” and methods that may be utilized to clear a new trail are regulated, necessitating that most of the work be done by hand. While the east end of our Trail will always be a “work in progress,” this past season saw many great things for the Trail and the Chapter. Membership has been steadily increasing from the 9 members that came together in 2010 to reform the predecessor Chapter; the number now hovers in the 40s. For the first time in the history of NCT the 20 miles of trail from Munising west has dedicated adopters. They often work as a team making the trail work more of a social get together than a work session. The sole reported problem is that the Chapter sawyer nearest to them cannot keep up with them on the trail. The west section of the Trail had never been that clear and easy to follow. Many thanks to our tireless adopters both on the west and east ends of our Trail.

*BTB: Before the Bugs Spring in the UP has a rather different meaning to its residents, “Yoopers,” as spring is celebrated on July 18, summer on July 19, fall on July 20, followed by the return of winter. It is at times stated that in the UP we have six months of winter followed by six months of poor skiing.


The North Star

State of the Trail

The Chapter is in the planning stages with the local Girl Scout troop of a program scheduled to commence in the “spring” to introduce the scouts to trail construction and maintenance. In the anticipation that they will enjoy it, a specific section of the Trail is contemplated for their adoption. A group of Chapter members has volunteered to provide the training and oversight. As it turns out, the National Park Service has quite an initiative with the Girl Scouts of America. Both it and the NCTA offices in Lowell have been immensely helpful as a resource for the Chapter. This year saw the highest number of distance hikers contacting the Chapter for trail information outside of Pictured Rocks. As there really are not any towns along our section of the Trail other than Grand Marais and Munising, we have secured arrangements with Tahquamenon and Muskallonge State Parks to accept re-supply packages and we are developing with the assistance of the Parks additional means of assistance to the hiker. Many do not realize that cell phone coverage along most of our Trail section is non-existent. In Deer Park and Grand Marais we have merchants who will accept messages for hikers and assist us with emergency location of hikers. We also have realized the benefit of ham radio communication along the Trail thanks to the cooperation of the Luce Amateur


Duane Lawton of Jordan Valley 45º Chapter

Jo Oosveen

Honest, this was our mid-May first trail work session in 2015.

Radio Society (LARS) and Alger Amateur Radio Club (AARC). We have continued to enjoy a great partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It has invited our Chapter to be part of the focus groups at both of the abovementioned State Parks and consults with us on trail needs and conditions and the potential impacts of logging in the area of the NCT. As we report our volunteer hours to NCTA and NPS, we also report our volunteer hours to the DNR and make certain it knows when we plan to work in the area and that it receives our trail reports once this work is completed. As an interesting side note, we report to the DNR sightings of wildlife, such as the recent sighting of the bull moose on the Trail, and the DNR reported to us the sighting of the cow moose not that far afield. The DNR has been unendingly supportive of our efforts to restore the Trail from the wildfire of a few short years past and the number of trail collapses we have faced in the past year. It has assisted with trail relocation plans, taking GPS coordinates for mapping and storage of trail equipment and supplies so that we do not have to transport our trail maintenance supplies and equipment 100 miles each way to and from the impact area. As we will be continuing next season the trail rebuilding for the 35 miles on the east end of our Trail, the assistance of the DNR is greatly appreciated. Most recently our Chapter was approached by a group promoting a multi-use trail expansion in the Munising area that will connect its trail with the NCT at a venue known as Valley Spur. Once completed this trail should afford hikers an opportunity to get off busy M-94 to hike from Munising to Valley Spur. We are pleased to be asked to assist and lend some of our expertise. This winter has started out rather mellow and, perhaps, if we are lucky we WILL be able to be back on the Trail sooner rather than later in 2016.

Eugene Branigan utilizing the critical rope provided by the NCT Hikers Chapter in order to get down this unforgiving hill.

NCT Hikers Chapter

UPPER MICHIGAN - The NCT Hikers’ first and most important goal every year is to fully maintain the miles of Trail we have on the ground. We are, once again, proud of that achievement by our Trail Adopters and Trail Crew although, as we age, it is becoming a struggle to accomplish. Without an influx of younger volunteers, this goal becomes more and more difficult to attain. One unique addition we added this season is a rope for hikers to utilize on some of our more extreme slopes as illustrated by the accompanying photo of Eugene Branigan of the Jordan Valley 45º Chapter rappelling down a rocky

January-March 2016


State of the Trail

—Lorana Jinkerson

Peter Wolfe Chapter

UPPER MICHIGAN - A BIG thank you goes out to our Peter Wolfe Chapter (PWC) Trail Adopters who were willing to get out on their adopted segments of Trail in early spring and then continue throughout the summer. In the spring, we find lots of snow damaged trees and branches brought down from deep snow, often 200-300 inches of it! We are proud to say we were able to maintain our entire PWC Trail again this season and feedback we received from hikers was all appreciative. The PWC wrote a successful grant for a much appreciated enclosed tool trailer for the chapter from NCTA/NPS funds. We drew up guidelines for several committees and for the use of the new trailer. We painted the trailer inside and constructed shelving etc. in it, then to show off our new trailer with beautiful graphics of the NCT on it, we pulled it in one of the bigger local parades along with a hiker and backpack following the trailer, handing out flyers about the NCT and PWC. That was a big hit with the thousands of folks watching the parade on a perfect June day in the Upper Peninsula (UP)! We held several public hike and snowshoe adventures on the NCT including a successful membership drive hike followed by a fun dinner with our new hiking friends. We held a demonstration work day on the use of the Chapter’s heavy brush hog. We coordinated a student work day to help resurface with gravel a very popular PWC side trail to the beautiful O Kun de Kun Falls and spectacular river bridge. We scouted a reroute needed to avoid wading across a river. We started scouting possible routes for new trail in a missing link of the PWC to get our hikers off a road


The North Star

Connie Julien

drop on Segment 22: https://www.northcountrytrail.org/nct/ ColesCr.htm. Hiker numbers continued to expand this year. Our third Sunday hikes from June through September were well attended, netting our chapter a few new members, as occurred with our National Trails Day Hike in June and our “Celebrate Walking in Marquette” Trail Town event on NCTA’s NCNST Day in September. We enjoyed leading hikes for the 5th-8th graders of the Powell Township Schools and two groups of high school students from North Star Academy. Multiple Boy and Girl Scouts took part, too. Of course, both our spring and fall Softies Hikes were enjoyable. (See the Softies Hike story on page 8 in this issue.) The number of day and long distance hikers in our area as reported in the last issue was exciting for us. We look forward to even more hikers of all types enjoying our remote, rugged Trail next season. We hosted information booths at several events including the spring UP Sports Show, the Marquette Trails Fest, the Marquette Trail 50 Ultramarathon, NMU’s Fall Fest and the XTERRA Lake Superior Shore Run. Our three General Membership meeting programs by Steve Nelson and Pat Riley, both Senior Resource Foresters with Plum Creek Timber Company, Tom Foye presenting The Trails of the McCormick Wilderness, and Walt Summers sharing information on toads and frogs were informative as well as entertaining.

Michigan Tech Student Volunteer Day workers and PWC crew on the O Kun de Kun Falls Trail retread project, summer 2015. They are slowly building a trail that can enable almost any person, no matter their abilities, to reach these popular falls.

walk. An easement was drawn up with a timber company land holder for a part of that new trail across their property. We hope to get easements or ownerships soon on other properties near there to be able to start work on this missing link. NCTA has been a tremendous help with this and the required Optimal Location Review! Thank you! We were honored that the NCTA chose three of our members for Trail-wide awards in 2015! Doug Welker was awarded the highest honor of all for the NCTA, the Lifetime Achievement Award for his decades of volunteer service to the Trail here in the PWC and elsewhere. Jim Belote and Connie Julien were awarded Trail Maintainer of the Year. In this next year, we have several large projects we hope to start work on. The new Michigan Iron Belle Trail is mapped out from Iron Mountain in the western UP to Belle Isle in southern Michigan. All across the UP, the hiking part of that trail includes the NCT. So the Michigan DNR is offering grants to the NCT chapters to help work on our trails. We will use this funding in the PWC to fix, repair or replace short bridges and put long boards on our many wet spots. We will work on reroutes around a river and a beaver pond. We hope NCTA negotiations go well with landowners so we can start work on a new segment of Trail that is the missing link between our Chapter Trail and next Chapter going east from Canyon Falls which will enable us to get the hikers off the current road connector and back into the woods in this 15+ mile area. We will continue to look for adopters for all our segments of the PWC Trail and we hope to form a new Maintenance Group to work on trail structures and new trail special projects. Several members have already signed up to participate in the Hike 100 Challenge in 2016! On March 19th, the PWC is excited to be co-sponsoring a talk by the world’s only blind professional long distance hiker, Trevor Thomas, whose trail name is Zero/Zero. “Throughout his career, Trevor has trekked nearly 20,000 miles on America’s most rugged and remote long trails. He gained notoriety in 2008 when he became the first blind person in history to complete a solo, unassisted thru hike of the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail (AT). In 2010, he became the first blind person to thru hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), a 2,645 mile trek from Mexico to Canada.” Trevor will give the keynote address during the U.P. Environmental Coalition’s “Celebrate the UP!”

State of the Trail Connie Julien

In 2015, the Chapter also formally began to decertify all Trail east of Hwy 122 and basically replaced it with a road-walk connection and reroute along Hwy 122 north to Superior Falls at the Wisc./Mich. state line. This new reroute is now detailed on the NCTA website trail guide. Ultimately, the Trail will be built off road and a section of Trail from Upson Lake to Foster Falls has already been flagged and some clearing has begun. The Chapter is in the process of setting an aggressive schedule for 2016. To begin, we intend to recruit another crew of interns to help us construct new trail east from Copper Falls State Park to Stricker Rd and then east to Hwy 169. We are also planning a Grand Opening ceremony for the Copper Falls extension, probably on NCNST Day in September. —Mike Stafford

Peter Wolfe Chapter Utility/Tool Trailer with “Hiker” in a local parade, June 2015. “Hiker” is PWC member Terry Lahti, who passed out flyers about the NCT along the parade route. Todd McMahon

This is an all day event which will take place in Baraga, Michigan, at the Ojibwa Community College. So please mark your calendar and join us for a fun day of speakers highlighting the wonderful UP outdoors, and hear Trevor's keynote address that Saturday evening! You can check the PWC webpage for further details: http://www.northcountrytrail.org/pwf. If you are willing to help us on any of these PWC projects next summer, please contact us! —Connie Julien, PWC President cjulien7@gmail.com

Heritage Chapter


Heritage Chapter's May work weekend, training our new interns. We had a training session in the cabin, then headed out for some hands on trail work.

Todd McMahon

WISCONSIN - The Heritage Chapter held eight formal on trail events in 2015 plus five off trail promotional events. Each month the chapter held one work weekend event dedicated almost entirely to trail construction, while most of our trail maintenance was performed at other times by Trail Adopters or local members on their own schedule. The off-trail promotional events began in February with the Northland College Intern Fair where the Chapter recruited a crew of six interns plus a few occasional student volunteers to work with our member volunteers constructing new trail on the scheduled monthly weekend work events. Other promotional events were the booth at Canoecopia in March, Erehwon Outdoor Expo in June, Iron County Fair in July and Ashland County Fair in August. In addition, Todd McMahon led a work crew to build a new campsite in Iron County between the Gold Mine and Wren Falls and Bill Menke's Rover Trail Crew built two new bridges and four sections of puncheon in Copper Falls State Park extension. The Chapter built another 1.25 miles of Trail in Copper Falls State Park which essentially completes that five mile section and now the trail runs the entire length of the park. Trail construction is an exhausting endeavor so we were fortunate to have a dedicated camp chef, Margaret Paulson, to fuel the work crew at virtually all of our work events. Margaret is our Chapter Honor award recipient for 2015.

Becca working on the trail in Heritage Chapter area.

January-March 2016


State of the Trail outcroppings. Discovery that this section of NCT is one of our most popular sections was a side benefit of all of our efforts. Many hikers would pass by during these trail maintenance days and offered thanks that would boost our spirits. For 2016 we have more Trail re-routes to accomplish, the major one being a .4 mile re-route in the Rainbow Lake Wilderness. We also hope finally to replace the rather awful boardwalk north along Hwy. 169 that leads to Copper Falls State Park. This effort will also include a Trail re-route. While the Chapter was blessed by not having a MAJOR wind event this year, there are always trees coming down in the Chapter’s mostly forested NCT. We would love another trail maintenance season like the last one. The three Trail re-routes completed are east of FR202 (Old Grade Road) and just before Juniper Rock Overlook. The Swedish Settlement, Marengo River and two other overlooks are also in the Marengo Semi-Primitive Area. Maps are available for free download on the Chapter’s website at http:// www. northcountrytrail.org/che/ —Marty Swank

Chequamegon Chapter

Vickie Swank

WISCONSIN - Spring Cleanup by most of our 37 dedicated Trail Adopters and CoAdopters allowed time for the Chequamegon Chapter to reclaim the Swedish Settlement from encroaching brush and saplings and maintain the eastern end of Anderson Grade (a heavily used main connector trail to the NCT). By mid-July, the first of a series of proposed Trail re-routes was approved by the Great Divide District of the USFS and we would begin three Trail re-routes in the Marengo Semi-Primitive Area. These three Trail re-routes were all a short distance from each other but would end up taking three separate trail maintenance events and some independent work by other volunteers on different dates. The re-routes mostly consisted of benching new Trail in areas with LOTS of rocks. Tools needed major re-sharpening after each use and removing rock after rock became very labor intensive. On the second attempt on August 15th, we managed to pick the hottest and most humid day of the entire summer and work was cut short by a few hours for health reasons. Finally on Saturday, October 3rd, volunteers completed the three Trail re-routes. Basically we moved the current mucky, sometimes under water NCT to higher ground and in the process made it much more scenic by passing some large rock

Vickie Swank

Warren Irle stops to let Pearl take a drink of water on the day we reclaimed the Swedish Settlement. Warren is the Trail Adopter for the Marengo Semi-Primitive section of the Chapter’s NCT and was the driving force behind the three much needed trail re-routes.

Chequamegon Chapter: The very beginning efforts on one of the three trail re-routes completed in the Marengo SemiPrimitive Area. Front to back: Mary Stenberg, Jim Crandall and Tom Piikkila.


The North Star

State of the Trail Brule-St. Croix Chapter

—Peter Nordgren


Bill Menke

WISCONSIN - In northwest Wisconsin, we’re excited as new trail construction approaches the Minnesota border. The Brule-St. Croix Roving Trail Crew built 4.2 miles of new Trail on the north rim of the Nemadji River Valley, finishing within a few miles of the planned border crossing. On the new segment, the chapter opened a trailhead at the University of Wisconsin-Superior MacQuarrie Wetlands, with highway signs and kiosk funded through NCTA grants. The new segment features the Atley Oswald Wildlife Viewing Platform, a memorial to our founding chapter member and officer, NCTA Sweep award recipient, and builder of numerous benches found at scenic spots on the Trail. Chapter volunteers built the platform with materials provided through donations by the Oswald family. Many family members were among the more than 50 who attended our October dedication for the platform, trail, and trailhead. National Park Service NCT Superintendent Mark Weaver and University of Wisconsin-Superior Chancellor Dr. Renee Wachter were among the dedication speakers. Several chapter activities in 2015 focused on attracting new members. Our 19th annual National Trails Day hike and picnic, held this year at Gordon Dam County Park west of Gordon, included installation of a new trailhead kiosk. Later in the summer, Find Your Park funds from NPS helped us provide an information booth at the Head of the Lakes Fair in Superior, where we introduced more than 100 fair goers to the Trail. For North Country NST Day, we held an open house at the Superior Public Library to raise visibility with the active Superior/Duluth outdoor community. NCT information tables at outdoor and community events were staffed by chapter volunteers throughout the hiking season. Our equipment wrangler, Roving Trail Crew stalwart, and jack of all trail construction, John Pearson, was recognized with the NCTA Sweep Award. Outgoing chapter president and new NCTA board member, Tim Mowbray, received the Chapter Honor Award. In the NPS Centennial Year to come, our goal is to make the North Country Trail even more visible as a recreation destination in northwest Wisconsin. We also envision a chapter challenge as part of the Hike 100 Challenge. At the end of 2015, we’re in the process of completing a new route agreement on county lands, opening the way for more new Trail to be built in 2016.

First truss almost across Gorge Bridge, again using the Grip Hoist cables.

Brule-St. Croix Rover’s Crew

WISCONSIN - Our eighteenth season as a trail crew has already come and gone. Over the course of seven crew outings, 21 volunteers accumulated a total of 1,866 hours, taking our grand total past the 29,000 hour mark. This year, two people made all seven trips. These numbers show that our crew is served by a number of faithful, dedicated people. One in particular stands out. Dick Kroener has worked on the crew for 14 seasons. In all that time, there has been only one outing that he missed! There was one outing when he called to say he wouldn’t make it because he wasn’t feeling good, only to show up about noon on the first full day of work saying “I just couldn’t stand not being here.” Dick has accumulated over 3,800 hours on the Roving Trail Crew. These faithful people keep the crew functional. The 2015 crew worked on projects across the width of the state—from within a quarter mile of the Minnesota border all the way east to Copper Falls State Park. In April, we focused on some trail relocations and improvements that needed attention because the water table is rebounding following the end of a drought that lasted many years. In the Douglas County Wildlife Area, we often say the soil is “hungry sand,” interspersed with scattered prairie potholes whose water level is completely dependent on the water table. For a dozen years or more, the Trail hugged the shorelines of several of these prairie potholes to provide close up viewing. But the water table has now flooded several sections of trail. Over the course of two and a half days, the crew completed three relocations that are much higher on the slopes, where we know they will never flood. Each relocation is about 300 yards long. Another big accomplishment in April was the rebuilding of a bridge. It’s always somewhat amazing that of all the trees in the forest, one of them manages to fall directly onto a bridge. This time, it was the 22-foot Jersett Creek Bridge. We spent two days cutting apart, salvaging, and rebuilding the bridge, while

January-March 2016


State of the Trail stretches of puncheon within the far eastern portion of Copper Falls State Park. This new addition to the park was purchased jointly by the National Park Service and the Wisconsin DNR using federal Land and Water Conservation Fund money. For the last several years, the Heritage Chapter has led the efforts to complete the tread work on the new 5-mile Trail segment across the park addition. When complete, this will eliminate the park’s dead end segment that has existed since 1983. October saw the crew finish the first of the large bridges in this new section. Known as the Pipeline Bridge, it stretches across a small stream that is host to a number of very large beaver ponds. Benefitting from a large crew, state park staff transporting all of our materials except our tools, and a wide open, flat area to work, the bridge was completed in three days flat. With the trip being one day longer than normal, there was time to move on to finish the nearby four puncheon segments and open another beautiful vista overlooking the Bad River. In November, the crew was back in Copper Falls State Park to tackle the biggest challenge of the year, the Gorge Bridge. It’s another 32-foot bridge, almost identical to the Pipeline Bridge. But the challenge is that it’s located at the bottom of a deep gorge with very little room to work. While the long side-hill benched

Bill Menke

Grip Hoist rigging lets a big beam down to the deep gorge site safely and without hard work.

Bill Menke

listening to the beautiful, gurgling stream. While in the Jersett valley, we also replaced some old two-plank puncheon that was beginning to deteriorate. The old two-plank puncheon was replaced with safer, wider Type 3 puncheon, and the crew also re-benched the steep side hill leading down to the bridge. June again found the crew working in the sandy central part of the state. This trip’s major accomplishments included the construction of a 110-foot Type 3 Puncheon across the bottom of Motts Ravine. This was another area that had not seen water on the Trail until last year. The crew also constructed a new campsite at Morris Pond. This is our only campsite that has experienced repeated vandalism because it was located next to a faint, but passable, road leading into it. That situation provided access that was too easy for partyers and shows once again that campsites need to be well away from any easy access point. To combat the vandalism, a new campsite location, on the opposite side of the “pond” (actually a glacially formed kettle lake) has been found. This new site requires us to construct a 375-foot access spur and a 16-foot bridge but it is actually a much prettier, roomier campsite. As the season progressed and dried, we moved to the “red clay” country, near the Minnesota border, and benefitted from the drier conditions. For the next three months, the crew worked to complete a new 4.2-mile segment of Trail that was begun during the terrible, rainy, snowy weather we experienced a year ago in April. In total, seven crew trips have been spent benching and smoothing tread, and installing 10 small bridges. It’s the first long segment of Trail that we’ve built in the red-clay country and it turned out much better than expected. It passes through the entire MacQuarrie Wetland complex by following the dikes between the ponds, and then follows the rim of Muddy Creek before reaching County W road. Colonies of Showy Lady Slippers, views of various wetland birds near the ponds, and two nice vistas are only some of the highlights. Perhaps the most significant is the Atley Oswald Memorial Observation Platform. The Brule-St. Croix Chapter (with only VERY minor assistance from the Rovers) constructed this structure in memory of Atley, who was one of their charter members. You can read an article which pictures the Atley Oswald Memorial Observation Platform on page 47. The Heritage Chapter covers the area near the MichiganWisconsin border underlain by heavy soils that are wet in the spring and also seems to host more voracious bugs. So we held off on working there until fall. During October and November, the crew worked to construct two 32-foot clear span bridges and four Here is the concise tally of what was accomplished this year: About 3.2 miles of new tread finalized About 0.4 miles of trail tread relocated 286 feet of Type 3 puncheon Almost total reconstruction of a 22-foot bridge Four 16-foot bridges Two 32-foot clear span bridges Two vistas (one with bench and register box) One new campsite


The North Star

The finished product in the deep, steep-sided Gorge: see how the trail turns abruptly off the bridge on the near end! Nowhere else to go.

State of the Trail Karen Stenberg

tread leading down to the bridge site was in place, it would require a tremendous job to hand carry everything down the long slope and then repeatedly walk back for the next load. We solved this by using our Grip Hoist and cable to rig a long zip line almost 240 feet down the slope to the bridge site. Once again, park staff had transported all of the material to the top of the bluff. Bridge components were cut at the top and sent piece by piece down the zip line as they were needed. The working space down by the creek was very tight so everything has to be closely coordinated and communicated between crew members at the top and those at the bottom. The complexities of this site led to the Gorge Bridge taking 4 ½ days to complete. Most important, it was accomplished safely and with no accidents despite some very difficult, accident prone conditions. Like other work groups, across the length of the entire trail, the Rovers are developing a good safety culture. Part of this culture is instilling in the crew the freedom to speak up when they have a safety concern. In no small part, thinking about safety has been greatly enhanced by the efforts of Dan Watson, who has served us well as our NPS Safety and Volunteer Coordinator.

Laurentian Lakes Chapter's new kiosk inviting hikers to the trail off State Hwy 34.

Laurentian Lakes Chapter

—Bill Menke, Wisconsin Regional Coordinator


Bill Menke

Karen Stenberg

MINNESOTA - Due to the generous support of members and friends, the Laurentian Lakes Chapter has made improvements and extended the North Country Trail in Becker and Clearwater Counties during the 2015 construction season. The first addition to the Trail this spring was installation of boot brush stations at all trailheads. This project, in conjunction with the Minnesota “Play, Clean, Go, Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks Program,” educates hikers and protects the Trail. Along with the boot brushes are display panels illustrating and describing local invasive species. It is important for hikers to use the boot brushes, because new invasive species plants are being noticed along the Trail, especially near the trailheads. Perhaps the most significant project was the addition of the Hubbel Pond trailhead on Minn. Hwy 34. In addition to the attractive kiosk and display panels, highway signage promotes the Trail at this location. This trailhead is receiving a lot of use and media attention. Brochures need to be restocked weekly. (See page 3 for more on this gateway.) This fall construction of the spur trail linking the Tamarac Discovery and Visitor Centers with the main NCT route in the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge has begun. This is a 1.6 mile trail and includes a loop trail of about 1.2 miles from the Centers. The loop trail is expected to be popular with Tamarac visitors and will be used in conjunction with the environmental education program at the Discovery Center. Smaller projects were undertaken to extend and/or replace structures and repair treadway. This includes work to extend the Trail across the Holzhauer property south of the Hubbel Pond WMA. A campsite was constructed by Boy Scout Troop 99 of Elk River on the Holzhauer property. This section of new Trail will be opened for use in the summer of 2016. The Optimal Location Review (OLR) committee has been active in planning the route between Hwy 34 and Frazee and has been successful in receiving good support from the townships involved. Two big projects for 2016 will be investigated and planned during the winter. The first is rerouting the Trail from the Old Headquarters trailhead to the Anchor Hill forest road. This will move the Trail off existing forest trails that receive motorized use. Hikers on a segment of the 165 mile The second project is addressing challenge in Tamarac National Wildlife wet areas in Itasca State Park west Refuge.

Morris Pond Campsite table.


January-March 2016


State of the Trail Dakota Prairie Chapter

NORTH DAKOTA - Three years into our formal formation, we had a great year of growth for the DPC; we’ve added some new Trail, hundreds of feet of puncheon, bridges, and signage. Highlights this year include: • Puncheons/bridges completed: 23 structures totaling 1,396 feet in length (DP volunteers also helped the Forest Service build a 280 foot puncheon on the Sheyenne National Grasslands). • Large trail signs installed: 5. • Carsonite and urban signs installed: 35. • Blazes painted on utility poles along country roads: 50. • Estimated volunteer hours: 950 hours.

Tom Moberg

of the Gartner Farm trailhead. Both of these projects will require extensive planning with land managers. The inaugural Hiker’s Challenge 165 series of hikes was a great success. One hundred and four different hikers took part in one or more of the segments with 15 hikers hiking over 100 miles. Newspapers, local radio, and television gave publicity to this challenge and helped renew interest in the NCT. Participants commented on the beauty of the various landscapes and enjoyed walking through the seasons, as the first hike started on April 25th through the Hubbel Pond section nine miles east of Detroit Lakes, and the final hike on September 25th finished near Remer. Thirty hikers took part on a rainy Saturday in June as we celebrated National Trails Day. Four hikers, Connie Soch, Steph Hogan, and Karen Stenberg of the Laurentian Lakes Chapter and Beth Trout of the Itasca Moraine Chapter, hiked all 165 miles and earned t-shirts for their accomplishment. Another benefit of the program is that it focused the trail adopters’ maintenance efforts and encouraged a great spirit of camaraderie. —Ray Vlasak, Past President —Karen Stenberg, Communications

Star of the North Chapter

Tom Moberg

MINNESOTA - Not a lot to report for 4 the Star of the North Chapter. As usual our biggest challenges, as a Twin Cities-based chapter, are too few people with a too-distant Trail (most of us have a 3 hour drive to get to our section in northern Minnesota). A couple members had the Chapter’s new Orec America Flail Mower out on the Trail (including in North Dakota) and I’ve heard nothing but good things to say about it. Since we’ve now got a trailer to pull the mower around we’re looking for a place in the Remer area to store it, and not have to pay storage fees. During the year we’ve participated at two Outdoor Expos put on by Midwest Mountaineering. It’s been a lot of fun to talk to attendees. I talked to a couple possible new members, including some who sound like they’re interested in helping out on the Trail. Beer and Gear night at Midwest Mountaineering is very popular and we get to educate people about the Trail before giving them tickets for a raffle. Kids are given a sheet of questions for which they have to visit various booths to find the answers. It’s fun to wait patiently while they shyly ask the question. We’ve also co-hosted several events with the new Kekekabic Trail Chapter at Midwest Mountaineering where we had various presentations and invited people from various meetup groups. —Kim Fishburn Dakota Prairie Chapter: Working on a perfect October day, both Forest Service personnel and our volunteers built the monster boardwalk. The area where we built the puncheon is chronically wet, muddy and heavily used by cattle. Rather than work a reroute, the Forest Service elected to build an industrial strength puncheon which is considerably heftier than the ones we build. But everything they build has to be designed by engineers and built strong enough to take a bomb hit. There has never been any evidence of cattle walking on the 40 or so puncheons we have built in other Dakota Prairie areas of the NCT, but this one can surely take it!


The North Star

State of the Trail Becky Heise

We gained real momentum through the Trail Adopter Program. Regular maintenance on 10 miles of Trail was done by Tony Boehm, Caleb Boehm, Gail and Trana Rogna, David Givers, Ron Saeger, Tom Moberg, Bob Stein, Jack Norland, Rennae and Ed Bruchalla, Tim Bauer, and Rick Schlauderaff. Additionally, 3.2 miles of rough trail surface was smoothed with a tiller-equipped Bobcat and hand tools, with equipment rental funds provided by Bobcat. The chapter saw two Eagle Scout projects completed, including creating three dedicated, signed benches for hikers to rest upon. Volunteers created a trailhead terminus at Fort Abercrombie, including a small bridge and large sign. The DPC obtained a 20-year easement for three miles of new Trail in a key location, and we secured a Use Permit for Trail near an active prairie railroad, extended for another five years, along with an important MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Sheyenne Township supporting the Trail on a section line.

Sheyenne River Valley Chapter crew carries boardwalk frame.

Our plans for the year ahead: • Construct five to seven miles of new Trail between Walcott and the Ekre Grassland Preserve, including several bridges, puncheons and stiles. • Continue seeking off-road Trail options for the big gaps. • Recruit more Trail Adopters to cover new Trail segments. • Construct several interpretive and directional kiosks. • Maintain good relationships with landowners, elected officials and Forest Service staff. • Seek additional funding for Trail development work. • Have the Trail in perfect condition for the 2016 NCTA Celebration. Our year ahead will be made even more full when we welcome all members, from far and wide, to our neck of the woods in the fall of 2016 for the annual NCTA Celebration. Watch for news on this fun excursion in the months ahead.

Sheyenne River Valley Chapter

—Christine Ellsworth

Becky Heise

Marissa Hoffarth helps with decking for the Sheyenne River Valley Chapter’s boardwalk.


NORTH DAKOTA - The trail construction season began for the Sheyenne River Valley Chapter at the end of April with the removal of four downed trees and two rocks on the trail at the Sheyenne State Forest. At the beginning of May we held our first hike of the season on the Ladies Line Trail from Kathryn to Clausen Springs Recreation Area. It was a beautiful day with blossoming fruit trees all along the way! A week later the trail crew prepared for work by getting all the tools and equipment in order. New batteries and spark plugs were installed in the DR mowers and power tools. The kiosk panels for the trailhead at Fort Ransom State Park were finalized and produced for placement with the exception of the local trail segment panel which is still waiting for a final map. Our first work day was held on May 16th with the installation of a boardwalk on a segment north of Fort Ransom State Park. This boardwalk had been a Day of Caring project for the Bobcat/ Doosan Company in March, instigated by chapter member Jerry Warner (see North Star article in April-June, 2015). About a mile of new signage was also installed, replacing Carsonite flexible fiberglass signposts which had been broken by cattle traffic. SRV chapter celebrated National Trails Day on June 6 at Fort Ransom State Park with hiking, canoeing, and grilling Polish sausages in the rain. Luckily we were under one of the Park’s great shelters. We had a great day despite the rain! Later that month, another work day was held to install another boardwalk up on one of the Lake Ashtabula segments, do some mowing and install new signage on metal posts on about a half mile of trail there, again to replace Carsonites downed by cattle traffic. Bobcat/Doosan had a company work day at the Sheyenne State Forest on June 9th during which they dragged bridge planks and materials to a low spot on the Oak Ridge Trail and installed two 12 foot boardwalks and cleared some trees. In preparation for hosting the North Dakota Trail Conference, July was spent making sure all segments were mowed, maintained, and downed Carsonites replaced. Daryl and Becky Heise managed to break down with both DR mowers, once

January-March 2016


State of the Trail

—Becky Heise

Save This Date: September 18-23 Matt Davis

in Valley City and once in the middle of a pasture! Must have worked them too hard! The Valley City segment was completed with the help of a string trimmer but after that they decided to call it a day! The North Dakota Trail Conference was held in Valley City on August 4-5, with hikes at Fort Ransom State Park and the Sheyenne State Forest. See article in the October-December, 2015, issue. Our tool trailer garnered a lot of interest and envy! A bus tour of the Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway was included in the festivities for those who didn’t feel like hiking in the heat. The second day included workshops and speakers with both days well attended. This was the largest attendance to date for this statewide event! On a hot August day (the thermometer on Bobby’s rear view mirror registered 116º and we have photographic proof!) yet another boardwalk was installed along Lake Ashtabula to replace military landing mats that had worked their way down into the mud. Downed Carsonites were replaced on about 2¼ miles of Trail in that area. Bobcat/Doosan held another company workday at the Sheyenne State Forest on September 14th during which they armored about a quarter mile of Trail around a boardwalk which always seems to be soft and tends to get dug up by horse traffic. We really appreciate all the work they do to help maintain the Trail there. During the winter months of 2016 we hope to acquire more easements to fill in the gaps from Fort Ransom State Park north to Lake Ashtabula. We would like to install brochure boxes at all our major trail heads so hikers can learn more about the NCTA. We have at least three more boardwalks to install along Lake Ashtabula (Drainages are always a problem along a major watershed!). At the north end of the Sheyenne West Wildlife Management Area north of Lake Ashtabula there is an illegal drainage (a major trench really) that needs a boardwalk crossing as you have to walk quite a ways to get around it. We are waiting for the Griggs County Water Board to resolve the situation so we can get that one installed. There is also another area south of the village of Sibley on Lake Ashtabula that has recently been developed, which obliterated the Trail along the lake there. We have acquired one easement and hope to obtain another to reroute about two miles of the Trail west of the cabins which have filled in that area. There is also about a two mile segment that we hope to get armored in the low spots south of Valley City by packing down gravel where needed. As you can tell, it looks to be another very busy year for the Sheyenne River Valley Chapter. Wish us luck!

2016 Proposed Extended Outing Following the NCTA Celebration in Fargo (September 18 and 23 are travel days. September 19, 20, 21 and 22 are hiking days in and around Itasca State Park.) Hike the NCT in and around Minnesota’s Itasca State Park, home of the Headwaters of the Mississippi. Lodging and meals will most likely be centered from Douglas Lodge in the heart of the Park. Come and help celebrate Itasca State Park’s 125th birthday. It is the 2nd oldest state park in the USA. The area’s topography is gently undulating and relatively easy hiking for the average hiker, young and old. We will hike with only daypacks returning to the lodge each evening. Points of interest in the area include hiking on the watershed between the Mississippi and Red Rivers. Precipitation on one side of the NCT flows into the Gulf of Mexico and on the other side into Hudson Bay of Canada. The NCT also passes through mature mixed deciduous and northern coniferous forest. It passes by numerous glacial lakes that dot the landscape, one of them a crystal clear designated trout fishery. Also, you can celebrate the National Park Service Centennial and grab a few miles toward your NCT Hike 100 Challenge with some like-minded people. NCTA trips are known for the camaraderie and lasting friendships that develop during hiking experiences. Details, costs and contact person will be available in February. Keep an eye on https://www. northcountrytrail.org for details.


The North Star

Dr. Renee Wachter, Chancellor of the University of WisconsinSuperior, hiked the trail and spoke at the dedication program.

Critical New Trail In Wisconsin Open Superintendent Mark Weaver of the National Park Service shared the vision of the North Country Trail with more than 50 who attended the dedication of the Atley Oswald Memorial Viewing Platform.

Phil Anderson, who designed the viewing platform and led the group of Brule-St. Croix Chapter volunteers who built it, shows the biography of Atley Oswald displayed there. Other key volunteers who helped plan and build the platform were Don Penly, John Pearson, Jo-Ann Pearson, Val Kozlovsky, Mark VanHornweder, and Bill Menke.

Story by Peter Nordgren Photos by Mark VanHornweder

The planned direct link between the North Country Trail and Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail moved closer on October 17th, 2015, with the formal opening of a new 4.2 mile segment of Trail in Wisconsin near the border with Minnesota. The new segment takes hikers along the north rim of the Nemadji River Valley and through the Gordon MacQuarrie Wetlands, a created group of ponds managed by the University of Wisconsin-Superior. October 17th’s events included a hike of the new segment, a picnic lunch, and the dedication of a new wildlife viewing platform. The platform is a memorial to Atley Oswald, charter member of the NCTA Brule-St. Croix Chapter, who passed away in 2013. The new segment was built by the Brule-St. Croix Roving Trail Crew. Crew Leader Bill Menke commented, “We were pleased to work with UW-Superior on this project. Having a National Scenic Trail pass through this university research and recreation area is a unique feature. Long distance hikers will get to explore this special place, while visitors to MacQuarrie can follow the Trail to see more of the surrounding valley.” View the new segment on the NCTA’s interactive map at http://arcg.is/1KszjaI.

Left: Rita Oswald and other members of the Oswald family donated funds for the wildlife viewing platform.

Right: NCTA members enjoy the view of the MacQuarrie Wetlands from the Oswald Viewing Platform.


January-March 2016


north star


North Country Trail Association


Grand Rapids, MI Permit 340

229 East Main Street Lowell, Michigan 49331

Gary Narum

The Laurentian Lakes Chapter in Minnesota was still in the process of building this fabulous gateway to a section of the Trail on a busy highway at a popular parking area. See inside on page 3 for more pictures and an article explaining how useful this has been in attracting new people. See the boot scraper at the far left? That is an effort to reduce the travel of invasive species’ seeds.

Come Visit Us! The Lowell office is open to the public Tuesday-Thursday 1:00 to 4:30 and Friday 10:00 to 4:30 Other hours by appointment. Please call ahead M-F during working hours. 229 East Main Street, Lowell, MI 49331 (866) HikeNCT • (616) 897-5987 • Fax (616) 897-6605 The North Country Trail Association develops, maintains, protects and promotes the North Country National Scenic Trail as the premier hiking path across the northern tier of the United States through a trail-wide coalition of volunteers and partners. Our vision for the North Country National Scenic Trail is that of the premier footpath of national significance, offering a superb experience for hikers and backpackers in a permanently protected corridor, traversing and interpreting the richly diverse environmental, cultural, and historic features of the northern United States.

Profile for NCTA Staff

North Star Vol. 35, No. 1 (2016)  

North Star Vol. 35, No. 1 (2016)