North Star Vol. 35, No. 4 (2016)

Page 1

October-December, 2016

The magazine of the North Country Trail Association

north star

Annual Awards for Our Heroes Two New End-to-Enders! Walking Our Most Western State Trail Care Woes and Wins

Volume 35, No. 4


This picture of a fine North Country Trail blaze is by Mike Goroski of North Dakota, taken during NCTA’s annual Celebration, held in Fargo last September.

About the Cover: John and Dove Day took a long hiking vacation, sampling spots along the North Country Trail, on their way to the Celebration in Fargo. Their pictures captured the vast lonesomeness that is the Trail in North Dakota, this one from the Lonetree area. Photograph by Dove Day.

In This Issue Bruce Matthews Plans to Retire...........3 Unexpected Dilemmas........................5 Solutions to Unexpected Dilemmas.........7 Annual NCTA Awards..........................8 National Parks Service VIP Awards.....12 Hike 100 Challenge..........................13 Wisconsin’s Interpretive Panels ...........14 New Informational Panel Design.......14 We Just Kept Walking.......................16 Field Grants: Fund Your Project!.......19 Current and Emerging Forest Pests Along the NCT..............20 “North of Normal:” The NCTA’s Annual Celebration.......22 What’s Next for the Adirondacks?.....24 Tale of a Two Log Bridge...................25

Hosting NCTA’s Celebration: Why?.............................26 TransCanada Donation Benefits Grand Traverse Hiking Club................27 Third Annual North Country National Scenic Trail Day..................28 Staff Changes at Headquarters...........30 Steps to Diversity..............................31 You’re a Trail Town. What Now?........33 A Hymn to North Dakota.................34

Columns Trailhead.............................................3 Matthews’ Meanders...........................4 NPS Corner......................................18

Departments Where in the Blue Blazes?..................30 Hiking Shorts....................................32

North Star Staff Irene Szabo, Mostly Volunteer Editor, (585) 658-4321 or Peggy Falk, Graphic Design Lorana Jinkerson, Becky Heise, Joan Young, Tom Gilbert, Christine Ellsworth, Amelia Rhodes, Editorial Advisory Committee The North Star, Winter issue, Vol. 35, Issue 4, 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 Matt Davis Regional Trail Coordinator Minnesota/North Dakota Andrea Ketchmark Director of Trail Development Laura Lindstrom Financial Administrator Michelle Mangus Administrative Assistant Bruce Matthews Executive Director Bill Menke Regional Trail Coordinator Wisconsin Alison Myers Administrative Assistant/Membership Coordinator Amelia Rhodes Marketing/Communications Coordinator Matt Rowbotham GIS Coordinator Kenny Wawsczyk Regional Trail Coordinator, Michigan

National Board of Directors Terms Expiring 2017 Ruth Dorrough, President (585) 354-4147 · Jerry Fennell, At Large Rep. (262) 787-0966 · John Heiam, At Large Rep. (231) 938-9655 · Lorana Jinkerson, At Large Rep. (906) 226-6210 · Tim Mowbray, VP West (715) 378-4320 · Peter Nordgren, Wisconsin, and U. P. of Michigan (715) 292-3484 · Terms Expiring 2018 Mike Chapple, At Large Rep. (574) 274-0151 · Dennis Garrett, At Large Rep. (724) 827-2350 · Tom Moberg, Immediate Past President (701) 271-6769 · Lynda Rummel, VP East, At Large Rep. (315) 536-9484 · Paul Spoelstra, At Large Rep. (616) 890-7518 · Terms Expiring 2019 Jaron Nyhof, First VP, At Large Rep. (616) 786-3804 · Larry Pio, Secretary (269) 327-3589 · Doug Thomas, Treasurer, At Large Rep. (612) 240-4202 · Cheryl Kreindler, At Large Rep. 313-850-8731 · Steve Walker, Ohio Rep. 330-652-5623 ·

Dove Day

Trail Head

Ruth Dorrough President


ou and Dan have a wonderful second life that none of us back home imagined was so rich and full,” our friend commented at the end of the Fargo NCTA Celebration. She was part of a small group of non-hikers who, having been present at other milestones in our lives, came to witness our completion of the North Country Trail this past September. Seeing the NCTA community through the eyes of this group as they shared their enjoyable experiences at the 2016 Celebration made me value even more this marvelous organization that unites people from all walks of life. Our friends spoke of the warmth with which they were “taken into the fold,” the inspiring and often amazing life stories people shared, the beauty of the land, and the boldness of the goal to build and maintain a trail of this length. They spoke of their time in Fargo as an oasis of celebration and joy in a troubled world. They recognized that the people they met not only knew how to have fun but also knew how to work and solve problems. One commented, “They don’t see the two as incompatible but have fun working and finding solutions.” Our North Dakota-Minnesota hosts under the inspiring leadership of Tom and Mary Moberg exemplified the best of the organization. The kindness and strong spirits of NCTA members from every state through which the trail passes showed these newcomers that the culture shown in Fargo is present throughout the entire trail. It is comforting to me as I adjust to the role of board president, after a couple years as Board Secretary, to know that we are all in this together. The work we do through NCTA is important and has the potential to change lives for the better. We have some heavy duty challenges and work ahead. I suspect we’ll have some fun along the way.

Matthews prepares to pour the champagne and offer a toast to the Dorroughs’ accomplishment.

Executive Director Bruce Matthews Plans to Retire

Dan Dorrough

NCTA Board’s new President Ruth Dorrough.

NCTA’s long-time executive director, Bruce Matthews, announced his retirement plans to the NCTA Board of Directors at their recent meeting at the Fargo Celebration. Matthews set the date for his final day on the job as July 31, 2017, right after the NCTA’s Celebration in Marquette. “NCTA is in great hands. Our veteran staff is doing a terrific job. Our Board of Directors’ leadership and membership are in the best shape ever and keeps getting better and better. We’ve got a solid strategic plan in place, and it’s working,” Matthews said. “The Association is growing. It’s a great time to be sunsetting my efforts and getting out of the way for fresh leadership.” Ruth Dorrough, incoming Board of Directors President, says, “Over the past nine years, Bruce’s strong leadership has guided the NCTA. He has been instrumental in fostering development not only of the trail itself but also a community of people supportive of each other through focus on the trail. The Board of Directors has formed a search committee that is diligently at work seeking an executive director who will honor Bruce’s work and the strong foundation that he has built while leading the organization forward toward future goals.” The search committee chaired by Board President Ruth Dorrough, is conducting the search and inviting candidates to apply. Interested applicants for the executive director position should send a cover letter and resume to edsearch@ The Board hopes to be able to fill the position by the time Matthews retires. “The Marquette Celebration is a great time to be saying goodbye,” Matthews explains. “With the growth and popularity of NCTA’s annual gatherings in recent years I’ll get to see many of my friends there.” In the meantime, as Matthews said, there’s work to do. “We’ve got a newly challenging budget cycle to plan for, a ton of newly minted members in the Red Plaid Nation (from Hike 100) to convert to donors/members, some bills to pass in Congress and a whole lot of funds to raise!” Matthews shared in a recent communication with the NCTA staff and board. “I’m looking forward to pushing alongside you!”

October-December 2016


Matthews’ Meanders


Bruce Matthews Executive Director


The North Star

Bruce and Henry.


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, or 6939 Creek Rd., Mt. Morris, N.Y. 14510. Please do not embed pictures within your article, but send them separately as .jpg attachments. We will no longer accept embedded pictures. 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. 36, No. 1, is 1 January 2017. 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)

Irene Szabo

hat do you do when your hike on the North Country Trail runs into an unmaintained, overgrown or poorly blazed trail? Now, if you are one of our hundreds of dedicated volunteers out there keeping your trail sections open and maintained—THANK YOU! You are our unsung heroes, and we honor your efforts. This is not about you. But, it is about us, our NCTA community, and about our Trail. We have a problem and we need to own it. We have sections of trail that are un-maintained. We have sections that are poorly maintained, or not maintained enough. And we have hikers on the Trail assuming the NCT, as a national scenic trail, is marked and hike-able year-round, and as world-class as we claim it to be. They really ought to be able to make that assumption. But, they can’t. What can we do when things fall short? The NCNST is increasing in popularity. We love it! But as more and more folks learn about and plan hikes on the NCT, we’ve gotten an increasing number of reports, and yes, complaints, about trail conditions. So in this issue of North Star we’re going to talk about it. Not to find blame, point fingers or otherwise go all negative, but to recognize and talk constructively about the problem, what hikers can do about it, what maintainers can do about it, what chapters and affiliates can do about it, and address this like the community we are. Read Rachel Frey’s story of an imperfect hike, starting on the next page, and take their dilemma to heart. It’s important to state up front that I know wherever a problem exists with trail quality it often has to do with a lack of volunteers or the timing of the problem, and usually both. With many if not most sections of the trail we have too few adopters, some of whom live significant distances from the trail; we have weather events that impact, or the brush is growing so fast that a hiker following an adopter’s work a week later might still find it tough going. And sometimes our maintainers may not even be aware of the problem. For many maintainers and adopters it’s remarkable when they actually see someone hiking while they’re out mowing or lopping or clearing deadfall. But there’s no question these are issues and there’s no question that trail quality criticism drives straight into the hearts of our overworked and underappreciated volunteers. I’ve heard the heartfelt and pained response many times: “If you don’t like it come help us fix it!” Yet, hikers have expectations and the NCT is a National Scenic Trail. So as we work toward meeting these expectations, it helps to define them and review them in terms of their basis in reality. Some are reasonable, and

some are not. Some we can address through more volunteer recruitment, better volunteer training and more strategic approaches to trail adopter support and management. Some we can address through better communication, such as supporting and updating the notification networks that share information and report trail issues and conditions to both maintainers and hikers. We may need to make better efforts to communicate accurately what to expect to the user community, for example in understanding the amount of roadwalk or temporary connector remaining to be addressed, as well as the need for more volunteers to help share the load. We’re a young organization with an immense task ahead. And just for perspective, in our youthful 35 years we’ve built more trail than the 100 year old Appalachian Trail is long, and with far fewer people and resources. We have a right to be proud! But, we’re not done yet. In this issue of North Star we’ve got several articles focusing on different aspects of how we, as a community, as the Red Plaid Nation, can come together to solve these problems, to create and communicate realistic expectations, to support communications channels, and to bring more volunteers toward trail maintaining and adopting. We talk about what hikers should do when they encounter maintenance problems, how to check on current trail conditions and how to report problems. We’re facing the future, together. Come join us!

Unexpected Dilemmas Story and pictures by Rachel H. Frey


Indian rock.

Merv Frey

y hiking shoes!” my husband Merv said. “I forgot them.” We were driving to a motel the night before a planned four-day hiking trip on the North Country Trail in Pennsylvania and Ohio. “I can just use my sneakers,” he said. “You will NOT,” I said emphatically. “We will have to find some hiking shoes.” Merv was not happy about this because he had just bought NEW hiking shoes for last fall’s NCT hike on the Onondaga Trail in New York. Almost miraculously, we quickly located a store that had his size, kind and fit and on we went! Starting at Darlington, Penna., the next morning with his new shoes, we were ready to finish the remaining 10.8 Pennsylvania miles of the NCT we had not yet hiked. It had savagely rained the day before, but Little Beaver Creek was flowing within its banks. However, we all got wet feet on a water-covered section of the trail that seemed impossible to avoid. The recent work by the Wampum Chapter included a walkway with back and forth rails that we guessed were to deter horse usage. We circled around big rocky cliffs. “Is this Indian Rock,” we wondered? Then we saw a trail sign pointing to Indian Rock. Josie Swartzentruber, our speedy hiking partner, went uphill to check it out and then Merv and I followed. Beside a very pretty view at the top we discovered “Indian Rock,” which had three circular holes and one rectangular one carved on the top. Who knows why? Crossing the iron bridge over Little Beaver Creek, Josie and I found a rope swing tied to the tree above the water. A mini-waterfall, maybe five feet, completed our water beauties for this day. Clear blue skies and puffy white clouds topped a breezy Booth Hill before we arrived at the Penna./Ohio border. We happily posed for photos. After all, we had completed ALL of NCT’s Penna. miles! We also wanted to hike 33.9 miles of NCT in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest in three days from Ring Mill Campground to where Cow Run Road intersects Route 26. The plan seemed good last winter, but now it was late June and the weather was to be HOT, as in 90 degree hot! I do not do well in heat and this caused me some concern, but we were going, regardless of the temperature! Surprisingly, on our first day, we found a non-marked parking spot off County Road 9 near Leith Run Recreation Area which meant we could add to our first day’s miles, thus eliminating a 15.5 mile second day. We drove the second car to the parking area off Route 260 to start our hike south. Down a steep hill we went. To our delight, we saw oil rigs, some pumping, some old, and some idle. Merv, particularly, liked seeing the evidences of work on obtaining the oil or gas. Sometimes we could smell it. It wasn’t long before we came to the valley of Irish Run

Rachel in weeds.

and there the trouble began! “Oh,” Josie exclaimed, “what fun! I love it!” She went first plowing the way through weeds and nonexistent trail hunting for blazes. Soon Josie’s long pants were soaked nearly waist high. Merv and I wore shorts, better for temperature but not the best for stinging nettles and briars which we were to encounter many times on this trip. Coming to Irish Run Road, we saw a sign that said North Country Trail, but the blazes were YELLOW, not NCT blue! Now what should we do? According to our compass, the blue blazes and blue diamonds continued northwest which corresponded with the guide. We decided to follow the guide. Sure enough, we found Great Cave and Natural Bridge as per the guide, so we were sure we were going the right way! We kept wondering if the guide was actually correct with mileage as it seemed we were hiking very slowly if it were right. But there was nothing to do but to keep going. We ate lunch and tried to go faster while it got hotter and HOTTER! “Hey, Merv,” I asked, “Will you pour water over my head?” Continued on page 6 October-December 2016


Three times in the afternoon I asked for the same “treatment!” We continued with the “meanderings and undulatings” of the trail guide which meant killer ups and downs while it got hotter and hotter! Finally at 2:30 we reached the intersection with the Scenic River Trail which meant only 2.9 more miles. It is hard to remember to take photos when you feel so exhausted and truly, the trail seemed to be all the same… up and down, up and down, more rocks, more logs, more stinging nettles, more weeds, where is the trail?, more up and down…Can we even do a 2 mph pace anymore? But, surprisingly, at 4:10 we came to Route 9 and Josie’s car. What a relief. We recovered that night at Leith Run Campground and in the morning we located Cow Run Road. We left one vehicle there and returned to our parking area off County

Overgrown Trail.

Merv in the saw grass


The North Star

9 of the previous day. Surely, today could not be as bad, we thought. But after a delightful road walk bordered by flowers and with a beautiful morning sky overhead, we did more “meandering” ending with a tough climb up to Chandler Road. Posing beside a huge sycamore tree, we decided perhaps this was the view of the day! The promised “knee-busting drop (20%)” to the Little Muskingum River wasn’t all that bad, but the trail in the floodplain was! For a MILE we struggled through shoulder-high weeds while hunting for blazes! It was tough going. But after a mile of this we came to the turnoff blaze that meant we would once again do more “undulating and meandering.” On the way up the hill Josie just missed stepping on a garter snake on the trail, but that seemed pretty minor! After two days of trail troubles, we traveled to Ring Mill Campground, the beginning of our last day’s hike. A dirt road ended at an oil rig. Then no blazes. We backtracked and Merv found a blaze in the weeds. Weeds, oh, yes. We knew about those! Off into the weeds we went, this time labeled as saw grass. Blazes were difficult to spot and we were almost buried in the weeds! We were glad it was not raining. At least stinging nettles did not seem to be in this part. But the saw grass/weed mixture was as high as our heads at times! After about a mile of this “trail” beside the Muskingum River (which we could not see), we found a blaze that took us to a more navigable trail that went UP. “Have thine own way, Lord, Have thine own way,” a woman sang while hoeing the garden far below us! We were intrigued. Should we sing back? Would she hear us? Next came “No One Ever Cared for Me like Jesus” and then “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” Yes, we agreed. We echoed some of the songs back to her. But apparently sound does not travel downhill, because the woman never gave any acknowledgment that she heard us. Nevertheless, we treasured her concert in the garden that day after that awful trek through the saw grass weeds. It was afternoon now and heat threatened again. Preparing for yet MORE “ascending and descending,” we ALL dipped our heads in the stream. It was good we did. After many more ups and downs, the final STEEP service road took us up to the ridge top again. Even though we felt pretty tired, we posed for a final photo. We had FINISHED our goal despite the unexpected heat and trail difficulty! Merv’s new hiking shoes worked very well!

Solutions To Those “Unexpected Dilemmas?” By Andrea Ketchmark, Director of Trail Development

There is no use pretending the Trail doesn’t have spots of poor to no maintenance, so what can we do together to fix them? Almost 3,000 miles of our planned 4,600 miles of the NCT are on the ground. Although at times we feel we are a long way off from our goal, we can’t forget those 3,000 miles are both something to celebrate and something that needs constant care. The Challenge: Lack of volunteers, especially in our more remote locations, is one of our biggest problems. Even our larger chapters often are spread too thin with all of the other responsibilities on their plates, maintenance, building new trail, outreach and events, meetings, working with land managers and private landowners. Volunteers often live far from the Trail location or don’t have the resources they need. The land managers who are responsible for the Trail are also overtaxed and under-funded. Illegal uses on the Trail can cause damage that’s hard to repair and even harder to police. Bad storms including wind events, flooding, fires and other natural forces can have a disastrous impact on the Trail and our already overburdened volunteers in these areas. All of that said, the good far outweighs the bad. We have countless miles of incredible Trail and the sections that aren’t incredible might just need a little more love to make them so. It’s important that hikers know they are embarking on an adventure when they take to the Trail. They cannot and should not expect a perfect trail experience. It would not be an adventure if it were.

Report back to us When you encounter problems on the Trail, let us know and our volunteers and trail management staff will do our best to improve trail conditions. Fill out our online form at https:// or contact Andrea Ketchmark, NCTA’s Director of Trail Development, who can make sure the local chapters and land managers are alerted to the issues. REPORTING problem areas is critical. One longtime trailworker said that even friends of hers often had not reported something really big on her section of trail, like surprise logging on private land, because they figured “Oh, she’ll see it pretty soon.” Actually, she had just worked that section, so might not be back for two months. REPORT PROBLEMS! The Finger Lakes Trail, which hosts the NCT for some 420 miles in New York, has instituted a “trail reports” link on their website, which is finally now getting real input, which has made a tremendous difference in the speed with which volunteers can respond to something wrong. —Editor

Join us in our efforts to maintain the Trail. Volunteering your time to maintain a section of the Trail is the best way to ensure the Trail is maintained. Learn more about the responsibilities of a trail adopter with our Trail Adopter Basics video and Handbook that can be found in NCTA’s online Volunteer Resources Center at Trail Maintenance is one of the most satisfying ways you can get exhausted and grubby. As one trail hero put it years ago, “It’s Olympic gardening.” Make a donation to NCTA to keep the organization moving in the right direction. Your dollars will help us attract more volunteers and will put more resources, tools and training in their hands. Lastly, don’t forget to thank all of the volunteers who have and will continue to spend their time making sure you have a good time out on the Trail. When planning your hike, read about major closures and reroutes: To report a problem:

Tammy Veloski

What you can do: Plan for your hike The first principle of Leave No Trace is Plan Ahead and Prepare. With 3,000 miles of Trail, there is no one place to go to find information about the conditions on any given day. Hikers should make sure they have the most up to date maps and trail data, which can be found on NCTA’s website: https:// We also just launched a trail alerts page where we will post major closures and reroutes: trail-alerts/. If you are looking for more detailed information about the condition of the Trail, we suggest contacting the chapter, affiliate, partner or land manager for that area. https://

Join us

Tammy Veloski of Pennsylvania was exploring Beaver Creek State Park just over the border into Ohio, a place with restored old canal structures, and found this NCT blaze being consumed by turkey tail and other fungi. Don’t waste your blazes on dead trees!

October-December 2016






Annual North Country Trail Awards


n behalf of the Awards Committee of the NCTA, it is such fun to honor our most astounding volunteers and contributors. As usual we received many more nominations than we have awards to hand out, so if your hero didn’t win this year, please keep trying!

Matt Branneman has been the Vice-President of Crews and Construction for the Finger Lakes Trail for some years now, and as such he organized most of the three to four week-long construction projects each year, whether whole shelters or bridges or sometimes even new trail. His building skills have resulted in improved project conduct, shaving a whole day off shelter construction, for example. His willingness to take the time off from his own business projects has been a great gift, and Matt has trained several more very useful builders for New York.

And what fun to honor eleven-year-old Stephanie Hoffarth with the Rising Star. Because both parents are active members of the Sheyenne River Valley Chapter in North Dakota, Stephanie started attending hikes and work parties as an infant in a backpack. But by the age of six, she was actually helping out, no matter the project. In addition, her enthusiasm runs over into the rest of her life, so she has invited many friends and their parents to the Chapter’s activities. Consequently, a family atmosphere runs through everything SRV does.

Jeff Fleming is the third awardee of the Trail Builder category, and has been a serious contributor to the field efforts of the Chief Noonday Chapter since 1999. Not only does he maintain trail, even switching sections to undertake a more difficult one, but he leads their efforts to build hundreds of feet of puncheon and make signs that bring more happy notoriety to the Trail. One series of signs that he has designed are called by Chapter members “Jeff posts,” which incorporate the NCT emblem with the road name, increasing our local presence. Jeff also moved a section of trail off a horsepath onto a new private property, a positive project.

One of the categories that always catches our imagination is that of Trail Builder, for which this year we have three awardees. Gary Narum of the Laurentian Lakes Chapter (LLC) got the nod for leading their big project to build an eye-catching gateway on a well-used highway which has introduced many passersby to the trail. This immense and informative trailhead display was featured on our magazine’s back cover earlier this year. Gary has also led many construction projects along LLC’s 63 miles of Trail, including bridges and the long causeway in the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. He is willing to teach other volunteers some of his wood-working skills, and shares his tools.

Karen Stenberg

Deb Koepplin

Stephanie Hoffarth Rising Star

Dove Day

Jeff Fleming Trail Bulider

Jim Mitchell

The North Star

Larry Pio


Duane Lawton’s Leadership is obvious through his list of chapter accomplishments as President of the Jordan 45º Chapter. He is energetically involved in nearly every aspect of their stewardship of this piece of the Trail, from working with landowners and public agencies, to hosting an annual National Trails Day event in Petoskey, the chapter’s Trail Town, to designing their excellent register box/milepost signage, and even to getting permission to build a “beaver deceiver” to keep a beaver pond from flooding the trail. He continues to meet with local landowners in an ongoing effort to get more miles off the road and into the woods.

Gary Narum Trail Bulider

Jaqui Wensich

Matt Branneman Trail Builder

Communicator received a lot of nominations, so members must value the contributions of those people who spread their good news. Beth Kelonev. of the Western Michigan Chapter has been in charge of communicating information to the 300 members of the WMI Chapter for several years now, first of all through a newsletter that is sent to those with email, and mailed to the rest. She also feeds news to the website and administers their Facebook page. They boast 872 likes currently, and she aims for 1000. Now she has been elected Chapter President, so must communicate effectively with even more people AND she answers all emails to the website and queries to Facebook.

Beth Keloneva Communicator

Duane Lawton Leadership



Matt Rowbotham Friend of the Trail

Florence Hedeen

Julia Glad Pooler

Gary Werner Friend of the Trail

Bruce Johnson Outreach

Bethany Thomas received the Blue Blazes Benefactor because of her ongoing and astounding generosity in supporting the North Country Trail. A member of Wisconsin’s Heritage Chapter, she lives just over the border in Michigan, but often feeds whole trail crews herself and has bought numerous NCTA Life Memberships for friends and family. When the Heritage Chapter’s reliance on funded internships was threatened with termination, she funded the position for one year herself. And now, as a major memorial to her husband, with whom she had enjoyed hiking in Wisconsin, she has funded a bridge project that is just waiting for final details before it can be built. In addition to her considerable philanthropy, she is also an active trail volunteer and maintainer. Gary Werner is Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trail System, of which the North Country Trail is a member. However, even though there are 31 other trails, Gary has contributed his considerable knowledge to our efforts over the years as well as financial support, so deserves our Friend of the Trail award. His active engagement as a member of our Legislative Policy and Advocacy Committee has contributed to almost every bimonthly evening phone conference of that committee. On numerous occasions, his advice on process and relationships has advanced our efforts to pass the NCNST Route Adjustment legislation. Gary helps us educate new committee members in the relationship-building requirements of advocacy, so he deserves our gratitude. Matt Rowbotham is our second Friend of the Trail honoree. While it’s his JOB to be our map and GIS guy, he has taken the lead and gone above and beyond in arranging for new technology, enabling our trail data base to be a leader in the hiking community, and arranging agreements with many other data bases such as those of states along the trail. He is our Lowell staff member with the most longevity, so has great institutional

2016 NCTA AWARDS Tom Moberg

Matt Rowbotham

Bill Menke

Bethany Thomas Blue Blazes Benefactor


Matthew Gardner Vanguard

memory, a rarity in the notfor-profit world. Nor is he afraid to work evenings and weekends when required. In fact, when a recent transformer fire threatened our entire electronic communications system, Matt worked long hours to save everything and restore order, even though this isn’t really his job. Without his help, we could have spent thousands of dollars on an outside contractor.

Outreach went to Minnesota’s Bruce Johnson for his steady efforts at making the trail known to local towns and schools. He works with local newspapers and chambers of commerce to keep the trail uppermost in their minds, and has arranged several programs with local schools, including recruitment of trail workers at Bemidji State University. Bruce maintains communication with Representative Rick Nolan, sponsor of the Arrowhead reroute legislation, and makes sure chapter members go to local town meetings, especially when budgets are being discussed. All of this is in addition to his considerable trail work! Doosan/Bobcat, manufacturer of landscaping machinery with a plant in North Dakota, won the Trailblazer this year. Not only do they continue to lend useful machinery to the two local chapters to help them build walkable trail in otherwise rough territory, they also have encouraged employee volunteerism along the North Country Trail. The Doosan/Bobcat Day of Caring has become a regular event, when employees work on big chapter projects, as have employee hikes for wellness. Their ongoing commitment to sharing resources with the community is invaluable. Matthew Gardner, the Recreation Division Manager for the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department, is an advocate within his agency for the North Country National Scenic Trail and is a valued partner. Not only has he helped the two North Dakota chapters obtain Outdoor Heritage Fund grants to continue their trail building, he also has involved state crews in those efforts, and has obtained state vans and other equipment helpful when the annual conference has been sited there. Matt also helped organize the state trails conference in Valley City in 2015, which shined a lot of light on the NCT. For such appreciated help from Matt, he receives the Vanguard. Trail Maintainer is another category that receives many nominees, so choosing even three was a challenge. Dick Kroener was an easy choice, however. He lives in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area, yet adopted a piece of trail in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula, works for the Superior Hiking Trail Association as a maintainer and campsite steward, and has been an integral volunteer with almost every Rovers Crew in Wisconsin, where he already has logged over 4000 hours of work. Somebody knit him a hero shirt.

October-December 2016




Irene Szabo

Dave Adams Trail Maintainer Stone Quarry Hill Art Park Outstanding Landowner

Cindy Johnson

Dave Adams maintains a heavily used section of the trail in Moraine State Park in Pennsylvania, and it is always in perfect shape. In addition he helps others with their sections, as is often the case with conscientious trail stewards. He runs the Butler Chapter’s DR mower and their power weed whacker, too, in addition to working on chapter communications and their latest brochure.

Tom Moberg

Jerry Trout

Jerry McCarty Trail Maintainer


Jean Adams

Bill Menke

Dick Kroener Trail Maintainer


Gary Johnson Sweep

The Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia, N.Y., rated the Outstanding Landowner honor this year for their continuous welcome to the NCNST and the Central N.Y. Chapter. While there are buildings on the property, the main attractions are outdoor sculptures scattered throughout 100 acres of fields and woods, so the fact that the Art Park allowed us to build trail there is wonderful. Since then they have permitted the chapter to hold annual meetings there, hosted hikes frequently, and even help our volunteers with trail maintenance. Our trail there is a jewel among our miles. Sweep is that funky award with which we try to acknowledge those hard workers who toil away in the background, often performing critical functions but always out of the limelight. Mary Moberg, our First Lady as wife of Board President Tom, is in this category. Ten years ago the couple from Fargo adopted three miles in the Chippewa National Forest, almost to the other side of Minnesota, where Mary “has painted neat blue blazes, cut brush, pulled a tool wagon, cleaned a campsite privy, driven a mower, carried logs, built a bridge, made lunches, swatted bugs, and fallen waist deep in an icy creek during an early spring 10

The North Star

Irene Szabo

Jerry McCarty shows unusual dedication to being a trail maintainer. A certified sawyer, he is out on his section every week, plus often helps others in the Itasca Moraine Chapter. It took him three years of perseverance to obtain permission for a campsite, but once he got it, it was built within a week. He also added the popular Lake Erin Loop Trail in the Chippewa National Forest. Would that every mile of our Trail had a Jerry. Mary Moberg Sweep

Steve Catherman Sweep

trail cleaning trip. Except for the creek adventure, Mary has been unfailingly cheerful and energetic about her trail maintenance work.” Meanwhile, she has been a primary organizer for both the 2016 Celebration in Fargo and for the fledgling Dakota Prairie Chapter, and is even the actual “sweep” during their hikes. This was one nomination that was so well-written that most of this write-up is lifted from the text written by Gail Rogne and Tom Moberg, who end with this: “With her calm demeanor and deep understanding of human behavior, Mary has been an invaluable, behind-the-scenes counselor and confidant for her husband in his role as an NCTA Board member and officer. She listens carefully, patiently waits through lots of ranting about complicated issues, and offers good advice if asked. Every Board member should be so lucky as to have a person with Mary’s sensitivity and sensibility to provide support and encouragement.”



Tom Moberg is the third Distinguished Service honoree. His tenure as President of the Board of Directors was marked by organized sensible administration, and recent news from the re-invigorated Dakota Prairie Chapter is primarily due

to his efforts breathing new life into that growing group. New miles of Trail have been the result of his negotiations with the Ekre Grasslands Preserve, the Red River Valley and Western Railroad, and general “farmer charming,” as he puts it. Tom was also an integral part of the considerable effort, working with U.S. Fish & Wildlife, to create trail through Minnesota’s Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. He and his wife Mary are co-chairs of the 2016 Celebration in Fargo, so he seems well equipped to volunteer for just about any task the NCT requires.

Tom Moberg Distinguished Service

Ray Vlasak was the choice for Lifetime Achievement, simply because he has contributed so much to the Trail on so many fronts in Minnesota. As trail was being built westward from Itasca State Park, Ray organized the growing number of volunteers into the Laurentian Lakes Chapter of the NCTA. He was willing to teach trail work skills to new people, store and tend their tools, lend his own equipment for major projects, and provide leadership to the new group. He has also contributed mightily to efforts to gain permissions from county and state agencies, and even Ray Vlasak worked on the challenging Lifetime Achievment project to create trail through the federal maze of requirements at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Ray prepared applications to get funded crews of workers from Americorps and Minnesota Conservation Corps, and then even housed them. Furthermore, he was out there on almost every work session, so has had a hand in almost every aspect of many miles of Trail in western Minnesota.

October-December 2016


Karen Stenberg

Jerry Allen deserves this honor for his instrumental role in creating miles of the Trail in lower Michigan, through the Tittabawassee Chapter, which became the Jordan Valley 45 in recent years. His experiences as a forester, an Appalachian Trail hiker, and a Boy Scout leader combined to give him the skills and knowledge to help the fledgling chapter maintain good trail, fix problem spots, and provide the novel Ridge Runner program to offer hikers guidance along the trail. Jerry has been especially helpful working with various public agencies, helping to create partnerships that work for the Trail’s benefit. At the age of 81 he is still a Certified chain Sawyer!

Jerry Allen Distinguished Service

Chuck Zosel Distinguished Service

Tami A Heilemann NPS

Three recipients of Distinguished Service deserve our gratitude. Unfortunately we waited too long to praise Chuck Zosel of the Brule-St. Croix Chapter, who died this spring. Chuck was involved with the fledgling North Country Trail in Wisconsin from the very beginning as Superintendent of the Brule State Forest, destined to host miles of the Trail. His on-the-job enthusiasm for the project spilled over into his volunteer life, too, where he was part of all route planning and trail building for nearly 20 years, including his pet project to restore the Portage Trail, an historic route for foot traffic between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Chuck was also in charge of finding the least swampy route through the Brule Bog, which is now traversed by wooden walkways.

Dove Day

Our third Sweep was conferred on Steve Catherman of the Finger Lakes Trail, who has been the Vice-President of Trail Maintenance for the FLT for eight years, a hard big job but performed almost entirely in the shadows. While he has conducted some of the regional trail caretakers’ meetings each fall, and the spring Trail Management meeting, most of his work is unknown to others. He handles all state-wide agreements with public agencies, works to fill trail sponsor vacancies, and writes a quarterly article for the FLT magazine that is always on time and literate. His biggest chore is gathering all the trail work hours performed each year and reporting them to every public agency that hosts trail, to county parks, state parks, and state forests, AND to the NCTA. While most trail sponsors grumble about keeping a record of their hours, few realize how much work is involved distributing those totals.

2016 NCTA AWARDS Dave Zosel

Another Sweep goes to Gary Johnson, who was part of the original leadership of the Tittabawassee Chapter, which consisted of mostly downstate people who drove three hours each way to get to their trail area in northwest lower Michigan. As more local members joined, and the chapter name was changed to Jordan Valley 45º, Gary felt justified for all his work, since this was exactly what he had been trying to accomplish. For many years he worked with landowners and agency people, working out permissions for their trail, but always quietly in the background, even when he was President of the Chapter. He STILL drives all that way to participate in trail care and chapter activities.


VIP Awards The National Park Service enables us to thank both award recipients and those who turn in their volunteer hours. Remember: Everything you do that contributes to and supports the trail counts! In each hourly category, volunteer workers and their awards are listed. 100 Hour Award Recipients (certificate, pin, name badge) Steven Ashmead Mel Baughman Jill Borgstede Jon Bowen Jim Bronson John Cobb Sara Cockrell Scott Davis Dove Day John Day Carol Detrie

Carol DettorreWright Ruth Dorrough Mike Douglass Bruce Dziadzio Sherry Eiler Grant Fenner Ron Gorman Rennae Gruchalla Ed Gruchalla Jamie Guy

Eric Haugland Charlene HerronJordan Stephanie Hoffarth Barb JauquetKalinoski Larry Julien Tim Kelly Ken Kelsey Ron Kozura Steve Maass

Gene Markley Tom Mayhew David Miller Margaret Paulson Paul Plathe Larry Reitz Gail Rogne Jenny Simpson Mark Stange Judy Strehlau-Ward Margaret Strobel

Lyn Szymkiewicz Randy Thomas Bill Vitaniemi Mark Wadopian Robert Westphal Matthew Williams Joni Wohlwend Peter Zelinka

Allan Kelly Pat McNamara James Noble Ed O’Shea Dennis Peronto Daniel Raish

Rick Schlauderaff Kevin Schram Scott Sellers Mark Stange Tom Suter Corinne Thieleman

Bethany Thomas Matthew Williams

Jim Rarick Eric Rehorst Pat Schlaack Allan Schroden Mark Stange

Bethany Thomas Jerry Warner Patty Warner

Anthony Rodriguez David Schlosser Bruce Schwenke Tina Toole Mike Toole

Michael Wilkey

200 Hour Award Recipients (water bottle) Jim Bronson Kathleen Colyer Bill Courtois Dove Day John Day Carol Detrie

Ruth Dorrough Patti Dunning Robert Dunning Byron Guy Laurie Hanson Kirk Johnson

400 Hour Award Recipients (embroidered shirt) Gerald Anderson Kevin Bell Peter Bock Scott Bowen Dove Day

Michael Dundas Teri Foust Edsel Gunderson Kaye Houk Gilford Ikenberry

Nelda Ikenberry Beth Keloneva Jane Norton Dennis Peronto John Rarick

1,000 Hour Award Recipients (embroidered vest) Philip Anderson Charles Church Walter Colyer Patrick Delaney Eileen Fairbrother

Jeff Fleming Jim Houk Martin Howden Deb Koepplin Lucia Krueger

Todd McMahon Ric Olson Dennis Peronto Richard Pomerleau Mary Ann Rebert

2,500 Hour Award Recipients (embroidered jacket) Gary Narum

Peter Nordgren

4,000 Hour Award Recipients (President’s Call to Service Award-Certificate, pin, letter from White House) Mary Coffin

George and Helen Hartzog Award Recipient (Individual Outstanding Volunteer, Midwest Region and Servicewide) Mary Coffin


The North Star

Hike 100 Challenge Gathers Families and Friends By Amelia Rhodes


Seth and Lyndsay with their daughters McKen zie and Madisyn.

Seth and Lyndsay Earl started their challenge in June with their two young daughters McKenzie (2 1/2) and Madisyn (8 months). Lyndsay said, “Every Sunday morning throughout the summer we’d sit down and plan our hike over breakfast, then set out on our next adventure. At the end of each hike, we’d stop and get ice cream and even though McKenzie loved the hikes, she’ll tell you that the ice cream was her favorite part. In just under 3 months, we hiked 50 miles in the Lower Peninsula, 60 miles in the Upper Peninsula along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and participated in the Mackinaw Bridge walk on Labor Day. In total we hiked 115 miles on the North Country Trail. Our hikes brought us closer together as a family and allowed us to explore our great state while spending quality time together in the great outdoors. We look forward to future hikes and future life lessons that can be learned along the Trail.” Keep hiking and Dan with his sharing the Trail with 9 and 7-year old kids. your loved ones. In the next issue, we’ll give the final report for the Hike 100 Challenge. And yes, Hike 100 is returning for 2017, but with a twist! We’ll announce details in December on and in the January issue of the North Star.

October-December 2016

Da n Brow n

Lyndsay Earl

Brad Wrig ht

s we head into the final months of 2016, we are also wrapping up our first Hike 100 Challenge. Remember you have until December 31 to finish your miles! Thank you all for making this Challenge such a success. As of October 1, we had 844 finishers hailing from 24 states and Canada. Many of our finishers have shared inspiring stories and photos. You can view them all here: We’ve loved hearing how the Hike 100 Challenge has brought n on their first families and friends Brad and his so p together. together on the backpacking tri Trail. Whether it’s discovering your tweens can now out-hike you, carrying little ones on your back, or gathering friends for a road trip to go hiking, the Trail provides a place to build memories and stories together. Brad Wright shared, “It all started when I saw a posting on the NCT website for the Hike 100 Challenge. As soon as I read it I forwarded it over to my brother and my long time friend Jeff. And just like that we were all in, and the trip planning began. Although the journey took us a better part of the year to conquer, with 200 hundred mile trips to get to the Trail, we all did it. It was epic to spend all those miles on the Trail, with such great company. I was also able take my 8 year old son on his first backpacking trip: the two of us hiked in at the Udell trailhead a few miles just to expose him to the Trail. We spent the night together in our hammocks then hiked back to our vehicle. It’s a trip I will always remember, and I hope he will as well. Thanks, NCT.” Ken of Ohio put a lot of effort into his Hike 100, first taking his young children on hikes within Ohio, with one in a backpack, then adding major trips to touch the trail in all seven states, AND hike across all the border crossings. As he said afterwards, “Only 4500 miles to go.” Dan Brown started doing small trips last year with his kids, aged 9 and 7. The Hike 100 Challenge was a great motivator to get them out on bigger trips this year. “By the end of the summer they were out-hiking me. They even pulled a 15 mile day out by Croton Dam. Tough kids, and I am super proud of them,” Dan said.


New Statewide Interpretive Panels Installed Across Wisconsin

New Informational Panel Designs

By Mary Stenberg, Chequamegon Chapter Volunteer


Marty Swank


The North Star

railheads, visitor centers, campgrounds and other locations on or near the trail can offer us a great opportunity to educate the public about the NCT. A well placed Walker, Minnesota Trail Town sign with thoughtful kiosk sports a panel. content can welcome, orient and inform visitors about the Trail, the managing agency and even the NCTA. They can provide a local or regional overview and can be used to communicate any rules and navigational tools needed to use the trail as well as contact information for emergencies or to find more information. How we fill these spaces is important to ensure we meet the needs of the audience in that location. Last year, NCTA worked with the National Park Service to design several informational panel templates for placement across the trail. We created a standard panel for each state with an overview map, selected highlights in that state and information about the trail as a whole. These can be used as-is or can be altered if you are in need of slightly different content or a different size. We also created a template for a local panel or Trail Town, which can be tailored to your location with a new map, photos and text. Both are 36˝ x 48˝. You can get these panels made for your area in one of two ways: • Your chapter/organization can have them made on your own. NCTA will provide the design files to anyone interested in having one made with simple instructions to guide you in the process. The panels themselves can cost between $300 and $600 each, depending on the materials. If you are altering the template for your specific location, you should plan for design costs. Having a frame or buying mounting hardware to add the panel to an existing kiosk is also a cost that should be considered in your budget. • You can also submit your needs to NCTA. We recently hired an interpretive planning firm to inventory our needs for these panels across the trail. Although we know we’ll be far from filling all of the needs, with funding from the National Park Service in 2017 we hope to take care of our top priorities from this list. Although these two examples won’t fill every need, it’s a good start. I would encourage all of you to ask yourselves what information the public is seeking at any given location before deciding what design fits best. Contact me for more information: aketchmark@ or (866) HikeNCT.

Andrea Ketchmark


n 2015, the National Park Service developed and purchased Statewide Interpretive Panels, at an approximate cost of $400 per panel, for each of the seven trail states. The National Park Service worked with North Country Trail Association staff to acquire the appropriate Vickie Swank, Mary Stenberg and Rick photos and maps used on Pomerlau. the interpretive panels. Seven panels were secured for Wisconsin. The 3’ x 4’ panels are intended to be placed at high profile, heavily visited sites to aid in the promotion of hiking on the North Country National Scenic Trail. Using these criteria, four panels were allotted for the Chequamegon Chapter and the remaining three went to the Brule-St. Croix Chapter. At this time, the Heritage Chapter does not have developed trail that passes through a high-profile site. Within the Chequamegon Chapter’s area, the first panel was installed at the trailhead parking lot on Old Highway 63 where the North Country Trail crosses this busy highway just north of Drummond. A second panel was posted at the Two Lakes Campground registration area where the North Country Trail connector trail leads to the campground. Panel number three was installed near the concession area at Copper Falls State Park near Mellen. The fourth panel has been installed at the trailhead parking area near a most popular hiking destination, Juniper Rock Overlook and the Swedish Settlement off Forest Road 202. Chequamegon Chapter President Marty Swank, who assisted with the installation of the signs, is very pleased. He said, “The large, eye-catching photographs on the panels depict the beauty of our trail. We know visitors to our area and local residents alike will take notice of these new signs. Hopefully, people will be inspired to go out for a hike on the North Country Trail. Before the Chequamegon Chapter panels were installed, a stabilizing wood backing and cedar frame were constructed by member Rick Pomerleau. A marine grade, spar varnish was used to seal the frame and backing. The panels were each mounted on two 4˝ x 4˝ treated posts. Further west, within the Brule-St.Croix Chapter’s area, the panels were installed at Lucius Woods County Park located in the center of Wisconsin’s second trail town, Solon Springs, at the Highway 53 trailhead, which is the only trailhead in Wisconsin that is on a divided highway, and at Pattison State Park located just south of Superior. When the interpretive panels were shipped, one regulation steel display stand was included and that stand was used at the Highway 53 trailhead location. At the other two locations, Brule-St. Croix volunteers mounted the panels on one side of a standard kiosk with a smaller, site specific panel installed on the other side. Here locally, we are grateful for these attractive new signs from the National Park Service. They are so good-looking and informative that our presence is really enhanced before the outdoor public. If your state doesn’t have any yet, get in touch with Mark Weaver’s office before next spring!

By Andrea Ketchmark, Director of Trail Development

This panel will be featured at Lowell, our headquarters town in Michigan.

October-December 2016


Joan Young

Dan and Ruth in Minnesota.

We Just Kept Walking By Ruth and Dan Dorrough



The North Star

Dove Day

t the recent NCTA Annual Celebration in Fargo, we completed a walk of the entire North Country Trail. Our adventure began with my husband, Dan, and I taking a casual walk at a park near our home in New York. It culminated 17 years and 4,800 miles later in the Sheyenne Grasslands of North Dakota surrounded by a festive crowd of family and new friends we met along the way. We had no intention of walking the entire NCT. In fact on that initial walk we didn’t even know it existed. We noticed marks on the trees and followed them. They continued well after the point where fatigue caused us to turn around. Full of curiosity we returned and continued to pursue the elusive end of this trail. We learned that we were on a branch of the Finger Lakes Trail. The beauty of this well maintained trail and the fun of discovering a part of New York that we had totally missed by zipping along the Thruway drew us back weekend after weekend, then year after year. With caution, given our rather shy solitary nature, we signed up for FLT group hikes. We were delighted with the support and easy camaraderie they provided. On one group hike the venerable Ed Sidote, who was then in his 90’s, asked Dan if he was an “end to ender.” Guessing that the term meant someone who walked the entire trail, Dan decided that it was a watershed moment. He had to make up his mind. His “yes” put us on Ed’s radar. We got periodic emails from Ed checking on our progress. He reminded us that he wasn’t getting any younger and that we needed to “pick up the pace” if we expected to finish the trail while he was still around. Six years after that initial walk, Ed spotted us on the hike that would make us FLT End to Enders 179 and 180. He was there at every crossing exhorting us with the never to be believed, “It’s all downhill from here.” He even had the FLT banner unfurled for our final steps. Along the way we learned that the FLT was partnered with a bold venture called the North Country National

Scenic Trail, a footpath that stretches from New York to North Dakota. We had as they say “caught the hiking bug.” It seemed logical to venture on the NCT into Pennsylvania. However, the month after we finished the FLT, I fell in the hospital lobby. With a bone protruding from my left knee, I called Dan and announced, “Our hiking days are over.” Before hastening to join me in the emergency department, he assured me, “I don’t think so.” His response proved prophetic. Thanks to expert surgery and rigorous therapy, we were back on the trail by spring. Our progress on the NCT was anything but linear. We seized mileage gaining opportunities as they arose. We participated in NCT Conferences, NCT Extended Outings, and Meet-ups. Before long, the maps that adorned the walls of our home were marked with small completed sections in each of the states the NCT traverses. Still we never dreamed that the luxury of retirement three years ago would give us full seasons on the trail and the rich experience of walking its every mile. We did mostly “out and back” hikes in the beginning. As an antidote to this inefficiency, we tried leaving bikes at one end of the hike, driving to the other end, walking back to the bikes and then riding them to the vehicle. The minimal success we achieved with this method was shattered by simultaneous relatively minor accidents on a rainy downhill ride. We then switched to using two vehicles, spotting one at the end of the hike and one at the beginning. With the exception of the necessary backpacking through N.Y.’s Adirondacks and Minnesota’s Border Route and Kekekabic Trail, day hiking with two vehicles was the means by which we completed the majority of the NCT. One of our vehicles is a van in which we most often slept. We have camped in forests, campgrounds and small town parks (my favorite is beside grain elevators in North Dakota). On rare occasions, usually when chilled to the bone after cold wet hikes, we stayed in a motel. Several times kind folks took us into their homes.

Ruth and Dan at the very end of their long walk.

Dove Day

From left to right, Joan Young (another end-to-ender who spent twenty years on the NCT), Ruth, and Dan as they arrive at the final celebration tent at the Ekre Preserve.

The goal of completing the entire trail shook us loose from the inertia and comforts of home each spring. It guided but did not drive us. We proceeded at a very leisurely pace, savoring not only the trail but the lands and towns that surround it. We were led to places we never would have gone, learned skills, and gained a perspective we never would have had about this great country. We are in better physical shape that we have ever been. Best of all we have met marvelous people who have chosen to be a part of something out of the ordinary and bigger than themselves. Data analyst and researcher, Daniele Quercia, is using crowd sourcing to develop “happy maps.” These guide commuters to paths that are not the fastest but the most scenic routes. In a fascinating TED talk, he states, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine.” Hiking the North Country National Scenic Trail has been the adventure of a lifetime, lifting us out of the routine and enriching our lives. Our thanks to all of you who do your part to make this happy trail possible. ( happy_maps/transcript?language=en)

Dove Day

Meeting the Dorroughs Mara Campbell is a freelance writer who published a long article in North Dakota’s Griggs County Courier about meeting the Dorroughs. Her piece ended with these observations: The Dorroughs are section hikers. They allow themselves zero flexibility as far as sections to be covered, but maximum flexibility as far as sight seeing. “We are savoring,” said Ruth “and that’s the difference between a section hiker and a thruhiker. They can’t do that, they have to get to the next food drop, etc.” They travel with two vehicles, one containing a bed, and average between 6-15 miles per day. They carry a GPS and stay at campgrounds wherever they can. “It’s like a road trip adventure with good hiking every day,” Ruth said. Dan maintains a database of the hiking he and Ruth have done, including miles, as well as a photographic database of 35,000 pictures that he can find by keyword. The love for the outdoors grew slowly for Ruth. She was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. “She’s a city girl and she’s terrified of everything,” Dan said. “Growing up in a city does give me a complicated relationship with the wilderness,” Ruth conceded. “I am both drawn to it and frightened of it. I had the same reaction to North Dakota. Because it is so open. I have that same dual response --- I am absolutely enthralled by it. And the beauty,” Ruth paused to let the word sink in. “I was totally unprepared for the beauty of North Dakota. Extraordinary kindness. The sense of history. The sky.” Their lunch finished, the Dorroughs started packing up to leave. Impulsively, I invited them to break their journey with my family. They accepted and over the course of the next day, the stories poured forth. The sixth generation farmer who told of his family coming from Russia, crossing the plains to the point of annihilation only to find themselves, in extremis, two miles from their relatives and rescued. The family who took Dan and Ruth in on Father’s Day and made a game of guessing their occupations and gave them a bed for the night. The Los Angeles native, who, upon seeing them pass her farm, came out hollering “Pedestrians! Pedestrians!” The bear of mercifully untested ferocity in Minnesota. The Pencil Sharpener Museum. Ruth’s review of the New Rockford Performance of Godspell. (“I recommend it heartily,” Ruth said. “It was equal to anything we’ve seen in New York City.”) The next morning, I posed with my family for pictures with them and the Dorroughs left for the Lake Ashtabula section of their hike. The North Country National Scenic Trail will have its conference in September, in Fargo. Dan and Ruth will be attending, finishing the last six miles of their hike in the company of their children and grandchildren. It will be a gala event and they are looking forward to it mightily. As I watched them drive away, snippets of their impressions of North Dakota echoed in me. “Extraordinary kindness. The sense of history. The sky.”

October-December 2016


Jerry Schumacher

National Park Service


Luke Jordan

Outdoor Recreation Planner and Volunteer Coordinator


ark, Chris and I were blown away with the attendance and participation in the NPS Q&A session in Fargo, N.D., recently. A couple of topics were discussed that we think need repeating here: The VIP Program and Certification. A few things to remember about the VIP program: Our number one concern is your safety. We offer a number of opportunities to maximize your safety awareness and safety practices. We’ll mention two of them here. We need to know who our volunteers are, so we use what’s known as the VIP agreement to do that. We have “Group VIP Agreements” that cover all chapter members for tort claims and injuries, so if you’re an existing chapter member, rest easy, you don’t need to do anything. You do have the option to sign up as an individual VIP if you choose, separate from your chapter membership. Any new NCTA chapters or affiliates, however, will need to fill out a new VIP form to join the system officially. NCTA staff is also covered by a Group Agreement. But everyone else — drop-ins to a work day, Scouts and Scout troops, children of members, church groups, etc., — are NOT COVERED unless they have completed an individual Volunteer Form. If such groups or individuals are helping on the trail in any capacity, it is imperative that the Trail Crew Leader or other member in a leadership position explain the form to the volunteer(s), and if they concur, obtain their signature. If children of members, Scouts, or other youth organizations show up and you cannot get a parent or legal guardian signature, they cannot work on the trail. Scout Troop leaders are not valid parent or legal guardian signatures. Your Trail Crew Leaders should have these “VIP forms” on hand at all times. Once they are completed, they are to be sent to me in Lowell. Trail Crew Leaders should also have on hand the “Injury Reporting Kit.” If you are injured in the field, this paperwork is taken to the hospital for you and hospital staff to complete. Call me as soon as you can after an injury. I can make contact with hospital staff and explain the process and the forms to them so everything is properly submitted and quickly resolved so you can focus on your recovery. Other aspects of safety that need mention: Chainsaw training. Many of you may have years of chainsaw use behind you. Excellent, but just as the DMV doesn’t accept me telling them, “Trust me, I know how to drive a car for goodness’ sake,” we too must be able to document your skills as a chainsaw operator. Without this documentation, you CANNOT operate a chainsaw on


The North Star

Oglala National Grassland, Nebraska, during Luke’s hike of the Great Plains Trail last spring.

the North Country Trail, and if you do and are injured we CANNOT cover your injuries. So if you are not a currently Certified Sawyer, please leave your chainsaw at home. We schedule chainsaw trainings across the trail every year, so if you are interested in becoming a Certified Sawyer, please contact me. TrailSafe. Dan Watson’s cinematic triumph is now available for all to view on the website. It is a series of short videos that help you all increase your awareness regarding safety on the Trail. It is an excellent resource and we recommend that everyone reduce their Facebook time a little bit and check out TrailSafe. And now for Certification. Our collective goal is to complete the trail, right. But trail segments that are not permanent often have a high probability of relocation, which means more work for trail volunteers. And who likes to build and rebuild trail over and over again. When a trail is done and able to be protected for a reasonably long period of time, it can be considered for certification. With certification, that segment of trail can utilize the NCT emblem and be an “official” segment of the North Country Trail. The standards for certification have changed a bit from what they’ve been in the past. We’re happy to help you out with the Certification Form. Just give me a call and I can walk you through it. It’s a lot easier than it looks. More details about NPS processes will be available in subsequent issues of the North Star. In the meantime I encourage you to reach out with any questions regarding the VIP program, signage, certification or general concerns within your chapters. I’m looking forward to working with you and providing the best assistance I can offer. (616) 250-6714

Meet Luke Jordan Again in the NPS Office

Most of you know me, perhaps more so by my trail name “Strider,” the name I used as I hiked the entire trail in 2013. I started out as most of you did, as a volunteer. I first heard about the NCT in 2010 while in college, working on the trail crew for the Superior Hiking Trail Association. It was a project that inspired me and it’s been a long adventurous road ever since to get where I am now as an NPS staffer. After completing the entire North Country Trail in 2013, I was fortunate to receive an NPS internship through the Student Conservation Association. My task was mostly to conduct Optimal Location Reviews in less active areas of the trail and do lots of outreach to generate support for the trail locally. The position brought me to Lowell last summer, where I was offered a temporary position working on the state-wide trail inventory for New York. A few weeks later I got a surprise phone call from Mark Weaver. The gist of the message “You’re on fulltime!” I was blown away. In the government where nothing ever seems to go smoothly they somehow managed to pull it off, and I’m extremely grateful for everyone who made it happen. As some of you may know I recently completed another hike, this time over the newly-formed Great Plains Trail. My journey lasted just under three months, traveling from Guadalupe Peak in west Texas to the Canadian Border in North Dakota. It was an amazing journey of 85 days across 2100 miles of Great Plains scenery and friendly people. I’m now back in Lowell full time as an Outdoor Recreation Planner, with emphasis on Volunteer Coordination. I’m taking over many of Dan Watson’s responsibilities with the National Park Service due to his recent move to the Ice Age Trail. My new roles at NPS include chainsaw training coordination, injury reporting, trail certification, managing our signage and tool inventory and planning needs upon request. I welcome the opportunity to work closely with many of you and provide the best support and assistance I can offer. Roxanne Jordan

Northern Terminus Great Plains Trail, Northgate, Saskatchewan.

Field Grants:

Funding for Trail Projects and More By Andrea Ketchmark


CTA’s Field Grant program funds projects to further trail development and maintenance as well as promotion of the trail and the Association and even Chapter operations. Over the past 18 years, it has funded $200,000 in trail projects across our seven states! In 2017, we’ve decided to merge the Field Grant program with the annual project funding program (previously managed by the NPS) resulting in only one application process. Because of this, we’ve made a few changes. We are moving the first deadline of the year from March 1 to February 1 (see all deadlines below). We are also giving the committee one month to make a decision instead of two weeks. We are increasing the cap from $1,000 to $5,000/request, and we will no longer transfer awards directly to chapter accounts upon approval, and rather manage them as grants in separate accounts. All of these changes will offer more flexibility for volunteers and will contribute to a more robust grant program with more impact. Applications will still be reviewed four times each year and awarded according to merit, benefits to the trail and the Association, and need of the applicant, as well as the applicant’s grant history. The deadlines are the same each year so please mark your calendars. Deadlines: February 1st April 15th July 15th October 15th The guidelines, application and report forms can be found online. When filling out your application, please remember to: • Complete all sections of the application. • Explain the merit of the project, why it’s needed and how it benefits the trail and the Association. • Have two Chapter/Affiliate representatives’ names on the application. • Include a match in volunteer hours if applicable. • Although a financial match is not required, the committee does also like to see that you’ve tried to raise funds elsewhere. • Get all approvals from land managers for the project prior to applying. • File a final report when your project is complete. Good luck.

October-December 2016


Current and Emerging Forest Pests along the NCT David Cappeart,

By Robert A. Haack Retired US Forest Service Entomologist Member of the NCTA JV45° Chapter



The North Star

Emerald Ash Borer.

Kenneth R. Law,

e are all inspired by the beauty of the forests as we hike along the North Country Trail (NCT). It is natural for plant and animal communities to change slowly as natural succession occurs from pioneer species like aspen to climax species like maple. Nowadays, however, change can happen quickly, especially when exotic (non-native) pests arrive. In the continental US, there are over 500 exotic insects and 20 exotic diseases affecting forest trees, with about 2-3 new tree pests discovered annually. Most exotics arrive as a result of world trade, especially on or in live plants (nursery stock, bonsai) and wood packaging (pallets, crating). Once here, pests spread naturally (flight, wind) and through human assistance (by moving infested plants, logs, and firewood). Fortunately, most exotics are not lethal. However, a few have nearly eliminated their host plants. Below are a few examples of exotic pests that are impacting forest trees along or near the NCT. First, on a historical note, consider the American Chestnut, once the most common hardwood tree in the East with many trees exceeding 10 feet in diameter and 100 feet tall. After the Asian fungal disease Chestnut Blight arrived in New York in 1904, chestnut was nearly eliminated nationwide by the 1940s (about 4 billion trees lost). Similarly, Dutch Elm Disease, another Asian fungal disease, first entered Europe around 1910, and then from Europe it moved to New York around 1928 on elm logs imported from The Netherlands (thus the name “Dutch”). A new and more lethal form of the fungus emerged in the 1940s in both Europe and North America. Together, these fungi, which are transported between trees by both native and exotic elm bark beetles, have killed tens of millions of elm trees in all of North America except parts of the West. (Ironically, the elm tree is part of the official emblem of Fargo, North Dakota, and we noticed many healthy elms there, a real surprise for those of us from farther east. However, Dutch Elm Disease is there now, too.—Editor) Next, as an example of a highly lethal insect, consider the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a ½-inch-long Asian beetle first discovered in Michigan in 2002. In just 14 years it has spread to 30 US states (from New Hampshire to Georgia in the east, to Minnesota, Colorado, and Texas in the west) and two Canadian provinces. EAB occurs in all NCT states except North Dakota. EAB has already killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in the US, and billions more are in its path. So far, EAB been able to infest and kill all North American ash species that it has encountered (5 of our 16 native ash species). EAB larvae mine the cambial region (the area where the bark and wood meet) and effectively girdle and kill the tree within a few years. Humans have moved EAB in nursery stock, logs, and firewood. A few native ash trees appear resistant to EAB and will be used in breeding programs. In addition, four Asian parasitoids of EAB are being mass-reared and released in the US to serve as biocontrol agents against EAB. They are tiny stingless wasps with one attacking eggs and three attacking larvae of EAB.

Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB).

The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) was first discovered in New York in 1996, and later new infestations were detected in parts of Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and also near Toronto. ALB is a large (0.75-1.5 inches long) showy black and white beetle that can infest and kill many kinds of hardwoods, especially maple, birch, elm, horsechestnut, and willow. ALB can infest perfectly healthy trees and kill them in 3-4 years. Several US infestations have been eradicated, but there are still two large infestations in the US, one near Cincinnati, Ohio, and one in Worcester, Mass. As of July 2016, over 17,000 infested trees have been cut near Cincinnati, and over 24,000 infested trees have been cut near Worcester. The eradication programs are very expensive, costing millions, and involve surveys from the ground and air (tree climbers) of all potential host trees within the quarantine zones. No biological control agents have been released in the US for ALB because eradication is the goal for all infestations. The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is a small, Asian, aphid-like insect that infests and kills hemlocks in the East. It was first reported in Virginia in 1951, and has now spread from Maine to Georgia, often killing trees (Eastern Hemlock, Carolina Hemlock) in 3-10 years. As for the NCT states, HWA is well

Continued on page 21

were reported in several western states in the 1990s and early 2000s, with Eastern Black Walnut being especially susceptible. Eastern Black Walnut is native to the eastern US, but planted widely in the West. The range of TCD is expanding in the West and has now entered the East. Since 2010, TCD has been detected in small areas of six eastern states, including the NCT states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. In addition, WTB adults were trapped at an Indiana sawmill in 2014, but diseased trees have not yet been reported. The walnut twig beetle is only about 1/16 inch long, and when it enters the bark to form a gallery and lay eggs the fungus is also introduced by the beetle, resulting in a small canker and associated dead tissue. Huge numbers of beetles can infest individual trees; thus the name Thousand Cankers Disease. Butternut, a close relative of walnut, is also susceptible to TCD. Infestation begins in the branches and later in the trunk. Infected trees can die in as little as three years. Long-distance spread results from movement of infested logs, firewood, and even pieces of wood used by woodworkers and carvers. No control options are yet available for TCD. These are just a few of the many new pests impacting the forests along the NCT. Their combined impact not only reduces tree diversity but also the many animals that depend on them. There are federal and state quarantines for many of these pests that restrict movement of potentially infested logs, firewood, and live plants. Unfortunately, many people are not aware of or don’t comply with quarantines. For example, many North American tree pests are now killing millions of trees in Europe and Asia. New international standards have been developed to treat wood packaging and live plants so the rate of future pest introductions should be reduced. Although this story is sad, hopefully it increases your awareness of this worldwide problem.

Beech scale.

Beech canker.

Chris Evans,

established in Pennsylvania and New York, with small pockets in Ohio and now Michigan. Many of the Ohio and Michigan infestations were started by people planting HWA-infested nursery stock brought in from the East. HWA adults are less than 1/16-inch long and their bodies are covered with white waxy strands. The HWA inserts its piercing mouthparts at the base of needles and sucks tree fluids, which kills needles and eventually the shoots. Biological control agents (predatory beetles) from Asia and the Pacific Northwest have been released and become established in several eastern states and show some promise. Locally, HWA can be transported by wind, birds, and deer, but long-distance spread typically results from movement of infested plants. Beech Bark Disease (BBD) is a European disease complex that involves an exotic insect (Beech Scale) and a fungal pathogen (both exotic and native Neonectria species). The first reports of BBD on American Beech in North America was in Nova Scotia in the 1890s (likely arriving on European Beech nursery stock). Since then, BBD spread slowly both southward (North Carolina) and westward (Wisconsin). BBD was found in two Michigan State Parks in 2000, likely brought in on firewood. Beech Scales are about 1/16-inch long and covered with a white, waxy “wool” (much like HWA). They feed by inserting their sucking mouthparts through the bark, and later fungi enter the feeding wounds and cause cankers. The cankers deform the bark and eventually cause stem breakage and tree death. Wind can spread fungal spores and immature scale insects (called crawlers) short distances. Birds and mammals can also spread crawlers on their feathers and fur. Long distance spread usually results from moving infested firewood, logs, and live trees, and perhaps from migratory birds. There are few control options available. However, a small percentage of American Beech trees appears resistant to Beech Scale, and breeding programs have begun with these trees. Thousand Cankers Disease (TCD) is a disease complex that involves a native western bark beetle, the walnut twig beetle (WTB), and a fungus (origin unknown). Pockets of walnut mortality

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA).

October-December 2016


Amelia Rhodes

“NORTH OF NORMAL” The NCTA 2016 Celebration in Fargo, North Dakota By Irene Szabo

F Amelia Rhodes

Looking down the NCT’s causeway located along Tamarack Lake within Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. Matt Davis says they are normally used in wet soils, but this structure was built to protect cultural resources discovered along the lakeshore during the archaeological review prior to trail building.

Duane Lawton

One of the Fargo-Moorhead bridges over the Red River in the continuous park along that state border, many of them removeable to avoid flood damage.


The North Star

argo’s proud slogan is “North of Normal,” and it fits. Even though downtowns and strip malls in most American cities these days all look alike, and Fargo has much territory like that, the city is also plop in the middle of a land so different from the rest of our seven-state trail that those of us in attendance might well have rocketed to another planet. A record for these things, 275 (!) people came to Fargo to celebrate with us, our fun centered in the quite comfortable Cambria Hotel in West Fargo, where there weren’t even buildings the first time this event took me to North Dakota in 2002. The organizers cleverly organized hikes and activities in clusters, Thursday around Fargo’s Red River, the border between N.D. and Minn., Friday in the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in nearby Minnesota, and Saturday in the wide open of farms and ex-prairie south and west of Fargo. Full-size busses were used, relieving us of the torment of car shuttles with such big numbers of people. Local organizers raised over $9000 to cover that luxury! As I said in my 2010 article in these pages after I visited N.D. and Minn. in January, just to see what it was like then, I had trouble envisioning what people outside the few cities did with themselves all winter without going nuts, since the spaces are vast, the wide open distances hard to cover, and other people few and far between. I have joked that I would have to break down and join a church just so I ever saw ANYBODY. Children probably spend most of their days in school busses. Corn and soybeans, while prevalent here in western N.Y., too, dominate the view for literal miles, interspersed with the occasional visual treats of milewide sunflower fields. Can’t tell you how excited I was to get a bag of black sunflower seed here in N.Y. that came from Breckenridge, Minnesota, one of the places I visited on my winter trip. There the SunOpta silos and railroad sidings seemed to exist for only one crop, sunflower seeds, where I got to watch the local railroad, the Red River Valley and Western, ready its antique plows for service during the next day’s blizzard. This time, however, we were visiting again in the benign season of September, with a little rain and mild temperatures. Thursday’s Fargo walks were along parklands on both sides of the state border Red River, where many of the park bridges are either moveable or re-moveable. One is dismantled before every winter, to city workers’ irritation, to keep it from being swept away by spring floods, while others are various kinds of lift bridges to get them out of the way when winters of heavy snows melt too fast in the spring. Of course in the winter, most water is frozen solid enough that small towns of pop-up shelters populate lake ice, with fishing holes drilled down to liquid levels, and locals never seem to fear driving their trucks out onto the ice. Not this sissy! Friday’s Tamarac trip was extra special because this is the first time our Trail has been routed off-road through a National Wildlife Refuge. Recall Matt Davis’s article a couple years ago describing the extensive study and paper work required before a route could be approved, designed as it was to avoid affecting the critical wildlife or disturbing original people’s village sites. Then in

Irene Szabo Irene Szabo

Irene Szabo

culturally significant places, the Laurentian Lakes Chapter had to build causeways that raised hikers’ passage there above native ground level. As is typical for Refuges, water is a significant part of the landscape, and Tamarac is no exception. One pond we walked next to, near the Visitors Center, was full of trumpeter swans who had nested there, even though these are an uncommon sight elsewhere. Later, watching the ground beneath a bird feeder through the Center’s picture window, we saw a thirteen-striped Trumpeter swans who nested at Tamarac Wildlife Refuge. ground squirrel help himself to dropped seeds. Of course, I had never heard of such a creature even the day before! On Saturday one group went south along the Red River to Fort Abercrombie, a reconstructed U.S. Army fort like many others dotted along the advancing frontier to protect the invading European settlers from the native people, this one from 1858 to 1877. Because this one was 1/10th of a mile from a bridge across the border river with Minnesota, there were at one time seven bars in that interval, celebrating liberation from a dry town on the other side. To no one’s surprise, the original building was a jail. We then took a short walk through today’s small village of Abercrombie, slated to become a Trail Town, along a segment of what had once been the railbed of the famed Milwaukee Road, while on the other side of the river, just beyond a line of trees, we could hear a modern BNSF train along what was Trail along the Red River Valley and Western railroad, mowed by the Dakota Prairie Chapter through prairie plants. Those wires used to carry critical communications originally the route of the Great Northern. along the Great Northern railroad years ago. Our bus then took us a little further north and slightly west, on mostly dirt roads wide enough only for our fat selves, through more endless crop fields, to drop us off along a patch of NCT that parallels the Red River Valley and Western Railroad, which travels along another old section of the departed once-huge Great Northern. A mowed path through original prairie plants and bushes kept us between current crops and the tracks, where we passed below old trackside poles carrying wires no longer in use, each attached to cross pieces with green glass insulators on them. Insulators fetch $3.00 apiece in eastern antique venues. Our short hikes left us at the Ekre Preserve in time for lunch, while longer hikes had started in the Sheyenne National Grasslands and walked toward Ekre, a Norwegian bachelor farmer’s property that he donated as a demonstration place for prairie, old farm buildings, and some continuing crops. One of those longer hikes brought the huge contingent celebrating Ruth and Dan Dorrough’s completion of the North Country Trail into Trail approaches Walcott on Dakota Prairie Chapter puncheon the field surrounding our final party tent. Hikers who had finished through a wet area, still paralleling the railroad. Almost every earlier formed a double row of greeters for the last 200 feet, where town in this part of the world features at least a few grain they could hug and shake hands with our famous “little old whiteelevators. continued on page 24 Lynda Rummel

October-December 2016


Lynda Rummel

Wild turkey in a Fargo backyard.

haired couple” who walked the whole thing. It was a grand celebration, both then and later that evening, when Ruth and Dan narrated their story, showing a tiny fraction of Dan’s pictures. Most people left Sunday morning, but three of us continued to fool around the neighborhood for one more day, since Lois of Arizona was stuck waiting until Monday for the once-weekly flight from Fargo back home. We took a walk along the parklands adjacent to the Red River in Fargo, sometimes in seemingly normal residential neighborhoods. Imagine our surprise when we saw a flock of wild turkey in one house’s back yard. From Wisconsin westward we had become aware of the huge flocks everywhere. For perspective on this bird’s rebound, know that I got into the Rochester, N.Y.’s. newspaper nature page one year in the early 80s because I saw a flock in a nearby big state park, something so rare back then. We drove around southeast North Dakota, soaking up the sights, touching on a few railroad spots to appease me, and took one last walk on the NCT. We stopped north of where the previous day’s hike along the Red River Valley and Western had ended, and took a quick short walk at Walcott, some of it on heavy, well-made puncheon over wet spots, built by the Dakota Prairie Chapter. We stopped to take pictures of typical iconic trackside grain elevators, which was nearly fatal. The wet area around us was humming with mosquitoes, so after taking pictures, we looked down at our legs between shorts and socks and saw literally dozens of mosquitoes starting to bite. A fast walk back ensued. Who has bad mosquitoes in September? On the way back north toward Enderlin then Fargo, with sun low in the west, there was a moment when we looked over endless fields of golden crops, lavender distant shaded trees and slight hills, and a clearing light blue sky. And we knew why North Dakota’s license plates look that way.


The North Star

What is Next for the Adirondack NCNST? By Mary Coffin


fter nine years of scouting, ground truthing, evaluating and GPSing the Adirondack route jointly proposed by NCTA and New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in 2007, all the various levels of bureaucracy within the Adirondack Park right up to the Governor finally approved the route in October 2015. Various routes had been discussed since the 1980’s and now the approved route crosses the central Adirondacks to Crown Point and the Lake Champlain Bridge to Vermont. So where do we go from here and what is next to get this 158 mile section on the ground? Most of the route is on highly regulated N.Y. State lands, the Forest Preserve, and protected by the State Constitution. These Forest Preserve lands are classified as Wilderness or Wild Forest and 81 miles is on existing trails on State lands. But these trails are not yet connected. We need to fill these gaps, located mostly deep in the forest, with 38 miles of new trail. Most of the new trail is on State land or timber company easements. The balance of 39 miles is for now temporarily on roads to avoid private lands. See the full 2015 Final Plan at pdf. Only 38 miles of trail sounds easy to build right? Well, each of the eight units (Wild Forests and Wilderness Areas) must have a Unit Management Plan (UMP) and General Environmental Impact Study (GEIS) or amendment to the UMP that includes the North Country National Scenic Trail. Only a couple have been completed and that is where we start. For the others we work with the DEC Supervising Foresters/Planners to complete the UMPs and amendments and where necessary DEC Trail Easements. We have been permitted to flag only a small 1.7 mile section of the new route. Since the gaps between existing trails are located deep in the forests it requires a bit of hiking just to start flagging. For example to flag this 1.7 mile piece we needed to hike 10 miles round trip. This is typical. Since the trail in this 6 million acre Adirondack Park is a highly regulated area, we need to work directly under the supervision of the forester in each unit and their time available in the field is very limited. Another immediate step we have taken is working with the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) and the DEC to establish a trail adoption and steward program. Volunteers can adopt an existing trail on the NCNST route and in the future new trail as it is completed. If you or your group is interested in becoming a steward and maintaining a section of Adirondack NCNST and can check it out annually, contact

Vickie Swank

Tale of a Two Log Bridge By Marty Swank


n July 11th and 12th parts of Northern Wisconsin received some major flash flooding damage that included major highways and bridges. Flood damage extended into eastern parts of the Chequamegon National Forest that included Forest Roads and parts of the North Country National Scenic Trail. As of this date, September 12, there are still a number of Forest Road and campground closings and the North Country National Scenic Trail remains closed from County Hwy. D to the border line of the Chequamegon National Forest, just west of the City of Mellen. Porcupine Creek in the Porcupine Lake Wilderness was not an exception to the flash flooding but the two log bridge still stands!!! This is a testament to the skills of Wisconsin Regional Trail Coordinator, Bill Menke, and the volunteers who built the two log bridge.

The 2016 Flood: The flash flooding of 2016 actually raised the base of an extra log lying nearby up on TOP of the two log bridge! It was time to remove this log and send it downstream. This time both bridge approaches partially washed out. Even the connector trail from Porcupine Lake Road to Porcupine Lake and the NCT had a washed out area. I still have problems visualizing that much water flowing down Porcupine Creek. 2017 will be the 10th Anniversary of the building of the Porcupine Creek Two Log Bridge. I am very thankful we have something to celebrate!


A little history: On the dates of September 17th thru the 21st, 2007, volunteers from the Brule St. Croix Roving Crew under the leadership of Bill Menke, from the Chequamegon Chapter, and Chad Jacobson of the USFS built a two log bridge spanning Porcupine Creek and in the process returned the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) back to the original location along the very scenic Porcupine Creek. A grip-hoist with a sling was used to move nearby large rocks to build a raised base. The actual logs (Hemlock) were moved to the location using the grip hoist and roller logs (like ancient Egyptians’ stone moving method). The high rock base would prove to be crucial with the flash flooding of 2016! Original creosote timber bridges (two of them) had been previously removed by the USFS when the area became a Wilderness Area and a USFS trail re-route moved the NCT away from Porcupine Creek and along Porcupine Lake. In the spring of 2013, after an exceptionally snowy winter followed by heavy spring rains, the Porcupine Creek rose to the bottom of the two log bridge. The base of a nearby log ended up resting on the bottom rocks supporting the two log bridge. We had never pictured the water in Porcupine Creek reaching this high and had not pounded in re-bar to help keep the logs in place. The Creek had also washed out the lower (western) approach to the bridge and a good chunk of the lower NCT. Not feeling very confident any more about flooding, I returned to pound in rebar in the bridge log ends and then filled in the washed out NCT and bridge approach. I am so thankful now that I went back in and added the rebar!

The moment I got WET: The goal was to cut the extra log in small enough chunks to send them down stream (away from the log bridge). The first cut proved to be the most dramatic with the two halves splashing into the creek. I had managed to stay dry up to this point but water over the boot tops no longer mattered after this! Vickie managed to catch this moment with her camera.

Typical road damage from flooding, here on Otto-Olson Road.

For updated information on NCT, Campground, Forest Roads and other areas of interest closed in the Chequamegon National Forest because of the flash flooding you can go to the Chapter’s Website at http// and click on “Alert” or “Current Trail Conditions.”

October-December 2016


Why On Earth Would Any Group Want To Host The Annual Celebration? Benefits to the Dakota Prairie Chapter from Hosting 2016 Dove Day

By Tom Moberg for the Dakota Prairie Chapter


osting an NCTA Celebration requires an immense amount of work that could easily leave the hosts exhausted and demoralized. Historically, it seems like NCTA conferences were viewed as benefitting the NCTA and the conference participants, while the hosts were just good folks who were willing to throw themselves on their swords for the greater good. Some part of that view is undoubtedly correct. However, it seems to us, now that the 2016 NCTA Celebration is in the rear-view mirror, that the Dakota Prairie Chapter (DPC) has gained some important benefits, both explicit and implicit, short-term and long-term. • Prior to the Celebration, several articles in local papers about the NCNST and an editorial in the Fargo Forum welcoming the NCTA to the area provided increased public exposure and community awareness about the NCNST and the DPC. • Advertising the Celebration was an opportunity and incentive to distribute the Chapter brochure and other trail information more widely in the area. • The DPC Trail Adopters worked hard to get every segment of the Trail that we maintain into excellent condition. • The DPC put great effort into building a new 3.4 mile section of the trail, protected by a 20 year easement, because we wanted to hold one of the Celebration hikes there. The new Sheyenne Overlook section is now viewed with considerable pride as probably the premier segment of the Chapter’s trail range, since it meanders along gentle hills, sometimes overlooking the Sheyenne River, and takes us off road for those miles. • About 30 DPC members volunteered to help with the Celebration, including a wide range of activities before, during and after the event. There was a strongly felt shared desire to put on a great event, to make everyone feel welcome, to provide great hiking experiences, and to showcase new sections of the trail. Chapter members also brought in new people as volunteers who have either joined the Chapter or seem likely to do so. • The Chapter volunteers are still excited about the Celebration and are enjoying telling their personal stories about what they did, saw and experienced during the event. With the attendance number more than double what we expected during our initial planning, a great deal of creative planning and problem solving was required in order to expand all the activities and facilities to accommodate the crowd. The Chapter members now know each other much better, newer members are more integrated into the Chapter, and the Chapter overall seems to have a much greater cohesion and sense of shared purpose. • It was very useful for the DPC members to meet and interact with the NCTA and NPS staff members who attended the Celebration. For many DPC members, “Headquarters” is no longer just a mysterious and vague place “out there” somewhere. Many of our Chapter members now have a much better understanding of the NCTA as a national organization and see how the DPC fits into that overall structure.


The North Star

Jim Rakness of the Laurentian Lakes Chapter performing as a sweep on a hike at Tamarac. Hike leaders and sweeps were obviously carefully instructed as to their duties. In fact, the sweeps were so careful not to let a hiker stray from the fold that it was hard to visit the Girls’ Woods!

• We wanted to ensure that the Celebration hikes would emphasize the basic purposes of a National Scenic Trail, to see and experience the scenic, natural, cultural, and historic features of the area. We also wanted visitors to see the trail construction features that may be unique to the new trail sections in N.D. and Minn. To that end, we recruited and trained interpreters (guides) who could talk about those features on hikes and during long bus rides. We prepared job descriptions for hike leaders, sweeps, and interpreters, and held several training/ discussion sessions with the crews. We developed written interpretive materials for interpreters to use. In the DPC, 20 different individuals volunteered to be on hike crews, many of whom had not previously helped with hikes. So we now have a large cadre of Chapter members who know how to organize a large-group hike, lead or sweep a hike, and can explain interesting trail features during the hike. This is probably also true of the Laurentian Lakes Chapter. (So far, 70% of the 90 respondents to the Celebration survey said that having Interpreters on the hikes enhanced their experience “Very Much.”) • Besides developing useful interpretive materials for on-going use on hikes, the Chapter’s preparation for the Celebration included the development of an updated Chapter brochure and hiking/travel maps for southeast North Dakota. All these materials will be useful in the future for hike planning, kiosk construction, and publicity for hiking events, visitor guides, etc. • The new North Dakota Technical Series Maps, introduced to coincide with the Celebration in North Dakota, will be very useful for the North Dakota chapters. • The Celebration hiking events have inspired several DPC members to begin planning new events on the trail, such as a “Hike North Dakota” event that will encourage people to hike the 475 miles of the NCNST in North Dakota.

Amelia Rhodes

Ron Saeger (left), volunteer for the Dakota Prairie Chapter, led us through Abercrombie, and was also a very well informed interpreter during our bus ride out there.

TransCanada Donation Benefits Grand Traverse Hiking Club On a beautiful sunny September 10, a small group gathered at the TransCanada Pipeline facility northeast of Kalkaska to celebrate the arrival of a new brush hog for the Grand Traverse Hiking Club Chapter of the North Country National Scenic Trail Association (NCTA). The mower was purchased with funds from a $25,000 donation from TransCanada to the NCTA and Iron Belle Trail, to be paid $5,000 per year over a five year period. Along with the donation, TransCanada employees are eager to donate hours for trail building and maintenance. The new 14 Hp brush mower will help the volunteers maintain a 4 foot pathway along the NCT/Iron Bell Trail. We are very grateful for TransCanada’s generosity.

For many Dakota Prairie Chapter members, “Headquarters” is no longer just a mysterious and vague place “out there” somewhere. Many of our Chapter members now have a much better understanding of the NCTA as a national organization.

Left to right: Dick Naperala, Kenny Wawsczyk, NCTA staff, Ed Morse, Jerry Marek, Phyllis Senske, Jerry Freels, GTHC President, Melissa Buzzard, Michigan DNR, representing the Iron Belle Trail, Jennifer Houtman, TransCanada, Bernie Senske.

Irene Szabo

• On the regional level, the DPC now has a much stronger working relationship with the adjoining Laurentian Lakes, Sheyenne River Valley, and Glacial Edge Chapters. Contingents from all three of those Chapters attended the Celebration. The LLC planned and crewed all the Friday hikes and non-hiking events in the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR) area, while the Friends of the TNWR group provided food, beverages and hospitality in the TNWR Discovery Center all day Friday. The SRV Chapter organized the Auction and provided great table decorations for the Friday dinner. The Glacial Edge Chapter organized several hikes in their area for the Sunday after the Celebration so people traveling east from Fargo could see some of the new trail segments in that area. All this collaborative activity has helped “glue together” the NCTA chapters across several hundred miles of the trail in strong working partnerships. This is a huge benefit for the individual chapters as well as the NCTA. • The financial details are not finished yet, but it does look as if the Celebration will generate a financial profit, some of which will most likely go to the DPC.

Marilyn Hoogstraten, GTHC Newsletter Editor

• In raising $9,750 in donations for the Celebration, we discovered several new sources of financial support, all of which can be approached again in the future to support the NCNST. • The Chapter members learned about the hospitality and tourism resources in the Fargo-Moorhead area, most notably the F-M Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. The CVB provided a huge amount of support for the Celebration, including name badges, signs, banners, handouts, contacts, hotel recommendations, and three full days of on-site volunteer support. That relationship will be very useful for our Chapter in the future.

Stephanie and her mother Alicia Hoffarth are sharing major hilarity during the Celebration in North Dakota. They’re members of the Sheyenne River Valley Chapter. Stephanie is the recipient of NCTA’s Rising Star Award. (Read about it, page 8)

October-December 2016


Tom Walker

Third Annual North Country National Scenic Trail Day September 24, 2016

By Mary Coffin

N The falls at Tahquamenon are fabulous, too, dramatically large and dyed a unique Upper Peninsula root beer color by tannin from all the adjacent hemlocks.

Tom Walker

One of many families who enjoyed the “Hike Between Da Falls” in Tahquamenon Falls State Park, in Michigan’s UP.

Dave Brewer

The Wampum Chapter participated in McConnells Mill State Park’s 24th annual Heritage Festival, with lots of old timey arts and crafts, including the Chapter’s display where people could make their own hiking sticks with drawknives and wooden work stations.


The North Star

orth Country National Scenic Trail Day is annually celebrated on the 4th Saturday in September along with National Public Lands Day, quite appropriate since many trail sections are on public lands. NCTA Chapters, Affiliates and Partners host events to raise public awareness of the trail without the competition of other trail events occurring on National Trails Day in June. This year events were held in five of the seven states: N.Y., Penna., Mich., Wisc., and Minn. These events followed the very successful NCTA Celebration in Fargo, N.D., a week prior. There were twenty events hosted varying from hikes, exhibits, displays, NCT-100 mile celebrations, Trail Town celebration, new trail grand opening, backpacking workshop, post hike picnic, pirate theme hike, and lantern lit hike. Some cool originality and creativity was shown in several events. Nearly 500 individuals participated as well as several dogs. Although there were five fewer events offered this year we estimate more people actually participating. In New York six hiking events were held, including CNY Chapter hike on NCNST in Stone Quarry Hill Art Park for dogs and humans, FLT/NCT Onondaga Trail, Adirondack NCNST to Pillsbury Lake Lean-to in West Canada Lakes Wilderness and on the concurrent NCNST & Finger Lakes Trail in three locations including Allegany State Park. Wampum Chapter in Penna. set up an exhibit and information table staffed by 20 Wampum volunteers at the McConnells Mill Heritage Festival and helped hikers of all ages build their own hiking sticks. The Allegheny Chapter led a hike for 21 people and 4 dogs as part of the Hike NCT 100 from Cherry Run. There were five major events in Michigan. Once again Hiawatha Shore to Shore Chapter scored the most participants with their “Hike Between Da Falls” event with shuttles so people could hike the 5 miles between Upper and Lower Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The hike, return shuttle and display attracted a whopping 295 hikers. Also in the UP the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter hosted a table of NCNST information right on the trail in Marquette’s City Park and promoted the NCTA 2017 event in July. Chief Noonday Chapter led hikes for 37 hikers and 3 dogs in MSU Kellogg Biological Farm and Kalamazoo County Forest. A previously scheduled project pushed their walk to Sunday, so the good turnout is making them consider more Sunday hikes. I don’t know the dog or human count for the Western Michigan Chapter while celebrating their second annual Trail Town in White Cloud. The celebration lasted all weekend and included hiking, foot races, paddling, food, music and children’s activities. Up in the Jordan 45º Chapter territory one of the most interesting and original hiking events was held on the trail, “Walkin the Plank.” They had a swashbuckling pirate theme to their hike, including a treasure map. We have no clue as to what the treasure was. Continued on page 30

Peter Nordgren Mary Coffin

The opening of five new Trail miles in Copper Falls State Park in northern Wisconsin was celebrated with hikes. Here Bethany Thomas leads a group over new puncheon.

Pillsbury Lake in N.Y.’s Adirondacks was a hike destination.

Bill Menke

Bill Menke

Projects by the Rovers Trail Crew contributed these improvements at Copper Falls: In left center photo, Jane Leedle stands on a rock and wood pair of stairways up an impossible hill, while (above) the crew has built yet another wonderful bridge. Tina Toole

Dennis Garrett

Smokey Bear even made his own stick at Wampum Chapter’s display.

The Harrington family made it to their ANF Chapter hike, too.

October-December 2016


Third Annual North Country National Trail Day…continued Tina Toole

In Wisconsin they celebrated the grand opening of a new 5-mile section of NCNST in Copper Falls State Park. The Superior Hiking Trail Association held a hike on the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota with dramatic climbs and descents, nice overlooks, and along the Poplar River and Lake Agnes. Also in Minnesota a very creative event was hosted jointly by the Itasca Moraine and Laurentian Lakes Chapters, “Making Memories,” a guided, lantern lit evening hike. Along the trail characters from the past shared stories about enjoying Itasca State Park during this familyfriendly hike. Thanks to all NCTA groups who helped to market and promote the NCNST by hosting a NCNST Day event this year.

The Allegheny National Forest Chapter poses for their picture in Penn’s Woods.

Staff Changes at Headquarters Chris Myers

Where in the Blue Blazes?

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 unique location be found? Remember this odd picture from our last issue? Well, apparently none of our Ohio members has been looking UP, because no one took a guess at this one. Our contributor Tracy Hager explains: I have a picture I took that I would like to submit for the North Star newsletter feature, “Where in the Blue Blazes.” I took this photo along the NCT/Greenway located in Lisbon, Ohio. The Greenway is a bike trail that the NCT follows for almost two miles. This bike is lodged in a tree trunk about 20+ feet off the ground. You would miss it if you weren’t looking up. Thought it was neat and intriguing. Lisbon is in northeast Ohio, east of Canton and south of Youngstown, in the Great Trail and Sandy Beaver Chapter of the NCTA. —Tracy Hager How did the bike get up there? Tracy Hager

With the departure of Jill DeCator from the HQ staff (we wish you well, Jill!) there will be a new voice greeting NCTA’s callers and guests. We are pleased to announce that Alison Myers is assuming responsibilities as NCTA’s administrative assistant. Alison’s familiarity is no mystery, since she has been with us most of 2016, serving as NCTA’s youth outreach intern on a part-time basis, coordinating communications efforts with Scouting and other youth organizations along the trail. Alison’s focus was on alerting them to the Hike 100 Challenge, inviting them to participate and attempting to connect them with local chapters and volunteers. Alison has already been supporting some of our marketing functions, and we’re extremely grateful to have her step in and take on the additional roles as administrative assistant. Be sure and say hello to Alison the next time you call in to NCTA HQ!

Send the next mystery photo to your editor at


The North Star

Steps To Diversity: Setting the Tone on the Trail By Bruce Matthews, Executive Director


here’s a right and a wrong way to use a chainsaw. There’s a right and wrong way to use a pulaski. Pack a backpack. Plan a hike. Do it wrong and there are consequences, some of which are serious. The more you know how to do it right, the more positive the outcomes. This is true about encouraging diversity and inclusiveness on the trail. Whether it’s a group hike or a work party, NCTA chapters doing it right will experience growth and ultimately contribute more fully to the Trail and their experiences with it. Do it wrong and we limit ourselves, and our ability to see the Trail reach its potential. Why does it matter? Simply, building diversity is the right thing to do. We’re building and protecting this trail for ALL Americans, not just those who perhaps look mostly like us. Being more inclusive and invitational creates greater diversity, which works for us like it does in the natural world—builds strength, resilience, the ability to weather adversity, and to maintain and sustain itself. Creating diversity also serves us. NCTA and the NCNST are most at risk when we’re unable to replace our aging membership and volunteers with a new generation which, by logic and demography must necessarily be more diverse. NCTA is currently undertaking to encourage chapters to use an “invitational outreach” approach as they try to find ways to involve the many folks newly acquainted with the NCNST and NCTA (Hike 100 and other initiatives) in chapter activities. I received a call the other day from a deeply distressed volunteer. During a recent chapter event a number of participants, presumably chapter members, were engaged in a public conversation that was both racist and homophobic. Derogatory terms were used, creating a very uncomfortable environment. This volunteer asked whether NCTA had a policy for such things. We do. People vote with their feet, and it’s pretty clear in which direction those feet will be moving should they encounter the kind of situation described to me in that phone call. Whether intentional or out of ignorance, offensive or harrassing language or actions are not only radically counter to NCTA’s efforts to be more inclusive and invitational, they are plain wrong. And in the extreme they put NCTA at risk for legal action. NCTA’s stated policy regarding harassment includes the following: NCTA has zero tolerance for sexual or other forms of harassment. Harassment is against the law. The aim of this policy is to prevent harassment of any kind by anyone employed by or associated with the NCTA.

Sexual harassment consists of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or unwanted sexual attention by anyone associated with NCTA, whether male or female. Harassment may serve to create a hostile, intimidating or uncomfortable work environment. Harassment includes, but is not limited to, obscene jokes, lewd comments, sexual depictions, repeated requests for dates, touching, staring or other sexual conduct committed either on or off premises. It may also include the use of computers or other devices to transmit offensive material. Other forms of harassment may include, but are not limited to: • Epithets, racial or otherwise • Negative stereotyping • Slurs • Threatening, intimidating or hostile acts • Written or graphic material that denigrates or shows hostility or aversion toward an individual or group, circulated in any form in the workplace. All NCTA employees are responsible for helping ensure that our workplace as well as NCTA’s culture is kept free of sexual and other forms of harassment. This obligation extends to our volunteers. In some cases volunteers may need to be educated about what constitutes harassment, and may even require more formal measures should behaviors persist. While this policy is written primarily for NCTA staff guidance it is clearly applicable to our volunteers. From a liability perspective it’s pretty clear how the standard of care applies to NCTA and our volunteers, and NCTA’s responsibility to inform and educate them. NCTA’s Chapter Leadership Handbook (page 12) offers some guidelines and shared values that chapter leaders should reinforce with volunteers. The National Park Servic’s V.I.P program sets forth its expectations of volunteers as well as protocols for dealing with volunteers who are in violation of NPS policies. We already know that increasing diversity is an uphill climb. Chapters have far more stories about what’s not working than what is when it comes to attracting more youth and greater cultural diversity to our community. We already know that it’s hard work to engage and include a younger and more diverse cohort in our Red Plaid Nation. Can you imagine how quickly those efforts go to naught with an ignorant comment—even if unintentional? This is a conversation we need to be having among us. It may not be comfortable. And it is not a matter of “political correctness,” whatever that really means. The behavior and comments described by my complaining volunteer are not acceptable, with both NCTA and NPS VIP policy calling for a vigorous response that could include expulsion from membership or VIP coverage. I encourage our entire community to join in a conversation about how we can better serve a diversity agenda that is not only right, but also serves our mission. I encourage us to engage in a “zero tolerance” policy for any verbal or other forms of harassment or activity that run counter to our efforts to be invitational and inclusive in all we do. It is truly the right thing to do.

October-December 2016


Hiking Shorts Dan Dorrough

Dan Dorrough

We had the pleasure of meeting members of the NCTA Glacial Edge Chapter while they were hard at work putting up signage and mowing—Ruth Dorrough.

Gary Larson is at the mower. Chapter President and dynamic force behind this newest NCTA chapter, Allan Schroden has just finished putting in a new sign.

Glacial Edge Chapter MINNESOTA – I met Matt Davis about 6 years 4 ago at Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Expo in Minneapolis. I had been backpacking the Superior Hiking Trail, and out in Colorado and Washington, and was excited to hear that the North Country Trail was being developed much closer to home, and enough miles for a good hike. Also was excited to hear about the planned route of the NCT coming through Fergus Falls, or at least through Otter Tail County in western Minnesota. Much nicer to drive 30 minutes to take in a great hike! I came home and slowly started to get involved, staying in touch with Matt, networking locally, and eventually getting sucked in way farther than I ever intended! Longtime friend Ron Spangler and I joined efforts, as he had experience with the development of

the Central Lakes bike trail (a rails to trails, paved bike path), and is in touch with the business community and local governance. It has been challenging growing something from nothing, as even if you double nothing, you still have nothing to discuss! Now that we have trail here, ready to hike, we can really start to build the local hiking community which will drive trail development. This has all been a great growth experience, and now I have the NCT (urban connector) just 75 yards from my house, and official NCT just 400 yards away. Why drive to a trail-head when I can just walk? Have been enjoying much of this loop for the past 3 years, while we were plotting trail route options, courting use agreements, and trying to get enough folks together to make a new chapter. —Allan Schroden

Sara Cockrell

Fun and friends on the Jordan River Pathway, NCT with Grand Traverse Hiking Club.


The North Star

Grand Traverse Hiking Club Fall Hike LOWER MICHIGAN –

Great hike with fun friends on the Jordan River Pathway/NCT today, October 10th. Twelve did a 12-mile point-to-point from Landslide Overlook to Deadman’s Hill on the NCT, and three of us finished the 17-mile loop at Landslide. (See our group picture on page 6) Not as much color as the last two of my annual fall hikes, but we had perfect cool and sunny weather. Thanks to Tami for organizing the shorter hike shuttle, and to Henry and Anne for waiting to join Kathy, Bert and me at Short’s Brew for dinner afterwards. —Sara Cockrell

Amelia Rhodes

You’re a Trail Town. What Now? By Andrea Ketchmark


Trail Town Window cling.

Andrea Ketchmark

n 2012, NCTA announced a Trail Town program with only a few simple resources but minimal support and little information about how to be a great Trail Town. In just a few quick years, we built the program to more than 20 Trail Towns in our 7 states. Although we have seen some good things happening in these communities, the lack of guidance on what it really means to BE a trail town has left many people asking, “What now?” In 2016, we are attempting to answer that question and offer greater guidance and support with the development of a Trail Town Handbook that defines the basic principles behind the concept, outlines the guidelines for our program and offers best practices and ideas. We’ve also taking on a pilot planning process in two communities to test the process in action to make sure it works for our needs. The goal is not to have every community along the trail named a Trail Town. If so, there would be no need for the designation. In the Trail Town Handbook you will find new criteria. In order to apply for NCTA Trail Town designation, a community now must: • Establish a Trail Town Committee. • Host an Annual Project or Celebration. • Demonstrate Community Support. • Go through the Trail Town Master Plan process. • Incorporate the trail into local land use plans. • Promote the Trail. • Sign an agreement with NCTA. These new guidelines are intended to produce a more robust Trail Town program that better serves the trail and the community. This is a more structured approach but it’s not intended to overburden small towns. Depending on the size of the town, the committee could be large or might consist of only two people. Likewise, the master plan could be very extensive or as simple as a one page document that sets out simple goals for how the town is going to strive to provide more resources, improve signage or promote the trail more widely. The goal is not to have every community along the trail named a Trail Town. If so, there would be no need for the designation. Instead, we are challenging communities to embrace the trail for a noticeable impact, and we’ll celebrate the ones that do. To test the Trail Town planning process, our goal was to enhance two existing NCT Trail Town programs in Lowell and White Cloud, Michigan. We established a local steering committee in each community including NCTA volunteers and staff, local officials, civic organizations, business owners

Harry Burkholder with the Land Information Access Association leads the White Cloud Trail Town steering committee through a process to identify the important resources and hiker amenities the town has to offer.

and trail advocates and led a series of meetings to assess what we have and what we need in each town. There was a great response. The communities are excited. As we worked through the process we saw what works and what doesn’t and have refined the process to focus on the most beneficial aspects to ensure a valuable result that can be achieved even in the smallest of towns. In the end, we’ve settled on a process that does a simple assessment of the trail, signage, amenities and promotion and makes recommendations for each. Both the Handbook and the planning process are meant to be tools for communities and volunteers to build a quality program that fits your needs and works toward creating a community that truly embraces the trail. Please join us on Wednesday, December 14th at 2pm eastern for a webinar to learn more. Link:

October-December 2016


A H ymn to North Dakota Pictures by Dove Day, except as noted.


ove and John Day, from the Jordan Valley 45º Chapter in lower Michigan, somehow managed to take off almost a month this late summer, even though they aren’t retired yet. Determined to hike parts of the North Country Trail in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, they camped out 21 of their 26 nights, using Strickland‘s The North Country Trail book to guide their samplings of the trail. (Go to the Trail Shop online.) They spent five days in North Dakota before the Celebration, walking 31 NCT miles. Between them, they managed to capture a lot of what makes the state so surprisingly attractive. Its sheer vastness makes for a very lonesome landscape, but sometimes that’s what calls to us.

As ever, lots of curious beef grazing on the Grasslands, some of them right on the trail among bur oak.

More beef on the trail in the Sheyenne National Grasslands


The North Star

The improbable pelicans, thousands of miles from an ocean in the Lonetree Wildlife Management Area.

John Day

A viewpoint within Sheyenne State Forest, showing that not all of North Dakota is flat!

One of many stiles that enable hikers to get over intervening stock fencing, since grazing is permitted on several federal properties the trail uses, like Sheyenne National Grasslands and the Corps of Engineers’ Lake Ashtabula .

Hikers passing beneath the spreading branches of a bur oak within Sheyenne National Grasslands.

Winged or shining sumac, Rhus Copallina, a shorter version of the sumac in more eastern states, but way more colorful. The twisty modest-sized trees are bur oak, in the Sheyenne National Grasslands.

October-December 2016


north star


North Country Trail Association


Grand Rapids, MI Permit 340

229 East Main Street Lowell, Michigan 49331

John Day

The Trail in North Dakota is not all flat!

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.