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April-June, 2015

The magazine of the North Country Trail Association

Volume 34, No. 2

north star

Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail End-to-End Hopefuls White Pelicans Tom Moberg Receives Hartzog Award!

Ed O'Shea


First day of spring in central New York for the Adirondack Mountain Club, Onondaga Chapter, host of a number of miles of the Finger Lakes Trail System and NCT. Mary Coffin on left, who has three articles herein.

About the Cover Pelicans are not an unusual sight along the North Country Trail in the West. Read Joan Young's article inside the back cover about North Dakota pelicans. This wonderful shot by John Sealander. In This Issue NCTA Member Benefits ..................... 11 Michigan's Iron Belle Trail...................... 12 The NCT and Our National Forests: A Partnership ............... 11 Register for Rendezvous! ....................... 14 End 2 End Hopefuls.............................. 15 A Happy Accident................................. 18 Introducing Amelia Rhodes.................... 19 Menke’s Trail Project Plaques .................. 20 Moberg Receives NPS Hartzog Award .............................. 21 The Many Faces of NCTA Meet Jill DeCator ................................ 22

NCTA Staff Retreat ............................. 23 Advocacy Corner................................... 24 Studying North Star ............................. 24 Contact Your Congressman! ................ 25 White Pelicans..................................... 26

Columns Trailhead ............................................... 3 Matthews’ Meanders ........................... 14 NPS Corner ........................................ 20

Departments Hiking Shorts ........................................ 4 Next Deadline for Submissions ........... 16

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

National Board of Directors Terms Expiring 2015 Joyce Appel, Pennsylvania (724) 526-5407 · joyceappel@windstream.net Tom Moberg, President, North Dakota (701) 271-6769 · tfmoberg@gmail.com Lynda Rummel, VP East, New York (315) 536-9484 · ljrassoc@roadrunner.com

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

Terms Expiring 2017

North Star Staff Irene Szabo, Mostly Volunteer Editor, (585) 658-4321 or treeweenie@aol.com Peggy Falk, Graphic Design Lorana Jinkerson, Becky Heise, Joan Young, Tom Gilbert, Christine Ellsworth, Editorial Advisory Committee The North Star, Summer issue, Vol. 34, Issue 2, 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

Ruth Dorrough, New York (585) 354-4147 · rdorrough@hotmail.com Jerry Fennell, Wisconsin (262) 787-0966 · jeroldvfennell@hotmail.com John Heiam, Secretary, Lower Michigan (231) 938-9655 · johnheiam@charter.net Lorana Jinkerson, U.P. of Michigan (906) 226-6210 · ljinkers@nmu.edu Kirk Johnson, Pennsylvania (814) 723-0620 · kjohnson@pawild.org Tim Mowbray, Wisconsin (715) 378-4320 · tmowbray@earthlink.net Peter Nordgren, Wisconsin (715) 374-3143 · pnordgre@yahoo.com

Trail Head Tom Moberg President


he subject of my last column was happiness and how volunteering to help build the North Country National Scenic Trail can help people be happy. With the departure of winter, there are now many more good opportunities to get outside and generate happiness by helping build and maintain the Trail. Perhaps it is just my own enthusiasm, but it is nice to feel the momentum building for another good year of trail work. I like to watch for signs of the growth and development of the NCNST through the energy and leadership of local volunteers, the Board of Directors, and the NCTA staff. There seem to be quite a number of signs of momentum so far this year.

build off-road trail is quite difficult. But the kind of careful study Luke has been doing with the assistance of volunteers from that area will really help fill in that long ignored gap in the trail. At other places along the trail the OLR process is giving a real boost to chapter efforts to identify good trail routes that will be certified by the National Park Service. t Last fall, Ruth and Dan Dorrough authored a story in the North Star about their hike on the Kekekabic Trail, one of the most remote places on the NCNST. Their story included a call to help the Kekekabic Trail Chapter, now part of the NCTA, maintain that section of the NCNST. NCTA members have responded, and this summer, volunteers from all along the NCNST will be showing up to help with that maintenance work. This is an example of a growing appreciation that the NCNST is one trail, not just small isolated segments of separate trails.

Supplied by Tom Moberg

t The NCTA Board of Directors continues to become more strategically focused on the long-term and high-level issues that characterize the focus of a governance board. A new A few anecdotes: Governance Committee under the excellent chairmanship t On the local level, members of the Dakota Prairie Chapter of Gaylord Yost has been diligent and effective at recruiting are enthused about continuing an extensive trail building new Board members. At the December 2014 Board meeting, project that is funded by a North Dakota Outdoor Heritage three new members – Kirk Johnson (Pennsylvania), Tim grant. 2015 construction plans include about 1,000´ of new Mowbray (Wisconsin), and Jerrold Fennell (Michigan) puncheon in perennially wet areas. Like older chapters, the – were elected to the Board. Various other committees Dakota Prairie Chapter has now reached the evolutionary such as Advocacy, Membership, Awards, Marketing and stage where it is establishing a formal Trail Adopter program Communication, etc. have been meeting regularly and to maintain the new trail that was constructed in the past doing excellent work. A new focus area for the Board is several years. I am hoping all the “strategic trail development…” “…the NCNST is one trail, not just small The NCTA 2014 Strategic Plan other chapters are feeling the same excitement about another isolated segments of separate trails.” prescribed a new emphasis on season of trail building. strategic development of the Trail in order to maximize the impact of the NCTA’s trail t Long distance hiking on the NCNST seems to be growing development activities and resources. “Trail development” in in popularity, often documented with photos, videos and this sense includes property acquisition, trail construction, stories on-line. At the moment, we are enjoying the Facebook trail maintenance, area and trail signage, and interpretation reports from two young men who started a thru-hike on of natural, cultural, historic and scenic features along the the NCNST at the western terminus of the trail near Lake NCNST. The intent is to identify and focus resources on Sakakewa in late March. There are rumors of other hardy high-priority trail areas in order to achieve the best outcomes souls who have accepted the immense challenge of hiking (e.g., more miles of new, well maintained high-quality trail the entire trail this year also. Even though the movie Wild than might otherwise be developed) and provide the best was about a hiker on the Pacific Crest Trail, that movie may models for trail development. be inspiring more people to challenge themselves with a long hike on one of These examples and many more America’s great National Scenic Trails. demonstrate the momentum of our efforts to create a truly outstanding National t Luke Jordan, a 2013 NCNST thruScenic Trail for the whole country. I hope hiker who has been working for the we can continue to generate this important NPS for the past year, is completing momentum and have great success in our an Optimal Location Review (OLR) efforts this year. Good luck to all of us. in Minnesota for a trail route across the huge gap in the trail between Maplewood State Park and Fort NCTA Members will be happy to Abercrombie, the eastern terminus of learn that Tom has been selected the trail in North Dakota. Because for the Hartzog Award, our National much of that area is actively used for Park Service's highest honor for agriculture, finding a suitable place to participants in the Volunteers In Parks Program. See page 21.


April-June 2015



Adirondack Route Advocate Ray Bell NEW YORK - This winter Ray Bell died at 80 after a long illness. A civil engineer who had hiked the Appalachian Trail and the 46 high peaks of the Adirondack Mountains, he was passionately interested in the progress of our NCT route plans through the vast forests of northern New York. A member of the NCTA Founders Circle, he was a member of the Central NY Chapter and the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK).

Mike Toole

Try out your echo off the Long Pond cliffs during lunch, during Mary Coffin's Adirondack hike, September 26th.

Plans for North Country National Scenic Trail Day NEW YORK - Hikers in New York are busy planning events to celebrate North Country National Scenic Trail Day, Saturday, September 26, 2015. Hikes are planned at both ends of the co-located Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) and NCNST in New York. Mike Schlicht will be leading a 10.4 mile hike on the west end through Allegany State Park in New York State to the Pennsylvania state line, marked with a picturesque trail marker made for plenty of photo opportunities. Join Mike for a fun and scenic hike without the headaches of a passport, dodging border patrols and declaring your water bottle at the border. At the eastern Finger Lakes Trail terminus Mary Niemi of Onondaga ADK will lead a 5.3 mile trip on the NCT/FLT Onondaga Trail from Webber Road to Holmes Road and the junction with the Central New York (CNY) NCTA Chapter’s section in Madison County, southeast of Syracuse. There are scenic views both from the hill tops and open valleys and a small stream crossing. There will be no state or county crossings on this hike, just a small stream. FLT Map O2 Adirondack Mountain Club’s Onondaga and Schenectady Chapters will be offering trips on the Adirondack NCNST route. You can climb Moxham Mountain (5.4 mi round trip, ~1000´ gain) in the Vanderwhacker Mountain Wild Forest north of North Creek and off Route 28N with Mary MacDonald. Enjoy lunch, fall color and the views from the summit, depending on the overcast into Vermont. The other Adirondack option is with Mary Coffin who will take you to two very picturesque lakes, but called “ponds.” Rock Pond and Long Ponds are in Siamese Ponds Wilderness, near Speculator. Join us and try out your echo off the Long Pond cliffs during lunch. Hike 7 miles round trip. Jack Miller will be leading a 7 mile hike on the North Country Trail along the Black River Canal towpath for the CNY NCTA Chapter from Boonville. It is a level walk, gently downhill past the remains of many former locks and other canal artifacts. Contact Mary Niemi maryrw1@twcny.rr.com, Mary Coffin maryccoffin@gmail.com, mmacdonald003@nycap.rr.com, Mike pageazi@yahoo.com, and Jack jacobr7@yahoo.com


The North Star

Hiking Shorts

Dave Kleber, trail adopter, working on painting the first blazes.

First Day Of Spring

PENNSYLVANIA - On the first full day of spring, Dave Kleber and Tina and Mike Toole were able to get out on the trail to start paint blazing. Our goal this spring is to blaze the southern 50 miles through the Allegheny National Forest. Many members have volunteered to assist with the effort, so we plan on getting the blazing done before the A-100 Hiking Challenge in June. Although we were on snow shoes, there was only 0 to 6 inches of granular snow left. Soon it’ll be all melted! —Tina Toole

Tina Toole.

Alisha Glasgow and Kim Reed on the A-100.

Mike Toole.)

The A-100 Hiking Challenge PENNSYLVANIA - The Allegheny National Forest Chapter of the North Country Trail Association will hold the annual Allegheny 100 Hiking Challenge (A-100) on June 12–14, 2015. This event helps promote awareness of the North Country National Scenic Trail and the Allegheny National Forest and it brings many visitors to the surrounding communities. The A-100 is an endurance challenge met through unsupported hiking. It is not a race, but an individual challenge of stamina, determination and resilience. As an unsupported hike, there are no first aid or water stations. Hikers are responsible for supplying their own food, drinks and equipment. Participants must recognize that cell phone reception is very spotty along the length of the trail. The adventure covers a 100 mile stretch of the North Country National Scenic Trail in the Allegheny National Forest. Hikers will climb over rolling hills and pass through many beautiful hemlocklined stream valleys. For 2015, the hikers will again travel north to south. The direction is changed every two years to give hikers the opportunity to complete all 100 miles of trail. The A-100 challenges hikers to traverse 100 miles, 75 miles, 50 miles or 25 miles in a 50 hour time period. This challenge is for anyone, regardless of skill level, who wants to test themselves against the trail. Everyone needs to “hike their own hike,” moving at their own pace and resting when necessary. The challenge will extend from the Pennsylvania Route 346 trailhead, near Willow Bay, to the Pennsylvania Route 66 trailhead, between Marienville and Vowinckel. Those who preregister will receive a membership in the North Country Trail Association, shuttle service to the start of the hike and a T-shirt. The pre-registration period for the A-100 ends May 15, 2015, or when 110 hikers have signed up. Cost will be $50 for nonmembers and $27 for members. The registration page on the NCTA website can be accessed at http://northcountrytrail.org/allegheny-100-hiking-challengeregistration/. Please email any questions to anf@northcountrytrail.org.

Ed Sidote Passes At 97 NEW YORK - Beloved and revered trail enthusiast Ed Sidote slipped away in April after a blessedly short illness. Few of us will ever meet another person so dedicated to trail projects as Ed was until the very end. He was also #3 to walk across New York on the Finger Lakes Trail in 1990 and earned the Lifetime Achievement honor from the NCTA in 2010. Our spring weekend is going to be in Ed’s hometown, hosted by the club he founded, so our celebrations there will be mixed in tenor. How very strange it will be not to have Ed among us, but he sure was a legendary personality while we did!


Pennsylvania's A-100 mile finishers – Ian Young and Joe Maichrye.

April-June 2015


Dave Brewer

Wearin' o' the green...

Searching For the Pot O’ Gold

PENNSYLVANIA - Wampum Chapter volunteers and members of the local community participated in the chapter’s First Annual St. Patrick’s Day Hike and Hot Dog Roast on Sunday, March 15th. Fifteen hikers trekked three miles on the NCT through the soggy rain-and-snow-melted landscape of western Pennsylvania on the Cemex property east of town, festively sporting leprechaun top hats and bow ties, searching for that legendary pot of gold. No treasure of that sort was found, but the end reward for the hiking crew, some of them first-timers on the North Country Trail, was a hot dog feast and pot luck lunch at the revitalized train station in the town of Wampum. The reward for the chapter, beyond introducing some folks to the North Country Trail in Lawrence County, was three new members signed up! The Wampum Revitalization Committee has invested a great amount of time and money into fixing up an abandoned train station to turn it into a community gathering place, the centerpiece of a new town park and hiking and kayaking trailhead. The members of Wampum Chapter appreciated them opening the building and having us as the first organization to utilize this great new facility. It was a warm respite on a very chilly St. Patrick’s Day. Thanks to our Hike Organizer John Rarick for putting this together and to all the members who contributed their time and efforts to its success. —Dave Brewer

Grand Traverse Hiking Club: Celebrating Michigan’s Newest Backpacking Loop Trail

Dave Brewer

LOWER MICHIGAN - Michigan’s newest backpacking adventure is the result of the Grand Traverse Hiking Club discovering a more scenic route for a segment of North Country Trail (NCT). The original NCT swung north from the Manistee River west of US-131 but in 2010 club members began exploring the east side of the highway. What they discovered were scenic vistas on river bluffs, crystal clear lakes, towering pines and a much more interesting terrain. The reroute required a year of planning with actual construction of the 12.8-mile trail beginning late in 2012. Right from the start it was decided to maintain the original NCT and form a 21-mile loop like the popular Manistee River Trail to the south. On National Trails Day in 2014 the new path was dedicated as the North Country Trail and the entire loop as the Fife Lake Loop Trail. The NCT now heads east through the Old 131 State Forest Campground, skirts the scenic Manistee River for almost 4 miles, heads north along Fife Lake Creek and winds through the picturesque Headquarters Lake region to Spring Lake State Forest Campground. Nearby is the friendly and newly designated Trail Town of the Village of Fife Lake with great restaurants and welcoming smiles. The entire loop makes for an overnight outing and a perfect weekend backpack. The club teamed up with MichiganTrailMaps.com in 2014 to produce a full-color map of the new trail. The highly detailed Fife Lake Loop Trail map measures 11 by 17 inches, is printed on water-resistant cardstock and includes distance markers, contour lines and GPS coordinates. It’s available online, at outdoor shops, and several stores in Fife Lake. A final toast to the new trail, the club’s 20th anniversary, and the recent designation of Village of Fife Lake as a Trail Town will take place during National Trails Day on June 6 on the shores of the lake. —June Thaden

...on our Wampum St. Patrick's Day hike.


The North Star

Hiking Shorts

Grand Traverse Hiking Club’s annual holiday celebration on the NCT was held at Muncie Lakes State Forest Pathway on December 7, 2014. Here’s part of the invitation: Mike Schaeffer started this outing in the 1990s and it has always been a lot of fun! Depending on trail conditions, we will hike, XC ski or snowshoe. Afterwards, we’ll have dinner from approx 4-5PM at Peegeo’s, 525 High Lake Rd. If you have other plans for the afternoon, you can still join us for dinner. The trails are well-marked, with several loops, like an ice cream cone. You can do one, two or three scoops! If you can’t hike the NCT, why not xc ski or snowshoe it? —Sara Cockrell

Outing Interrupted LOWER MICHIGAN - We push off, first paddle of the year, Karen in the bow of the ancient Grumman. The Manistee is a favorite of ours; muddy water edged with serpentine shore, high clay banks; deadheads everywhere, now submerged with spring runoff. We are in no hurry; strong current and easy stroking should find us at Baxter Bridge in three hours. We glide under rumbling U.S. 131 bridge, round a bend, skirt a sweeper, flush a pair of wood ducks. Overhead, a sandhill crane heads north uttering its prehistoric, rattling call. Pines soar from bluffs, some leaning, suspended in space by roots that won't surrender. Spruce, fir, tamarack and cedar dominate the lowlands; birch and aspen take the higher ground. Eagles circle as beaver doze on a sunny point. Kingfisher on guard, patrolling its shore as red-wings scold, gripping swaying cattails. Marsh marigold flashes yellow within greening hummocks. We pause for lunch at the island, the one with the gigantic tree washed up by a former flood, then move on beneath creosote covered legs of the railroad trestle, past soggy, slipping slopes with doomed cedars in tow, past an empty cottage tucked into a bay. Another bend, and an old road appears, ending at water's edge, the final takeout with vehicle access prior to reaching Baxter Bridge. Unaware of its significance, Karen wonders aloud if I have the key. I execute a sharp turn and we power back to the two-track. She has her answer. The North Country Trail is within view; the trek back to our starting point is a quarter the distance it would have been had she posed the question a minute later. The paddle with unplanned hike turned out to be most enjoyable, but next time we will both carry keys to the downriver car. —Richard Parks, Grand Traverse Hiking Club and his wife Karen Anderson Sara Cockrell

Grand Traverse Hiking Club’s annual holiday celebration on the NCT was held at Muncie Lakes State Forest Pathway. This photo with little snow is from that December outing.


April-June 2015


Jordan Valley 45° Chapter John Day

LOWER MICHIGAN -The Chapter hosted a snowshoe hike Saturday, February 21st at the North Central Michigan College Natural Area in Petoskey, Mchigan. The two mile loop included a beautiful area of the NCT with scenic views of the Bear River. Bob Haack, Sheridan Haack, Dove Day and John Day attended. We shared great conversation during the hike, and afterwards hot cocoa and cookies were enjoyed by all! Before our March chapter meeting on the 14th, we hiked around the 3.2 mile Warner Creek Pathway loop, half of which is the NCT. There was still a lot of snow in the woods, and those of us who thought snowshoes weren’t needed were wrong. On March 7 we again participated in the Quiet Water Symposium in East Lansing, together with the Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore and Chief Noonday Chapters. Quiet Water is an outdoor recreation show focussing on water and trails. Over 2700 people attended this year, the 20th for the event, almost 1000 more than 2012.

Jordan Valley 45° Chapter's February Snowshoe Hike. Left to Right: Bob Haack, Dove Day and Sheridan Haack.

Duane Lawton

Left to Right: Bob Haack, Gene Dawson, Duane Lawton, Tim and Karen Roth, Connie and Larry Beaubien, Mary Campbell, John Day, Mott Johengen, Dove Day. Duane Lawton

Our table at Quiet Water Symposium was staffed by Bob Schrems, Gary Johnson, Jerry Allen, Dove Day and Duane Lawton. Gary and Dove pictured.


The North Star

Hiking Shorts

Hike the Hiawatha and Stomp the Park UPPER MICHIGAN - Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter and Trail Town Saint Ignace celebrated Winter Trails Day with their second annual “Hike the Hiawatha and Stomp the Park” event in January. The day started with snowshoeing and crosscountry skiing in the Hiawatha National Forest on the North Country Trail near Brevort Lake Road. After a nice lunch in Saint Ignace, many of the participants visited the Hiawatha National Forest District Ranger Station and took a guided hike led by a Forest Service employee on the Gros Cap trail located at the station. Just before the sun went down we met at Straits State Park and hiked the trail down to the beach where State Park employees had a bonfire with hot cocoa and s’mores. Participants were able to watch the sun set on the Straits of Mackinac as the bridge lights turned on. The park provided a lantern-lit trail to hike in the park and to use when the evening was over. Over 40 participants enjoyed all or part of the day’s activities. The event was so much fun that the State Park hosted two other family hiking events later this winter. Our February Valentine’s Day hike found us at Tahquamenon Falls State Park on what may have been the coldest hiking day of the year. Wind chills were in the minus 30’s and temperatures were five below zero. The State Park events planned on that day were cancelled due to the weather. Yet the members of the Red Plaid Nation braved the conditions and took shorter hikes in protected areas and were rewarded with a great time on the trail. The Upper Falls were almost completely covered with ice this year. Winters are when we enjoy the trail without mosquitoes or ticks and when we make plans for warm weather trail work. The trail usually has 12 inches to 48 inches of snow on it from December through the middle of April so trail maintenance and construction starts in May after the trail dries out from the snow melt. This year we have plans to work off the Tahqua Trail Road near the mouth of the Tahquamenon River rehabilitating old trail, to move the trail off of an off-road-vehicle trail on a dangerous hill south of the Parcell Lakes with thanks to a private property owner who is willing to provide access to a safe route. We also will get the trail ready for three running events that will be held this summer – June 27th, the Two Hearted Run, July 17th, The Great Lakes Relay with 800 runners on the North Country Trail, and August 8th, The Tahqua Trail Run.

The Kekekabic Trail Chapter Aims To Continue Their Club’s 25 Years Of Dedication Tim Walker

Pushing the camera after dark made for intriguing results for Hiawatha Shoreto-Shore's photo. Notice how sparks from the bonfire make solid lines of light as they swirl upward into the night. Best of all, the lights on the Mackinac Bridge in the distance came through! This is a Park sponsored sunset bonfire at Straits State Park.

Our Trail Town Center will open for the summer in May. This storefront on State Street in Saint Ignace within view of the North Country Trail, allows us to welcome visitors and hikers to the Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore region. Volunteers staff the center and introduce the North Country Trail to all who stop by. Tim Walker

—Tom Walker, Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore VP Left: Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter went for a snowshoe hike on a below zero day, but these stalwarts came out anyway. Great mittens!

Get Your Guide to the North Country National Scenic Trail in Minnesota $19.90. Trails Book. ISBN 978-1-934553-47-3 Maps and mileages, route descriptions, campsites, service towns, loop trails and more. To purchase your copy, visit NCTA Trail Shop at www.northcountrytrail.org/mnguidebook, or phone (616) 897-5987.


MINNESOTA - 2015 marks the 25th anniversary of the Kekekabic Trail Club which was formed by Martin Kubik in 1990. It’s purpose was to bring back the Kekekabic Trail which had been abandoned by the Superior National Forest 10 years earlier. In its heyday, the Club hosted regular social events, published a regular newsletter, and hosted many annual trail clearing trips on the Kek and other Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) trails like the Pow Wow. The Club’s activities had dwindled in recent years to a couple of trail clearing trips and updating the Kekekabic Trail guide. This guidebook update was critically needed as the old one was written before the last decade’s blowdowns and wildfires, the trail descriptions were out of date, and the maps needed updating. In 2014 the Kekekabic Trail Club became the KeK Chapter of the NCTA. This year they are hosting four trail clearing trips designed to tackle the “worst of the worst” along the Kek. By the time you read this, a total of thirty-one volunteers from California to Connecticut will have been out there toiling away in the brush to restore parts of the Kek, on four trips from May 1331. It is our hope that future trips will help return the Kek to a more pleasant wilderness hiking experience instead of the “wilderness bushwhack” of more recent years. The Chapter also hopes to do more community outreach events designed to raise awareness of the Kek and promote hiking on it, recruit more members and volunteers, and to have fun. In that order, they already co-hosted two programs this winter at Midwest Mountaineering in Minneapolis with the Star of the North Chapter. One program showed the Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike documentary “Only the Essential” while at the other Dr. Lee Frelich of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Forest Ecology spoke about the recovery of the BWCAW’s forests. —Matt Davis

April-June 2015


North Dakota had little snow this past season, creating an opportunity for Dakota Prairie Chapter's members to explore their landcape on a series of four winter hikes.

Dakota Prairie Chapter NORTH DAKOTA - This winter, over 25 Dakota Prairie Chapter members have hiked over 30 miles of the Dakota Prairie Chapter’s section of the North Country Trail in four separate hikes. We were able to hike as there was so little snow this winter. We have also been meeting monthly and our meetings have included a Holiday Celebration, watching “Mile...Mile and a Half,” a “How to Lead a Hike” training and a pizza party. Through all of these activities we are spreading the word about the North Country Trail while we have a lot of fun with friends old and new. — Gail Rogne

Even in winter, we can see how mowing defines grassland trail with occasional wooden marker posts or Carsonite (flexible fiberglass) markers.


The North Star

Hiking Shorts

Minnesota and North Dakota Chapters Host Hiking Film Screenings The Laurentian Lakes, Itasca Moraine, Dakota Prairie, Star of the North, Kekekabic, and Arrowhead Chapters as well as our fledgling Fergus Falls volunteer group each have been in the film screening business this past fall and winter. They have shown some combination of the two hiking documentary films Only the Essential and Mile...Mile and a Half in Park Rapids, Fargo, Minneapolis, Fergus Falls, and Grand Rapids and attracted decent crowds, including many new folks. The 40-minute Only the Essential by Colin Arisman chronicles a 2013 thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail while the 90-minute Mile...Mile and a Half chronicles a 2011 thru-hike of the John Muir Trail by a team of artists. In our marketing strategy for these events, we piggy-backed onto the popularity of the book and movie Wild while stating that we are building a trail much like the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails, substituting the NCT’s more subtle diversity and changing landscapes for the dramatic mountains in the films. —Matt Davis

NCTA Membership Benefits

The NCT And Our National Forests A Partnership In Managing The Trail

By Mary Coffin, Volunteer Membership Chair

e all know that the North Country National Scenic Trail relies on partnership with land managers along the route to manage the trail and its resources properly. One of our biggest and strongest partners in this endeavor is the US Dept. of Agriculture Forest Service. With approximately 650 NCNST miles under their supervision, they are our single biggest land management partner. Traversing the Allegheny, Chequamegon-Nicolet, Chippewa, Finger Lakes, Hiawatha, HuronManistee, Ottawa and Wayne National Forests, as well as the Sheyenne National Grasslands, the NCT on our National Forests arguably includes some of the oldest and most beloved sections of trail we have in the entire system. The Forest Service manages the trail in accordance with the National Trail Systems Act, the Wilderness Act (in designated Wilderness areas), the NPS Comprehensive Plan for Management and Use, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the National Park Service, the Forest Service and the North Country Trail Association (also known as the Triad) and the guidance of their own Forest Plans. Most importantly, the Forest Service works with NCTA Chapters, Affiliates and Partners to get work done on the ground. In 2014, our volunteers worked 6,000 hours and provided critical assistance to maintain, reroute, and reconstruct the North Country National Scenic Trail on lands managed by the Forest Service. And

What are real benefits of membership in NCTA beyond the North Star magazine and discounts on maps, logo wear and books? We donate some money and become a member; that is, we belong to the organization that develops, maintains, protects and promotes the North Country National Scenic Trail as the premier hiking path, the longest National Scenic Trail. Frankly, being a part of our worldclass trail and belonging to its supporting organization gives some of us goose bumps! Think about the camaraderie and lasting friendships one develops within chapters and affiliates, perhaps while working shoulder to shoulder on the trail, or hiking with like-minded people, visiting landowners, obtaining easements or working with supportive people in public agencies. Some have found that attending just one event can result in a new best friend. What an opportunity the trail and chapter events give us to become close to nature, observe wildlife, birds, waterfowl and wildflowers, unique bog or prairie or woodland plants. Consider the vast variety of habitats and ecosystems traversed by the trail as it courses the seven (soon to be eight) states. It is so enjoyable to share these experiences with like-minded friends. The feeling of belonging to, being a part of and supporting such a prestigious organization cannot be measured quantitatively. The quality of lasting relationships developed along the trail is immeasurable. I personally enjoy meeting hikers as they pass my area, taking people out on the trail, scouting new trail routes and working with friends on a trail project. All this is provided by and for members and volunteers who plan trips, build, and maintain the NCNST. Belonging to the NCTA community and working for this prestigious trail helps to build a legacy for future generations of hikers. Me, I’m thrilled to belong.


this work is critical. Budget and staff cuts along with increased pressure on the land have led to a backlog of maintenance needs at times, frustrating volunteers. We’d all like more funds, more chainsaw training, more consistent management, but it’s important to remember that we are in this together. Improving our understanding of and communication with our partners can lead to direct improvement in the management of the trail. So how do we do that? One of the changes with the Forest Service is within the Regional Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eric Sandeno recently took the position as the Regional Program Manager for Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers, and National Historic and Scenic Trails. Eric has been working with the National Park Service and the North Country Trail Association National Office to re-commit to the 3-way relationship, take strides to increase funds for the North Country National Scenic Trail, and increase awareness about the North Country National Scenic Trail within Forest Service Leadership. Our discussions have already led to improved communication and goal setting for what we’d like our partnership, and the Trail, to look like in the future. The Forest Service has also agreed to be a regular contributor to the North Star, bringing you highlights from each forest and updates to keep you informed of what’s new within the agency. As we continue to build the relationship with the Regional and National Offices, our members play the vital role of working with the Forest Service staff in the field. Building this relationship at each level will be the key to success and will result in onthe-ground improvements we can all celebrate. —Andrea Ketchmark, NCT Director of Trail Development —Eric Sandeno, US Forest Service Regional Program Manager for Wilderness, Wild and Scenic Rivers. and National Historic and Scenic Trails

Eric Sandeno


April-June 2015


What is Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail? By Andrea Ketchmark


ore than two years ago, the Detroit Free Press ran an article about Governor Snyder’s new idea for a trail through Michigan from Belle Isle by Detroit all the way to Ironwood at the west end of the Upper Peninsula. The map accompanying that article showed the North Country Trail across the UP, and it took us all by surprise. Since then, we’ve been in discussion with the DNR about if and how the North Country National Scenic Trail fits in with the Governor’s vision. There are now two trails designated over the same great distance, basically one for hiking and one for biking. For this to work, it must be managed in partnership. Recently this new trail was named Michigan’s Iron Belle after a statewide competition to name the trail. Michigan’s NCTA members rightly questioned what this means for the NCNST, and again there is a flurry of discussion. What does this mean for the North Country National Scenic Trail and for those who use it, build it and love it? Recently we sat down with Paul Yauk, the State Trail Coordinator for the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR), to discuss some of the details. I wanted to share some of our main points of discussion with you.

How Will We Sign The Trail? The Iron Belle Trail (IBT) will have its own logo and associated brand standards. The National Park Service, NCTA and our partners will draft our own guidelines for if, when and how it will be used on the NCT. If we have opportunities to include the name and or logo on our kiosks or in our materials, it would be welcome but not mandated and the DNR will provide the materials. The logo will not replace the NCT emblem and blue blazes on the NCT and the NCT will not sprout a crop of IBT markers.

Is The “Hiking” Section Really Hiking Only? Although one route is being designated for hiking and one for biking, that does not trump the use designated by the local land manager of the NCT. Those sections of the NCT open to mountain bikes or on multi-use paths will remain so, just as you will be able to take a walk on much of the designated bike route. Those two distinctions simply mean you will be able to walk the entire length of one and bike the entire length of the other.

Who Will Develop The Trail In The Gaps We Have Yet To Build? Planning, land acquisition, trail building and maintenance will still be under the leadership of the National Park Service, the North Country Trail Association and the land management agency or managing partner in charge of any given section. The DNR has made it clear that they are here to help where needed but will look to the NCTA to lead.

How will it be funded? Some new funding will be available for small grants through the DNR for projects that are part of the Iron Belle Trail. Combine this with existing grant programs like the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund, National Park Service and NCTA funding, and the potential for further progress on the NCT continues to grow.

How Will We Promote The Iron Belle Trail? Our trail will remain the North Country National Scenic Trail but we are proud to be part of Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail Program. The DNR will point people to NCTA and our website for more information. They already have us listed on their website and will continue to do so every chance they get as we are the best authority for mapping and trail information. We’ve been invited to join the DNR’s marketing team in discussion about further promotion and are helping them draft language for marketing materials. We also have some ideas to work together to celebrate. For instance, 2016 is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service AND Michigan State Parks. This effort is not about one trail or two or even the dozens of existing trails, like the NCT, that will make up the Iron Belle. It’s about celebrating Michigan and all of its trails that help us explore the resources and people that make up this great state.

The North Country Trail: The Best Walks, Hikes, and Backpacking Trips on America’s Longest National Scenic Trail Paperback April 30, 2013 by Ron Strickland The North Country Trail is a tasty collection of the best hikes and backpacking trips on America's longest National Scenic Trail, with maps, directions, and planning information. $22.95 To purchase your copy, visit NCTA Trail Shop at northcountrytrail.org/storefront or phone (616) 897-5987.


The North Star




Grand Marais

North Country Trail 522.4 Miles


Depot Park Trailhead


North Country Trail 522.4 Miles




US-2 Bike Route 325 Miles




US-2 Bike Route 325 Miles



St. Ignace Iron Mountain

Mackinac Island 7.9 Miles

Mackinaw City



North Central State Trail 63 Miles





North Country Trail 546.4 Miles





Grayling to Gaylord Bike Path 26 Miles LEELANAU



Grayling Area Community Pathway 2.7 Miles KALKASKA



Roscommon to Grayling 29.7 Miles

Consumers Energy Powerline 10 Miles


Lake State Railroad Corridor 17 Miles



Lake State RR to Bay City State Recreation Area 1.9 Miles Bangor Rail Trail 6.4 Miles

Fraser Township Trail 4.2 Miles Lake State Railroad Corridor Easement 6.4 Miles



Bay City Riverwalk 2.2 Miles



Bay City Riverwalk to Harger Rail Trail 19.2 Miles MONTCALM


Harger Rail Trail 6 Miles





Columbiaville to Genesee Recreation Area 15.6 Miles


North Country Trail 546.4 Miles



Genesee Recreation Area to Perry Street Path Ending 13.7 Miles Perry Street Path to Polly Ann IONIA Connectors 16.9 Miles


Cass River Greenway to Millington 7.8 Miles Southern Links Trailway 10.3 Miles SANILAC

Dehmel Rd to Frankenmuth 1.8 Miles Cass River Greenway to Frankenmuth 9.7 Miles





Harger Rail Trail to Dehmel Rd 5.9 Miles


Belle Isle to Ironwood Two Routes, One Trail

Omer to East Tawas on US-23 32.6 Miles



Oscoda Community Trail 1.9 Miles Sunrise Side Pathway 10.1 Miles


West Branch To WEXFORD Roscommon 25 Miles

MDOT M-55 ROW 4.5 Miles


Iosco County Non-motorized River Pathway 29 Miles




County Road F-28 16 Miles

Paint Creek Trail 8.1 Miles

Polly Ann Trail & Connectors 12.4 Miles






Clinton River Trail 1.8 Miles


Clinton River Trail to Connor Creek Greenway 24 Miles Connor Creek Greenway 9.4 Miles

Lakeland Trail 22.5 Miles Detroit




Albion to Concord 17.5 Miles BERRIEN




Falling Waters Trail 15.7 Miles

Border To Border Trail 44.3 Miles WASHTENAW Downriver Linked Greenways Metro Parks Bike Paths 12.3 Miles MONROE




Jackson to Lakeland Trail 10.5 Miles

Belle Isle 5.8 Miles

Detroit Riverwalk 4.3 Miles SW Detroit Greenlink 5.8 Miles Elizabeth Park to Rouge River 12.3 Miles Grosse Ile Option 11 Miles Downriver Linked Greenways to Elizabeth Park 12 Miles


Legend Biking Trail

Hiking Trail

Biking - Existing Trail

Hiking - Existing Trail

Biking - Approved For Construction

Hiking - Approved for Construction

Biking - Proposed Trail

Hiking - Proposed Trail


State Park Boundary

Lakes and Rivers

State Land


Federal Land

County Boundary

Possible Hiking or Biking Existing Trail

** The illustrated hike and bicycle trail connections will rely upon partnership opportunities. **

January 29, 2015 Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest Resources Division Resource Assessment Section










April-June 2015



Matthews’ Meanders

The Board of Directors of the North Country Trail Association has reinstated annual gatherings. Your hosts along the Finger Lakes Trail (FLT) in New York have tried hard to make this event as much like our events of prior years as possible. And it’s for EVERYONE, all of our trail’s chapters and affiliates, even our landowners. So please come and enjoy the long weekend, 10-13 September, right in the middle of upstate N.Y. along the North Country Trail. Look over the program and registration materials on the Finger Lakes Trail website: http://fingerlakestrail.org/trail/FallEvent Or if you’d prefer the program on paper, just ask the FLT office and we’ll mail it to you: (585) 658-9320. Hours are 9:00 AM-2:00 PM weekdays except Wednesday.

Bruce Matthews Executive Director

What’s It Like to Have the Coolest Job Ever?


The North Star

We must register for Rendezvous on site lodging by August 6th!

Spiral Falls at Watkins Glen State Park, on several of Saturday's hikes at Rendezvous.

Andrea Ketchmark


Questions? Please phone Irene Szabo, treeweenie@aol.com, (585) 658-4321.

Vinnie Colliins

’ve shared in the past how it usually goes when you meet and greet folks who ask what you do for a living. At some point the conversation often gets punctuated with “that sounds like the coolest job ever!” And it’s a great affirmation. Because it is! And then I get to explain that, well, it doesn’t mean I get to go hiking for a living. Even so, the wonderment that such a job exists can be a great antidote on those occasions where I might need the reminder. I DO have the coolest job ever! Because I get to serve you, folks who VOLUNTEER their time, resources, energy, enthusiasm, finances in order to bring to life a vision for a simple continuous footpath connecting us all. Our North Country Trail joins Adirondackers (and soon Vermonters) to big sky-dwelling North Dakotans, links Finger Lakers with Pennsylvanians, Buckeyes to Michiganders, and Wisconsinites with Minnesotans. Collectively we get to deliver on the promise made by Congress with the 1968 National Trails Act and subsequent 1980 designation of the North Country National Scenic Trail, providing a world-class hiking experience that immerses the foot traveler in the stories of the people of the North and the places that define them. How cool is that? And we’re the keepers of the vision—you, me, NCTA’s staff, your Board of Directors, our chapter, affiliate and partner leaders. There’s a trust inherent in all this that unites us, and keeps us pulling on the same oar and looking in the same direction. Part of the challenge is making sure we all see the big picture, the one trail that unites all of the smaller segments to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The NCNST is NOT a conglomeration of existing trails, although we’re proud and grateful to be sharing a tread with the Finger Lakes, Buckeye, Superior Hiking Trails and many others, some of which pre-date the NCNST by many years. No, the North Country National Scenic Trail is ONE trail, creating a unity in common among all us northlanders, or the Red Plaid Nation. The NCTA serves to empower and enable every part of the NCTA family, whether it is in creating new funding sources, directing more funds to local projects, providing trail-building trainings, workshops, videos and other resources, conducting national marketing and outreach efforts, working with Congress as well as state and federal agencies and trying to keep our story fresh and vibrant throughout the media. In short, your NCTA is creating a space, locally and nationally, enabling our volunteers to do what they most enjoy—building, maintaining and protecting the NCT. So…that’s what it’s like to have the coolest job ever!

Tarin Hasper and her ever-present friend Baxter. Tarin was an enthusiastic and cheerful member of our Lowell HQ staff, but she recently left to follow her higher calling working for an animal shelter.

End-To-End Hopefuls 2015 has started off as a banner year for thru-hiking the NCT. NCTA knows of five individuals, plus a dog, who embarked on the effort in March and hoped to complete their end-to-end trek this year. Two 25-year-old men from Traverse City, Michigan, Seth Siladke and James Thomas, started in North Dakota in late March, and as of early April, have been wonderfully lucky. Unlike the horrible amounts of snow encountered by Luke Jordan and “Nimblewill Nomad” in other Marches, Seth and James were walking through countryside brown with the aftermath of winter, cold but NOT snowed under. Yes, North Dakota has enjoyed a rare open winter, so it sure was a good year to start on the trail there. Follow their progress at www.facebook.com/ EastboundNCT and marvel at their twenty-five mile days. Meanwhile, Rick “Bearwalker” Carbonell and “Buttons” were enduring opposite conditions in New York. Starting on March 6th in Vermont, they soon gave up on that state due to deep, deep snow everywhere, knowing they had to come back to this end eventually to pick up their camper. They crossed into New York and found nothing better, in fact kept losing trails because the snow was just too deep, obscuring signs and blazes, so they resorted to road walking to cross the huge Adirondack Mountain preserve. They are already a couple weeks behind in their planned schedule, but remain cheerful in their Facebook posts, never blaming the trail or trail people or the weather or gravity or anybody.

They have Molly with them, a four-footed friend who has booties but not snowshoes, so we don’t know how she has managed their days in deep snow. Their plans for a dash across New York thus slowed, they’ve still planned well with food drops and Post Office deliveries of dog food. Follow them atwww.facebook.com/NCT4feet4paws/ and enjoy. The fifth hiker out there is Ed Talone, who already walked the whole North Country Trail back in 1994. He walked Michigan’s Lower Peninsula last summer and had nice things to say about some of the trail quality, and started in northwest Ohio this year on March 12th, heading east. Unfortunately Ed broke an ankle close to the Pennsylvania border and has had to suspend his plans for now. Does he plan to rewalk lower Michigan on his way west? We don’t know yet, because he is not posting to Facebook, but does email occasionally from libraries along the way. It’s also fun to see that Carolyn Hoffman, who walked and biked the NCT years ago, is following these people on Facebook. And now, in mid-April, we have these reports on the next two pages from Christine Ellsworth and Mary Coffin. —Irene Szabo

Thru-Hikers Pause For Refreshment and Camaraderie Deb Keopplin

NORTH DAKOTA - The Red Plaid Nation in Valley City (a.k.a. Bobby and Deb Koepplin) met up with NCT thru hikers Seth Siladke and James Thomas, both from Traverse City, Michigan, on April 6, 2015. They had already traveled from Lake Sakakawea to Valley City, North Dakota, and were on a layover day for Bobby and Deb to take out for dinner and talk over the next section of trail to hike going south towards Fort Ransom State Park and later on to the Dakota Grasslands. Weather and trail had been relatively good for them hiking in March and April in North Dakota. You can follow their journey on their Facebook page “Eastbound on the North Country Trail.” —Deb Keopplin

James, Seth and Deb. Seth and James met the Keopplins for dinner and to talk about the trail south, toward Fort Ransom before they set foot on that next leg of their journey.


April-June 2015


Day 23 of an Eight-State Sojourn John Thomas

Story and Pictures By Christine Ellsworth Seth Siladke and James Thomas Hike the North Country Trail It was the right time to do it. Seth Siladke and James Thomas, 25, both members of the Grand Traverse Hiking Club of the North Country Trail Association, had often hiked the various loops and trails in their beautiful Michigan area. They had no commitments or responsibilities to hold them back. Fueled by their mutual love of hiking and communing with the great outdoors, they sat down in 2014 and started planning to traverse the entire 4,600 miles of the North Country Trail in 2015. They pooled funds totaling about $3,500 for the trip itself, and then spent an additional $1,500 for gear: tent, sleeping bags, and packs. They did online research of other hikers’ experiences, which revealed a plum of an idea: a good way to save money is to buy the food they anticipated needing, prepackage it, and then have a family member ship it to the nearest post office for pickup on a zero day or stopover. Some parts of the trail they knew they’d pass through were just too remote, and to stop to shop would eat up too much valuable hiking time, so the prepackaged, delivered food is a real boon to the schedule. These two, needless to say, are traveling light. “We had to keep the list to necessities,” James said. “There isn’t a lot of room for luxuries. But the cell phone is one of them.” I interviewed the two via cell phone on a Sunday in mid-April, while they were passing through the Dakota Grasslands area of the Trail, near the Minnesota border. I’m glad they had the phone; no doubt their family members are, too. James and Seth started their journey of 4,600 miles on March 20 this year, at Lake Sakakawea. They decided to start on the North Dakota end because they knew on the Eastern end of the trail, in Vermont, they’d be dealing early on with mountains and snow. Not that either mountain or snow really deterred them, but it’s just good, common sense to build up strength and endurance by starting on more level country. While they were prepared to snowshoe if need be, the weather has been fortuitous on this end of the trail, by and large. And they’ve had a revelation or two, so far. “The diversity of the terrain here in North Dakota is really a surprise,” Seth said. “You’ve got grasslands and rolling hills and some forests.” The hikers have encountered many a corn-stubble field and miles of flat lands, it’s true. And they’ve hiked some long stretches of deserted highways. But for the most part, they’ve appreciated the wide-open spaces. “To see this much sky in Michigan,” James said, “you have to climb to the highest hills. So it’s a pleasure to be able to see the 10 to 15 miles from the level,” he mused. They’ve had no real rough spots, yet. They laugh when asked if their feet are holding up. And the scariest things they’ve encountered thus far are coyotes. “Sometimes, in the dark of the night, it sounds like they’re maybe 20 feet from the tent,” James said. “But we aren’t too concerned.” How are the trails so far? “Not bad,” they two agree. “Sure, there’s a stretch or two where a bow saw could be put to good use to clear some brush, to clean things up a bit.” These stretches are already on the list


The North Star

Seth, Luke and John at Ekre Preserve.

for volunteers this year, we may be sure, and Seth and James have nothing but admiration for those who keep our trails groomed here in North Dakota or anywhere on the North Country Trail itself. Perhaps the biggest challenge has been getting water. “Generous folks stash water caches at various points along the way,” the two agreed, and this helps when nothing else does. It’s been dry this time of year in North Dakota, and early on the hikers had to break through ice to channel needed water into filtering systems. But between free supplies at state campgrounds and shoring up in various towns, the two are getting by. They are hydrated. They are healthy. And I can hear their smiles over the cell phone. It’s fewer than 30 days into a hike they anticipate will number 240. Here on Day 23, Seth and James have been joined by Luke Jordan (aka “Strider”), and are enjoying the companionship of the veteran hiker. “We’re not too far from Rothsay and then Maplewood State Park,” they enthuse. “We’re looking forward to moving into Minnesota.” Here’s hoping North Dakota was kind to you, Seth and James. Here’s to happy trails ahead, you two! North Star Submission Guidelines Without your material, we cannot have a magazine, so we eagerly request your submission of pictures and text for every issue. Please send both to Irene Szabo at treeweenie@aol.com, or 6939 Creek Rd., Mt. Morris, NY 14510. Please don’t embed pictures within your article, but send them separately as .jpg attachments. In all cases, please supply photographer's name. Front cover photo candidates. prefer vertical format, and if digital, at least 300 dpi or greater than 3000 pixels, AND we are always looking for great cover photos. Inside pictures look much better with one dimension over 1000 pixels, too, preferably 2000. Next deadline for Vol. 34, No. 3 is July 1, 2014. 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

4 Feet and 4 Paws Hike The NCT Through Central New York Story and Pictures By Mary Coffin

In the Adirondacks they greatly enjoyed the little towns as they passed through. Keene Valley, although not on the proposed route, was especially hiker friendly. I suspect North Creek and Speculator that are on the route will welcome hikers in the future. Until the final route is marked, many hikers walk the roads through the mountains to avoid getting lost bushwhacking in Wilderness Areas or Wild Forests. After leaving the Adirondack Park they enjoyed a motel break in Rome and Fort Stanwix National Park. The historic Erie Canal and Black River Canals fascinated them as they tried to imagine boats being pulled by mules along the towpath upon which they tread. Christine and Rick are experienced long distance hikers and have completed the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail, 300 mile Benton MacKaye Trail and the Long Trail in Vermont where they met and decided to join forces to hike the longest National Scenic Trail, the 4600 mile North Country Trail. For the NCNST hike they are experimenting hiking with a 4-pound double Hennessey Hammock instead of a tent and even in winter snow or rain have found it most successful. Molly has been in training for distance doggie hiking for about three years and may be the first canine to hike the NCNST end to end in one year. She is their constant hiking companion and has hiked 100 miles of NY-NJ Long Path in 2013 and more recently the entire state of Massachusetts on the Appalachian Trail. One would think that you are less apt to observe wildlife when hiking with a dog but Molly’s presence did not discourage a black bear that wandered past their shelter one night. There was no confrontation. We had the privilege of hosting them and assisting with trail head delivery and pick up for several days in April. To accomplish their goal Christine and Rick both saved up


Trail Dog Molly is a Beagle and Australian Cattle Dog mix, and is Rick and Christine's constant hiking companion. From Christine's Facebook page

Aspiring NCNST end to enders, 4feet4paws, encountered deep snow in Vermont and across the Adirondacks only to find snow still in the hills between Syracuse and Ithaca. 4feet4paws is a group of three hikers Rick Bearwalker Carbonell, Christine Buttons Herpfer and Molly McCuddlebug, a Beagle and Australian Cattle dog mix. The group started at the Appalachian Trail-Long Trail junction in Vermont March Rick Carbonell, Christine Herpfer and Molly are making 7 and hopes to finish in Lake their way west from the Eastern Terminus of the NCT. Sakakawea before Christmas. They are taking their time to enjoy the trail, give Molly plenty of rests and take in some historic sites along the way.

Christine Herpfer on the trail.

money for a couple of years, quit their jobs, let their lease expire and sold most household belongings while storing the rest with a friend or in their 1980’s vintage Minnie Winnie RV. So while hiking they are temporarily homeless. They have a friend who holds their pre-arranged resupply boxes and sends them off to post offices as they are needed. Most of these boxes contain Molly’s dog food! When not hiking Christine/Buttons and Rick/Bearwalker live with Molly near the Massachusetts-New York border and enjoy hiking in the Catskill Mountains and the Finger lakes Trail sections there. Christine has had several jobs including waitressing and Rick, an artist, most recently worked in a clay factory. At present their lives are totally focused on enjoying the trail experience and soaking up the diverse ambience of the NCNST. To follow the trio check out www.facebook.com/ NCT4feet4paws. Note that, like most hikers, they are about two weeks behind the original timeline.

April-June 2015


A Happy Accident By Christine Ellsworth


ight years ago, he was out hiking to North Dakota’s only registered waterfall near Fort Ransom State Park. It was a great day. The air was fresh. The birds were singing. But the way was a bit rough; he was covering ground that wasn’t technically a trail. Seasoned hiker though he was, he slipped and fell into a creek and got wet, which put a bit of a damper on the whole experience. It was right then Jerry Warner decided to do something to help make sure others wouldn’t get wet on their way to the waterfall. And then he realized that what he was really thinking of was building trail. He called a few folks and learned that the North Country Trail ran through the area near Ft. Ransom State Park. He became a member—and got right down to business. The boardwalk on the trail to the waterfall got built. In fact, since he joined the NCTA, four boardwalk water crossings have been installed on the Trail. Since 2007, Jerry has donated more than 386 hours building trail, constructing boardwalk, clearing Grasslands segments of downed trees and brush, participating in Sawyer Training, attending

Janna Diggs

Chapter and National Conference events, assisting in re-blazing parts of the State Forest Trail, and helping level multiple miles of segments for Dakota Prairie Grassland. He was named NCTA Trail Maintainer of the Year in 2008. In March this year, the company he’s been with for about 20 years—Bobcat in Gwinner, North Dakota—recognized his accomplishments and generous spirit by giving him one of two Outstanding Volunteer of the Year awards. Part of the award is a gift of $200, which recipients may give to the charity of their choice. You guessed it: Jerry gave this gift to the NCTA! The corporation encourages volunteer efforts, and Jerry has already led several teams comprised of Bobcat employees, encouraging their participation in trail building and NCTA membership. The most recent corporate “Day of Caring” (days sprinkled throughout the year during which employees can donate time to charities and needed efforts in the area while still getting paid) saw Jerry leading another team. This group welded the beams that will become the foundation for yet another boardwalk on the Trail later this spring. He refuses to take all the credit for these team efforts, however; instead, he insists that we focus on the outcome as a whole and on each individual. Thank him for his work, and he will, in turn, publicly share his thanks for each and every person involved. Jerry grew up in Milnor, North Dakota, and graduated from the North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton, North Dakota. He is an Engineering Technician for Bobcat. He’s led numerous company-sponsored hikes in recent years to the waterfall, and takes real delight in pointing out to fellow hikers the boardwalk that now stretches safely over the creek. Truly, here is the definition of a happy accident made manifest: because of Jerry Warner’s fall, countless hikers have crossed the creek in a much safer and drier way. Thanks, Jerry! Previously published in Call of the North, the newsletter for NCTA members in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Jerry Warner, center, receiving one of two Outstanding Volunteer of the Year awards. On Jerry’s left is Lance Capman, Engineering Shop Supervisor (Jerry’s manager at Bobcat), and on Jerry’s right, Brian Anderson, Bobcat Director of Human Resources North America. Jerry Warner

Members of Jerry’s team, comprised of Bobcat employee volunteers, on the March 23, 2015, Bobcat/Doosan Day of Caring. Here, they are welding the foundation for a new NCTA boardwalk.


The North Star

Jerry Warner recently sent this email to his coworkers: As you may already know, two weeks ago I received an Outstanding Volunteer award from Bobcat-Doosan for my work on Day of Caring and Day of Community Service events. I just want to say thank you, but it's not just me; there were many others who made these events possible, and I believe the award belongs to each of us. I joined the North Country Trail Association because I love the outdoors and hiking, and I wanted to have more hiking trails in the area. The projects I have worked on for the trail have given me a lot of pride and a nice sense of accomplishment. So when The Day of Caring came along last spring I saw the opportunity to introduce the NCT to others here at Bobcat, and offer them the opportunity to contribute to the trail, and to try to spread the pride. The NCTA is nearly 100% dependent on volunteers, and now that statistic includes you. It is plain to see that we have a lot more work still to go. So please tell all your friends (at Bobcat and otherwise) about the fun you had building the longest National Scenic Trail in the US. And remember there are opportunities outside of Bobcat and Doosan events where you can help to build the NCT; just let me know if you are interested, and I can help you out.

Introducing Amelia Rhodes

Amelia is an experienced communicator—author, speaker, and blogger. Her book, Isn’t it Time for a Coffee Break?, is an engagingly fresh dialogue about the important things in life, and being connected with friends, “doing life together…” She has coordinated national conferences, taught workshops on using social media, and led numerous marketing initiatives. Her broad-ranging experience in the communications arena and her engaging style in both

Amelia Rhodes


written and spoken forms made her an ideal candidate to help NCTA take efforts to the next level. NCTA’s strategic plan calls for a significant increase in effort in the marketing area with targeted outcomes of increasing awareness of the NCT and the NCTA, as well as growing membership. Much of the initial focus will be on continuing to grow the effectiveness and reach of the social marketing efforts. During the interview process Amelia was asked to put together a social marketing plan targeting millennials, people aged from upper high school to their early 30’s, and she really knocked it out of the ballpark. Amelia lives in Lowell with her husband and two children, aged 8 and 10, pictured here with her during

n April 13 Amelia Rhodes joined NCTA’s staff as Marketing and Communications Coordinator. This is a new position for NCTA, called for by the Strategic Plan developed by the Board in 2014. Starting her half-time, the Board anticipated being able to fund the position full-time by 2017.

a board and staff hike in April. She loves getting her kids outdoors, and something tells us the NCTA might be able to help with that! We’re looking forward to Amelia joining our staff team and NCTA family. Welcome, Amelia!

Ginny Wunsch, Early North Country Trail Supervolunteer, Died June 10, 2014 Joan Young

The Birch Grove Schoolhouse in White Cloud, Michigan, with Ginny Wunsch on the porch in 1998.


Back when the NCTA was new, there was no office, no staff, no nothing. Retired gym teacher Ginny Wunsch had grown up wanting a “trail of her own” to work on and play with, so she was excited to learn about this new National Scenic Trail that passed very near her home in White Cloud, Michigan. The first president of the NCTA, Lance Feild, had determined that the geographical center of the huge trail was right there in Ginny’s county, so Lance asked the local Chamber of Commerce if there were a building available for donation. As Joan Young’s 1998 article about Ginny in the North Star said, “…soon the young NCTA had a building, more or less…” An old schoolhouse long abandoned needed major work to become even a rude shelter, but after years of work by assorted volunteers with no money, organized and joined by the energetic Ginny, the Birch Grove School grew a roof, new windows, a repaired foundation,

and even eventually electricity and plumbing, including a hand-dug septic system that passed inspection. Ginny was one of the shovelers, all while working with the Western Michigan Chapter to build new trail in the area. Eventually our first office opened there, staffed entirely by Ginny Wunsch, who sent hand-written replies to inquiries. Once the organization grew enough to afford a part-time executive director, the office moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the charmingly restored schoolhouse became a hikers’ rest or a modest meeting space, now administered by the chapter. Ginny was encouraged that the organization had grown enough to require a staff person and an office. Apparently Ginny was one of those endlessly energetic people who thrive on a challenge, even at an age post retirement when many people put their feet up. She was a terrific contributor to our earliest years.

April-June 2015


National Park Service


Mark Weaver S Superintendent, NCT

Happy Birthday!!

Trail Project Plaques By Bill Menke Several years ago, while traveling from home downstate to some project in northern Wisconsin, I stopped at a trailhead for the Ice Age Trail and took a short walk to stretch my legs. I was curious about how their trailheads, the trail itself, and the blazing compared to ours. It was all pretty similar, except for one very interesting sign. After walking only a short distance into the woods, I learned that this section of trail had recently been re-constructed during one of their Mobile Skill Crew projects. How did I learn this? Because they had taken an extra step and installed a very nice, cast plaque giving credit to the crew and showing the year of the project. Prior to this discovery, I had been contemplating the concept of installing plaques on our major bridges to inform hikers of the year they were built. My ideas regarding just how to accomplish this hadn’t been finalized but that day’s discovery surely helped in that process. Back in the office, I contacted the Ice Age Trail staff, in nearby Cross Plains, to learn more about the source, costs, etc. So, it is definitely true that our trail project plaques are a shared idea from one of our sister trails.

trails associated with the National Park Service. Both “Find Your Park” and the Centennial are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to share our enthusiasm and love of North Country Trail with your neighborhood and the world.

Here’s The Opportunity: Do you have events planned between now and December of 2016? Are you going to staff a booth at a sports show? Are you organizing a pretty extensive hike or some other on-the-trail event? Let me know about it. In exchange for photos, participation counts and some PR, we’re willing to help support some of your event expenses. We’ll also provide you with banners and other promotional information that can help increase attendance. Maybe you’ll even get a few new chapter members as a result. At the very least, “Find Your Park” and the NPS Centennial are excellent reasons to celebrate the North Country National Scenic Trail! Call me to chat about it. Mark Weaver (616) 430-3495. Unlike a Mobile Skills Crew trail construction project that focuses on a rather short, identifiable segment of trail, our Brule-St. Croix Roving Trail Crew construction literally spans entire counties. The concept of identifying trail segments completed by the Rovers didn’t seem to work well, but the concept of identifying major bridges and other structures completed by the crew fit nicely with my original concept of installing a “year built” plaque on the structures. What evolved was a plaque that looked very much like those I had discovered that day while stretching my legs. With funding from an NCTA Field Grant, I worked with Healy Awards to design appropriate plaques and then contract for all that were needed. From written history documents, it wasn’t hard to identify each major structure that the Rovers had built over the years and to order accordingly. When the plaques were delivered, they were installed concurrently as a new structure was built. Plaques for older structures were installed whenever we happened to be nearby. At the time of this writing, all of the major structures across the state have the “project completion” plaques affixed, either to the structure itself or on a free standing post. We think this is a neat project that adds another element of interest for hikers following the trail and also quickly answers the Continued on page 21


The North Star

Irene Szabo

You may not already know it, but next summer is the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. And since North Country Trail is part of the National Park Service, it’s our birthday too. On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed what is commonly referred to as the Organic Act and established the National Park Service: “…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” National Park Service is pulling out all the stops to make sure that the entire nation (and beyond) is aware of this birthday and celebrates it with us. Now, formally, the goal of this Centennial (100th Birthday) Celebration is “to connect with and create the next generation of park visitors, supporters, and advocates,” which is noble and appropriate. Or we could consider it a great reason to have a few parties. Now, in order to bring everyone together, much like an opening act at your favorite concert, NPS kicked off “Find Your Park” in early April of this year to prepare everyone for the Centennial starting in September of 2015. “Find Your Park” is intended simply to get people outdoors to ANY public park, trail or open space, from the Grand Canyon to your local playground, while the Centennial focuses on lands and

Tom Moberg Receives National Park Service Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service By Dan Watson, NPS Volunteer Coordinator

are NPS Volunteers. It is no exaggeration to say that receiving a Hartzog Award is the highest honor bestowed upon a VIP for their exceptional contributions to the National Park Service. With great pride, we are excited to announce that our own Tom Moberg has recently been selected as the NPS ServiceWide recipient of the George and Helen Hartzog Award for Outstanding Individual Volunteer! Tom’s nomination first competed regionally with all other entries in that category throughout the 13 states and roughly 60 other parks and trails which comprise the NPS Midwest Region. From the Dakotas to Arkansas, and from Nebraska to Ohio, Tom Moberg was this year’s Outstanding Midwest Region Individual Volunteer. All nominations are judged on the following four criteria, and although space won’t allow for a full posting of Tom’s nomination narratives, his accomplishments were highlighted to include: t Magnitude of Work—highlighting Tom’s impressive accomplishments within his local Dakota Prairie Chapter, expanding regionally to trail events into Minnesota, and his trailwide contributions as President of the NCTA Board of Directors. t Meeting the Mission—where Tom’s success in connecting the NCT to numerous natural and historical attractions throughout North Dakota certainly furthered the mission of the NPS.

Bill's nifty sign plaques are mounted with tamper-resistant hardware, so they aren't too likely to go home with souvenir hunters.

management question about the year a particular structure was built without having to wait until you are back in the office to search the files for the answer.


t Challenges—recognizing that Tom has done a superb job in gaining trust and cooperation of local landowners in welcoming the NCT to their area. t Partnerships—celebrating the numerous new partnerships that Tom has forged on behalf of the trail with diverse groups such as railroad and utility companies, universities and other educational institutions, commercial companies and businesses, varying levels of government, and Boy Scout groups.

Irene Szabo


rom 1964 to 1972, George B. Hartzog, Jr. was the Director of the National Park Service. During his tenure, 70 sites were added to the National Park System, and he championed historic preservation, urban recreation, interpretation and environmental education. Director Hartzog also recognized the value in citizens being able to donate their time and talents to the National Park Service and pushed through legislation creating the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Program. Those of you reading this can trace your status as a VIP for the National Park Service in general, and the North Country National Scenic Trail in particular, back to the wisdom and foresight demonstrated by Director Hartzog more than 45 years ago. After his retirement, George and his wife Helen remembered the VIP program with a generous donation to the National Park Foundation. This fund has been used to support awards that honor the efforts of exceptional volunteers, groups, and park VIP programs. The Hartzog Award Program exists only in the National Park Service. The only people qualified to receive these awards

But wait! There’s more! Tom’s winning regional nomination was then forwarded to Washington, D.C., where it competed against all other regional winners in that category from across the entire National Park Service (more than 400 parks and trails from Maine to Hawaii, Alaska to Florida… and even beyond…as NPS sites can also be found in places like the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa!). Best of all, he won. Please join me in congratulating Tom Moberg on being chosen as the 2014 NPS Service-Wide George and Helen Hartzog Outstanding Individual Volunteer. Tom will be invited as the guest of the National Park Service to receive his prestigious award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. on June 25, 2015. Director Hartzog said it best when in 1970 he wrote: “When a VIP agrees to share his talents, skills and interests with the National Park Service, he is paying us one of the highest compliments possible by offering a most valued possession – his time.” Congratulations, Tom! The North Country National Scenic Trail is lucky to count you among its many fine volunteers!

April-June 2015


The Many Faces of the NCTA: Meet Jill DeCator By Christine Ellsworth Amelia Rhodes

Jill DeCator, standing by a trail marker near our national office, on the Flat River in Lowell, Michigan.



The North Star

Pennsylvania’s Joyce Appel has served on the board for three and a half three-year terms over the years. Here Board President Tom Moberg presents her with a plaque of appreciation for all those years of service at her last meeting on April 18th in Lowell, Michigan.

Trail, I think people are the most wowed by the fact that it is almost entirely built and maintained by volunteers.” Clearly, she honors the thousands of volunteers who have helped build and maintain the Trail—and if you’re one of the Trail’s valuable volunteers, you may already admire that staunchly supportive side of Jill. Would you believe this busy woman is a volunteer herself? “I regularly volunteer and take leadership roles in organizations my children are involved in, including being the Committee Chair for two local Cub Scout packs and serving on the Lowell Youth Lacrosse board.” Jill and her family love the outdoors and spend lots of time in the summer camping, paddling and exploring nature. Busy as Jill is, she sees plenty of work ahead for the NCTA. “For the Trail to have a bright future, we need to do a better job promoting and telling the story of the Trail. I cringe at how many times someone comes into the storefront asking ‘What is this place?’” But when they do, Jill will help them understand just what a wonderful place they’ve stumbled upon. She personally enjoys day hiking trips on the Trail, and says she’s fond of water features. She’ll share that Hell’s Hollow in Pennsylvania and the Tahquamenon Falls in the Upper Peninsula are some of her favorite spots. And encourage you to go see it all. Or, “Build more Trail!”

Irene Szabo

f you’ve ever entered the North Country Trail Association Headquarters in Lowell, Michigan, it’s likely you were met by a woman with a bright smile. She may have helped you with maps, advised how to get started on the trail, showed you an array of emblems to memorialize your travels. She answered your questions, pointed you in the right direction, and sent you on your way with a cheery wave. That’s Jill DeCator. She’s the Administrative Assistant and Membership Coordinator for the North Country Trail Association. But while you may have spied her in the storefront, you may not see all she does behind the scenes for the organization. As the Administrative Assistant, she’s the primary support for both the Executive Director and the Director of Trail Development. She also coordinates and administers volunteer hours collection, reporting, and the volunteer award program. She coordinates the publication of the North Star magazine, and produces the monthly electronic newsletter “The Blue Blazes Bulletin.” She manages the Website content, along with the membership and donor database.

But that’s not all. Jill also processes all the e-commerce memberships, donations, and trail shop orders. She coordinates the monthly membership renewal mailings and organizes the location, logistics, materials and minutes for national board of directors’ meetings. You’re not alone if you feel a bit out of breath just reading that long list of tasks. “I could go on,” Jill admits, “but that’s probably plenty.” It’s probably fair to say that the headquarters would be in dire straits without her. Drawn to the non-profit aspect of the position, Jill’s been with the NCTA for seven years. Originally from Fort Wayne, Indiana, she moved to Michigan in the early ‘90s, and says the best thing about her job “is the wonderful, passionate people I work with and for, including fellow staff, members, volunteers, board directors, and partners.” She often works with folks she’s never met, from volunteers in far-flung states to members along the trail. It’s the hardest thing about her job, she says, working with people she’s never met faceto-face. “You just don't achieve the same level of understanding when you don't get face time with people. Direct interaction is so much more connecting.” But those same people are precisely what she loves most about the trail. “I love the way the North Country Trail brings so many people together. Volunteers with the same passion across such a great expanse…besides the sheer length of the

Summary of NCTA Staff Retreat March 2015 NCTA’s entire staff gathered March 11-13 for the first time in two years. Regional Trail Coordinators Bill Menke and Matt Davis joined the HQ staff in Lowell for a series of meetings over the three-day period. NPS Superintendent Mark Weaver brought Madison-based NPS Administrative Officer Rachel Acker as well as St. Paul-based Volunteer Coordinator Dan Watson to Lowell, and we took advantage of the opportunity for joint meetings throughout the week. NCTA’s Director of Trail Development Andrea Ketchmark led the planning efforts that identified these key areas for staff training and discussion focus: t Using ArcGIS online to edit centerline and point data t Mapping priorities t Review of NPS Handbook for Trail Design, Construction, and Maintenance t Volunteer safety and skills training t Revisiting Staff Values, Vision and Guiding Principles t NPS Centennial Planning t Review of NCTA Strategic Plan and Strategy Screen t NCTA Communications—How well are we doing? t Prioritizing Trail Development t Strategies for supporting long distance hikers

While most areas are still in various stages of conception and birth, a few of the topics worked on are touched upon elsewhere in this issue, the National Park Service Centennial Planning and NPS’s efforts toward creating portable instruction in volunteer safety.

Volunteer Safety And Skills Training NCTA staff reviewed the master spreadsheet of trainings provided and desired with Dan Watson, NPS Volunteer Coordinator. Dan presented the new NPS chainsaw policy, and discussed possibilities for Operational Leadership training, including a video series. There was consensus that reviewing and updating the NPS handbook to include safety is our next priority possibly working with SCA to develop skills and crew leader training.

Centennial Planning The National Park Service Centennial begins with 2016. NPS partners are being asked to collaborate with park units to extend the impact of the Centennial. NCTA has submitted a request for funding to support a “Centennial Hike” or “Hike a Hundred” program that encourages people to hike 100 miles on the NCT in 2016. Depending on whether the program is funded, and the level thereof, the program will be promoted and an app developed to enable hikers to share their stories.

The staff also found time for a short hike on the NCT in Lowell, as well as a Friday night pretzel party at Executive Director Bruce and Linda Matthews’ house, along with families and the NPS staff.

Andrea Ketchmark

Staff hike at footbridge over Flat River in Fallasburg Park, Lowell, Michigan. Left to right, David Cowles, Matt Davis, Bill Menke, Jill DeCator, Bruce Matthews, Mark Weaver, Matt Rowbotham, Dan Watson.


NCTA Staff Values, Vision and Guiding Principles The North Country Trail Association staff holds these values as essential in our work environment and reaffirmed them during our retreat: t Passion for and dedication to our work t Cooperation with and support for one another t Adaptability and flexibility t Celebration of success t Ownership of and accountability for the quality of our work t Trust t Joy in and enjoyment of our work t Respect t A skilled and competent approach Vision & Guiding Principles The members of the NCTA staff view ourselves and desire for others to view us as a team of happy, competent and highly effective and efficient individuals, consistent, resourceful and supportive of one another and our trail community. We are professionals working hard and strategically toward mission accomplishment. We are the keepers of this vision; we own it and feel passionately about it. We are action-generators, drivers and sometimes risk takers who delight in going the extra mile. We are realistic in setting goals. We enjoy each other and being part of a team. We are approachable and listen diligently to greater trail community. Reaffirmed by NCTA staff March 12, 2015.

April-June 2015


Studying North Star A Marketing and Communications Committee of the Board of Directors is charged with improving the NCTA’s ability to reach new people with the good news of our trail as part of the Board’s Strategic Plan. A subcommittee to study the role of our magazine is part of their effort, so all this past winter that editorial review group has met frequently, chair Lorana Jinkerson, Joan Young, Becky Heise, Christine Ellsworth, Tom Gilbert, and Irene Szabo. Our role has been to create an editorial plan that ensures the magazine plays a key role in supporting NCTA’s strategic directions. In contrast to the aims of other media, that of bringing in new people, we have decided that our primary audience is our membership, our landowners, and our partners, and that a big part of our mission is to help those people feel like they are part of the whole trail, and that the magazine may be the only connection to the whole trail some readers have. We offered members a survey to check our own perceptions about the magazine, and nearly 300 of you responded, a good number for such things. Thanks for taking your time! Most of you feel like we do about it, that the North Star is doing a pretty good job; most of you read most of the articles, even though what you liked varied with personal interests. Of course, that’s why there is variety! As ever, since all content is supplied by volunteer writers, if you want to see something in the magazine, send it in to the editor! Our subcommittee looked at the magazines of several other major trail systems, too. We all agreed that the Green Mountain Club’s Long Trail News from Vermont was gorgeous (glossy paper makes for great photo reproduction!), but it was the only one we suspected might be a little better than our own North Star. Other big trails’ magazines were viewed less favorably, so right now, we may be second best! Committee members wished we had more hiker health content (but we are still waiting for someone with medical knowledge to volunteer a column) and articles about the natural world we walk through. The better news on the latter topic is that Joan Young has stepped forward to offer us more nature articles, while Christine Ellsworth from North Dakota is an experienced writer, especially of interview articles. See her three offerings in this very issue! As ever, the magazine’s content is primarily made up of what readers send us, so the editor still welcomes contributions from others about nature topics, or anything else pertinent to our shared trail. If you want to see it in the magazine, you have to send it. Cover photos are often needed, too. The editorial advisory committee will continue to preview and review upcoming issues as we try to ensure that North Star plays its intended role. —Irene Szabo

Advocacy Corner

By Laura DeGolier, Wisconsin Advocacy Chair


egislation particularly at the federal level is a very slow journey. In fact you could walk the North Country Trail end to end 10 times before a piece of legislation winds its way through Congress. So progress reports are about as exciting as reporting on the movements of the turtle in Aesop’s tale of the Turtle and the Hare. But occasionally we have something positive to report. So far this year we are off to a faster start than the past legislative session exhibited. The subject is the Route Adjustment bill. In the past you have heard this referred to as Arrowhead Reroute, but Route Adjustment is the new name for this session now that trail through Vermont is included. As of April 14 there are 12 sponsors of the latest version, H.R. 799. And it is looking bi-partisan with three Republicans and nine Democrats co-sponsoring. Sadly none of those co-sponsors is from Wisconsin in the House. Six of the co-sponsors are from Minnesota, Reps. Keith Ellison, Collin Peterson, Timothy Walz, Erik Paulsen, and Betty MCollum, while Minn. Rep. Richard Nolan is the lead author of the bill. The NCTA Advocacy Committee has been helpful in encouraging Rep. Mike Kelly from Penna. to become a co-sponsor, and constituent and loyal NCTA member, Lorana Jinkerson from Marquette, Mich., has been able to convince her new Congressman Dan Benishek to become a co-sponsor. This last addition is significant because our Executive Director, Bruce Matthews, has been working with the Congressman’s office the last three months, but until the Congressman knew there were constituents who cared about this issue, he saw no reason to lend his name. Lorana made the difference. And YOU can too. Each Congressman needs to hear that there are constituents in his or her district who care about this national trail. If you are willing to be a part of the team, to work with other NCTA members to encourage Congressmen to start becoming champions of trails, particularly one that runs throughout his District, please let me know via email ldegolie@tds.net or phone (920) 948-8041.

Reprinted with permission from Wisconsin North Country Trail News, the newsletter of the Heritage Chapter in Wisconsin.


The North Star

Contact your Congressman! By Matt Davis


hanks to Minnesota North Country Trail champions Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Rick Nolan, and Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch, the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act legislation has been reintroduced in the 114th Congress. This simple legislation would enact the NCT’s “Arrowhead Re-route” in northeastern Minnesota and also extend the NCT into Vermont to meet up with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.). The “Vermont Extension” would utilize approximately 40 miles of new trail to link up with the Long Trail which the NCT would follow south to the A.T. at “Maine Junction.” The “Arrowhead Re-route” would replace the NCT’s original unbuilt route through wet country between Jay Cooke State Park and Remer with a fantastic new 540-mile route through Minnesota’s “Arrowhead.” The new route includes the Superior Hiking Trail, Border Route Trail, and Kekekabic Trail plus new trail to link the Kekekabic Trail with the existing NCT near Remer. Since 2004, the NCTA has been advocating for the Re-route legislation but, despite ample local support, no previous efforts have led to passage. Given the political situation in Washington, it will be a tough challenge to pass this legislation in the 114th Congress but we do have some true Congressional champions from both Minnesota and Vermont. The bills have attracted the co-sponsorship of 9 Democrats and 5 Republicans (H.R. 799) and 8 Democrats and 1 Independent (S. 403). The NCTA aims to recruit many more co-sponsors and more Republican co-sponsors in particular.


We need your help! The NCTA needs supporters to make constituent contacts and request support from their elected officials. Folks simply need to contact their Representative and/or Senator and ask that they support the legislation and co-sponsor it. Tell them that this legislation is important to you. Help us spread the word by sharing this info with others you think may be interested in helping out. They can learn more about the issue at NCTA’s website (https://northcountrytrail. org/get-involved/advocacy/arrowhead-re-route/), reading the Fact Sheet or FAQ, and follow the issue by “Liking” the Arrowhead Reroute Facebook page (www.facebook.com/ArrowheadReRoute). Here is how to make Constituent Contacts on the Arrowhead Reroute legislation First, check to see if your elected representatives are already a cosponsor. If they are, thank them for their support. If they are not, contact them. Here is a basic message to use when contacting your Representative and Senators: As a constituent, I would like to formally request that you cosponsor and support H.R. 799 / S. 403 – the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act legislation recently introduced by Rep. Rick Nolan / Sen. Amy Klobuchar This bill is incredibly simple, would enhance the tourism & recreational opportunities in Minnesota and Vermont, is well supported locally, and has no known opposition. I am asking you to co-sponsor this legislation because I use the North Country National Scenic Trail and support the efforts of the North Country Trail Association to build the nation’s longest hiking trail across the northern Heartland. Visit http://www.house.gov/ and http://www.senate.gov/ and then enter your Zip Code or click on your State in the upper right hand box to find the contact information for your Representative and Senators.

April-June 2015


White Pelicans By Joan Young

What? Having the North Country Trail in North Dakota isn’t enough of a reason to go there? Here’s one more wonderful reason to spend some time in the NCT’s prairie state: the white pelicans. In fact, if you’re a birder, avid or average, the prairie pothole region along the Sheyenne River is a treat you shouldn’t miss. The area is teeming with birds of all descriptions in the late spring and early summer. On my first hiking trek to our trail’s western state I suffered the whole trip because I had not taken bird books, and we saw dozens of waterfowl I could not identify. But by far and away, the most awesome discovery was the white pelican. They were so shy that we could catch pictures only at a great distance, but we could tell they were huge. In flight, their head is not stretched out like a crane, or even obviously crooked like a blue heron, but is pulled back nearly against the body. Huge is certainly the word for them. At an average nine to ten foot wingspan, in North America only the California condor is wider. And because of that long beak, they are equivalent to the trumpeter swan as the longest bird in the range. They average about fifteen pounds in weight, but males can reach thirty. The pelicans are all white, except for the remiges, those feathers at the back edge of the wing, which are black, visible only when they fly. That amazing wingspan makes it possible for them to soar on thermals, so if you do see one in the air, you are almost sure to notice the black remiges. Are you impressed with that technical word? Don’t be; I just learned it. I’m an average birder at best, but you don’t have to get up before dawn to see the pelicans. They will fly or swim around for you all day. Like other pelicans, the top of their long beak is flat and the bottom is a leathery pouch which they can fill with fish. White pelicans do not dive but skim the surface of the water as they swim. They are willing to eat pretty much anything passing by, including frogs, larval salamanders, tadpoles, crayfish, etc. If they don’t like the local fare, they will fly over a hundred miles to find a better feeding area. Each adult will eat about four pounds of food a day. Cooperative feeding strategy is unusual for birds. But a group of white pelicans will herd schools of fish to make it easier to scoop up a good meal. The swimming birds will form a line and then beat their wings in the water, moving slowly toward shore to trap the fish in shallow water. White pelicans are quiet for their size. The only sounds they make are croaks and grunts around the nesting grounds. During breeding season, both sexes grow a strange protuberance on their top bill called a horn. This falls off about


The North Star

a month later. Also, during this time, the pouch and the area around the eye turn bright orange. Nests are a scooped-out shallow depression on the ground, at the edge of a body of water. Both parents incubate the eggs and attend to the needs of the baby pelicans. In 2007, my hiking buddy, Marie Altenau, and I ate lunch while enjoying a group of six adults watching over two babies. The nest was on the far side of a small lake, and we took turns with the binoculars. There wasn’t a chance of getting more than white dots in the middle of a scenic photo, so I didn’t bother, just recorded the scene in memory. The little chicks were pink! After looking up more information later, I learned that the babies begin life naked, so we must have been seeing very new hatchlings. First they sprout white down and then grow feathers with the grayish hue of immature birds. White pelicans are social birds, so they nest in colonies. Usually only one chick per nest survives. The birds summer and breed in the northern reaches of the continent, then travel south. John, a friend of mine in Texas, enjoys watching them. He says, “The pelicans usually arrive in November or early December and often stay until April. There are about fifty birds that return to our lake every winter. They feed by flying about a foot above the water and grabbing fish near the surface with their beak. I often see Cormorants swimming with them.” The cormorants dive for fish, which cause the fish to head for the surface where the wily pelicans wait for an easy meal. He took the good picture with this article; perhaps the birds aren’t so shy in winter. (Actually, he’s a pro photographer.) The Chase Lake National Wildlife refuge, located sixty miles west of trail town Valley City, North Dakota, was established by Theodore Roosevelt specifically to protect white pelican habitat. Only about fifty birds nested there in 1908, at a time when populations were seriously declining. Now over 20,000 pelicans use the refuge. Naturally, the birds utilize the many lakes found along the North Country Trail, where we saw them nearly every day on our North Dakota hikes. Imagine my surprise when I saw one near my home in Michigan one spring! They do stray from the central flyway, and vagrants are increasingly seen throughout the Great Lakes and Northeast United States. On a trip to Alabama I saw some swimming in the Tennessee River. Once you see these amazing birds, you can’t get enough of them. Since the North Country Trail follows the Sheyenne River, and then circumscribes the south edge of Lake Audubon, the wonderful white pelicans will be your constant companions as you hike our western state.

White pelicans in Dallas, Texas, with the breeding “horn� on top of their beaks. Picture taken by John Sealander, a professional photographer who donated this picture for us. Joan Young Joan Young

Pelicans on an unnamed lake along the NCT near the east end of the McCluskey Canal 1995.


Lake Ashtabula in the rain 2007, pelicans all lined up... maybe ready to herd fish?

April-June 2015


north star


North Country Trail Association

PAID Grand Rapids, MI Permit 340

229 East Main Street Lowell, Michigan 49331

Vinnie Collins

Picture taken April 12th, so these fox pups were born back when it was viciously cold and snow-covered.

Come Visit Us!

The Lowell oďŹƒce 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  )JLF/$5t  t'BY   The North Country Trail Association develops, maintains, protects and promotes the North Country National Scenic Trail as the premier hiking path across the northern tier of the United States through a trail-wide coalition of volunteers and partners. Our vision for the North Country National Scenic Trail is that of the premier footpath of national significance, offering a superb experience for hikers and backpackers in a permanently protected corridor, traversing and interpreting the richly diverse environmental, cultural, and historic features of the northern United States.

Profile for NCTA Staff

North Star Vol. 34, No. 2 (2015)  

North Star Vol. 34, No. 2 (2015)