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North Star: The Magazine of the North Country Trail

April - June 2001

Trailblazing: Some Ways to Start... -~gP.t.~r.~

By Charles Krammin Chief Noonday Chapter

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Every chapter needs a member or group to develop trails. The Chief Noonday Chapter in Michigan has grown by leaps and bounds, both in membership and participation because its prime goal has been developing new trails. I first ran across the emblems of the North Country National Scenic Trail in 1997 while on my shakedown hikes in the Yankee Springs Recreation Area for my upcoming Appalachian Trail hike. I thought it was nice that someone had the foresight to develop a trail I could enjoy. Then, as I hiked with my compass in the Middleville State Game Area, I thought to myself, "The North Country Trail Association should develop a trail here for others to enjoy" and I sent a letter with my suggestion to the Association. While on the Appalachian Trail, I got a letter from a hiker with the trail name of One-Step, who reported that a new chapter was being formed in my area which would welcome my membership and help. When I got off the trail in June 1997, I contacted "One-Step", who turned out to be Dave Cornell, President of the Chapter, who had already blazed a trail through Michigan State University's Kellogg Forest. I joined the Chief Noonday Chapter and learned the tricks of trailblazing from Dave. Skills I had employed while administering farm programs for the U.S. Department of Agriculture before my retirement were most useful. At USDA I worked with with aerial photos, plat books, and topographic maps, all useful tools when blazing trail. I also had experience measuring and identifying landmarks, and working with Page 22

CHARLES KRAMMIN at the NCTA lcio.:1/c getting rea'Jy to measure trail in the northern portion of the Barry State Game Area in Michigan. land owners and dealing with environmental regulations. Through previous experiences with the Boy Scouts, I also felt at ease with a compass and with being alone in the wild. The greatest attribute however, was the desire to return to others the things I got from the Appalachian Trail experience. All other qualifications for a trailblazer can be learned. In the following part of the article, I will outline the steps in developing a trail, hoping that others can learn from my experiences. The first step is to check with the National Park Service office in Madison to learn whether the NPS has conducted county-wide, or even cursory, planning for the North Country Trail in the area. If so, topographic maps with a proposed route may be available. Topographic maps identify hills, swamps, streams, roads, two tracks, sections, houses, townships, cities, rivers, power lines, railroad tracks and other features. First, you should note the points where the planner wants to start and end the segment of the trail. The plan proposes to use as much public land as possible to maximize continuity of ownership. As you proceed, note that the planner wants the trail to follow the most scenic route (hills and valleys) to give the hiker a

pleasing experience. Further, notice the planner wants you to cross large rivers at existing bridges and smaller rivers and streams at places where they are narrow and usually have a high bank. Wetlands are avoided if at all possible. The second step is to obtain a plat book of the county which can purchased at public agencies that maintain property records and at many agriculture-related organizations. Plat books show the land ownerships, roads and a great variety of features like cemeteries, townships, sections, rivers, city boundaries, city and county parks and railroad rights-of-ways. I use the plat book to contact landowners. Township offices can supply addresses of absentee owners. Next, I visit the county office of the Farm Service Agency identified in the phone book under United States Government. Some of these offices are consolidated and may be in a neighboring county. They maintain aerial photographs and reproductions of the aerial photos known as "photocopies". There is no charge to examine aerial photographs at a copy office. Photocopies range in cost from $1 to $8 or more. , The photos and photocopies are helpful in identifying: pinelands, hardwoods, water, fence rows,

North Star Vol. 20, No. 2 (2001)  
North Star Vol. 20, No. 2 (2001)