North Star: The Magazine of the North Country Trail
April - June 2001
BiLL Menke had been a patient, help/ uL teacher to. members learning the intricacies of trail construction and maintenance. Here be iJ tea.cbing a clasÂŤ near Traoerse City in 1999.
Farewell, but Not Goodbye from Bill By Bill Menke Manager, North Country National Scenic Trail
Almost nine years have passed since the day I received an eagerlyawaited telephone call from Tom Gilbert, Superintendent of the Madison trails office of the National Park Service. He informed me I had been selected as the first NPS employee assigned exclusively to the North Country National Scenic Trail. Only a week-and-a-half later, Tom and I found ourselves traveling together to the North Country Trail Association's annual meeting at The Shack, in White Cloud, Ml. Thus began the first of many enjoyable trips together on behalf of the trail. After reaching The Shack, I was naturally somewhat hesitant about my new role and I wondered how the folks, who had been around for a long time, would receive me. That was certainly and unfounded concern. My first meeting with the group provided a glimpse into a world of warm and dedicated people who were always there to share their thoughts and dreams as I settled into the job of Manager of the North Country Trail. As the months and years passed, I found myself in the enviable position Page 6
of having my job become my hobby. During periods of annual leave, I often found myself hiking long segments of the trail (now up to almost 1,400 miles) or traveling to northern Wisconsin to join fellow volunteers in building new trail to connect the Chequamegon National Forest with the Brule River State Forest. My occupation had led to new free-time activities. I think you will agree that this is indeed an ideal situation. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to visit many parts of the trail and see its many scenic and historic aspects. Throughout its length, the North Country Trail abounds with these wonderful places. But to me there is something that is even more wonderful about the trail than its many beautiful places. It is the many dedicated volunteers, from all walks of life, that I have met along the way. Strangers have become friends and I am delighted to know so many people who willingly give of their time and talents to make this long, skinny park a reality. Some have guided me to their favorite places and shared them with me. Others have assisted with GPS'ing or reviewing a particular portion of the trail, by providing shuttle service. Still others have welcomed me into their homes and provided a place to sleep or shared a meal.
Some have served as planning team members and attended various meetings to help forge stronger partnerships. Some have wrestled side by side with us to tackle thorny issues. I am, and will forever remain, amazed at the amounts of time and talents that so many people share for the benefit of the trail. It doesn't matter whether you are swinging a mattock or stuffing an envelope-all efforts are important. It is the people that make the trail and the North Country Trail is richly blessed by the devotion of so many. Well, as the old saying goes, "there is a time and place for everything." And the time has come for me to move on to another phase in life. By the time you read this, I will be retired from the NPS and the search will be underway to find a new trail manager. While this has been the best job that I've ever had and I enjoyed it right to the last day, I found myself looking forward to more free time for doing some of the things I enjoy most. I wanted to have more time to go out and get dirty "digging and grubbing" the trail into reality. I am planning to become a volunteer on a small crew, working several weeks per year, to complete the trail in the Brule-St Croix area. I want to have more time to hike long stretches of the trail. And, I want more time to spend with family and friends.