Everyone knows about the Appalachian Trail, the world famous trail extending from Georgia to Maine, but are you aware about another great trail, extending across the northern U.S.?
The North Country Trial is over 4,500 miles long and extends from New York state in the east to North Dakota in the west. It was formed officially in 1980 by an act of congress which designated it a National Scenic Trail administers the trail, officially knowns as the North Country National Scenic Trail.
One of the exciting parts about the trail is that it is a true partnership between the National Park Service, land-owners, North Country Trail staff and volunteers. It would not function with coordinated, cooperative efforts among all the parties.
Since so much of the upper midwest where the trail is located is well-populated and owned by private land-owners, the NPS and NCTA work together to secure the rights to use portions of the privately owned land for the trail. Many land-owners are agreeable, but some are not, so those parts of the trail need to be re-routed, or patient communication among the parties to try to access the land for the trails.
I also love that the trail is such a volunteer based organization. The trails are blazed, maintained and marked largely by volunteers who gather together in work groups to clear brush, make signs, build bridges and otherwise make the trail accessible.
The headquarters is located in Lowell, Michigan, where you can acquire guidebooks and excellent maps of various aspects of the trail.
There are some folks who have hiked the entire trail or have taken part in the 100 mile hiking challenge and are true trail experts. We are much more casual with our usage. Still, our family has hiked on the trail on several occasions over the years and each hike has brought amazing views, great conversation, wonderful encounters with nature, and the feeling of connectedness to nature that only a great hike can provide.
From walking over the extended roots of the thick forests north of St. Ignace, to encountering the thickest swarm of mosquitos I have ever seen at the trail head a bit south of Tahquamenon Falls, to the pleasant stroll outside of Petoskey, where the summer breeze blew the tall grass in a gentle rhythm as if it were dancing to a delicate waltz; we have enjoyed every minute.
The North Country Trail Association runs a wonderful website that I would encourage you to check out, including an interactive web map and lots of history and useful links.
I like to say, wherever you are in Michigan, you are probably only about two hours from some point on the North Country Trail, maybe this summer is the time to get out and enjoy it?
Looking for more great ideas for celebrating Michigan's natural wonders? Check out our Nature page.