Trekking the North Country Trail
Hello fellow lovers of the land, air, and sea! This summer my gal pal and I will set out to hike Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, one of the most gorgeous sections of the NCT. What’s the NCT?? Well, it stands for the North Country Trail—one of the longest thru-hiking trails in North America, yet hardly ANYONE has traversed the entire thing. Why, you may ask? Predominantly because of its length. Coming in at a whopping 4,600 miles of trail spanning seven states (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota), thru-hiking this bad boy would be quite the commitment. Plus, with much of the trail spanning the Midwest, chances are at least half of that journey would have to be accomplished during the winter. And if you’ve ever experienced a Midwest winter, you’d know that would be no easy task.
Another reason the trail might not be as popular as its rival beauty queens (looking at you PCT, AT, and CDT) is because of how young it is. It was officially established in 1980, and a lot of the trail is still being developed. Finding resources to trek the NCT doesn’t come as easy as some of these other, more popular trails, as there are fewer guides and personal testimony to help. Though not impossible to do, planning for the NCT takes a little more grit, patience, and determination.
That’s the situation my friend and I found ourselves in as we sat together at a Starbucks in Northville, Michigan. We scoured the official NCT website to find so much scattered information, it was overwhelming. So what did we do? We got ourselves a peppermint frap (’tis the season, am I right?) and got down to business. We started taking notes and organizing them in ways that made sense for us; ie.; sections titled questions to ask, trail notes, resupply areas, and last but certainly not least, our most important section, contacts. While divulging all of this non-comprehensive information, we stumbled across five chapters that take care of and manage the section of the NCT that we’re hiking. Each chapter was adorned with a president who had an email address and phone number. Bingo. We were in the money zone.
We blasted out an email to each chapter’s president, asking them one simple question: Can you help us? And boy, did they deliver. Each person carefully crafted a response to us, detailing many important pieces of information from specifics on each subsection that chapter was in charge of, to hiker-friendly towns for resupply. They even hooked us up with phone numbers of people who would help us with rides, supplies, and housing along the way. I believe that’s what us hiker trash would call trail angels. After a few weeks of taking the info we were given, finding out more on our own, and knowing what questions might not ever get answered before our trip, we’ve come to a solid start. Yep, that’s right. Start.
So what is the life lesson here? We realized that the planning stage of the thru-hiking process isn’t glamorous. It takes vigor and research and coffee. SO much coffee. The backpacking community is so wonderful, but so toxic all at the same time because of the natural affinity to compare yourself to others. Often we’re looking at other, more popular thru-hikers and saying to ourselves, man, they make it all look so easy. But when reality hits you at a Starbucks in Northville, you realize that it’s not as easy as it looks, and that’s OK. It’s going to take a long time to compile our resources. Like, a really long time. But we’re good with that. We realized that the hard work is kind of, dare I say, fun. And we’re getting there! The Excel spreadsheet has officially been started.
If you’d like to keep up with our journey, give us a follow @manniehikesup. 🙂
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