North Country Trail 2017 – Still Hiking

  • Michigan NCT Day 1: East of Grand Marais to Grand Marais (5/26/2017) - And so our section-hike of the North Country Trail (NCT) begins, here in Grand Marais! This is Grand Marais, Michigan. It's a little confusing, because there's another Grand Marais in Minnesota that's also part of the North Country Trail (and the Superior Hiking Trail). Even more confusing, I know. But many National Scenic Trails piggyback on existing trails, as is the case with the Superior Hiking Trail also being part of the NCT. But I digress!
  • Michigan NCT Day 2: Grand Marais to Coves Campsites (5/27/2017) - Today's hike was heading west of Grand Marais to Coves Campsites in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This is a little odd, since we're ultimately trying to get to St. Ignace, which lies to the east. But we wanted to explore a little of Pictured Rocks, and have enough time to hike a day here and still make it to St. Ignace before a conference I'm attending. So that's why we're doing this.
  • Michigan NCT Day 3: Muskellonge Lake State Park to Just East of Grand Marais (5/28/2017) - Today's hike: Muskellonge Lake back to the east side of Grand Marais. Not to talk too much about our shuttle strategy, but I'd wanted to hike eastbound every day because, well, we are heading eastbound! And I like to do things in proper sequence. That is, starting every day at the point in the trail where I left off the previous day.
  • Michigan NCT Day 4: Culhane Lake Campground to Muskellonge Lake State Park (5/29/2017) - Today's hike began at Culhane Lake Campground near the Two-Hearted River area, where Ernest Hemingway loved to fish. But oy, the things that can snag your plans! I'd given Ed directions for the trailhead, then began working on my laptop and not paying attention to the road. Long story short, Ed missed a key turn and we lost about an hour.
  • Michigan NCT Day 5: Tahquamenon Lower Falls to Culhane Lake (5/30/2017) - I was excited to start the day at Tahquamenon Lower Falls. Because, well, waterfalls are always cool! But oh, brother! Our errors and mishaps continue. So today we had roughly 20 miles (32.2 km) to hike from Tahquamenon State Park's lower falls to Culhane Lake, where we started yesterday.
  • Michigan NCT Day 6: Naomikong Overlook to Tahquamenon Lower Falls (5/31/2017) - Today we were starting off from Naomikong Overlook, a spot on Lake Superior's Tahquamenon Bay. Unfortunately, rain was forecast for the morning. Not what we wanted to learn after yesterday's misadventures. But you can't expect sunny days every day. Sure enough, as soon as we began hiking west from Naomikong Overlook, it started raining.
  • Michigan NCT Day 7: Pine River Campground to Naomikong Overlook (6/1/2017) - Today, heading out from Pine River Campground, started out great. The morning was cool and sunny. Ed and I headed north along the trail, and we were an hour or two in when we met Bill Courtois, a trail angel who was freshening up blazes. We chatted for a while, then pushed on. After meeting Bill, the trail got lumpy and bumpy – sort of like a farm field. This really bothered the bottoms of our feet.
  • Michigan NCT Day 8: Pine River Campground to Burma Road (6/2/2017) - Unfortunately, Ed was still in bad shape today, when our itinerary called for hiking to Burma Road. So I headed out alone with him crewing me. I heard and saw a pair of sandhill cranes calling to one another across a lake. It was incredible. I saw a large beaver dam. I crossed a lot of boardwalks drowning in vegetation, which made me nervous because it's tick season.
  • Michigan NCT Day 9: Burma Road to St. Ignace (6/3/2017) - Today I was hiking out from Burma Road. Ed's foot was a tiny bit better, but still nowhere near hike-worthy. So I headed southwest on Burma Road, walking the first stretch. I was clad head-to-toe in my bug suit. Last night I kept waking up and feeling like I had a tick on me, so I wasn't taking chances anymore.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 1: Iron County Forest (Hwy. 122 to 169) (11/11/2017) - I'd planned to hike about 25 miles (40.2 km) of the North Country Trail today from the U.P.-Wisconsin border near Ironwood, Michigan, to the Copper Falls area just outside Iron County. My friend, Doug, was going to join me. Yesterday, we hiked about 14 miles (22.5 km) of the Ice Age Trail (Harrison Hills) for an article I was writing for Backpacker Magazine.
  • Superior Hiking Trail: Another Adventure Begins (6/2/2018) - Today I'm starting a thru-hike of the 315-mile Superior Hiking Trail, which runs from just south of Duluth, Minn., up along the North Shore of Lake Superior nearly to Canada. I've long heard this is a beautiful, rugged trail and was thrilled when the Minneapolis Star Tribune asked me to hike it and then write a series of articles about my experience.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 1: Southern Terminus to Jay Cooke State Park/Grand Portage (6/2/2018) - Wow, what a crazy first day on the trail (heading north from the southern terminus). The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) starts in the south in the middle of the woods on the border with Wisconsin. Since the parking area is 2 miles away, you have to hike in to the terminus, then hike back out and continue on. Ed (Stubs) and I were set to start hiking around 9 or 9:30 – a bit late, as we were driving up from Eau Claire this morning. The forecast was for highs around 45 and rain starting around noon. Not the greatest. Well, it began POURING shortly before we were to start.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 2: Jay Cooke State Park/Grand Portage to Kingsbury Creek (6/3/2018) - Today's start was Jay Cooke State Park, and I thought we were going to have a warm day, if gray, and no rain. Instead, it rained until shortly before we started. This meant the trails stayed super water-logged and muddy. Not only that, but on this, Day 2, the big climbs and descents started. So we slipped and slid all day long.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 3: Kingsbury Creek to Hartley Nature Center (6/4/2018) - Today's itinerary called for hiking from Kingsbury Creek to Hartley Nature Center. And, yessss! The sun finally came out on Day 3 of this adventure. Not only did we have sun, but the temps were perfect – low 70s F. (21 C.) for the high – and there was a breeze. The breeze cooled us off, plus plugged away at drying all of the mud.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 4: Hartley Nature Center to Normanna Road (6/5/2018) - Today was an up-and-down day, as we made our way out from Hartley Nature Center toward Normanna Road. The up-and-down part didn't come from the terrain, but how we felt about the trail. From the nature center, the path began along some city streets, then dipped into the woods. This was pleasant, and there was one very nice overlook.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 5: Normanna Road to Big Bend Camp (6/6/2018) - Today we were starting out from the mosquito-y parking spot on Normanna Road. It was going to be our first of four nights camping. But it was raining in the morning – not in the forecast – so we decided to wait it out before starting. Why start out and get immediately soaked?
  • Minnesota NCT Day 6: Big Bend Camp to Reeves Falls Camp (6/7/2018) - I finally fell asleep in our Big Bend Camp at about 5 a.m., only to be awakened around 7:15 by Ed packing up camp, specifically his squeaky sleeping pad. It was annoying, but of course we did need to get moving. It took us until 9:30 a.m. to break up camp, eat breakfast and get going. Clearly, we are novices at camping!
  • Minnesota NCT Day 7: Reeves Falls Camp to East Gooseberry Falls Camp (6/8/2018) - As Ed and I broke camp in Reeves Falls this morning, Bob and Brian made us French press coffee – yum! Then it was time to hit the trail. The first few hours of hiking took us through a lot of wet grass, water and mud. Ugh. But then we began climbing, and got our first few views of Lake Superior! I know it's the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume. I know how massive all of the Great Lakes are. But it is still so impressive to see her from the trail – she is so enormous!
  • Minnesota NCT Day 8: East Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock River (6/9/2018) - Today's hike from Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock was supposed to be a sunny one. Instead, shortly after we woke up it started to rain. Well, shoot! My phone said the rain would last until 9 or 10 a.m. Our clothes and gear were already full of mud, and this was making things much worse. We didn't want to start the day off getting soaked, so we bided our time.
  • Minnesota NCT DAY 9: SPLIT ROCK RIVER STATE PARK TO PENN BLVD. (6/10/2018) - An awesome sauce day! Ed dropped me off at the spur trail leading back to the SHT where I had gotten off last night. He then parked the car and planned to meet me up the trail a bit. It only took him an hour or two, which was pretty amazing.
  • Minnesota NCT DAY 10: PENN BLVD. TO LAKE COUNTY ROAD 6 (6/11/2018) - Today we had a hike of about 19 miles ahead of us. That's a lot! The day began wonderfully. We hiked up to Bear and Bean Lakes, a very popular destination with locals and those that know the North Shore. The views were spectacular!
  • Minnesota NCT Day 11: Lake County Road 6 to G. Crosby Manitou State Park (6/12/2018) - Ed left for home today after dropping me off at the trailhead. The forecast was a 30% chance of rain in the morning. It did drizzle on and off, but nothing that got me too wet, so that was nice.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 12: Crosby Manitou to Fredenberg Creek Camp (6/13/2018) - Last night got pretty cold. I had my hammock again and put on everything I had, but it wasn't quite enough. I must check the underquilt I got when I get back home. I'm not sure if I didn't get a warm enough one (it's rated to 40 degrees, but it wasn't quite that cold out) or if you're also supposed to have a down blanket as well. Luckily Brian had a down jacket he didn't need; I used it to cover my legs, and then I was fine.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 13: Fredenberg Creek Camp to Oberg Mountain (6/14/2018) - I thought last night would be a warm one in my hammock. When I first tucked in around 8 p.m., it was stuffy. But after a few hours it cooled down, then got cold. I put on my puffy coat and slid on my rain pants over my long underwear. I had my rain poncho as a blanket, but it didn't cover my entire body. My legs got so cold I couldn't sleep.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 14: Oberg Mountain to Caribou Road (6/15/2018) - Wow. What a difference. I started today with such a great mindset, knowing I'd be hiking fewer miles and not be out on the trail until 7 or 8. It was also fun to know that Blueberry and Green Tortuga were taking a zero day today, and that they were staying at the same place -- the AmericInn in Tofte. In fact, last night I discovered we were right next door to one another!
  • Minnesota NCT Day 15: Caribou Road to Hwy. 45 (6/16/2018) - I saw Blueberry at the AmericInn breakfast buffet, and that was a little sad because I knew it was probably the last time I'd see him. I told him rain was coming, and to get out there and set up camp in time. I'm such the mom! But he is young enough to be my son.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 16: Cascade River to Grand Marais/Pincushion (6/17/2018) - Today is my mom's 85th birthday and Father's Day. It's a hard time to be away from home, especially when the cell service is sketchy. But the trail continues to unspool before me.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 17: Grand Marais/Pincushion to Kadunce/Hwy. 61 (6/18/2018) - This was a pretty incredible day. Harriet couldn't shuttle me until the evening, so I parked at the Pincushion/Grand Marais trailhead and headed out. The trail is part of a system of ski trails, so it was pretty easy hiking up to Pincushion, a little over one mile away.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 18: Kadunce/Hwy. 61 to Camp 20 Road (6/19/2018) - This was a wistful day. It started out with the famous "lake walk." Most of this trail leads you past Lake Superior from the ridge line, so from up on high. You only walk along the lakeshore twice -- in Duluth a few days into a northbound thru-hike, and then again here, at the end.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 19: Camp 20 Road to Jackson Creek Campsite (6/20/2018) - Two days from the end. The plan today was for Harriet to lead me to the Otter Lake trailhead -- I knew I could find it myself, but she insisted on meeting me and leading me there -- to drop my car. This is the trailhead where you can take the spur trail to the terminus at the 270 Degree Overlook. After dropping my car, she was going to take me to Camp 20 Road and drop me off for my last two days, which would involve a final night camping.
  • Minnesota NCT Day 20: Jackson Creek Campsite to Northern Terminus (270-Degree Overlook) (6/21/2018) - I had a lovely breakfast at my campsite this morning, then packed up for the final day. I had less than 10 miles to cover, and the guidebook promised a nice ending. It said I'd initially climb to the top of Rosebush Ridge, the high point on the trail, then descend down to a nice, flat meadow that would take me to the Otter Road Trailhead.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 2: Hwy. 169 to Mellen (8/23/2018) - What a glorious day on the trail! Trail angel Bethany met Stubs and me in downtown Mellen, then shuttled us to Vogues Road, where I'd left off last November. It was sunny and cool and we enjoyed walking about three miles along Hwy. 169, which was devoid of traffic and lined with trees.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 3: Mellen to Marengo Shelter (8/24/2018) - There's nothing like hiking in the rain! When I'd planned this little trip, the forecast called for nice weather. As our departure day drew close, it changed to rain for today. I laid out my rain gear, but forgot my coat.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 4: Marengo Shelter to Lake Owen Area (8/25/2018) - Today was beautiful! We got up and partially packed, then backtracked a little to check out the Swedish settlement. We saw the ruins of a barn, an intact springhouse and the spot where the root cellar had been. Interpretive plaques told about the family that lived there. It was interesting. What a hard life it must have been to settle this rocky land.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 5: Lake Owen Area to Drummond (8/26/2018) - We heard lots of coyotes howling last night, and once a wolf. It was pretty cool. We set our alarm to wake us at 6 a.m. because we need to be back home in time to host a book club meeting tonight.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 6: Drummond to Lake Ruth (8/7/2019) - In 2018, we left off our NCT section-hike in Wisconsin near Drummond. So that's where we started this year. We chose to hike in August because I had a book talk last night in Boulder Junction, which is relatively nearby. 
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 7: Lake Ruth to Highland Area (8/8/2019) - Camping at the Lake Ruth trailhead last night was O.K. No one bothered us, but we did hear traffic until maybe midnight, and then again starting around 5:30 a.m. I'm always surprised how much traffic is everywhere, even in remote locales such as this.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 8: Highland Area to Solon Springs (8/9/2019) - So last night we stayed at a lovely site nestled in a pine forest, about two miles shy of the Highland campsite and trailhead we'd been aiming for. Despite the pretty setting, I didn't sleep well again.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 9: Solon Springs to Connecting Roads (8/10/2019) - I'm glad we stayed at Swanson's last night because of the showers. But OH MY GOSH, the noise! First, trains went past all night, blaring their horns. Charlie, the owner, said about 20 trains go through every 24 hours, carrying everything and anything from Asia, mainly China.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 10: Connecting Roads (8/11/2019) - It was great to finish on a connecting road route yesterday and know that I could squeeze in some easy miles today. Maybe that’s why I slept so well last night! So, we needed to get back home today by mid-afternoon at the latest. Since this spot of the NCT is about 4.5 hours from our home, and we wanted to stop in Eau Claire on the way back to see Tim, our son, we needed to be on the road by 10 a.m. That meant getting on the connecting road around 7:30 a.m.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 11: Saxon (1/26/2020) - This weekend, Ed and I were snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at ABR in Ironwood – which is very near Saxon and the eastern end of Wisconsin's portion of the North Country Trail (NCT). I quickly decided to tack on a short hike. You see, back in November 2017, my friend Doug and I had planned to hike on the NCT from the Wisconsin-Michigan border all the way to Copper Falls.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 12: Coronavirus and the Trail (5/22/2020) - It’s Memorial Day weekend of 2020, when the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the earth. Our state’s stay-at-home order is expiring, so what better time to knock off a few more miles along the North Country Trail? My NCT section-hike goal for 2020 was to finish the NCT in Wisconsin, plus pick off some miles in either Minnesota or Michigan.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 13: Pattison State Park and MacQuarrie Wetlands (5/23/2020) - Today's agenda called for hiking through both Pattison State Park and MacQuarrie Wetlands. Luckily, Ed and I both slept well. We were surprised how late the sun set last night (it was light until 9:15 at least). But it also seemed to be really light early in the morning. We ate breakfast and decided to leave our tent set up.
  • Wisconsin NCT Day 14: MacQuarrie Wetlands to the MN-WI Border (5/24/2020) - Today's goal was an exciting one: start in the middle of the MacQuarrie Wetlands and reach the Wisconsin-Minnesota border! Two years ago, I'd stood at the spot as the start of my hike along the Superior Hiking Trail, on which the NCT piggybacks. Now, I'd be standing on the other side as I finished the Wisconsin portion of the NCT.
  • Michigan NCT Day 10: Mosquito River to Beaver Creek (7/10/2020) - Today I resumed my section-hike of the NCT, starting at the U.P.’s Mosquito River trailhead and heading to Beaver Creek. Ed and I drove up today, arriving in the area around 3:30, later than we’d hoped. We’ve got two cars and will be employing the two-car shuttle system, where we keep moving west, but hiking east. 
  • Michigan NCT Day 11: Valley Spur to Mosquito River (7/11/2020) - Today's destination: Mosquito River. This shuttle system is always a bit disconcerting, since we're leapfrogging our cars west, but hiking east every day. So yesterday's starting point is today's destination. That's just how it works! So Ed and I got up early and struck out for the trailhead, and our car, around 7:15.
  • Michigan NCT Day 12: Rock River Falls to Valley Spur (7/12/2020) - Today's destination was Valley Spur. Since yesterday was a tough day, we all slept in this morning until 6:30. What a luxury! But once we awoke, we quickly packed up and got into our own cars so we could each drop one car at the Rock River Falls trailhead.
  • Michigan NCT Day 13: Jeske Flooding to Rock River Falls (7/13/2020) - Today we thought we had an easy 16.1 miles (25.9 km) to our cars at the Rock River Falls parking area. Or should I say, we thought we had an easy day because we were only hiking 16.1 miles (km). So we decided to sleep in a little at our motel, the lovely Holiday Inn Express.
  • Michigan NCT Day 14: Marquette City Tourist Park to Jeske Flooding (7/14/2020) - Today's agenda called for hiking from downtown Marquette to Jeske Flooding, mostly on roads. The forecast called for rain starting in the afternoon and continuing all night. We were supposed to camp in Marquette City Tourist Park, but decided the idea of setting up camp in the rain, and then being stuck in our tents all night, wasn't pleasant.
  • Michigan NCT Day 15: Little Garlic Falls to Marquette City Tourist Park (7/15/2020) - Our day's itinerary called for hiking from Little Garlic Falls back to Marquette City Tourist Park. In the morning, the Eckerts said they'd decided to do their own thing today. Bruce needed new trekking poles, for one, as one of his broke the other day, And Amy needed to take more photos for a writing assignment. So Ed and I headed out alone.
  • Michigan NCT Day 16: Silver Lake Basin to Little Garlic Falls (7/16/2020) - Today was the start of three days of camping, beginning at Little Garlic Falls. But we had an hour’s drive to drop our cars, so we left the Holiday Inn at 7:30 a.m. We got to the car drop spot near Silver Lake Basin around 8:30, then took off hiking at 9 a.m. The first 12 miles (19.3 km) or so were all on gravel/dirt roads.
  • Michigan NCT Day 17: McCormick Wilderness to Silver Lake Basin (7/17/2020) - Today’s itinerary called for a 17-miler (27.4 km) from the western gate of McCormick Wilderness to our cars at Silver Lake Basin. We first had the .8-mile (1.3 km) hike down from our lovely campsite to the car. Easy! Next we had a 90-minute shuttle to McCormick Wilderness. En route, we picked up more water and some sandwiches and treats for lunch on the trail. It was another sunny, lovely day.
  • Michigan NCT Day 18: Canyon Falls to Craig Lake (7/18/2020) - Today’s itinerary called for hiking from Craig Lake to the McCormick Wilderness’ western edge, where we’d camp for the night. But oh, the day went so tragically wrong! The bad vibe started with last night’s late entry into camp, which was disheartening, to say the least. Then, as we got up early this morning, it began to thunder and lightning.
  • Michigan NCT Day 19: Canyon Falls to Big Lake (7/19/2020) - If my hike was on schedule, today Amy and I would be hiking eastbound from Big Lake State Forest to the middle of a connecting road route. And Ed and Bruce would be driving home. Bruce did drive home, but Amy decided to strike out on her own for the day while Ed and I waited to hear about my car.
  • Michigan NCT Day 20: M-64 to FR 326 (7/24/2020) - Today's goal was an easy one: Hike from M-64 to FR 326. According to my original Western U.P. itinerary, I would have hiked from M-64 east to FR 400 today, after Amy dropped me off and went back home. After that, I'd be hiking westbound solo. But as you may know if you've read all of my entries, I totaled my car in the flooding near Canyon Falls and had to return home earlier this week. 
  • Michigan NCT Day 21: M-64 to Little Carp River (7/25/2020) - Today’s destination was the Little Carp River #6 campsite in the Porkies. It’s roughly 18.6  miles (29.9 km) from M-64, with 13 of those miles (20.9 km) in a wilderness area. I figured they’d be rough and I’d need more time. Plus, the weather forecast called for thunderstorms starting around 5 or 6 p.m. Time was of the essence.
  • Michigan NCT Day 22: Little Carp River to Black River Harbor (7/26/2020) - Today’s goal was a lofty one: some 23 miles (37 km) from my Little Carp River campsite to Black River Harbor. But I felt pretty good about it. The trail through the Porkies should continue to be great, and there was some kind of road walk (snowmobile trail?) for a few miles near the end.
  • Michigan NCT Day 23: Black River Harbor to Lake Road (7/27/2020) - Today's itinerary called for hiking about six miles (10 km) south from Black River Harbor on trails, then segueing onto connecting roads and ending somewhere on Lake Road. Tom, my colleague, collected me from the Presque Isle campground about 8:30 a.m. and we were off. But we didn't head straight to Black River Harbor.
  • Michigan NCT Day 24: Lake Road to the Wisconsin-Michigan Border (7/28/2020) - Today's goal was hiking to the Wisconsin-Michigan border, and then the last few miles of NCT-Wisconsin down to Hwy. 2. I was out late yesterday, so I let myself sleep in. Around 9 a.m., the owner of an Ironwood, Mich., AirBnB that Ed and I had stayed at in January met me at Hwy. 2 to shuttle me back to the spot where I'd left off yesterday. I had about 22 miles (35.4 km) of road walking today.

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