The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Thomas explores North Country Trail


Ian Minielly/Daily Globe

BETHANY THOMAS delivers a presentation Saturday at the Mercer public library regarding the North Country Trail. The NCT is the longest of the 11 national trails and goes from North Dakota to Vermont.


Mercer - Bethany Thomas, vice president of the Heritage Chapter of the North Country Trail Association presented "Exploring the North Country Trail of the Midwest" Saturday at the Mercer Library, sponsored by the library and the Iron County Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts.

Many people likely have no idea the North Country Trail is the longest of the 11 National Scenic Trails, clocking in at 4,600 miles stretching from North Dakota to Vermont, said Thomas. There are currently 3,009 miles of the trail finished and less than 20 people have actually navigated the entire route to date.

In an effort to get people out and using the trails, Thomas said the Heritage Chapter is sponsoring the NCT 100 again this year. To complete the NCT 100, a person walks 100 miles of the NCT this year and upon completion will receive a patch for their efforts. "People can walk the same stretch of trail and continue counting the miles," Thomas said, the miles count as long as they are on the trail, no matter how many times a person walks by the same stump or rut, it all counts the same.

The three most popular sections of trail are close to this area. The Superior Hiking Trail section in Minnesota is 315 miles long with a lot of waterfalls and overlooks, with weekend shuttle service, said Thomas. The Pictured Rock section near Munising encompasses 42 miles of trail, with drops to the beach and climbs to hill tops, which can give a hiker quite a workout with the changes in elevation and terrain. The third section is the Porcupine Mountains, which is the second favorite facet of the trail. All three sections of the trail are popular and see a lot of foot traffic.

Thomas said this year people from the national parks services and the trail from Vermont to Minnesota are coming to Marquette on July 27 for their meeting. National standards for trail cutting and maintenance require the trail to be about 3 feet wide with a 4x8 opening in the forest and a 7 percent grade. To keep the trails navigable requires yearly maintenance to cut the brush back and remove tree falls said, Thomas.

The Heritage Chapter works on weekends because most of the members are in Madison. From May to November the members come to the area for trail building and maintenance, even hiring local Northlands college students to work on the trails. They always need volunteers, not just for back breaking labor, they also need people experienced in grant writing, newsletter editing, and website administration.

If a person wanted to volunteer with the Heritage Chapter because they are passionate about trails, but their back will not let them hike and labor, they can work their mind and still make a difference.


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