Trail Town goes national

North Country Trail Association to hold celebration in Marquette

Taking a "softies" hike on the North Country National Scenic Trail are, from the front, local hikers Lorana Jinkerson, president of the North Country Trail Hikers; Irma Powers; Marge Forslin; and Norma Matteson. Marquette will be the site of the North Country Trail Association’s annual celebration in July. (Photo courtesy of Lorana Jinkerson)

MARQUETTE — The city of Marquette — a designated Trail Town of the North Country Trail Association — will be the site of this year’s NCTA annual celebration, a national event set for July 27-29 at Northern Michigan University.

More commonly known as the North Country Trail, the NCT at 4,600 miles is the longest of the national scenic trails, stretching through seven states from New York to North Dakota.

In the Upper Peninsula, the North Country Trail Hikers chapter is responsible for more than 100 miles of trail from Rock River Road in western Alger County, through Marquette County and to the Long Lake outlet in eastern Baraga County.

Many people might have hiked the NCT without even knowing it. The NCTH section ranges from the urban multi-use path in Marquette — which in part follows the Lake Superior shoreline — to the rugged and remote nationally designated wilderness area of the McCormick Tract.

NCT President Lorana Jinkerson acknowledged the celebration coincides with the busy weekend of July 29-30, which is when the popular Art on the Rocks and Outback Art Fair will take place. The Blueberry Festival also is scheduled for July 28.

Local hikers Jim and Norma Matteson take to the North Country National Scenic Trail. Marquette will be the site of the North Country Trail Association's annual celebration in July. (Photo courtesy of Lorana Jinkerson)

“That’s OK,” Jinkerson said. “That’ll be part of the fun too.”

The annual national celebration rotates among the trail’s seven states, she said, and typically the Upper Peninsula has been connected with Wisconsin to host it. Marquette last hosted the celebration 14 years ago.

The NCT, which is hosting the event with the five U.P. NCTA chapters — Ni-Miikanaake, Peter Wolfe, Superior Shoreline and Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore — is partnering with NMU’s School of Health and Human Performance.

NCTA members, hikers and volunteers from the seven states and more also are encouraged to be part of the weekend.

According to the event’s website, nctacelebration.org, there will be hikes both on and off the NCT, non-hiking activities, break-out sessions, an honors dinner for the National Park Service’s Volunteers-in-Parks program, the NCTA’s Annual Awards presentation and a live auction.

There also will be presentations about the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, the Appalachian Trail in story and song and an update on the Iron Belle Trail.

Hikes will vary in length and difficulty, although they all will take place in scenic areas.

For example, an all-day hike is scheduled for July 27 at the Elliott Donnelley Wilderness and Little Garlic Falls in Marquette Township while a morning hike is set for July 29 on the trails at Lakenenland Sculpture Park in Harvey.

Off-trail sites will be part of the non-hiking events, which include a July 27 Historic Marquette Bus Tour.

Break-out sessions on July 28 at the NMU University Center include a presentation on a climate-ready trail system and working with private landowners.

A few sessions already are popping up as favorites, Jinkerson said, with one of them being Jo Oostveen’s July 28 presentation, “Comedy on the North Country Trail.” Oostveen hiked the entire NCT in Michigan, finishing just last year.

“Downstate, she had to push and get a goat off the trail so she could pass,” Jinkerson said.

Students, from grade school to college, also can learn something from the celebration.

Jacquie Medina, an associate professor with the NMU School of Health and Human Performance, will present “Engaging Students in Art Projects” on July 28.

That session, Jinkerson said, will involve the participants taking part in fine arts activities in addition to their outdoor experiences.

Although the national event will focus on the NCT, the celebration will have a greater meaning.

“Trails in general are important to the community,” Jinkerson said. “All kinds of trails, of course — the hiking and the biking and the skiing and everything that we have.”

And the region has plenty of those types of trails, with the Noquemanon Trail Network, the Iron Ore Heritage Trail and the trail system on Marquette Board of Light and Power land.

There is some overlap too, as Jinkerson explained the NCT segment that runs from Spring Street in Marquette to the Kawbawgam Pocket Park in Harvey is the same as the IOHT. Also, from the Michigan Welcome Center in Harvey to Hawley Street in Marquette, the NCT coincides with the city of Marquette’s multi-use path.

The Hike 100 Challenge in 2016, which also is taking place this year, provided a boost of awareness for the NCT, she said. Participants logged at least 100 miles of NCT hiking in a calendar year, with 144 people with Marquette County addresses finishing the Hike 100 Challenge and 5,000 people nationally registering for it.

“That really brought a lot of awareness, and that may be fueling some of the interest in coming to our celebration because people are realizing, ‘Hey, we’re here,'” Jinkerson said.

The July national celebration likely will be well attended since 40 people already have registered, Jinkerson said.

Registration is available on the website, which includes information on fees, hikes, activities, break-out sessions, evening programs, meals, transportation and housing.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.