MARQUETTE - If one were to sit in on a North Country Trail Hikers board meeting, they may want to brush up on their weed-wacker lingo. While it may not be the most exciting topic for some, when the NCTH gets on the topic of DR trimmers, loppers and chainsaws, it's hard to stop them.
They love what they do, and who can blame them? Hiking is their forte, so building and maintaining trails allows them to spend time outdoors.
Authorized by Congress in 1980, the NCT at 4,600 miles is the longest of the national scenic trails. It stretches through seven states from New York to North Dakota and is served by more than 35 local volunteer chapters/affiliates, including the North Country Trail Hikers, according to the Hikers' informational brochure.
This sign found north of Wetmore Pond along Marquette County Road 550 is one of the new North Country Trail county road crossing signs, which are a project that the NCT Hikers board has been busy with since the spring. The new signs are to warn drivers that hikers using the trail may be crossing. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
The NCTH have been diligently working on some new projects in the county.
While driving on County Road 550 north of Wetmore Pond and also north of the Little Presque Isle Point drive, you may have noticed some new signage. Signs that say North Country Trail are going to be popping up in many new places in the county to warn drivers of hikers crossing the road. Kawbagam Road at Kawbawgam Pocket Park and Mangum Road just west of the corner at Sand River Road are also places that the signs will be posted.
The signs will be in both directions, approximately 300-500 feet from the actual trail crossing.
The new county road crossing signs are a project that the board has been busy with since the spring.
"The signs are to alert drivers of hikers crossing," said Lorana Jinkerson, president of the North Country Trail Hikers chapter in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
"We applied for an NCT Association Field Grant to help pay for them," said Jinkerson.
The NCTH received $1,000 toward their sign project.
The second sign project the NCTH are currently working on is 30 destination signs set at trailheads to tell hikers what direction and how far destinations are.
The signs are made of polycarve, a plastic material. Members have completed verifying mileages, planning where the signs should be placed, and getting permission from landowners to allow installation. A few places already have the new signs, including Little Garlic Falls.
Along with the new signs, the NCTH also have a new intern.
"We have an NMU student working with us this academic year, Carolyn Harwood." said Jinkerson. "We're looking forward to having her helping us out."
Harwood is a senior at Northern Michigan University, and an outdoor recreation leadership management major. She is interested in all the "behind the scenes" work that groups like the NCTH do.
"Students can learn a lot from groups like this-like getting easements and what happens at the board meetings," said Harwood. "The biggest thing I learned already is how to make something like this (NCTH) happen.
Harwood hopes to pursue adventure education or natural interpretation after graduation. She said natural interpretation is "not teaching people about the factual, but the intellectual and emotional (in nature), helping people to form a connection to a place and form its meaning to them."
An Edward Abbey quote included in the latest NCTH newsletter, called Footnotes, sums up the attitude of the Hikers.
"That's the best thing about walking, the journey itself. It doesn't matter much whether you get where you're going or not. You'll get there anyway. Every good hike brings you eventually back home."
Danielle Pemble can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 256.