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North Country Trail Trek

Woman hiking western part of famous trail

Anne Nelson visits Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore during her trek across the western section of the North Country Scenic Trail. Nelson made a stop in Marquette earlier this week to visit with fellow trail enthusiasts. (Photo courtesy of Anne Nelson)

MARQUETTE — Anne Nelson was peppered with many questions when meeting local North Country National Scenic Trail hikers at a potluck supper Tuesday night.

“How did you survive?” one attendee asked Nelson, who is traversing a big chunk of the trail.

Her quick answer: “I’m wearing a full suit of bug netting, which was working great until the humidity jumped up to 90%.”

Nelson is hiking the western half of the North Country National Scenic Trail, but made a stop in Marquette this week. Her activities included the potluck at the home of Lorana Jinkerson, president of the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter of the North Country Trail Association.

The North Country National Scenic Trail, which runs from the northeastern United States to the north central part of the country and is about 4,600 miles long and counting, traverses the Upper Peninsula, with trails designated by blue blazes. Upon recent passage of the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act, the trail’s route is Vermont to North Dakota.

Nelson graduated from the University of Missouri at Columbia with degrees in journalism and Spanish. She was a reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune and an editor and instructor for ThreeSixty Journalism, and most recently spent more than six years working for Neighbors Inc. providing direct support to families experiencing basic needs crises.

During the past decade, Nelson has been spending more and more time in the woods. In 2017, she completed her first long-distance hike, “Arrowhead Amble,” during which she hiked more than 500 miles on three trail systems in the Arrowhead region of Minnesota: the Border Route Trail, the Superior Hiking Trail and Isle Royale National Park, which is near Minnesota but is considered part of Michigan.

The North Country National Scenic Trail, however, has provided her with new tales.

On her blog at https://wildstory.site/halfway-thru-blog/, she mentions her experience at Tahquamenon Falls State Park:

“I’d booked the closest campsite to the trail and was blown away to find it a gorgeous site right on the swollen, smooth waters of the river. I pitched my tent in sunset mode, rain fly rolled part way up, and fell asleep to the river turning pink as it reflected the sinking sun.”

About the M-123 trailhead, Nelson wrote:

“I reached in to grab the trail register and felt a feather-light tickling run across my fingers, a wolf spider is living in the box (I think it’s a wolf spider). I didn’t kill it or try to move it. Sorry everyone! I left a big warning visible on the register from the outside ‘THERE IS A SPIDER (WOLF?) IN HERE!'”

Nelson said at the potluck that her goal is to travel about 2,400 miles on the North Country Trail, the shorter term some people use for the trail. She hopes to complete her journey by mid-October.

Taking a long journey might be the dream for many people, but time and money would be major hindrances.

“You have to develop a single-minded focus for years to do something like this,” Nelson said.

She saved as much money as she could, sold many of her possessions and gave notice at her job.

Although Nelson is only 37, there’s no guarantee she would be able to make such a trip were she to put it off for too long.

But she loves the outdoors, even if it turns up a few surprises.

That includes her current hike.

“The most unusual experience I actually had was close to Marquette, so far, in the Rock River Canyon Wilderness,” Nelson said. “There are very few noises in the nighttime in the north woods that are strange to me anymore, but there was almost like a booming, a rhythmic booming noise, that started right at night, or right at dusk, and I could not place it.”

Her best guess is that it was a ruffed grouse making a stutter beat.

Aside from the strange nocturnal sounds, Nelson feels safe walking on the NCT.

“Because we spend most of our time in big communities where we have really immediate access to medical care and things like that, the woods, for some of us, has almost become a little bit of a boogeyman,” Nelson said.

However, she pointed out that statistics have indicated few people are killed by bears.

But what about potentially dangerous people?

“You know where there are more people? In town,” Nelson said.

For her, being in the woods is an “acceptable danger.”

Nelson has been camping in a tent along the way to her destination at Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota.

Many people would find more comfort in sleeping in a nice, warm, mosquito-free bed at night, but for now, Nelson finds her inspiration outside.

“I would just encourage people to get out into the woods and get hiking because the more time I spend in the woods, the more I know how good it is for your soul,” Nelson said. “I hope other people enjoy it too.”

The North Country Trail Hikers Chapter was the first chartered chapter of the NCTA, with Marquette — an official NCTA Trail Town — its base. For information on the local North Country Trail Hikers Chapter, visit www.northcountrytrail.org/nct or www.facebook.com/NCTHikers.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.

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