For years, I have daydreamed about hiking the Appalachian Trail. What a great feat that would be to hike all day and sustain yourself with only the items you carry on your own back! What beautiful terrain you would see! The idea of it was so intriguing. But could I really do something like that? Could I manage such long hikes?
Until last week, I had not hiked further than a 5-mile stretch at one time in years. And lately, my hikes are with small children in tow so they tend to be extremely short hikes. Even though I exercise regularly and am reasonably fit, I had serious doubts about my own endurance and abilities.
However… when my dad discovered that the North Country National Scenic Trail (also known as the North Country Trail or NCT) goes right by my hometown, my interest was piqued. Like the Appalachian Trail, the NCT is long and snakes through several states. It is over 4,000 miles and travels through seven states from New York to North Dakota.
When my dad began to make plans to hike large segments of the North Country Trail in one-day intervals, my interest grew more. And when he invited me to join him for a day, I jumped at the opportunity.
We went to work on planning our excursion. We intended to hike about 10 miles (it turned out to be 12 miles), and we invited my teenage son and my brother to join us.
Our hike began at Seidman Park in Ada, Michigan and ended at Townsend Park in Cannonsburg, Michigan. Along the way, we walked nature trails, smooth paved paths, narrow shoulders of a fairly busy road, dusty dirt roads, and even a boardwalk over a swamp.
Seidman Park was a great place to start. It was great fun wandering the woods in search of the blue blaze markers to guide our way. We jokingly called out “What the blue blazes!” every time we found a marker. It was a frequent refrain heard amongst our merry hiking crew.
Upon leaving Seidman Park, we traipsed along a few different roads to get to the Cannonsburg State Game Area. A lot of the time, there were nicely paved paths for us to follow alongside the road, and that was quite pleasant to walk along. However, some of the roads did not have sidewalks or pedestrian paths, and we were forced to march single file along the shoulders of these roads.
In the Cannonsburg State Game Area, we walked along a dusty dirt road that had very little traffic. It was well-shaded and quiet – a nice change from the busier roads we had previously been on.
As we left the game area, we returned to walking single file along road shoulders until we reached some nice paved trails that led us right into Townsend Park, our final destination.
Townsend Park was a great endpoint. Not only is the park beautiful, but it has a shallow creek that runs though it. Taking off my shoes to dip my toes into that cool water was blissfully wonderful!
We started at the south end of Seidman Park and followed the NCT through the park.
From there, we took Honey Creek to Knapp Street, and then, Knapp Street to Egypt Valley Avenue.
We took Egypt Valley to Four Mile Road, and Four Mile led us into the Cannonsburg State Game Area.
In the game area, we followed a little dirt road called Dursam up to Five Mile Road.
Five Mile Road led us back to Honey Creek, and we followed that up to Cannonsburg Road.
Once we got to Cannonsburg Road, we picked up a short paved trail leading right into Townsend Park.
The three things I enjoyed most about our 12-mile hike was the comradery, the beautiful flowers along the way, and the “wildlife.”
Sometimes we hiked as one big chatty group, but quite often, the four of us would pair off. We seemed to change hiking partners frequently throughout the day. As a result, I got a lot of quality one-on-one time with every member of our hiking group – my dad, my brother who lives over six hours away, and my teenage son. Awesome!
I loved all of the beautiful flowers and foliage along our hike. We saw day lilies, lots of wildflowers, a beautifully landscaped yard, and a plot of land covered in strange leafy stalks that reminded me of rhubarb. It was all so lovely!
Some wonderful unexpected discoveries was the unusual wildlife *ahem* we saw along the way – a giant metal rooster, a big foot or yeti, and a large moose sculpture! We also found some real critters along the way. Chipmunks scampered underfoot throughout the entire hike, and I saw some interesting small birds. The most exciting animal of the real variety that we saw along the way was a crane. This majestic bird was hanging around a creek that our route followed beside, and when he saw us approaching his space, he raised his big beautiful wings and flew away. Magnificent!
I’m tougher than I thought I was. Before this hike, I was worried about making it to the end. I doubted my strength and endurance. As it turns out, I felt great by the end of our 12 miles. I could easily have hiked further.
I need some better hiking gear. My daypack works great for our family’s short jaunts with small children in tow. But for longer hikes such as this one, a more sturdy backpack with better support would have been better. Also, I ended up with a couple of blisters. I probably could have used some better footwear.
I want to hike more! Completing a long hike is exhilarating! It feels like a real accomplishment, and unlike when I run for exercise, I actually enjoy the journey while hiking. Hopefully, my dad will invite me for another hike again soon.
I don’t really want to do a backpacking trip afterall. I may have daydreamed a lot about backpacking the Appalachian Trail over the years, but the truth is, I want to enjoy a nice shower and sleep in a decent bed after a long hike. Long hikes may be for me; backpacking for days at a time is not for me.
Want more information about the NCT? Here are a few helpful resources.
Visit the National Park Service website for the North Country National Scenic Trail.
Request or download a brochure from the National Park Service.
Visit the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) website.
Stop in to the NCTA office headquartered right here in West Michigan. Their address is 229 E. Main St in Lowell, Michigan.
Check out these two books that we found helpful:
- The North Country Trail by Ron Strickland
- 50 Hikes on Michigan and Wisconsin’s North Country Trail by Thomas Funk
Who wants to join us for our next big hike?
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