Trekking the NCT: Trains, Planes and Feet

January 19, 2022

Joan near Dayton, Ohio

Trekking the NCT: Trains, Planes and Feet

By Joan Young, MCP Contributing Writer.

On Dec. 1, 2021 Amber Township resident Joan Young began her journey to hike the entire North Country Trail continuously. She began her year-long trek at the Manistee National Forest’s Timber Creek Campground on US 10 in Lake County. The first half of the hike will take her to Middlebury, Vermont. She will then drive to Sakakawea State Park in central North Dakota to begin the hike back to Michigan. Young, 73, was the first woman to completely hike the NCT, completing 20 years of segmented hikes in 2010.

I’ve now walked over 600 miles of the North Country Trail. That’s about an eighth of the length of the trail. After a month and a half, perhaps this hike is beginning to feel real. 

Commemorating the Wright brothers

After crossing Loramie Summit, the high point of western Ohio at only 953 feet, the Miami-Erie Canal which I wrote about last time, begins to descend to the Ohio River. This portion of the canal is not as well interpreted or preserved as the northern portion, but there is still plenty of transportation history to enjoy along the trail.

About the time I started the long downhill trek toward Cincinnati, the trail began to follow Loramie Creek which leads to the Great Miami River where the trail follows the Great Miami River Recreational Trail. Once keelboats plied these waters. Prior to steamboats, the long watercraft were poled upstream with difficulty. One can easily understand the popularity of canals which made uphill travel so relatively easy.

But the railroads soon supplanted water transportation. Trains could run in the winter when water routes froze over and ice split wooden hulls. These last few days, I’ve been following the Little Miami Railroad, now the Little Miami Scenic Trail. Wonderful historic buildings appear beside the “tracks”—a gunpowder works, lovely restored or recreated station buildings, a woolen mill, and various buildings of unknown use. Preserved bridges now carry hikers over the waterways.

Planes? The North Country Trail wanders through downtown Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright Brothers. The National Museum of the United States Air Force is directly across the street from the trail, and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is nearby. Various places in the Wright Brothers’ home town commemorate Orville and Wilbur’s achievements in pioneering motorized flight. 

Dayton is the largest city through which the trail passes. Of course it’s not a wooded or prairie section, but it’s a pleasant walk through parks and along the Mad River. The North Country Trail experience is diverse, and different from other National Scenic Trails. 

I am about to “turn the corner” at Milford, Ohio, and head more to the east. I’ll be joined for a few weeks by long-distance-hiker Denali as we traverse southern Ohio. 

So far, I’ve encountered cold temperatures and one day of ice (thankfully, it was not a hiking day), but my hope of finding milder winter through this portion of the hike is working out well. I’ll also be leaving paved trails for more natural surfaces and some road walks. The roads will generally be back ways that are not unpleasant. 

My feet and legs are holding up well, and I’ve continued to average over 15 miles a day. Muddy, frozen ground may force me to cut back a little, but I’m taking one day at a time and doing what I can.

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This story is copyrighted © 2021, all rights reserved by Joan Young, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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