Trekking the NCT: Adventurers Abound.

May 23, 2022

Trekking the NCT: Adventurers Abound.

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, 74, was the first woman to completely hike the NCT, completing 20 years of segmented hikes in 2010.

I’m in month six of my attempt to thru-hike the North Country Trail. Various delays have put me behind my projected plan to finish in 12 calendar months, but that matters to no one except me. I will keep going until I finish, barring some true catastrophe. But I was hoping for under a year. 

Today, I’ll be sitting down with a knowledgeable trail person here in New York to work out my route through the Adirondack Park. The exact route of the trail here is not completely determined, and although it’s the middle of May, winter conditions in the Daks may cause some places to yet be inaccessible. Reaching this point has seemed far in the future- a distant goal. Now I’m “here,” and it’s happening. When I hiked this part of New York before, almost nothing was known of what the route of the NCT would be. I simply hiked whatever trails I wanted to connect Crown Point to the hamlet of Forestport. Now, there is some trail built and marked as NCT, and other sections are in various stages of planning. I’ll be one of the first hikers to cross the Adirondacks on some official North Country Trail.

Meanwhile, it’s been an exciting week in central New York. Here, the NCT is concurrent with a number of other trails, some of them multi-use. One of the best known is the Empire State Trail. It was officially completed in 2020, and is the longest multi-use trail in the U.S. at 750 miles. However, portions of it have been in existence for years. It forms a sideways T with the top bar extending from New York City to Lake Champlain, and the stalk threading the Mohawk River Valley from Albany to Buffalo. It this sounds like a line from a song you learned in grade school, you are right. Yes, this is also the location of the Erie Canal, and the NYS Thruway. It’s the only flat area in the entire state and is thus crucial for efficient travel.

On the Empire State Trail, I encountered a couple from Montreal who were riding their bicycles from Buffalo back to Montreal. Their pace was leisurely, about 30 miles per day, with stops reserved in advance to stay at night in nice locations.

At the other end of the planning spectrum, I also met a young woman whose gear was nestled in a baby stroller. She pushes it along with her. She began walking in Portland, Maine, and plans to finish in San Francisco. Each day, she walks anywhere from ten to twenty miles, knocks on someone’s door and asks if she can camp in their yard. She hopes to finish in October, but the plan is open-ended, like mine. She’ll need to walk about 3500 miles.

I also had an exchange with a deaf man who was riding a bicycle to California. We managed to communicate enough for me to learn his goal and wish him luck. Another group of bicyclists with panniers who obviously were out for multiple days passed me, but we did not chat.

The most exciting meeting for me would not have happened at all if the timing were only slightly different. I was approaching the junction where the North Country Trail leaves the main Finger Lakes Trail and heads north. A man named Dave was just coming from the east on the main FLT and was headed west. We chatted briefly. He’s from New York City, and he hiked north on the Long Path to the FLT in the Catskills. From there he will hike all the way to Allegany State Park at the western end of the FLT-  the opposite direction from how I had just hiked. There, he has a bicycle stashed, and he will ride home by way of Buffalo and Albany. By chance or not, he had dropped a cord for his phone which I found. I chased him down to return it, and we talked even more. He’s also a writer, a poet! This might be the beginning of a more lasting friendship.

I’ll soon head north from the Erie Canal into a different geology, geography and level of trail completion. This is wild! How are you going to be wild this week?

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This story is copyrighted © 2022, 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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