I bet you can walk 100 miles

March 10, 2024

I bet you can walk 100 miles

By Joan Young, contributing writer

While you are shaking your head in the negative, let me tell you why I think you can do this. Not only that, I’ll tell you why I think you should.

Colleen Ratliff is a Hike 100 finisher from Michigan with Candi.(Photo by Cheryl Greiner)

Eight years ago, in 2016, the North Country Trail Association began an experiment to try to attract more people to hike the trail. Trail members challenged anyone to walk (snowshoeing and skiing count) 100 miles of the North Country Trail in the calendar year. As a reward, the person received an embroidered patch. The program was hugely successful, and it has continued. Regular participants get excited to see what the next patch in the series will look like.

The rules are simple. Any 100 miles of the NCT count. They do not have to be unique miles. You can park at a trailhead, hike out two miles and back—suddenly you’ve got four miles completed. If your path to work takes you down a sidewalk that is part of the trail, let’s say for a mile, and you walk to work and home every day, you’d get two miles a day. You’d be done in two months! Or you can go on a long trek and do the hundred all in one shot.

The only restrictions are that you need to do the miles on foot, and spurs and side trails don’t count. Reporting is done on the honor system.

In the past couple of years, about 3,000 people have signed up to participate with over 2,000 completing the challenge, including young children, one only 3 -years-old.

By popular demand, a collar tag was added for any pet that completes the challenge. Dogs from dachshunds to German shepherds have hiked 100 miles. This year, there is a ferret that will probably complete it. C’mon, surely you can walk as far as a ferret!

The first eight years of patches awarded 2016-2023

Now for the inspirational stories. Of course, there are plenty of typical hikers who enjoy participating. But there are people with serious medical issues who have used this challenge to improve their health. Lori, who was in a wheelchair five years ago, is now up to walking five miles at a time. Ed from Ohio can only walk about two miles at a time, but he just keeps doing it, and it adds up! Families take it on and complete 100 miles with small children. Mark of Emmet County lost 50 pounds participating in the challenge over three years. He covered almost all of his home county and says, “Something about walking your home, end to end, connects a person to the land.” Felicia, a young woman from Minnesota, says that during the COVID pandemic, Hike 100 helped her survive a mental health crisis. David from Pennsylvania reported that after he had a heart attack in September 2023, the doctor said that Hike 100 probably saved his life, in that the attack was milder than it might have been. Shelly, with chronic leukemia says, “I quickly realized the time in nature really helped my mental health.”

You can improve your health, connect with nature and enjoy some inexpensive recreation all at the same time. What are you waiting for?

The North Country Trail is a National Scenic Trail which spans 4,800 miles in eight states from North Dakota to Vermont. Locally, there are 80 miles of trail through the Manistee National Forest within Newaygo, Lake, Mason, and Manistee counties. The trail crosses US 10, 2.3 miles east of Branch at the Timber Creek Forest Service Campground. Drive all the way to the back and you will see a kiosk at the trailhead. There are many other trailheads in the area as well. See an interactive map at northcountrytrail.org/The Trail/Trail Maps and Downloads.

If you aren’t sure about hiking on your own, the local chapter of the NCTA, Spirit of the Woods, hosts a hike every month. Most are out-and-back so you can choose your own distance. Find out more at northcountrytrail.org/spw and northcountrytrail.org/hike-100-challenge.


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