Friday, August 11, 2017

North Country Trail across the UP, end-to-end

Bold words, sealed in virtual ink.  My plan - my resolution - is to hike the entire Upper Peninsula of Michigan via the North Country National Scenic Trail.  Wisconsin or Bust.

So here goes.  It starts at the Mackinac Bridge toll gate.

View from the catwalk above the toll gate.  Wait, am I allowed up here?

Hikers are not required to walk across the bridge to get recognized for completing the trail, but it can be walked -- southbound only, once per year, on Labor Day.  I'll be back for that.  The official starting line for the annual bridge walk is the flagpole on the lawn at left in the photo above.

From there the trail crosses the welcome center rest area parking lot and plunges into the woods in Straits State Park.  The small park packs a big punch, featuring views of the bridge, a lakefront beach, and a nice network of trails in deep woods.

Next is a street walk through the south side of the town of St. Ignace.  You come out on the Lake Huron shoreline with Mackinac Island front and center.  Here's the island view with Hat number 41 (Florida Power and Light) trying to photo-bomb the shot.

Turning to look toward the north, the heart of St. Ignace is on display

with its little lighthouse at Chief Wawatam Park, and about a mile of scenic lakefront boardwalk.

From the north end of the boardwalk there are a few blocks of streets to walk.  You pass the Ojibwa Culture Museum

then Little Bear Arena and then you're out into the country heading northwest via the St. Ignace to Trout Lake Trail.

This is a rail trail, an ATV trail, a snowmobile trail, and a who-knows-what-other-kind-of-conveyance trail.  A thunderstorm had just rolled through, dropping a real deluge of rain, so on this day it was close to being a kayak trail too.  And wow, believe me, it was a mosquito trail.

This rain-shortened day ended at the Castle Rock Road trailhead where the North Country Trail leaves the rail trail and dives into Hiawatha National Forest, where it stays until it reaches the shores of Lake Superior.

The section of over 100 miles of trail is capably overseen by the 'Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore' Chapter of the North Country Trail Association.  As you'll see in succeeding reports, their section of trail is remote, varied, and well worth hiking.  Stay tuned.

Here is a screenshot of the GPS track from today's hike.

For context here's the Wikiloc interactive map of my overall 'Personal Continuous Footpath' trek, which can give you a more detailed look at any section by zooming in.

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(By the way, yes, the public is allowed on the catwalk above the toll facility, though they don't encourage its use, and all it leads to on the other side is a fenced-in area around a Bridge Authority Building.)

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