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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Lily Gouin
Lily Gouin
Assistant Sports Editor

Hi! My name is Lily Gouin I am in my third year here at NMU. I am from Appleton, WI majoring in communications and double minoring in multimedia journalism and public relations. In my free time, I like...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

The North Country Trail Network allows students a safe place to escape

Photo+courtesy+of+Felicia+Hokenstad
Photo courtesy of Felicia Hokenstad

The U.P. is home to countless beautiful landscapes and trails, many of which reside in Marquette. While students have been left wondering what to do while many places are still closed due to COVID-19, the answer may be in the nature that surrounds them.

The North Country Trail Network (NCT) is a system of trails that runs from North Dakota to Vermont and is the longest national trail system in America, according to Felicia Hokenstad, Membership Chair of the NCT. The trail covers nearly 5,000 miles, over 800 of which are in Michigan. 

“The North Country Trail Association (NCTA) and the trail itself exist because of robust, impressive and dedicated volunteerism,” Hokenstad said. “Thousands of volunteers build, maintain, protect and promote the NCT every day, and the association strives to provide the best resources to the volunteers. Chapters and affiliate organizations are established across the eight trail states; constantly hosting work days, group hikes and more. There are countless opportunities to get involved.” 

The NCT has many opportunities for students to get involved, but the first step is getting a membership. Traversing the trails is free but a membership requires a donation of at least $20. Students can also email [email protected] once they have joined to learn more about volunteer opportunities, according to Hokenstad.

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“One other thing that could be of interest to students at Northern is the NCTA’s Next Generation Coalition,” Hokenstad said. “[It’s] a group of young leaders dedicated to sustaining and promoting the North Country National Scenic Trail.” 

The NCT is also hosting an event next month on September 26 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. known as “Celebrate Walking in Marquette.” They also hold a yearly challenge, the North Country Trail Association’s Hike 100 Challenge. Hikers are encouraged to traverse 100 miles of the NCT throughout the year that can range from 100 different miles or the same trail each day, according to Hokenstad.

While the NCT has many volunteer opportunities, there are many beautiful sections for personal enjoyment. Lynnae Branham, a former NMU student who graduated with an environmental studies and sustainability major and a double minor in outdoor recreation as well as art and design, volunteered for the NCT often during her time at NMU. She was also the founder of the Conservation Crew, a club on campus that focuses a lot on trail maintenance and local projects. Branham shared her favorite trails near Marquette.

“Little Garlic has a trailhead called the Elliot Donohue trailhead, there’s a 4-5 mile trail to Little Garlic Falls that’s very beautiful,” Branham said.

She also recommended a section of the NCT at Wetmore Landing on County Road 550 near Sugarloaf. As a former NMU student, Branham also shared some advice for current students in her program.

“Find something you’re passionate about and get involved. I was really passionate about advocacy and education and getting other students involved which is why I started the conservation crew. Don’t get discouraged,” Branham said. “We live in a day and age in the U.S where the environment is not a primary goal and climate change is getting worse. There are all these scary things and you question what is the point? The point is us, the people who care. Get involved, stay active, and don’t lose your passion.”

Lorana A. Jinkerson, NCT hikers president, wanted to remind students and community members of the purpose of the blazes on NCT trails. 

“The blue 2” x 6” painted or plastic blazes on trees or posts with white blazes on spur trails, i.e., up Hogback, the backside of Sugarloaf and Little Garlic Falls … say ‘this is the NCT’ so no biking,” Jinkerson said in an email. 

While COVID-19 has forced the NCT to cancel group activities, the trail remains open for people to traverse. Branham, Jinkerson and Hokenstad each recommended students to drive separately to the trails and to wear masks when with people you don’t live with.

“We’ve had to make some adjustments to ensure safety and social distancing while completing trail maintenance,” Hokenstad said. “We haven’t been able to host a chapter group hike since there was snow on the ground. The official stance on trail usage from the NCTA is that it’s critical that we have a venue for physical health and mental wellness at times. Hiking in general is safe and although we may be discouraging large group gatherings. We are not discouraging use of the trail as long as you keep it local and practice physical distancing. We also recommend avoiding popular and crowded locations.”

More information about the NCT can be found at https://northcountrytrail.org/trail/michigan/nct/

Membership information can be found at: https://northcountrytrail.org/giving-membership/donate-join/

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