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Hittin’ the (North Country) Trail!

Above: Chris stands next to a NCT blue blaze in the Porcupine Mountains. EcoCorps crew members hiked in and out two to six miles each day to reach their work site.

The North Country Trail (NCT) stretches through eight states from North Dakota to New York, and Michigan is lucky to have 1150 miles of it! EcoCorps worked on multiple sections of the national scenic trail this year, in both the lower and upper peninsulas.

Huron-Manistee National Forests

We partnered with the Spirit of the Woods Chapter of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA) in the Huron-Manistee National Forests. Projects included renovating bridges, installing erosion control features, clearing storm debris, and improving tread. Near Dickson Township, foot bridges were repaired to increase safety for hikers, as well as to encourage visitors to stay on the trail and not disrupt surrounding ecosystems.

EcoCorps Crew Member Brynne O’Donnell, a recent graduate of Manistee High School, shared that her favorite project this year was installing three new corduroy bridges in a swampy section of the NCT.

“It’s been cool to learn new skills, like trail building, and working with the crew. It’s hard work, but a lot of fun!” – Brynne O’Donnell, EcoCorps Crew Member

Above: Brynn and Bay install a corduroy bridge in a swampy section of the North Country Trail in the Huron-Manistee National Forest.

Porcupine Mountains and Ottawa National Forest

In Ontonagon County in the Upper Peninsula, EcoCorps crew members constructed nearly one mile of new NCT corridor as part of a reroute project in the Porcupine Mountains. The reroute is planned to connect to a newly constructed bridge creating a new route south of the Little Iron River in the Porcupine Mountains and Ottawa National Forest.

To reach the work site, they had to hike in and out with all of their tools between two and six miles each day.

A main part of the project was benching, which is a form of trail building that removes dirt from the hillside to create a walking path. This work was completed in collaboration with the Ni-Miikanaake Chapter of the NCTA and the Ottawa National Forest.

“It was great seeing a part of the old growth forest that is not frequently visited, and I was extremely enthused to take part in constructing a new section of a national scenic trail!” – Joe Jaczkowski, EcoCorps Crew Leader

Above: EcoCorps crew members and leaders bench a new section of the NCT in the Porcupine Mountains. The goal of benching is to create a pathway that is three feet wide and also very slightly angled downhill to encourage water to run off the trail.

L’Anse, Baraga County

EcoCorps crew members collaborated with the Peter Wolfe Chapter (PWC) of the NCTA to create a reroute of the trail near L’Anse in Baraga County. The crew members learned new skills from the PWC chapter members, including how to use a stump puller, while the EcoCorps crew offered their experience of tread work, or making a smoother path for hikers to tread upon, and bench cutting. The newly created route gets NCT hikers off the road and into the wilderness.

“The NCT provides a perfect opportunity for youth to experience various tasks, from standard maintenance to tread work to building structures. We really appreciate the work SEEDS gets done every time they’re out on the Trail, and we look forward to working with them in the future.” – Kenny Wawsczyk, NCTA Regional Trail Coordinator for Michigan

Above: My-Nhi and Joe cut trail in L’Anse, Michigan.

These projects were made possible with support from the National Park Foundation, the Minger Family Endowment of the Manistee County Community Foundation, the Iron Belle Trail Fund via the NCTA, and the National Forest Foundation.

Above: EcoCorps members relax after a long day of working on the trail in the upper peninsula, where they stayed for over a week to work on projects.

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