Clearing a path: It takes a village to keep North Country trail ready

Leaving civilization behind, hikers on the North Country Trail come for the beauty, the views, the solitude and the forests.

“It’s the longest, skinniest National Park in the nation being four feet wide and 4,600 miles long, and people from all across the nation come and they especially come to the western U.P. [Michigan] in general to see our trees,” said Connie Julien, president of the Peter Wolfe Chapter.

The stretch of trail includes the Trap Hills and some of the best views on the North Country Trail, Julien said.

This remote, foot travel-only trail does not maintain itself and requires hundreds of volunteers across the seven states it passes through to keep it open. In the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Peter Wolfe Chapter is responsible for around 120 miles.

Maintenance is necessary to clear the trail of fallen trees from heavy winter snow and trim back overgrowth to keep the trail clear. With the work divided among around 35 chapters, each is responsible for around 100 miles. The volunteers adopt a portion of that, typically covering one to three miles.

In spring volunteers go in with chainsaws, loppers and bow saws whenever they have time with the goal of clearing the trail by Memorial Day.

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