It's difficult to write a travel blog when you can't travel anywhere. Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic we have stayed pretty close to home this year. A friend of ours from Chicago mentioned that they had been doing "micro-exploring". Basically the concept is to explore your own area like you are a visitor. Find those things that a traveler would find interesting - hiking a city park trail, visiting a quirky museum you drive past on the way to work each day, or discovering the hidden gems that might be just steps from your front door. While the idea is not new, the term "micro-exploring" was new to us. So we decided to incorporate the concept into our land locked 2020.
The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) is the longest trail in the United States. It starts in Vermont and heads east through upper New York state, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and terminates in North Dakota. 4,600 miles in all, marked with sky blue blazes to show the way. The longest section of the NCT runs through Michigan, starting south of Detroit, crossing the Mackinac Bridge, and eventually exiting at the western tip of the Upper Peninsula near Lake Superior. It also runs about 2 miles from our house. So this Spring and Summer we decided to day hike sections of the trail.
Because of the length of the NCT it has many types of surfaces. About half the route is traditional dirt footpaths. A portion is shared, paved, multi-use trails and some runs along roadsides. We wanted to hike portions that were dirt, which mostly meant out in the woods. We would pick a portion of the trail that was within a 10 to 45 minute drive from our house and head out for a day hike. Our usual hike would be two to six miles. When we started in the early Spring there was still snow on the ground in the section that runs through Seidman Park near Ada. Once the weather warmed up we hiked a section that started at Croton Dam and followed the Muskegon River. We also did two hikes from the same trailhead near Howard Christensen Nature Center, going east in the Spring and west in the Summer.
Now that we are into fall I'm sure we'll get out in the crisp autumn air to get a few more miles in. We found out that if you hike 100 miles on the trail the North Country Trail Association will give you a commemorative patch and certificate of completion. That gives us a new goal to work for as we experience some of the most beautiful and peaceful ares of the country.