2017-01-12 / Front Page

Winter Trails Beckon With Activities

By Jacob A. Ball


At right: Hiking through the snow on Winter Trails Day. Volunteers from the Hiawatha Shoreto Shore Chapter of the North Country Trail Association maintain the trails year-around, keeping hills like this safe for hikers and painting markings along the way for guidance. At right: Hiking through the snow on Winter Trails Day. Volunteers from the Hiawatha Shoreto Shore Chapter of the North Country Trail Association maintain the trails year-around, keeping hills like this safe for hikers and painting markings along the way for guidance. In the parks and on the trails around St. Ignace Saturday, January 7, temperatures in the mid-teens could not keep people away. At noon, a cheerful group of hikers huddled around a campfire and prepared for the first Winter Trails Day activity of the day. Led by the volunteers who keep the local stretch of the North Country Trail (NCT) accessible year-around, this winter’s event drew outdoor-lovers from as far away as Ann Arbor and Flint. Everyone was eager to enjoy a perfect winter day traversing creeks and hills of the Hiawatha National Forest. Some were on snowshoes, others on cross-country skis. The North Country Trail stretches 2,600 miles from New York to South Dakota, and runs through 86 miles of the Hiawatha in the Eastern Upper Peninsula.


With a good local turnout for Winter Trails Day, on snowshoes or cross-country skis, the North Country Trail was enjoyed by many Saturday, January 7. With a good local turnout for Winter Trails Day, on snowshoes or cross-country skis, the North Country Trail was enjoyed by many Saturday, January 7. Kay and Stan Kujawa have helped coordinate the upkeep and improvements along the trail for almost 15 years as members of the Hiawatha Shore-to-Shore Chapter of the North Country Trail Association. They and many other local outdoor enthusiasts have volunteered for the annual spring cleaning day organized by the Forest Service and regularly clear the North Country Trail of brush and improve pathways over rivers and bogs.

Volunteers want people to celebrate winter and encourage people to get outdoors, she said with high spirits following the first hike of the day.

The Hiawatha ranger station five miles west of St. Ignace on US-2, offered snacks and hot drinks to hikers warming up inside. Participants stopped by throughout the day as they made preparations for a trek down the Gros Cap trail.


Local residents and visitors from across the state gather around a bonfire before setting off down the North Country Trail into Hiawatha National Forest Saturday, January 7. Local residents and visitors from across the state gather around a bonfire before setting off down the North Country Trail into Hiawatha National Forest Saturday, January 7. Patty Verwiebe, a forest service employee for 23 years, spoke of the enjoyment she gets from developing and maintaining and developing trails for the community.

Many people out enjoying the event had never experienced these trails before, and were happy to have an excuse to get out in the winter. Mark Elmblad of St. Ignace has participated with his family on outdoor adventures throughout the state, but was trying the North County Trail for the first time. He had heard of the winter event, but had never participated until this year, and he and others are a sign that Winter Trails Day is successful in exposing new people to the beauty of the area’s backyard in the wintertime.

The day continued as participants moved from event to throughout the many beautiful parks and forests in the area. It concluded with an evening bonfire on the beach at Straits State Park, the Mackinac Bridge illuminated before them and a trail winding through the park lit by lanterns in the snow.

Other events on the Hiawatha will include a hike Saturday, January

28, on a stretch of the North Country Trail that wraps along the Tahquamenon River. Those interested can meet at 10 a.m. on Tahqua Road, about three-quarters of a mile from M-123. An assortment of trail lengths will be available to suit varying levels of experience.

Return to top


Click here for digital edition
2017-01-12 digital edition