Exploring the North Country Trail: In Our Backyard

“You got us hooked on nature. It’s your fault [we’re taking too long].”- Olivia

Our fifth annual Parks in Focus trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore kicked off Wednesday afternoon; however, the participants have been busy flexing their photography muscles closer to home. Last weekend, our 14 participants from TrueNorth Community Services and the Mecosta-Osceola Big Brothers Big Sisters met up at Nichols Lake National Forest Campground to explore a small segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT).

The NCT consists of more than 4,500 miles of trail and spans seven states from New York to North Dakota. Michigan contains more than one-fourth of the trail. The NCT travels the length of both peninsulas: it runs within 20 miles of both of our partner organizations and as well as right through Pictured Rock—so we do have the option of hiking home if our vehicles break down!

Andrea Ketchmark, the Director of Trail Development at the North Country Trail Association (NCTA), met us at the campground to introduce us to the trail as well as how to navigate it (look for blue blazes!) and told us what to expect when we’re hiking on the NCT in and around Pictured Rocks later this week. We also learned about the army of volunteers it takes to keep the trail accessible for recreationists. In September, Parks in Focus will become a part of that army when we volunteer with the West Michigan Chapter of the NCTA for some trail work!

In just two short outings, our novice shutterbugs have already become quite skilled at finding interesting subjects to photograph and taking great photos of those subjects. Within the first half-mile of the NCT traversed on Saturday, the kids spotted a number of cool critters including a spring peeper and a gray treefrog—a pretty impressive find considering both frogs were well camouflaged and less than an inch in length! They certainly have their ‘naturalist eyes’ turned on! We’re anxious to see what they will be able to do with a little more instruction as well as the inspiration from spending a week in the Upper Peninsula and on the NCT.

Check out a few of their highlights from Saturday’s pre-trip outing below!  Photos from our Pictured Rocks trip will be featured starting on Saturday.

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