When I started off 2019, one of the things that wanted most for the new year was to spend less time trying to hit arbitrary self-made personal “goals” and more time going on adventures and creating happy memories.
To help hold myself accountable, I decided to take on the 52 Hike Challenge and to photograph, journal, and blog my hikes along the way.
Because a few of the places on my “2019 Bucket List” also happened to be along the North Country Trail, I also decided to track my mileage along the trail this year. I never actually planned to reach 100 NCT miles–I was expecting to do around 50–but the opportunity presented itself and there was no way I was going to say no.
What I expected out of this experience was simply more time intentionally set aside to do what I love: hike with my dogs and friends and family, spend time outside, and create art. What I actually got was a year of adventure.
Before I get into finishing the Hike 100 Challenge, let’s do a little recap of where I’ve hiked up until winter.
Spring – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Summer – Random Day Hiking in the Northern Lower Peninsula
Fall -Tahquamenon Falls, Wilderness State Park, Jordan River Valley, and Hocking Hills State Park
In September I spent a weekend camping at Tahquamenon Falls with Luke and Patronus, where I managed to rack up a few more NCT miles in while exploring some of the trails in the park. (You can read more about that adventure here.)
Later in the fall, I took a spur of the moment camping trip to Wilderness State Park with my friend to do a fall color tour. Our first two hikes were along the stretch of the North Country Trail that ran through the park.
After that, we decided to day hike a section of the NCT side of the Jordan Valley Pathway. The colors were beautiful!
For our anniversary, Luke and I decided to take the dogs to the Hocking Hills to so some hiking, explore caves and waterfalls, and stay in a cozy cabin. (You can read more about that adventure here.)
In November, my friend Megan and I decided to go back to the Jordan River Valley to do another, longer NCT hike.
It ended up being what many would refer to as a “failed hike”, but I had so much fun regardless. You can read all about that adventure here.
Since our state had just experienced a big snow storm, we had originally planned it as a snowshoeing trip, but the snow on the trails was still shallow enough that we could just hike it instead.
My next (and 52nd!) hike of 2019 was another wintery day hike with Megan.
It was cold, gray, and full of shallow, slippery snow, but we had fun and spent the entire morning singing 90s songs off-key and as loudly as possible.
Although we didn’t hit our mileage goal, it was definitely a trip to remember.
Winter – Final NCT Hikes of 2019
Okay, now that you’re up to speed, let’s get to the part about where I become a North Country Trail 100 miler!
In early December we headed back to our friends’ cottage for a weekend visit, and so I could do some hiking. Although I was already finished with my 52 hike challenge, I only had about twelve miles left to complete the mileage needed to get my Hike 100 patch, so I decided to go for it.
The forest was covered in a blanket of fresh, fluffy, glittery snow.
Unfortunately, the snow was pretty deep. I regretted not having snowshoes pretty early on into the hike, while Patronus started to get annoyed at the snow balling up in his paws, so we decided to turn around and hike back to the car.
I was pretty disappointed about being only 9.17 miles away from earning my patch, so Luke suggested we go back and try to finish one more time.
On this trip, I decided to hike a section of trail that was mostly road walking so I wouldn’t have to worry about snowshoes.
I awoke just after sunrise on a cold Saturday morning in late December. Luke fixed me a breakfast of dark roast coffee and vegetarian sausages, and I sat up in bed enjoying it before crawling out to get started on my day.
I pulled on my fleece lined water resistant hiking pants, my favorite winter baselayer shirt, and my packable down vest, got Patronus ready, and headed out for our hike.
Patronus and I did an out-and-back section of the trail together.
Although he loves the cold, I didn’t think he would want to hike the full 9.17 miles that I would need in order to earn my patch, so after a couple of miles I decided to take him back to the cottage so he could rest up and have some time to play with the other dogs.
Not wanting me to feel stressed or defeated, Luke decided to hike the final miles of the trail with me, so we headed back out together this time.
Together we walked the snow-packed section of road along the North Country Trail beneath the bright afternoon sun, taking in the scent of pine trees and campfires from the nearby homes, and discussing writing, food, and video games.
Before I knew it, we were back at our car, and I was officially an NCT Hike 100 finisher!
Naturally, I asked him to take my picture by the North Country Trail sign!
Although I had so many great adventures along the North Country Trail this year, it felt extra special to be able to finish up the end of my 100 miles with Patronus and Luke.
After taking a few moments to load up the car, Luke and I headed back to the cottage to get showered up, put on comfy sweat pants, and spend the evening eating and hanging out with our friends.
At this point, not only can I call myself an NCT 100 Miler, I can also say that I’ve officially hiked along the North Country Trail in every single season!
All in all, I definitely think that 2019 threw a lot of curve balls my way. Despite broken bones and a plethora of other logistical setbacks, this year has been one hell of an adventure. I’ve visited seven state parks in Michigan and one in Ohio, traveled to five states, took three backpacking trips (including my first solo trip with Patronus) and five camping trips, finished my fourth year of rowing, adopted Naga, and hiked 100 miles of the North Country Trail.
So, what’s next on my agenda?
Rest. Definitely rest.