The North Country National Scenic Trail winds 4,600 miles through 7 of our northern-most states and ends (or begins, depending upon your perspective) practically at the doorstep of the Lake Champlain Visitors Center. This trail began as a brainstorm of the US Forest Service in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 1980 that Congress passed the necessary legislation and created the North Country National Scenic Trail. My understanding is that the Eastern Terminus is here for the simple reason that the former bridge had no pedestrian access, therefore it could go no further east. Now that our new Lake Champlain Bridge has sidewalks(!), I understand efforts are in place to extend this trail and connect it to The Long Trail in Vermont. That trail was established in the early 1900s and runs the entire length of the state.
The NCNST is administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with many other public agencies and private organizations, like hiking clubs and trail organizations. It is still being developed. Completed segments currently extend from approximately 1 mile to over 300 miles. Some segments are clearly marked and maintained by a local hiking club or volunteer NST supporters. Others are in the works or have yet to be completed. It will take years. Where there is no “pathway” as yet, the NCNST takes to the highway, or onto sidewalks through communities along the way connecting various completed segments. The trail provides users with an opportunity to connect with nature and enjoy some remarkable areas of our country at a much slower pace. After all, how much countryside are you able to appreciate whisking by at 55 miles per hour?
The sign noting the Eastern Terminus sits just off the highway on the Crown Point State Historic Site. I’m delighted it’s in such close proximity to the Lake Champlain Visitors Center because it has provided me with the opportunity to meet some really great people; people on a mission!
Last October, Luke Jordan (aka “Strider”) arrived at the Lake Champlain Visitors Center having completed the entire 4,600 mile North Country Trail! He began in March that year (2013) and is only the fourth person to complete the trail successfully. Note his big smile. He didn’t stop here for long, however, but went on to cross the Lake Champlain Bridge and connect with the Long Trail. I had to wonder, after 7 months of continuous walking, could one ever just stop?
This morning I had the great pleasure of meeting Gail Lowe, aka “Chosen." These serious hikers all pick aliases. It’s a requirement I think. Gail is doing the North Country National Scenic Trail as a tribute to her daughter, Rebecca Carrie Lyons, who was lost to cancer last year. She’s entitled her hike: “Becka’s Hike- 2014” and has 3,400 miles accomplished so far and the calf muscles to prove it. Her mission is to complete the last 1,200 miles by Christmas. If she’s successful, she will be the first woman to have completed the entire trail. I have every confidence that she will make it! This gal has attitude!
Mary MacDonald, from the Albany area, is what’s known as a “Trail Angel.” Trail Angels are those who make it their quest to assist thru-hikers, coming to, or passing through, their region. Mary picked Gail up at the airport and transported her to this Eastern Terminus ”starting spot” early this morning to begin her last NST segment. A fellow hiker herself, I’m sure she was passing it either on, or forward.
It was still quite chilly this morning when I got to meet them both; an overcast, blustery day. All of us wanted photos of Gail beginning the last of this legendary tribute. I had to grab my jacket, but noted Gail was in shorts and sandals! Did I mention this woman also has style? Though laden with what appeared to be about a 60 pound backpack, she managed to look stylish right down to her toenails. The blue polish perfectly matched the blue of the NST logo patch on her hat!
So come to the start (or end) of the North Country Scenic Trail, we have a lot more hiking for you to explore, things to do and great restaurants and lodging options to rest your feet after a day on the trail.