Vermont's Leg Of A Cross-Country Hiking Trail Is A Step Closer To Reality
The North Country National Scenic Trail is part dream, part reality. The dream is a continuous footpath running from central North Dakota to Maine. The reality is that about 2,000 miles of the 4,700-mile trail is currently on roads.
“We’ve been working on the North Country Trail for close to four decades and it still has a long way to go,” said Andrea Ketchmark, executive director of North Country Trail Association, headquartered in Michigan.
In Washington D.C. this week, the House approved legislation that helps push the trail a little further toward completion.
The authorization extends it from its current eastern endpoint in Crown Point, New York, into Vermont.
Here it will connect with Vermont's Long Trail, where hikers can continue to the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia.
Ketchmark says the Senate also needs to pass legislation and then the president will have to sign it.
“After that happens, we are needing to coordinate with our partners on the ground," said Ketchmark. "We work with the Middlebury Area Land Trust, who we worked with years ago to do the feasibility study on this route and the Green Mountain Club to really sit down and devise some details for how we get the trail built."
Completion of the Vermont leg of the trail is still years away.
But Jamie Montague, executive director of the Middlebury Area Land Trust, says there are already sections of trail in Vermont that can be used to create the approximately 40-mile link to the Long Trail. They include the land trust’s 19-mile Trail Around Middlebury, and other, shorter trails in the area.
“A lot of organizations have been building their own mini-networks and then this overarching opportunity to connect them is what got us on board,” said Montague.
The land trust has been working with the North Country Trail Association to identify public and conserved lands for trail corridors, as well as places where permission from private landowners will be necessary.
When the time comes to build new trail, Montague says it will be done by volunteers.
Unlike other national scenic trails that generally skirt populated areas, Ketchmark says the North Country National Scenic Trail gives hikers a sense of both the natural world and life in the north country.
“We go through a lot of communities and that’s definitely what we’ve heard from our hikers, is that the people along the North Country Trail is really what makes it special,” she said.
The trail is considerably longer than the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail or the 2,190 mile Appalachian Trail.
For that reason, Ketchmark says only 12 people have completed the entire trail.
The bill that passed the House this week also authorizes adding more than 400 miles of trails in Minnesota to the North Country National Scenic Trail.