The North Country Trail is not yet 50 years old. It was first created – as a concept if not an on-the-ground path – in 1980.
But the legislation that paved the way for it is hitting the half century mark.
The National Trails System Act was created in 1968 with the goal of “instituting a national system of recreation, scenic and historic trails.”
Singled out as the first components of the system were the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail. The North Country Trail followed later.
Like the others, it’s a long-distance hiking trail. But, and this is noteworthy if not well known, it’s longer than either of them.
It runs east to west, stretching 2,880 miles. Beginning in New York, it goes through Pennsylvania to Cincinnati, then makes a sharp turn north. It goes to the northernmost shores of Lake Michigan before turning west again. Finally, it follows Lake Superior, makes one more north turn, then runs west into North Dakota.
Ninety-seven of those miles run through Pennsylvania. Ninety-three go through the woods; four follow roads.
The path follows some really beautiful country along the way.
A celebration — and challenge — pays tribute to it and the concept behind it.
In honor of the Trail System Act anniversary, the Pennsylvania Trail Council of the North Country Trail Association is sponsoring a “PA Hike 50 Challenge.” It tasks hikers with walking 50 miles of the North Country Trail in Pennsylvania this year.
Hikers must do at least 12.5 miles in each of four regions, each of which is “managed” by a different chapter of the state council.
Each chapter will be hosting group hikes throughout the year, so hikers can do the challenge that way. They can also do self-guided hikes.
However they choose to wander, hikers who complete the challenge will get a commemorative patch.
And along the way, hikers are encouraged to share their adventures via social media.
So will you be out there?
A hiking challenge has been thrown down. Who’s up for a walk?