North Country Trail – Wisconsin Section FKT Report

I am writing a short report up here to say what I did briefly for the purpose of the FKT site.

I personally created this FKT for several reasons, but mainly to bring attention to the trail (nationally and locally). I did receive information that people have since wandered out to the trail they did not know was there!

Supported effort FKT of the North Country Trail, Wisconsin Section.

I started at the Minnesota/Wisconsin boarder on August 27th, 2020 at 9:10am. It was over a mile walk out to the start, using the end of the Superior Hiking Trail, which was marked clearly by a large sign over the trail indicating the state line. Day 0 was mostly road with a few sections of trails wet with heavy dew. It was a beautiful sunny 80 degree day. Early on, there was construction on the railroad crossing, so I had to make my way through it. After that, I encountered trail with muskrat mounds. Then back to road for the majority of the way making it through Pattison State Park. I also ended up meeting a thru-hiker on the road who decided to take a different road route than my course, he was super nice. I saw a coyote! I ended the day at the end of the road section 54 miles in at 15 hours. We went to the Gordon Dam Campsite and camped overnight.

Day 1, starting around the Gordon Dam Park and headed into the Douglas County State wildlife area, at 9:07am, continued for 33 miles for a total time of 13 hours experiencing foot issues today and nerve pain. Passed through Solon Springs (one town with supplies). The start of the day it was raining hard which delayed the start, trying to wait out the worst of it. Forecasts said a stopping time of noon, so went out in faith that it would slow. I was out with Pacer Kim and saw some great trails and lakes. Very wet. Then the rain came back and didn’t ever really stop that day. Kept trying to stop and fix feet. Stopping point was at the Gaylord Nelson Portal. Camped at my crew captain’s (Megan) private land 40 minutes away.

It should be noted that the NCT parallels the ATV trail early on and doesn’t use the ATV trail fully (it’s used as a connector). The route is marked but tricky to find if you aren’t paying attention. I went about 0.2 miles too far up the ATV trail having missed the marker and had to retrace to return to the trail.

Day 2, returning to the trail head on 27, it was mostly cloudy turning overcast for some of the day…it was hard to tell in the dense forest. Decided ahead of time to break up each run of the day. Started at 9:06am after fixing feet for a while. Left foot was macerated. Right foot was caving from the wet. This was the Brule State Forest, and it was amazing. Good little climbs and great views. Many downed trees, mostly Birch. Met one guy hiking with his dog. Ran the start with pacer Nicole, a bright personality. Made it to Rainbow lake before dark. I decided to start a new running activity during this section because it was long before I could get aid again. This section was difficult, although not hilly. After dark, my feet were a huge issue. I met up with pacer Jenny. She probably saw me at one of my lowest times. During the night we heard wolves, and a bunch of other unknown things in the dark, some very close by. I decided to end my bigger day early due to safety concerns, at Old 63 N/235, off of US highway 63 in the Drummond Woods State Natural Area outside of Drummond (the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest). We had no camping arrangements since I was supposed to overnight it. We rested in the van until daybreak, although I got about 2-ish hours of real sleep. Ended the day just short of 39 miles.

Day 3, continued on the trail from the trailhead we stopped at with the van outside of Drummond. It was a nice day, highs maybe low 70s. Pacer Kim and I set out at 6:21am at a slow hike avoiding some downed trees and tall grass. Feet were at an all time low. We heard hound dogs in the distance, probably bear hunting. We came to a very large and pretty lake with some beaver evidence nearby after crossing N Lake Owen Drive. Switched off with crew captain and pacer Megan shortly after to hit up the Porcupine Lake section, which was amazing! A must-come-back-to section. About every 3-4 miles, my nerves would be shot in my feet and I would have to stop and prop them up. This cost me a lot of time. Rain was in the forecast for the next day. I went with pacer and husband Rich for the Great Wisconsin birding and nature trail, which included a swedish settlement and a few scenic overlooks (of which I saw the first and last ones…the first one was the best viewing of the trail). I did not consider the scenic overlooks as part of the FKT trail but something I wanted to see myself. At dusk, had to make a short out and back on a fire road to resupply with the crew (totaling probably about 1km) before dark. I continued to make it to the Beaver Lake campgrounds (also a short out and back off the main trail) as our camping for the night. The nights were difficult with the unknown wildlife up there. I ended the day with only 31 miles short of 16 hours for the day. I got in early enough to get a good sleep that night for the first time. I started to realize I needed more sleep to recover for better paces later.

Day 4, packed up camp and headed back out on the access trail to reconnect to the trail at 10:02am after deliberation of the rain and thunderstorms in the morning. Faced with more wet conditions, I headed out with Megan. Rain poured down and flooded the trails. The rain stopped right before noon, and switched clothes and redid feet. Met a guy driving by who volunteered to take care of the trail section we were just on. SUPER nice guy and his section was indeed well maintained, and was part of the Hardwoods natural area. Sun shone for the rest of the day with blustery winds at times. I split this run into two pieces for my mental state. First section was shy of 15 miles. Second was shy of 16 miles. Today was the official end of the Chequamegon National Forest section (the stopping point for the first set of data) which spit us out onto Kornstead Road. The last half would take me through Mellen and into Copper falls State Park. I reached it by dark so I did not see much there. The last half of this section was hard to navigate at night and I ended at the highway 169 highway trailhead. I used the new trail that was built there per the site. We camped again at Beaver Lake for a final time.

It should be noted that the trail parallels the road leading into Copper Falls state park and that the road is not the official route. This is for future FKT’ers. As stated, I took the official route and did not use the road. It’s a little tricky to find on the other side of Mellen.

Day 5, started at 9:11am at the trailhead heading back onto road for a bit and then onto fireroad. Upon entering the trails again, there is a specific section that is marked as official NCT trail, a small out and back to Wren Falls. I made sure to include this out and back as part of the FKT…plus it’s well worth it and has a very nice camp site there. The app and the trail state this is part of the whole thing. This section of the eastern chapter is very well maintained and lovely. Lots of climbing and more rocks. This spit us out on Casey Sag Road after seeing a gold mine and other notable things. Crossing here is where things got messed up. We took some unfinished trail to be the official trail and got lost essentially. We managed with the Avenza app to make our way back to Casey Sag Road (the last place we knew we’d been on official trail). The trail we took was all blazed, but was not official. Perhaps in future FKT attempts this will be the official route, but for this FKT it was not and did not officially connect back up. There was no indication of a map anywhere. Back on Casey Sag road, we (Megan was the pacer) came back to where we had started and retraced our steps to where we took the wrong turn. This cost me upwards of almost 5 miles total and a lot of elevation gain. Made it to Upson Lake and got aid. Trail connected to 122 – Hoyt Road where it would be road until the end. This took me through Saxon, a very small town with a post office and not much else. The final stretch went to a bridge crossing the Montreal River which separates Wisconsin and Michigan. I did not stop until I was past the bridge officially. There is a Welcome to Wisconsin sign nearby on the Wisconsin side, but no Michigan sign. I ended the day 9 hours and 24 minutes just shy of 33 miles (which includes the “lost” miles) for the day at 6:34pm.

Total time was 5 days 9 hours and 24 minutes. This was truly and adventure and certainly worthwhile to be on the FKT site. I thought it was before (since I valued submitting it in the first place), but even more so now. I look forward to doing more of this in the future. My garmin gave me a total of about 221 miles total of the 211 listed. I realized I picked up some GPS drift while stationary at aid stops, the short out and backs from scenic overlooks and aid/camping, and my lost miles, but not sure I picked up that much? That is about 10 additional miles. I followed the official course via the avenza app which was invaluable and would have been very lost without it.

It should be noted that I took the official detour from https://northcountrytrail.org/the-trail/trail-alerts/ :

  • MacQuarrie Wetlands Segment to Pattison State Park:The Nemadji River Bridge on County Highway W is closed due to washout.  Detour north on W, east on County Highway C, and south on Dedham Road to regain the road walk toward Pattison State Park. — I did take this route as explained here.
  • Douglas County Wildlife Area: Spring Creek Bridge, located between the Douglas County Wildlife Area (Bird Sanctuary) and the St. Croix River: The ramps leading to the bridge are displaced, but it appears that the bridge can be carefully crossed. At this time, it is not known when repairs will be made. Not far south of the bridge, there is also a short section of puncheon that is displaced, but this area can be easily crossed. — I was able to cross all this on my own without detours.
  • Chequamegon National Forest: As of January 10, 2017, eastern sections of the NCT have been opened by the USFS but with a major caveat. Some of the larger bridges have erosion issues on the approaches. The Trail is open but use caution if hiking these sections of NCT.  — I used caution and was able to get through ok.

Here are the links to the strava data which are imported from Garmin.

https://www.strava.com/activities/3976158734

https://www.strava.com/activities/3993126808

https://www.strava.com/activities/3993143569

https://www.strava.com/activities/3993176360

https://www.strava.com/activities/3993257998

https://www.strava.com/activities/3993338633

https://www.strava.com/activities/3998667414

https://www.strava.com/activities/3999212768

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