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LONG-DISTANCE HIKER’S PLANNING TOOL

NORTH COUNTRY NATIONAL SCENIC TRAIL

CHIEF NOONDAY CHAPTER SECTION — LOWER MICHIGAN

In the summer of 2007 we were tasked with developing a databook which through-hikers on the 4,600 mile seven-state North Country National Scenic Trail could use for planning their treks. This tool would provide data on resources on and near the Trail, including water, camping, off-trail lodging, food and supplies.

It quickly became apparent that this would be one mammoth undertaking requiring far more fundamental spadework than anyone anticipated. Accordingly we decided to start small by developing a databook just for the section of NCNST for which our Chief Noonday Chapter in Lower Michigan is responsible.

Once we got that done, we’d expand the project to include all of Michigan, then move into the other states hosting the NCNST, and ultimately amass a data tool covering the entire North Country National Scenic Trail. This would be loosely modeled on databooks already provided by two other trails in the National Scenic Trails system — the Appalachian Trail, whose databook was started back in the 70's, and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Even that is proving to be an ambitious task. So we decided to post what we’d accumulated so far on the Web so that motivated hikers could use it now as a limited resource for planning their hikes through our section. It is a work-in-progress which we will continue to develop, and we will continually update the data provided here.

A big thank-you is due to Ron Sootsman for engineering the Google link system (more on this below) — and for a lot of other help he has provided for this project, both in engineering the spreadsheet and gathering the data on the ground.
 

OVERVIEW:

Each line in the tables provides data on a particular landmark along the Trail. The sequence of the lines is in geographical order.

For each landmark (i.e., on each line) you get the following:

  • index number (you can mostly disregard this — it’s a reference tool we use to keep things in geographic order)
  • descriptive name of the particular landmark
  • (presently on the Calhoun and Kalamazoo County pages only) directions on which way to go on the Trail whether you're trekking eastward or westward
  • resources at that location or which you would access from that location. This column is under construction and will be updated continually. See codes and abbreviations below.
  • GPS coordinates
  • differential mileage — which is the approximate distance from the previous landmark you passed on your way toward North Dakota.   (See also the note below about our trail measuring project.)
  • cumulative miles from the east — or how far you’ve walked at this point if you started at the easterly terminus of the Trail (which for now is the Hillsdale County Line)
  • cumulative miles from the west — or how far you still have to walk at this point to arrive at the westerly terminus of the Trail (which for now is the Kent County Line)
  • resource links. Clicking on a link will take you to a Google Map showing what (if any) resources of a particular type are available in the area of the particular trail landmark, approximately where they are, and approximately how far they are from the landmark. See more on this below.
  • Preliminary versions of the tables are posted for Calhoun County, Kalamazoo County, and Barry CountyWe continue to work on refinements for the whole project, so check back from time to time.
     

    CONVENTIONS:

    For now, the tables are oriented generally in a westerly direction, as though you were hiking from New York toward North Dakota.  But we're working on refinements.

    We've begun experimenting with making the tables bi-directional and the Calhoun and Kalamazoo County pages currently show in separate columns (following the landmark description column) the directions to go at each landmark depending on whether you are trekking westward toward North Dakota or eastward toward New York.  This isn't the easiest tabular arrangement to follow, so we may change it if we can come up with something better.  Eventually we hope to post completely separate tables for eastbound vs. westbound use.

    Of course, if you are trekking eastward, you need to read the tables backwards (and note that you’ll need to adjust the way you interpret the differential mileages).

    Which brings up compass directions. Where we have the data, we usually provide actual compass directions ("north", "south", etc.). But since the Trail on the ground tends to go in every which direction and we don’t always have exact data, we sometimes resort to using "Rt" or "Lt" for "right" or "left".  Currently with the Barry County page, this assumes you’re going toward North Dakota. So, if you’re on a trail segment that runs N-S and something is labeled "Rt", it’ll be roughly to the east of the Trail — and so on.  Once the pages are bi-directional (as the Calhoun and Kalamazoo County pages already are), "Rt" and "Lt" will be relative to the direction of your trek.

    Speaking of mileage, the distances listed are approximate averages — calculated from GPS coordinates. They are estimated point-to-point distances as the crow flies (we call ‘em "crow miles"). They will be fairly accurate for straight roadwalks. For off-road trail segments, which are rarely straight, crow miles will tend to be less than actual walking distances — so you’ll want to pad your estimates a bit to make allowance, especially for trail segments that are particularly curvy.


    Update on mileages

    In 2011 we began a project of measuring Chief Noonday's trail sections on the ground in order to come up with more accurate data.  All off-road sections are being measured with a surveyor's wheel, while road-walk connector sections have been measured with a car odometer.

    Our worksheet is posted as a printable PDF file which you can download and use for planning your hikes.  It is continually updated as new data is acquired.

    As of September 2016 all NCNST trail segments in CND's tri-county area have been measured except the new part of the Paul Henry Thornapple section in Middleville between Main Street and Crane Rd. 

    The rerouted Trail section between the Johnson Rd trailhead, northeast of Middleville, and the Kent County line is 4.54 mi as calculated on the MapMyRun Web page

    Cumulative mileages are calculated (based on GPS coordinates) from the starting and ending termini of the Trail. Ultimately they’ll be based most likely on state lines, but for now we’re basing them on the county line boundaries of the Chief Noonday Trail section, which are Hillsdale County to the south and Kent County to the north.
     

    CODES & ABBREVIATIONS:

    (Note whether a code or abbreviation is UPPERCASE or lowercase. E.g., "W" means "West" while "w" means "water".)

    Item Code

    Campgrounds, campsites

    C

    Groceries, supplies

    G

    Lodgings (hotels, etc.)

    L

    Meals (restaurants, delis, fast food)

    M

    Post Office

    PO

    Road access

    R

    Shelter (lean-to)

    Sh

    Water

    w

    Health care (hospital ER, urgent care facility)

    H

    Public telephone

    T

    Parking (lots, trailheads)

    P

    North

    N

    East

    E

    South

    S

    West

    W

    Compass directions: northeast, southeast, southwest, northwest

    NE, SE, SW, NW

    Left

    Lt

    Right

    Rt

    Trailhead

    TH

    Miles

    m

    Road walk

    RW

    Off-road trail

    ORT

    Railroad

    RR


    USING THE GOOGLE LINKS:

    A time-consuming and labor-intensive aspect of compiling data for this project is ID’ing resources such as lodging and meals along the Trail. The links provided here are intended to be temporary short-cuts which we hope will enable you to plan long-distance hikes now while we continue to acquire data for this project.

    When you click on a link, it’ll take you to a Google Map of the area surrounding that Trail landmark. You can zoom in or out on this map as desired.

    The location of the Trail landmark will be indicated by a green arrow (right).

    If Google has found any resources which it figures correspond to what you’re looking for, these will be indicated by an orange balloon with a letter in it (right) keyed to a link-list on the left. You can click on the indicated link to get more data about the particular resource.

    It goes without saying that you are limited by how complete and up-to-date Google’s information is. So, before you actually hit the Trail, you’d be wise to contact any resources that interest you, such as restaurants or bed-and-breakfasts, to make sure they’re still in business and are where Google says they are!


    CAUTIONARY NOTES:

    Camping: Along the entire length of the NCNST, where you can camp along the Trail is determined by the rules and requirements of the land-owner. In some places you can simply step off the Trail and set up camp, as long as you’re beyond a required minimum distance from the trail and ponds, lakes or flowing water. Unfortunately in Chief Noonday’s area very little camping along the Trail itself is permitted, and you’ll need to utilize nearby campgrounds. See the Camping Along the Trail page on our Web site for more information related to Kalamazoo and Barry Counties.  If a particular commercial campground looks like a prospect, it would be a good idea to contact it ahead of time to make sure owners are willing to accommodate hikers.

    Water:  Always assume that water from any sources indicated in these tables needs to be treated.

    Hospitals:   Our "Hospitals" link, unfortunately, is not as useful as we'd like it to be.  Clicking on the link invokes results that are often out of date (or pertain to pets or inanimate objects!).  FYI, the hospitals with emergency rooms closest to the Trail in Chief Noonday's area are located in Marshall, Battle Creek, and Hastings.  (There is currently no acute care hospital in Albion.)

    Post offices: We’ve indicated when post offices are located within reasonable walking distance of the Trail. However, not all PO’s handle General Delivery mail. You’ll need to contact any PO’s that interest you and confirm whether they can handle your in-coming re-stock mailings. You can obtain location information at the USPS Web site and contact the USPS at (800) ASK-USPS.


    FEEDBACK:

    If you have comments, suggestions, recommendations, constructive criticisms, corrections, etc., we'd appreciate hearing from you. 

    We would especially appreciate any additional information you may have about particular Trail landmarks or about services and resources along the Trail.  Much of our information about off-trail resources (grocery stores, restaurants, lodging, etc.) has been gleaned on-line and may not be complete or up-to-date.  If you can be our eyes-on-the-ground for such things, it would be very helpful.

    E-mail your comments to the Webmaster.

    Databook for Calhoun County
    Databook for Kalamazoo County
    Databook for Barry County

     

     
    Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2016
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