All workshops occur on Friday, May 3.

8:30 AM seminar, bus leaving at 9:30 AM  (all-day workshop)

Trail Building Workshop by Kenny Wawsczyk

Hike in and join us for a trail building workshop! While some of us may be expert trail builders, it is always great to have a refresher course to help us better teach new trail builders. NCTA HQ personnel will cover basic layout, design and construction of trails in the wilderness. They will also highlight trail maintenance and safety tips for trail crews to practice. Participants will practice everything they learn in “class” right away by heading to the trail and building a 0.1-mile spur trail to a viewing platform of a beaver pond in the Jordan Valley Pathway. Afterwards the crew will hike out to the Jordan River National Fish Hatchery, where a tour is available. This is a standalone, all-day workshop.

Session 1:  1:00 – 1:50 PM


Chapter Outreach Tools and Best Practices by Kate Lemon

Kate Lemon, Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the NCTA, will lead this interactive session to educate and engage Chapter Leadership – past, current or future – on various outreach tools and techniques, including social media use and NCTA brand standards. Kate will also offer direction on NCTA website navigation and resources, as well as open discussion about Chapter needs and wishes regarding outreach efforts.


Trail Protection: Working with Landowners by Megan Olds and Valerie Bader

The Trail is loved by many and protecting it for future generations is as critical now as ever. Protecting and developing the Trail for those future generations relies heavily on the relationships we build with partner organizations and private landowners. In this session, special guest Megan Olds of Parallel Solutions will share some of the best practices for successful landowner outreach. Valerie Bader, NCTA Director of Trail Development, will also give an overview of resources available through NCTA that can guide trail protection.


Mushroom ID by Renee Penny

Mother Nature is an incredible architect, frugal gardener, and spectacular artist. Mushrooms are often overlooked because they can be quite small and tend to blend into the forest floor or up the trunk of a tree. However, these features of the forest are worth keeping an eye out for! In this session, we will take a look at some of the more common wild mushrooms found along the Trail. Join Renee Penny, Conservation Specialist with the Kalkaska Conservation District, to learn wild mushroom identification.


Hammock Camping Along the NCT by Andy Mytys

Years of hammock camping along the NCT will be whittled down to a single presentation covering topics such as the differences between hammock and tent camping, advantages and challenges when hammocking, staying warm, dry and bug-free when using a hammock, and a comparison of common hammock and tarp designs.

Andy has been involved with the NCTA for over 15 years. He has maintained a seven-mile-long section of Trail for most of his time as a member, in addition to leading many group hikes along the Trail. Andy has even hiked over 1,000 miles of the NCT in Michigan. He has over 25 years of backpacking experience in forest, mountain, and desert terrains. He says his typical hikes are 100-150 miles in length and his favorite time to hike is in the fall. He has a passion for photography and lightweight hiking, topics on which he gives presentation and in-field clinics on.

Break 1:50 – 2:00 PM

Session 2:  2:00 – 2:50 PM


Crew Leader Training by Valerie Bader

Are you interested in leading a volunteer trail crew? Join us for an introduction to the North Country Trail Association’s new Crew Leader training program. We launched this exciting program last year and are planning to continue to train Crew Leaders across the Trail. We’ll discuss crew safety, leading and motivating volunteers, recruiting participants, project planning and more. Participants should have a basic understanding of trail maintenance and construction.


Walk & Write by Ellen Whitehead

When walking in the woods, do you feel the urge to be creative? Do you love to write? This workshop will provide you with some fresh ideas on how walking in nature, then stopping along the path to write before completing your journey, can get those ingenious ideas flowing! Ellen is an active outdoors-woman and is a member of the Antrim County Writers and Michigan Writers Associations. As a follow-up to the workshop, the instructor will lead you on a walk-and-write on the North Country Trail the following day.

Ellen is a retired administrative assistant for Clarkston Community Schools. She lives near Mancelona, Michigan, in the wooded hills and lakes area of Blue Lake Township. Ellen received certification as a Northern Naturalist from Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City. She is a member of the Antrim County Writers and Michigan Writers. Writing, especially poetry, has always been her passion. She wrote her first poem at age 10. After raising four children, Ellen wrote Shell Song, a semi-biographical book about her grandmother who spent time in an insane asylum (as they were called in the 1930’s). Sitting with Stones – Speaking thru Flowers is a self-published book of her poetry. She has been honored with recognition in several poetry contests including first place in the Riverfest Poetry Contest in Ortonville, Michigan, selection in the Traverse Area District Library Poets Night Out chapbooks, receiving the Martha Vreeland award in 2017, and being a featured speaker at the Jordan River Arts Council’s John Alberts Poetry Event in 2018. Her other passions include photography, yoga and meditation, volunteering in her community, environmental concerns, snowshoeing, and hiking. She participated in the People’s Climate March in Washington DC in April, 2017. Ellen is proud of earning her 100-mile patch for hiking the North Country Trail in both 2016, 2017, and 2018.


Major Forest Insect Pests in Michigan and Along the NCT by Bob Haack

There are insects feeding on every tree species in the NCT region and worldwide. The vast majority of forest insects along the NCT are native species, usually causing few problems, although some can reach outbreak levels at times. Others are exotic species, mainly of European or Asian origin, and a few have been devastating. Bob will discuss some of the major native and exotic forest insects now affecting trees along the NCT, including natives like the Forest Tent Caterpillar and Spruce Budworm, and exotics like the Asian Longhorned Beetle, Emerald Ash Borer, and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. We will discuss the main pathways by which they move and how they can be managed. Robert is a retired Research Entomologist of the USDA Forest Service. He continues his passion for conservation by volunteering his time at Grass River Natural Area and being a member of NCTA.

Bob worked as an entomologist for the U.S. Forest Service in Michigan for over 30 years. He grew up in Wisconsin and has college degrees in forestry and entomology. While with the Forest Service, Bob worked primarily on exotic forest insects such as the Asian Longhorned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer. Bob has been ambitious in his retirement career track. He continues to serve on the Governing Board for the U.S. Forest Service, and volunteers his time with the Michigan Entomological Society, Tipp of the Mitt Watershed Council, and the Aldo Leopold Festival in the Upper Peninsula. When Bob and his wife Sheridan are not enjoying the Up North summers, they enjoy the warm Florida winters and volunteer at Bald Point State Park and St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.


Trail Photography Using a Smartphone by Andy Mytys

This presentation will discuss going beyond the basics of point-and-shoot photography when using a smartphone as a hiking camera. Topics will include advanced camera features, maximizing image sharpness, editing and and post-processing, amongst others. This will be iPhone-centric, but techniques can be used on Android-based phones, too. Be sure to look for the companion hike to this presentation, which will focus on using techniques discussed in the field.

Break 2:50 – 3:00 PM

Session 3:  3:00 – 3:50 PM


Lightweight Backpacking by Andy Mytys

This presentation will focus on lightening one’s load when packing for a multi-day trip along the NCT, with emphasis on the safety and comfort of the trip. The simple philosophy of carrying less stuff, lighter stuff, and smarter stuff will be explored, including when the lightest option isn’t always the best choice. There will be opportunities for questions and answers, as well as a show-and-tell, using sample packs outfitted for the spring/fall, summer, and winter months.


NCT GIS/Mapping by Matt Rowbotham

Join us to learn about the new map products and navigational resources the NCTA has recently launched. We will take a look behind the scenes at how maps are made, and teach you some tips on how to use digital maps and the products that support them. You will leave this session with a few shortcuts and tips on using these products. Prepared questions are welcome to guide this workshop. Matt has been involved with NCTA for over 15 years and is currently the GIS Coordinator for the NCTA.


Long Distance Hiker Forum by Joan Young, Luke Jordan, and Ruth and Dan Dorrough

Join some experienced hikers for an open forum on long distance hiking. The panel will detail some of the challenges and successes of planning a long hike on the NCT. Topics will include planning resources, coping with weather, and trail angels. Bring any questions that you may have about planning a solo or group long distance hike, and share stories and learning moments on the Trail.

Joan has enjoyed the out-of-doors her entire life. Highlights of her outdoor adventures include Girl Scouting, which provided yearly training in camp skills, the opportunity to engage in a 10-day canoe trip, and numerous short backpacking excursions. She was selected to attend the 1965 Senior Scout Roundup in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, an international event to which 10,000 girls were invited. She has ridden a bicycle from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in 1986, and on August 3, 2010 became the first woman to complete the North Country National Scenic Trail on foot. Her mileage totaled 4,395 miles. She also writes a monthly column for the Ludington Daily News called “Get Off the Couch.”

Luke has been working with the Trail in some capacity since 2010. Most recently, over past three years he’s been working as the Volunteer Coordinator and Recreation Planner for the National Park Service. Prior to that, he worked various jobs and internships in various aspects of natural resources and earned a degree in Ecology and Natural Resources while attending college in Minnesota. Volunteering for the Superior Hiking Trail Association led him to discover the North Country Trail and inspired an eventual thru-hike attempt of the entire route. He succeeded, and in 2013 became the fourth person to do so. He decided to put his unique knowledge of the Trail to good use and stay involved, eventually taking his current position among the NPS staff. In his spare time you can find him spending time outdoors, mostly hiking.

For 30 years of marriage, Dan and Ruth Dorrough had separate active careers. During vacations they enjoyed international travel and section hiking the Finger Lakes Trail and the North Country Trail. Upon retirement, they decided to try spending all day, every day together and set out to complete the North Country Trail. For three years they engaged in a slow-paced, mostly day-hiking exploration of the Trail, its surroundings, and its people from late April through September. At the 2016 Fargo Celebration following a memorable festive hike, they became the first couple to complete the entire trail. The way of life has been agreeable. Subsequent years have found them repeating it on the New England National Scenic Trail, the non-NCT Buckeye Trail, and the Ice Age Trail.


Chapter Leadership Round Table by Andrea Ketchmark

Join NCTA Executive Director Andrea Ketchmark and Chapter Leaders from across the Trail for an open discussion on organization priorities and best practices in Chapter management. Bring your success stories along with your challenges so we can learn from the vast experience and expertise within our incredible network of volunteer leadership.