While we were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we realized that we were spending a lot of time hiking the North Country National Scenic Trail. As I saw the signs over and over, I realized that there must be a Passport stamp for that! And so our quest began: to find the passport stamp for the North Country National Scenic Trail.
The North Country National Scenic Trail is 4,800 miles long. It runs through eight states: North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont. The map above leaves off Vermont, for some reason. Michigan has 1,150 miles of the trail and Ohio has 1,000 miles. It turns out we had hiked many miles of the trail in our visits to various state parks in Ohio and when we worked at Grand Portage in Minnesota. In Ohio, the North Country trail follows the route of the Buckeye Trail and doesn’t run along Lake Erie, which is weird. After all, if it is the North Country Trail, it should run along the northern edge of Ohio.
We started hiking along the North Country Trail in the Upper Peninsula at Straits State Park. Consequently, that is the first place I asked about the passport stamp. No, they didn’t have it, but they did have the Father Marquette National Memorial stamp. I asked at the Visitors Center in St. Ignace, because the main street of St. Ignace is on the trail. They didn’t know anything about the stamp.
Sandy and Tom helped me look for the stamp as well. We checked out the webpage that lists where the North Country Trail passport stamps should be. Four out of the 15 stamp locations were in Michigan, which made us think it would be easy to find. Tahquamenon Falls State Park is listed as one of the locations. Perfect! We would be going there in a few days.
But when we got to Tahquamenon Falls, their Visitors Center was under construction. No one we asked knew where the passport stamp might be. No problem, Pictured Rocks was listed as another location and we would be there a few days later. Muskallonge State Park wasn’t listed on the webpage, but we asked there anyway. After all, they had several miles of the trail within the park. No, they didn’t have the stamp.
Pictured Rocks Visitor Center was also under construction. At this point we were starting to get a little frustrated in our quest. Sandy asked the ranger at the Visitor Contact trailer in Munising about the stamp and he didn’t know anything about it. Sandy asked if he could ask someone else or give us an idea of where to go to get it. He told us to move along. At that point, we had to hold Sandy back. She was ready to go after the ranger. She kept insisting that someone there would know where it was. It was probably stuck in a drawer someplace and someone should look for it. Despite her aggravation, we did, indeed, move along.
Tom and I continued to ask for the passport stamp wherever we stopped along the trail. Baraga State Park didn’t have it. The Keewenaw Visitors Center didn’t have it. Apostle Islands didn’t have it. We were running out of places to look for it.
The webpage mentioned one Ohio location that might have it (out of 1,000 miles of trail). I called the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and they told us, yes, they did have the stamp. It was at the Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center. At this point I had been burned so many times that I called the number for the Interpretive Center. When the ranger answered, it was the same woman I had just talked to at the Aviation center. She told me that she had worked at Huffman the weekend before and actually touched the stamp.
Okay. Tom and I routed our return home so that we passed through Dayton and stopped by the Huffman Prairie Flying Field. When I held the stamp, I lifted it up as if it was the Holy Grail. We made “ahhhhh” noises. I’m sure the rangers thought we were overdoing it a little, but we explained our search. Tom even gave me “ta-da” sound effects when I stamped the book. Finally, a North Country National Scenic Trail stamp in my book!
North Country Trail stamps should not be that hard to find. If we had failed in Dayton, I would have written to the North Country Trail Association, office in Lowell, Michigan, and asked them to send me a stamp. Of course, their offices are probably under construction and no one knows where the stamp is.