BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Denali and PopPack welcomed the much-needed rain, even as the two women walked a section of the North Country Trail through Oak Openings and Maumee State Forest on May 26.
“Beautiful forest!” wrote Denali in a logbook posted just inside the forest near Berridge Road.
The two hikers were among the first to utilize one of three log boxes installed by 14-year-old Alyssa Thompson of Monclova Township, a Cadette Girl Scout with Troop 11035.
“It helps rangers keep track of how many people might be out there,” explained Alyssa, as she opened the lid of the box, which is mounted to a sturdy wood pole. Painted green to blend in with the trees, the box has a North Country Trail (NCT) logo on top. Inside are notebooks where hikers, using their trail names, leave notes.
The North Country Trail stretches 4,700 miles across eight states from North Dakota to Vermont. In Lucas County, the trail follows portions of existing Oak Openings and Maumee State Forest trails. The NCT sections in Lucas, Henry and Fulton counties are managed by the North-western Ohio Rails-to-Trails Association (NORTA) Inc. committee – the group that converted old railroad tracks to multipurpose trails.
As Alyssa began looking for a community project for her Girl Scout Silver Award, she consulted with mentor and Girl Scout outdoor educator Marianne Duvendack, a NORTA committee member. Marianne immediately thought of the need for log boxes.
“Out west, the boxes are there so we know where people were last spotted, for search-and-rescue purposes,” Marianne said. “Here, it’s more about community or to learn about trail hazards that people report to us – like downed trees – and it’s partly to make sure that everyone is OK and got where they’re going. It’s old-school GPS.”
To create a box that can survive all sorts of weather, Alyssa used wood, nails, hinges and spray paint before attaching the NCT logo. Her dad, Al Thompson, showed her how to cut wood and use the nail gun.
So far, she’s created three log boxes – including one she installed on National Trails Day on June 5 – in Elmira and South Delta.
“I have enough materials for three more,” Alyssa said, adding that she’s working with Marianne to identify ideal locations.
Alyssa’s work will help her achieve her Girl Scout Silver Award, which requires cadets to complete 50 hours of service before entering high school.
“I enjoy giving back to the community,” she said. “And I get to do this with my friends.”
This fall, Alyssa will be a freshman at Anthony Wayne High School, where she will play the bass drum with the Marching Generals and join the ski club. She also is active in Dance Expressions, where she’s learned ballet, jazz and lyrical dance.
Before the summer is out, Alyssa and her fellow cadets – with guidance from troop leaders Lynn Rinehart and Cindy Thompson – will work on earning badges. While Alyssa has 21 badges so far, she wants to earn one for first aid and one for primitive camping.
“We’ll learn how to pitch a tent, build a fire and do outdoor cooking,” Alyssa said.
Although Alyssa hasn’t hiked the NCT, she was happy to see that several guests, including hikers using the monikers Trail Monkey, Ranger Anna and Denali, signed her notebook in the first week of the box being in place in Maumee State Forest.
Not all hikers will stop to write in the logbook, but the section in Maumee State Forest is new, and that’s generated some excitement, Marianne said. The NORTA team decided to reroute the existing trail to make it more walkable and safer. This includes a section that splits off from mile 4.5 of the yellow trail in Oak Openings near Evergreen Lake and crosses SR 64.
When Alyssa does decide to hike the trail, she’s been given a new trail name: Silver Star.
For more information, visit www.northcountrytrail.com or www.wabashcannonballtrail.org.