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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Guthrie

Hiking Lost Nation on the North Country Trail (Part 1) to Hillsdale

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

The second section going north from Ohio border through Michigan's 1,100 miles of the North Country Trail is quite different from the first leg. The first section is entirely along the road ending at Pittsford Trailhead which is where this hike begins.

I had never been on the Lost Nation section of the North Country Trail (NCT) and didn't know what to expect. As this being my second hike on the NCT... it was like night and day! We went from walking in between Michigan farms on flat paved and dirt roads seeing far into the distance to a very hilly trail covered in leaves and pine needles lined with mature trees on either side. You can see through for miles through these majestic trees both alive and well and dead from disease off into the horizon.

This stark contrast was a wake up call for my body as I'm not used to hiking hilly terrain. While I'm very much used to climbing upward one way and back down along Arizona trails... I wasn't prepared physically for the up and down terrain of this trail right out the gate! But my body soon adjusted.

My hiking boots were way more suited for this hike than the first one I did at the Ohio Michigan border and I was so glad to have bought them before beginning any of my trail hikes. One of the things I discovered which most people don't realize is that my feet had changed. They actually had grown an inch and getting fitted properly by a professional makes all the difference!

See how happy I am?! Happy feet... Happy hiker!

"The area has an interesting history, as it was the hideaway of a famed horse thief, Sile Doty, it was thought to be the “last retreat” of Chief Baw Beese and his Pottawattamie tribe prior to being relocated to reservations in 1840, and the area is said to be speckled with the burial mounds of an unknown civilization of native peoples. Possibly for some, or all, of these reasons, the area was known locally as the “Lost Nation”. In honor of this local history, the Conservation Commission changed the name of the state game area from Pittsford to Lost Nation SGA on February 21, 1966." - Lost Nation State Gaming Area Master Plan

I share this excerpt with you because aside from the peace the beauty of the wildflowers budding during the springtime and the feeling of awe from the majestic trees, there is an agreed upon overall sense of not only peace but inner connection with the soul. You feel it all around you and it's unmistakable if you allow this forest to speak to you as you're on it's grounds.

About 1 mile or so along the trail from Pittsford trailhead is where you will come upon the unmarked trail leading you down a steep trail to Doty Cave and one of the most peaceful wooded areas I've ever traversed. If I had brought gear with me, I would have pitched a tent and stayed for the night. I don't even like camping that much but this spot would have been worth it. I was completely drawn to the area.

Doty Cave

Maybe because I feel deeply rooted in family that I felt deeply rooted to these woods and it's history. I don't know but the streams, multiple lakes and spring blooms kept our pace a little slower, stopping to pay homage along this seven mile section.

One of the beauties of a first hike is the discovery of everything along the way.

When we came upon Lake Number eight my jaw dropped. While I saw several lakes during our trek and on the map when scoping it out, I didn't realize how much bigger this lake would be in person and it's beauty. While not a super large lake it was bigger than I expected and absolutely beautiful. Several people were in this area as there is a parking lot nearby.

After spending some time here before continuing on through Lost Nation into the Shooting Range section of the trail connected via roadway. You have to really watch for the trail markers along some of these sections. While Lost Nation and Baw Besse were well marked... even for a novice... the road wasn't so much. Coming up on Reading Road we had to look on our devices to know to turn right.

Pic below: A little storage shed you see right before Reading Road splits off to the right and South Ramsey Road begins. Stay walking straight until the corner where you go into the Shooting Range.

The total miles we hiked from Pittsford Trailhead to Hillsdale was about 14 miles.

This blog is Part 1 of our hike. Part 2 picks up from Lost Nation connecting Baw Besse Trail to the Barnard St Parking lot where we ended... marking my second North Country Trail hike totaling 25 miles thus far. Only 75 more miles to go to meet my 100 miles hike challenge on the North Country Trail in 2021.

Deborah Guthrie is a weekend adventure blogger leaving a digital footprint that ignites the spark within others to explore the world outdoors. Follow her blogs on Ember & Ash Social.


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