NCT Thru-Hikers: Apple Pie and Greenleaf
Arlette Laan, trail name “Apple Pie”, started thru-hiking the North Country Trail (NCT) in April, 2021. Her 4,800-mile adventure began in Defiance, Ohio, and she hiked to the NCT’s eastern terminus in Vermont in August. At that point, Arlette flew to North Dakota to continue her flipflop thru-hike into 2022. Rich Gambale, her spouse with trail name “Greenleaf”, joined her in Marquette, Michigan, in December. As they hiked south through the Lower Peninsula, they arrived in Newaygo County at the end of January.
“We were privileged to host Apple Pie and Greenleaf for two nights as they hiked the NCT near White Cloud and Newaygo”, said Cheryl and Tim McGrath of Fremont. Arlette and Rich did dispersed tent camping in the Manistee National Forest for the prior three nights – in snow and with frigid temperatures than 10 degrees. Staying overnight at the McGrath home was a welcome reprieve, complete with pizzas from Seasons and fajitas from El Burrito Feliz. Another benefit was being able to “slackpack” one day and hike with only day packs from Centerline to 58th Street.
After bringing them back to the NCT, Cheryl and Peggy Mercer of Newaygo enjoyed the opportunity to hike with them as they neared Croton Dam. Rich led the way at a brisk pace with a 55-pound backpack. Arlette carried 40 pounds and maintained a pace Cheryl and Peggy could just keep up with. Exchanging best wishes and hugs, Apple Pie and Greenleaf continued south into Kent County.
Arlette and Rich shared many great stories about their adventures, including the NCT, Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail in the United States and hiking trails around the world. Why do they choose to thru-hike?
Their biggest challenges are financing all of their travels and the loneliness experienced when thru-hiking solo. They lead an interesting and unique lifestyle!
Apple Pie started thru-hiking in 2003 and expects to be the first woman to thru-hike all 11 of the National Scenic Trails. She completed the NCT on February 21 and has accomplished 9 of the Trails. Only the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin and Natchez Trace Parkway in Mississippi remain and Arlette plans to complete them this summer. You can follow her on Instagram @arlette_laan.
With all of the recreational opportunities in West Michigan, the NCT is a treasure through the Manistee National Forest in Newaygo County. The Forest stretches from the northern county border to Croton Dam and is a popular Trail for locals and tourists. If you’re interested in more information about the NCT in Newaygo County, check out: https://northcountrytrail.org/trail/michigan/wmi/.
Submitted by Cheryl McGrath and Peggy Mercer
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