Emily Ford Makes History on the Ice Age Trail

What'd you do this winter?

If you haven’t been following Emily Ford on her epic hike along the Ice Age Trail, now is a great time to tune in. The 28-year-old Duluth resident expects to cross the finish line at Interstate Park in St. Croix Falls around noon on Saturday, March 6.

Here’s why it’s a big deal: Once Ford reaches the terminus, she’ll be the second person ever to finish a winter thru-hike of the 1,200-mile National Scenic Trail and the first Black LGBTQ+ woman on record to do it.

In one of her earliest posts about her adventure, Ford wrote, “I want people to know that literally ANYONE can play outdoors. No matter which boxes you do or do not check. Through my time backpacking, I’ve never really met another brown person backpacking, skiing, or mountain biking. I know that brown people are outdoors. (I see it on instagram now!) But I want to add to the story.”

Photo: Tom Rafalovich for Duluth Trading Company

Ford, who works as the head gardener at Duluth’s Glensheen Mansion, started her journey in Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, on December 28, 2020, after months of training along the Superior Hiking Trail. She expected the Ice Age trip to take about 70 days, covering 20 miles a day (give or take) and camping outdoors most nights.

She isn’t doing it alone though — she is accompanied by her trusty pal Diggins, an Alaskan husky sled dog borrowed from a friend at Beatty’s Family Farm Market in Lakeville. The last leg of the trip is also being documented in a short film by Credo Nonfiction.

It’s worth browsing Ford’s old posts for insights into the cold-weather gear that has served her and Diggins best along the trail, tips for maintaining a 4,000-calorie-a-day diet (Amish doughnuts and Northern Waters Smokehaus salami, say what?!), and heart-warming stories of the many, many “trail angels” she has met along the way.

We’re excited to cheer on Ford as she crosses that finish line on Saturday — and to see what she does next. ‘Cause someone this determined, you know she’s just getting started.  🥾🥾🥾💜