Minnesota Woman, Alaskan Husky Begin Insane 70-Day Solo Hike Through Wisconsin

by Will Shepard

A Minnesota woman is taking a husky on a 70-day trip 1,200 miles across Wisconsin. The trail that Emily Ford is using is the Ice Age Trail.

On Monday, December 28, Ford and the husky, Diggins began the solo journey. The journey is going to take ten weeks and is certainly epic. There will be plenty of snow and ice on the adventure. The pair will certainly have their fair share of sketchy dealings, but that isn’t the primary concern.

Emily Ford is the most concerned about the isolation the journey will bring her. Ten weeks alone is a long time to be by yourself. But, that is why she is bringing her friend’s dog with her.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever spent that much time basically being alone, but that’s what I’m mostly thinking about. I haven’t had any military training or motivational training on how to deal with that much being alone. And there are some long stretches, 30 miles along a flat road in one spot, where it might be hard to keep motivated. That’s why I’m bringing Diggins.”

The Minnesota woman expects the journey to finish in early March. But along Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail, that is certainly subject to change.

Emily Ford’s Borrowed Dog, Diggins

Ford is borrowing Diggins from her friend’s kennel. She is an Alaskan husky sled dog, and a lead dog when she runs with the sled dog team.

The black and white husky may even get to pull Ford some during the journey. But, Diggins will certainly help motivate Ford and provide companionship and motivation along the way.

As husky’s are mostly solitary dogs, Diggins will be tied to Ford with a skijoring harness. Even though they’ve had a lot of practice together, Diggins will keep Ford on her toes at all times.

“Diggins is used to being out front of a fast sled dog team, so she’s like ‘what are you doing back there’ when she looks at me.'”

Emily Ford Planning the Trip and Navigating COVID-19

Emily Ford is just 28 but has been preparing for this trip for a long time. She knows exactly how far she needs to go every day to be successful. The plan is to travel about 20 miles every day to finish on time. Also, she knows where she wants to camp every night.

Ford explains that she’s been training for weeks, prepping for the mental hardships of the journey. She also says that this is something she wants to do now. Additionally, she says that she wants to be an inspiration for others to take on expeditions like this.

“2020 was a really rough year for everyone, but especially so for people of color. I want this trip to be an inspiration. Anyone can do this. Everyone can do this.”

Traveling during the pandemic means that she can’t stay with anyone for fear of getting her trip cut short. But, she will be staying on people’s lawns and trying to camp mostly in public forests. As much of the Ice Age Trail is through public lands, this is certainly doable.

“I don’t want to have to hike 40-mile days. I just don’t want to risk it during COVID, so I’m going to be staying outside by myself as much as possible.”

Moreover, she wants to show how anyone, women, men, race, or religion can accomplish anything they set out to do. She wants to show people that being in the outdoors is a tradition unlike any other.

“I just want this door – to the outdoors – to be open to everyone. That’s why I’m going now.”

Dealing With Food Along the Way

Emily Ford is a certified through-hiker. She has also done two other long hikes in her life, the Kekekabic Trail and the Border Route combined with the Superior Hiking Trail.

Even though this is the longest journey she is attempting, it isn’t the most remote. And as Ford explains she will have plenty of stops along the way. Her grocery lists are relatively short, just as her clothes lists are.

Diggins’ grocery list is even more simple. With the support of her friends dropping food off for her and her husky, she will carry about a week’s worth of food.

Unlike many through-hikers, Ford doesn’t know what her pack weighs. But, likely because it is in the winter, it is far heavier than most packs.

A crucial part of the journey for Ford is keeping her calorie intact high. So, she is bringing a ton of high energy foods with her. She even has a sponsor giving her 13 pounds of salami across the ten weeks. Her diet will mostly consist of energy bars.

The Ice Age Trail

The trail that Emily Ford is doing has a rich history. In fact, the Ice Age Trail follows the advance of the last glaciers to enter Wisconsin. It’s part of the 12,000-year-old physical border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

However, the trail itself is seldom attempted because it is so rigorous. Ford’s adventure may be just the second documented attempt of the trail. The last time it was reportedly done was by an Oregon man in 2016-17.

The trail was originally brought forth as an idea in the 1950s by the Ice Age Trail Association. However, it wasn’t until the 1980s that it began to be built. The trail winds its way through private land, state and city parks, county parks, and even national forests.

Additionally, the trail crosses 31 of 72 counties in Wisconsin. Even though it is rarely done in full, roughly one million people use the trail for recreation every year.

So, for Ford, accomplishing this feat in the winter is entirely preferential. She says that she prefers the winter to summer. And, she is also the freest during winter.

“I can’t tell you the last time I hiked or camped in the summer. I totally hate bugs.”

[H/T Post Bulletin]