GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – One Duluth woman was simply looking to take a trip in the winter, and she could’ve never imagined what would unfold along the way.
Minnesota native Emily Ford is the first woman to hike the Ice Age Trail during the winter. Ever since she was a child, Ford has had a love for being outside.
One day Ford was playing volleyball with a friend, and after telling her she was looking to get out on the trails, her friend suggested she hike the Ice Age Trail. The Ice Age Trail, one of 11 National Scenic Trails, is a thousand-mile path entirely in Wisconsin.
“It winds its way through Wisconsin. It’s really the longest way to cross Wisconsin. The path that it follows is the extent of the last glacier that came through Wisconsin many moons ago,” says Ford.
After a couple of months of preparation, she started her journey in Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay on December 28. It took Ford 69 days to finish the trail, with 3 rest days in between.
“I think people think that the physical aspect of backpacking is the hardest. It’s really the mental game. Getting yourself to get up every morning when it’s like negative whatever outside,” says Ford.
Negative 37 degrees was the coldest Ford experienced and over 50 degrees was the warmest. Ford had some company on her trip, a sled dog named Diggins. She says meeting Diggins was like love at first sight. After taking a couple of test trips to see if they’d get along, the pair started their journey across the Badger state.
Ford documented her trip online, doing “social media dumps” whenever she had access to cell service. She received an outpour of support from strangers, some of who would leave ‘trail magic” for her along the way.
“It really just started out as a trip I wanted to do in the wintertime. When I left Duluth, I had about 200 people following me on Instagram. I opened my Instagram and a thousand people were following. Just every week I would open my Instagram and thousands more people would be following,” says Ford.
Ford now has approximately 11,500 Instagram followers who she updates regularly about her trip.
Ford is the first black, gay, woman to complete the Ice Age Trail during the winter. She hopes people learn that hiking is for everyone after seeing her finish the 1,200-mile trail.
“I just hope more people realize that they can get outside, especially for people of color. I feel like we truly belong to the outdoors, just like everybody else does,” says Ford.
If you’d like to continue following Emily’s journey, click here.