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Friday, March 27, 2009
As some of you know, I've been working on hiking the North Country National Scenic Trail for 17 years. Each year I've been able to do one or more sections, and I've now completed 3518 miles. I've hiked all the red on the map, and the blue is what is planned for May. The official estimate of the trail length is 4600 miles, but my total will come in at about 4400. That's because sections that I've had to connect with road walks will be longer once they are off road.
I'm always torn between wanting to make a big deal out of my quest and preferring to remain a bit shy. (One can't be too shy when there is a book to sell.) But I've been very quiet, except to a few close friends, about what I'm going to now publicly share here.
Anyway, as of right now, there is no other woman who has hiked as much of the trail as I have. Two other women should be mentioned. The first person to follow the entire route of the NCT was Carolyn Hoffman. Right after the trail was authorized (1980) she set out to find it. She hiked a lot where it went through National Forests, and rode a bicycle on roads to approximate the rest of the way. Also of note is Sue Lockwood who accompanied Ed Talone on the first thru-hike in 1994. Sue was in kidney failure and had to take time off for dialysis along the way. She hiked about 3000 miles of the trail. Only 7 men have hiked the whole trail!
Yup, I COULD be the first woman to hike the whole thing. I've been really quiet about this, because I've known that some woman could set out and do a thru-hike and be the first. I've been saying for over a year that I was now close enough to my goal that if I learned of someone who was setting out to hike the trail that I could accelerate my schedule and still be the first.
And that is just what is happening. In May, Bonita "Mother Goose" Helton plans to begin a two year hike of the North Country Trail. This is no hiker wannabe. She has hiked extensively out west, and has done the whole International Appalachian Trail. Unless she gets injured or becomes ill, I'm sure she'll succeed.
So, I've been thinking about whether I really want to be the first woman to hike the whole thing, or whether I want to continue at my pace of about 200 miles a year to savor the experience. I've decided that I want to be the first.
This means that I'll need to hike just over 400 miles this season. Preliminary plans are to finish Minnesota and do some more of Michigan this year. This post is getting long, but this is just a huge deal for me... the planning, and the finances, and letting many of my other pursuits languish while I focus on this dream.
See Only a Few Miles But O So Good for my last NCT hike that counted toward my quest
See The Essential Adirondacks for a short article about last summer's hike in the Adirondacks (was my monthly newspaper column)
See Triple Play in the ADKs for a longer article about last summer's hike in the Adirondacks
A journal of a North Dakota hike is available on Xanga, but posts there don't have permalinks. If anyone would like to read it you can go to Sharkbytes on Xanga, then in the bottom left corner choose July 28, 2007 and click GO. This will take you to the preparations for that hike and then you can work through the hike with the "previous" and "next" choices in the bottom right of the page. Xanga's awkwardness is one reason I left!