A Thru-Hike of The North Country Trail                                 -Strider-


For many people hiking 4600 miles in one go may seem like a crazy, even foolish idea. But for some others it is an opportunity to see isolated places, to discover oneself, and of course to have fun doing it! Such is the case with me.
              A few years ago I had never heard of the North Country Trail. I had no idea that such a daunting task of building a continuous footpath across seven northern states was underway, and had been for more than thirty years. I first heard about it while volunteering on a Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) work-weekend from another volunteer. I was immediately excited and fascinated with the idea. After doing a little research and finding out what the trail was all about I began to feel a sense of longing, a desire to hike beyond Minnesota and see what else the north country had to offer.
              When I was a young kid my family used to take trips up to the North Shore of Lake Superior every summer and I always enjoyed hiking around exploring the many excellent state parks in the area. I was awe struck by the beauty of the region and developed an appreciation and love for it (one reason why the Arrowhead Reroute should be approved ASAP). Then as I grew older the crowds started to get larger. On our family trips we found it was harder to find a campsite without a reservation. Since we loved it up there so much we decided to avoid planning our trips months in advance and buy a piece of land instead. A year later we had a chunk of land with a nice little cabin on it we built ourselves. We would visit the North Shore more frequently now that we had a place of our own. It was during this first year that I discovered, only a quarter-mile away from our cabin, a hidden gem of the North Shore… The Superior Hiking Trail.
               I was 14 years old then, had lots of energy and was eager to explore new places. Little did I know that just down the road was a fantastic section of the SHT known as Section 13, with many scenic vistas from atop nameless peaks. After that initial discovery, every family trip we took up to “The Shack” I would spend time by myself hiking the nearby sections. When I was old enough to drive I would make solo trips with the main objective of hiking new sections of the SHT. This was my life for a few years until I had a life-changing experience on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) in Colorado.
              The summer after I graduated from high school I signed up as a volunteer for the Forest Service’s Passport In Time program in Twin Lakes, Colorado for a week in July doing historic preservation work. The project was located on the CDT and I met many interesting hikers, all with cool stories of traveling around the country. One person in particular caught my attention. This individual had been backpacking all over the United States and Europe. He recounted one of his journeys across Ireland and the Isle of Man, as well as telling me about his Appalachian and Colorado Trail thru-hikes. His stories stirred something up inside me that made me want to move on to bigger things in the world of hiking: Backpacking.
               That August I started college so my chances to hike didn’t come up nearly as often, but I still got up north any chance that I could to keep “filling in the map” as I called it. Then I read an article in the Ridgeline newsletter that the SHT was nearing completion and they were asking for volunteers to help complete the project. I decided to sign up for a work weekend to learn the art of trail building and to contribute to society. I enjoyed the experience so much I signed up again the following year. It was here that I first learned of the NCT. After that first experience on the trail crew I stumbled upon the videos of Nimblewill Nomad’s thru-hike of the NCT in 2009. Watching his journey gave me a surge of inspiration and the desire to complete an “odyssey” of my own.
              Alot can happen in a few years. At 14 years old I was doing half-day hikes on the SHT. At 20 years old I was working on the SHT and doing multi-day backpacking trips. I am 22 now and recently graduated from college in December. Now I’ll fulfill a decision I made over a year ago to attempt a thru-hike of the NCT. I know that if I don’t do this now while I am still young I may never get the opportunity again. So in 2013 my inspiration and my desire I acquired all those years ago on the SHT will finally come to fruition as I attempt a thru-hike of the NCT and join that short roster of folks who have completed the trail, among them elites like Eb Eberhart and Andrew Skurka who continue to inspire others. I will be honored to be a part of the national legacy that is the North Country Trail.  
                     -Luke "Strider" Jordan 

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