ALONG THE ONTARIO-MINNESOTA BORDER – Emily Ford is nearing the end of her approximately 200-mile ski-shoe trek across the Minnesota summit.
Ford told the News Tribune on Thursday that she plans to ski Grand Portage on Lake Superior on Saturday.
Ford left Crane Lake on February 11 with his sled dog, Diggins, pulling over 100 pounds of equipment.
She and Diggins weathered nights in nearly 40 below zero and days in late snow that was 2 feet deep. Ford, of Duluth, also encountered boot-sucking slush on the surface of some frozen lakes, as well as some open rivers, and even fell at one point.
While the plan was for Ford to skijor behind Diggins, the dog struggled to make a trail in the deep snow. So Ford devised a different system where she was the lead track with Diggins in the middle and the sled behind the dog.
During the 30-day trip, she was resupplied twice and spent one night at Ashley Bredemus’ log house on the Seagull River. Ford largely stuck to his planned route that traced the Ontario-Minnesota border through canoe country. But at one point she veered off along a snowmobile trail just off the Gunflint Trail.
Where Ford was within range of cell phone service, she posted on Instagram that it was extremely difficult to make a trail in deep snow on frozen lakes and that she treasured the few spots where sled tracks at dogs or snowmobiles had traveled its route.
“I met a fisherman yesterday. He gave me lake trout for dinner! It was a delight to ski with a trout in tow. I’ve never gutted or cooked fish before, but I think I got it right! I fried it in copious amounts of lard,” Ford posted on Instagram Tuesday.
“My mind is slowly preparing to return to normal at a breakneck pace. … I spend 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the sun, moving my body and hanging out with another animal that helps me produce happiness. My worries are quite simple: eating and drink enough (do the same for Diggins), ski, ski, ski, ski, ski, carry three times, set up the tent properly and don’t fall through the ice,” she added. “But believe “Me, I’m ready to go home. To a dry bed. To a house with running water. And with clean underwear every day (maybe that’s the best part).
Ford, 29, who last year became only the second person to hike the entire Wisconsin Ice Age Trail in winter, said she wanted a more remote trip this year and dedicated her journey to protect the wilderness of Boundary Waters Canoe Area and encourage more people of color to experience the wilderness firsthand.
“This place is so amazing, I feel like I can barely capture it in photos or video. I hope you will experience the BWCA in winter at some point in your life. It seems vast and small at the same time. Sometimes the wind is there to beat you all day and other times it’s just there to dance on your neck. The sun is playing hide and seek behind the trees as it races through the winter sky. There’s so much here, and there’s nothing,” Ford posted. “Lake Superior, I’m on my way.”
Since her Ice Age Trail trip, Ford has become something of a celebrity following widespread media and social coverage of her expedition. She was invited to speak at outdoor events and traveled to Canada for the Banff International Film Festival, which featured a short documentary about her trek. (The same filmmaker was also set to document part of Ford’s ski trip.) There have been magazine articles and TV interviews and Ford now has over 17,000 followers as “Emily on Trail” on Instagram. .