Minnesota native, avid hiker, and gardener Emily Ford, inspired to hike after the murder of George Floyd, with the aim of lending her voice to the call for equality has now successfully become the first Black woman to complete Wisconsin’s arduous Ice Age Trail in the winter after 68 days and nearly 1,200 miles later, Bring Me The News reports.
“Many other people have completed this trail, but winter is the elusive season for most folks. So I’ll be the first woman, the first Black woman, and I’m sure the first Black gay woman. I’ll tack that one on there,” Ford said.
The 28-year-old from Duluth, Minnesota embarked on the trek on December 28th, 2020 and finished on Saturday, March 6th, 2021.
Alongside Diggins the dog, the pair managed to pull through amid the brutally cold February. “It was like boom, -20 like -30 degrees and the wind chill was just ridiculous,” said Ford.
On those cold nights, Ford knew camping out was a good idea so she employed the use of social media to recruit the help of those following her journey online.
“If I was in a county or in a town I would just put it like in my little search bar like in Instagram in my messages and find somebody. All the people were super awesome. They were like yeah, for sure, where do you want me to come pick you up? I was like oh man, this is so cool!”
Ford recalls the final day, approaching the “finish line” in Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls. “I was like yes! This is what I’ve been walking towards for so long, we made it!”
Nearly 100 people gathered to cheer them on as they took their final steps on the trail.
“People from like my childhood were there and then people I didn’t even know where there. New people that had been following me on social media had been there. Folks I had stayed with through the trip made the drive all the way up,” Ford recalls.
As a Black and gay woman, Ford wanted to inspire others to get out and enjoy all the outdoors has to offer, especially those in minority groups.
“Don’t do it because of me, do it for yourself. This space is for you, so do it for you. Just keep getting out there. I firmly believe the outdoors is for everybody, it’s not just for one person.”
Ford says her biggest takeaway from the journey, was to “leave your ego at the door, always. When you’re solo hiking and you think you don’t need anybody, don’t be afraid to say yes when someone lends you help.”
The hardest part, Ford says, was returning Diggins to her owner. Diggins is a sled dog, who Ford “borrowed” from a kennel for companionship during the hike. “I thought I was so prepared for that moment, but the ugly tears came out,” said Ford.
Although it this may have been her longest hike completed, but for Ford, it certainly will not be her last. “If I lived in an alternate reality where I could just hike all the time and never have to work, I totally would,” told Ford.