I post Strider’s final journal entry in its entirety here. It’s a fine read, and a nice closure of an epic adventure that took time, money, planning, and no small amount of gumption to execute.
Here’s to Strider! The first ever thru hiker of the Great Plains Trail!
I’m up earlier than normal, maybe out of excitement, or disappointment that today is the last day of this journey. It’s barely light out when I get dropped off on the side of the road. It’s about 10 miles to the border from where I left off yesterday. I’m hiking along ND-8 and there’s not much traffic this morning, it makes for a nice quiet and pleasant hike. Right about halfway, I pass Northgate Dam Rec Site on my left. Just north of there I hear a vehicle approaching and it slows down and pulls alongside me. It’s a woman in a truck that saw me pass by from her kitchen window. She made me a bag lunch for the road and hands it to me now. I thank her for her kindness and she pulls off before I can get her name. Wow, what an amazing bit of magic.
A mile or so shy of the border Roxanne passes me in the car and jumps on ahead to the border station, waving as she passes by. Then it finally hits me, I’m almost done. This journey I’ve been on for the past 85 days will soon be over. I didn’t think it would happen this time around, but it does, and my eyes start to tear up. Despite my fears going into this hike it has turned out better than I ever could have hoped. As before on the NCT, meeting the people along the way has been the best part of this journey. I am still amazed how many kind people helped me along the way and were excited at the prospect of the trail. I will miss meeting people like Esther at the CO/NE line who helped me when I was in need, and people like Jerry up in the Oglalla Grasslands, when he decided to bring me dinner on the trail just to make my day better. I won’t be meeting any more people like Lynne or Lindsay, and the GPTA volunteers who took time out of their busy schedules to help me out in difficult spots, or folks like Willie with amazing life experiences to share stories with.
Every state along the Great Plains Trail also has some amazing scenery to offer and their own unique challenges, and I got to experience it all. From what I’ve seen the GPT is definitely worthy of being a National Scenic Trail if Steve and his board of directors decide that’s what they want for their trail.
Finally, as all these thoughts and memories run through my head I make it to the border and head on inside to the station. There are two officers on duty this morning, Roxanne is already inside talking to them. They ask a few basic questions about my journey and then give instructions on how to proceed to the Canadian side. I was worried that being in the middle of nowhere up here there wouldn’t be a sign at this crossing to welcome people into Canada, but there is one and we will need to cross briefly into Canada to get a photo in front of it.
We make our way over to the other guard station. The Canadian officers are a bit more lively and seem genuinely happy for my accomplishment. The guy even stamps my passport as sort of a souvenir. I’ve been to Canada several times and never got it stamped so this is a treat. We explain that we’re just here to snap a photo in front of the sign and then we’ll be turning around and going back. He gives the go ahead and we walk the hundred or so feet to the sign, officially leaving North Dakota and the US and entering the province of Saskatchewan Canada. Here to welcome us is a big green sign and we snap a few photos in front of it. Then the officer comes outside and offers to take our picture in front of the sign. He snaps a few for us and we spend another five minutes or so taking various pictures from different angles, then finally turn to leave. I take one last glance at the surroundings before crossing back into the US. It’s no Lake Champlain here in Northgate Saskatchewan, but this area has it’s own beauty and I’m glad I got the chance to visit and briefly see it.
Back in the US we load my gear into the car and begin the long road home. About two hours down the road is Lake Sakakawea State Park and the beginning of the North Country Trail, and we make sure to stop in and pay a visit for nostalgia’s sake. It’s been three years since we’ve both laid eyes on it and it’s a bit more lively with colors and not covered in snow. Just looking back on those three years, it’s amazing how much has changed in that short time. Hiking long distance trails has changed my life in many positive ways, and the GPT is no exception. I hope this idea takes hold and people embrace it and use it to preserve this piece of America that is often forgotten in the minds of many. I’m glad I made the decision to come out and hike this trail, despite the weird looks I got from some people when I told them my plan. I think deep down though, I knew that I was making the right choice and what I was doing was important somehow. After all, “Not All Who Wander Are Lost.”