Just finished reading Luke “Strider” Jordan’s book about his 2013 thru hike of the North Country National Scenic Trail. Reader’s of this blog are well acquainted with the fact that there is such a thing. I’ve posted a number of times on the diversity of the NSTs, and the fact that they go well beyond the AT or the PCT. If the North Country Trail has a claim to fame, it’s that it is, at 4,568 miles, by far, the longest of the bunch. It runs from the middle of North Dakota to Vermont and is in no way a straight shot. It winds considerably, going as far north as the famed North Shore of Lake Superior, and as far south as southern Ohio.
Few have even thought seriously about attempting a thru hike of the entire NCT. It’s far more likely to attract a local crowd along its shorter sections, or perhaps a thru hike of one of its longer pieces such as the Superior Hiking Trail or the Buckeye Trail. We don’t know how many people have thought about it, but we do know how many people have actually done it: 4. That’s right. Strider was just the 4th person to thru hike the trail since its inception in 1980. A few others have completed it in sections, but that’s about it.
That should tell you all you need to know about the difficulty of the NCT. Let’s face it. The NCT makes the AT look like a trek to the mailbox.
Enter Luke Jordan. It takes an indomitable will and a level of perseverance few possess to succeed, and Luke has the right stuff. Most of the book is essentially his journals from the trail, so it is heavy on day-to-day details, and light on philosophy, but even the fact that he had the strength left to write a daily journal after pounding out 25-30 miles a day in often adverse conditions is remarkable. Also, this kind of writing makes you feel like you’ve pitched your tent right next to his.
Let’s see . . . There was cold, then extreme cold, then bugs, then more bugs, then heat, then extreme heat, then dogs, then snakes, then bugs again. I’m not saying he didn’t have a few enjoyable days in there. He certainly did, but when the trail got tough, it got really tough. No one would’ve faulted him if he’d called it quits when the mosquitoes in Michigan were thick enough to carry him away, or the ticks in Ohio numbered in the hundreds on his legs!
But he didn’t quit, and as much as it’s his own personal grit, it’s the “trail angels” that help him through. Acts of kindness from strangers are a near daily occurrence for Luke on the NCT. So if you want your faith in humanity restored, or if you want your faith in America restored, then read Thru and Back Again – A Hiker’s Journey on the North Country Trail.