MICHIGAN, USA — Imagine hiking from Vermont to North Dakota, now imagine doing that at 75 years old. That’s just what Michigander Joan Young did.
The North Country Trail is a string of paths stretching 4,800 miles, passing through 8 states: Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota.
Joan has been destined for the outdoors since a young age.
“I was very interested in the outdoors as a child, I belonged to Girl Scouts, I lived in the country and really enjoyed doing outdoor activities,” said Young.
She said her interest in backpacking began later in life after her kids were grown.
“My best friend and I decided that we would try some backpacking, and see if we still liked it. So we hunted around and found some equipment that was pretty old, but still worked,” said Young. “And we did a three day trip backpacking trip on the North Country Trail, which I had recently discovered. And we decided we still like that activity a lot. So we began doing a hike every summer. And it took about three years, before I decided that I really wanted to hike the whole North Country trail.”
Young said, “I finished the trail for the first time in 2010. Then almost as soon as I finished, I knew I wanted to do it again.”
The trail is relatively new, being authorized by Congress in 1980. She says because of this, the route was changing quickly.
“Already, there were so many changes to the route places since when I did them. I knew I wanted to do it again right away,” said Young.
And Young said the biggest challenge of all is planning.
“It takes a fair amount of planning to pull off a continuous hike on this trail, I mean, you need to you need to be comfortable in outdoor situations,” said Young.
And after that crucial step was completed, her boots hit the dirt to take on the NCT for the second time in December of 2021. Young said she was hoping to complete the entire trek in a year.
“I would have to average 15 miles a day,” said Young.
But after health setbacks and heavy snow in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, she decided her original timeline was not possible.
Young said, “It’s a mental challenge.”