Michigan Woman, 73, Tackles 1,161 Mi. of the North Country Trail
Need some inspiration to get off of your couch and out into nature? Here it is.
This is Judy Conrad, a 73-year-old Michigander who just accomplished something pretty amazing. She successfully hiked Michigan's North Country Trail. You know, just a quick one thousand one hundred and sixty-one miles. No big deal (please read with sarcasm).
Let's talk about the North Country Trail. The North Country Trail goes across 8 states including:
- North Dakota
- New York
According to the North Country Trail's website,
The Trail traverses through more than 160 federal, state and local public lands, including 10 National Forests, four areas of the National Park Service, and over 100 state parks, forests and game areas.
In Michigan, the trail goes through the entirety of the UP and down through the state to Ohio's border. Even if you just stick to Michigan, that's a lot of ground to cover!
Judy was kind enough to take time out of her day to answer a few of my questions:
What Inspired You to Take This Journey?
Judy said that all of this started in 2015 when she was hiking with the WOW hiking group. Also known as Women Outdoors on Wednesdays. She happened to spot a marker indicating what she learned to be the Northern Country Trail and thought it sounded interesting.
In 2016, she ended up joining The Softies, a hiking group that hikes a few times a year but stays in hotels and dines out as opposed to "roughing it" and camping along or near the trails (that's my kind of hiking). Thus, her journey along the Northern Country Trail began.
By the way, she didn't stop in the UP. She continued on the North Country Trail with her son from the UP, down through the Lower Penninsula, and all the way to the Ohio border. Incredible.
Have You Always Been a Hiker?
Surely, someone who has the dedication to hike 1,161 miles has been a hiker their entire life, right? Nope!
Judy said that she's always been more of a water sports kind of woman. But, hiking got in her blood later in her life and she loves being out in nature.
Speaking of the hike, the preparation ahead of time had to be grueling. Or, so I assumed. In fact, Judy said that she, "just went for it." Before joining The Softies, her longest hike was bout 8 miles. Staring down 12-20 mile hikes with The Softies, Judy expressed her concern to which one of the members said, "Well, I'm 71 so you can do it too." And, she did!
Her motto? Take it slow, get 'er done.
Favorite Trail or Spot Along the Way?
This was definitely a tough question but, Judy said that walking along the shores of Lake Superior along the cliffs was one of her favorite parts. That and having picnics along the Presque Isle River in the Porcupine Mountains. If you've never witnessed the Porcupine Mountains in person, check out this drone footage of the area:
Truly, that landscape is stunning.
Any New Adventures on the Horizon?
At 73, she's conquered Michigan's North Country Trail. So, what's next?
While Judy says she'd like to do the entire North Country Trail (reminder, that's 8 states) she says she has opted to stay closer to home due to her husband's health concerns. But, she plans to keep hiking locally whenever she can.
One last thing I'd like to mention, Judy also has Osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and brittle. And she still conquered this incredibly long trail. She said, "It's funny. I hurt while sitting in my chair but not while hiking." As my Dad always used to tell me, "An object in motion stays in motion. An object at rest stays at rest." Maybe he was really on to something.
It just goes to show that no matter your age or where you are in your life, you are capable of accomplishing just about anything. As long as you're willing to put in the work and time.
A big thank you to Judy Conrad for taking the time to talk with me. Good luck with all of your future adventures!
Hiking is definitely a great way to get out and enjoy Michigan's Summer weather. But, if you're more of a 'lay by the pool' type of adventurer, there's a service that lets you rent private pools by the hour. Check it out:
At Least 3 Pools You Can Rent by the Hour in the Kalamazoo Area
Check Out These Stunning Sculptures at the Morton Arboretum in Illinois