The first woman to hike the entire North Country Trail is doing it again

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Yankee Springs Twp. – The North Country Trail is massive. It winds through eight states, and at around 4,700 miles, it’s by far the longest in the entire national trails system.

Joan Young of Scottville, Michigan was the first woman to hike every step of the North Country Trail (NCT) and now she’s doing it again. The first time she did it in sections over the better part of two decades. Now, she’s aiming to do it all in a year.

We spent some time on the trail with Joan recently. Hear about and see her journey in the video below or click here to play.

Young, 73, started at US-10 and started walking on December 1. If all goes to plan, she’ll head east until she reaches the farthest reaches of the tail in Vermont. Then, she’ll travel to North Dakota where she’ll pick up the trail again heading towards home. Her goal is to finish on December 1, 2022, exactly a year from when she started. At a steady clip of 15 miles per day that gives her some wiggle room for rest days during the next year on the trail.

The distance is staggering. The Appalachian Trail is the most well known hiking trail in the United States and it clocks in at 2,200 miles. Hiking the NCT is like walking from Detroit to Rome, Italy in a straight line.

While the task would be daunting for many, Young is confident and plans to keep walking until she’s done. In 2010, when she completed the NCT the first time, she was only the ninth person to do it overall since the trail was established in 1980 according to the North Country Trail Association.

“It’s more mental,” she said. “It’s mental it’s not physical. The issue is to just get your head around the idea that you’re going to do it.”

Joan Young poses near the North Country Trail in Barry County in Michigan on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. Young was the first woman to complete the entire trail in 2010, and now she’s attempting it again.Neil Blake/MLive.com

She fell in love with the trail in the 1990s and she picked away at the project hiking it in sections until she completed the hike. As soon as she finished she knew she wanted to do it again at some point. The trail is a work in progress she wanted to see the new additions.

Now, a decade later she is getting her chance. She’s made a few concessions to her age. The first is by hiking it supported by friends and her husband, Omer, instead of doing it alone. Each day, they drop her off at the trailhead and pick her up once she’s hiked around 15 miles. They are staying in a little camper and will move campsites every few days.

“I think I can do this,” she said. “But I don’t know for sure. I haven’t hit any serious hills yet.”

While she’s already hiked over 300 miles and just crossed the Ohio boarder, she recognizes that it’s just a drop in the bucket to the larger goal.

“It’s huge undertaking,” she said. “It really hasn’t hit me yet. I just feel like I’m out for a hike. I don’t know when it’s going to hit me.”

The best way to follow Young’s journey is through her blog.

For more information about the NCT, visit northcountrytrail.org.

Joan Young Hikes North Country Trail

Joan Young hikes the North Country Trail in Barry County in Michigan on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021. Young was the first woman to complete the entire trail in 2010, and now she’s attempting it again.Neil Blake/MLive.com

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