Backpacker Radio 101 | Emily Ford on Thru-Hiking the Ice Age Trail in Winter

In today’s episode of backpacker radio presented by the trek, we are joined by Emily Ford.  Perhaps you’ve heard that name in the backpacking sphere of late, because Emily recently wrapped a thru-hike of Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail- in the dead of winter- becoming just the second person ever to do so, and the first woman.  We do a deep dive on Emily’s journey, including what gear she used, the weather conditions (spoiler alert- it was cold as hell), how she had to knock on strangers’ doors to ask if she could sleep in their yard, and how she managed this trek alongside a husky that did not belong to her.  This is a fun conversation.

We wrap the show with a preview of The Trek’s brand new podcast- Walking Distance, a Triple Crown of odd firsts, another edition of backpacking advice of the day, and some history of how North Carolina’s tallest mountain played a role in the death of the person its named after. But first.

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Interview with Emily Ford

00:04:42 – QOTD: Do you like backpacking in the winter? Or what’s the worst part of hiking in freezing temperatures? 

00:08:00 – Welcome Emily Ford

00:08:20 – Where are you from originally and how and when did you get into backpacking?

00:09:54 – Did you hear what happened on Lake Superior? 

00:10:23 – What kind of stuff did the people who were fishing lose? 

00:10:57 – Why don’t we hear your Minnesotan accent?

00:11:07 – What’s the best accent you’ve got?

00:12:13 – When did your intro into hiking and backpacking begin?

00:14:02 – How much do you think rugby helped you train you for backpacking?

00:15:37 – Did your rugby coach’s mantra play in your mind as you hiked? 

00:16:18 – What made you want to do a winter thru-hike?

00:17:25 – Did you feel like it was a hard adjustment to backpacking after being used to quicker movements with rugby?

00:19:34 – How do you get into powerlifting?

00:22:03 – Did powerlifting help with carrying such a heavy pack for winter backpacking?

00:23:17 – Can you give us the full spiel about the Ice Age Trail and what you just accomplished?

00:24:37 – You’re the first woman and second person ever to winter thru-hike the Ice Age Trail, correct? Does that speak to the difficulty of the feat or the difficulty of being out in that cold of weather?

00:25:39 – What’s the terrain like on the Ice Age Trail? Also you finished in 69 days?! Nice.

00:27:04 – Was it difficult technically or more like rolling hills?

00:28:09 – Had you hiked much of the trail in summer?

00:28:48 – When did you have snow shoes on the trail?

00:29:42 – What was this Wisconsin winter like? How cold was it?

00:31:17 – Did your dog sleep with you in your sleeping bag?

00:32:14 – What’s a musher?

00:33:30 – So the kennel just let you borrow a dog for the winter?

00:34:59 – How did Diggins respond to thru-hiking in winter? 

00:36:36 – So Diggins was melting the snow underneath her as she slept?

00:36:59 – Was Diggins pulling her gear or your gear? 

00:37:59 – Diggins was on leash in all your photos, can you talk about that?

00:39:39 – Do you think Diggins stayed near you because she began to trust you?

00:40:00 – What was it like giving Diggins back to her family?

00:41:00 – Does Diggins live close enough to visit? 

00:41:38 – What kind of challenges were there with bringing a dog? 

00:43:19 – Did Diggins get town food too?

00:43:33 – Did you get to go to any fish fries? 

00:44:07 – What was your lodging situation while on trail?

00:45:16 – So you have friends all throughout Wisconsin?

00:46:24 – What is it like when you get to town? How do you pick which door you are going to knock on? 

00:47:53 – How many times did you cold knock on people’s doors?

00:48:31 – Were people familiar with the Ice Age Trail? 

00:49:05 – Are these people who let you sleep in their yard interacting with you at all? 

00:49:22 – At what point did you start to get fan fare? 

00:51:29 – Do you have any dream sponsors? 

00:52:30 – Can you talk about your gear? 

00:55:00 – How did your sleeping bag pack? 

00:58:14 – What were you wearing while you were hiking?

00:59:46 – Did you have down or synthetic gear?

01:01:18 – Do you have leftover issues from frostbite on your butt?

01:02:08 – Would snow pants have been too hot? 

01:04:19 – Were your shoes waterproof? 

01:04:54 – Did you have gaiters? 

01:06:04 – Did you keep hand warmers in bags to keep them working?

01:06:32 – What kind of eyewear did you have? 

01:06:55 – Did you use trekking poles? 

01:11:25 – Can you speak to being a black, LGBTQIA+ hiker?

01:13:42 – Have people messaged you that they are inspired by your journey?

01:14:44 – What’s next for you?

01:15:25 – Have you been in touch with Renee Patrick at all?

01:17:06 – Did you struggle with feeling stir crazy and bored and not being able to talk to other people?

01:19:08 – How did processing things while hiking interface with your journey?

01:21:02 – Can you talk about your job as head gardner?

01:22:13 – Where can we find you? What can we plug?

01:22:36 – What’s a goat apprentice?

01:23:00 – Did your dog know you were cheating on him while hiking with Diggins?

01:23:53 – Do you have any fun goat facts?

01:24:41 – So older goats don’t get mad at the younger goats when they bounce on them?

01:25:28 – If you are stranded on an island would you prefer goat or cow cheese? 

01:26:38 – Why do people not drink more goat milk?


Trek Propaganda

Triple Crown of Firsts

Random Backpacking Advice…of the day.

Mile by Mile Excerpt

Mail Bag 

5 Star Reviews


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Comments 2

  • Shannon : Apr 22nd

    Awesome episode and interview! Emily is an absolute BADASS and is also super funny and likable. I loved hearing her trail stories as well as her experience bringing a pup along. I think this is a major accomplishment and one I’m glad you all acknowledged and celebrated. I’m a wimp when it comes to the cold in general but I just can’t imagine backpacking through Wisconsin in the dead of winter, truly impressive and admirable!


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