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Emily Ford makes progress on ski trek across top of Minnesota

The Duluth resident, with her sled dog, Diggins, hopes to reach Grand Portage by mid-March.

Emily Ford's dog, Diggins
Diggins, Emily Ford's sled dog, curled up in front of their tent at a campsite along their 200-mile trek across the Minnesota-Ontario border. The duo left Crane Lake on Feb. 11 and are making progress on their goal of reaching Grand Portage by mid-March.
Contributed / Emily Ford

DULUTH — Emily Ford, the intrepid Duluth outdoorswoman who is skiing her way across the top of Minnesota, is making progress on her over 200-mile trek.

Emily Ford took a selfie photo recently along her 200-mile trek across the Minnesota-Ontario border. She and her dog, Diggins, have endured deep snow, slush, open rivers and temperatures as cold as 37 degrees below zero. They hope to make it to Grand Portage by mid-March.
Contributed / Emily Ford

Ford, with her sled dog, Diggins, started at Crane Lake on Feb. 11 and hopes to emerge at Grand Portage on Lake Superior sometime in mid-March.

She has been reporting in via cellphone infrequently, with sketchy reception along much of the Minnesota-Ontario border, as she makes her way east, across the northern reaches of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Ford started her trip during a brutal stretch of 30-below temperatures and has experienced 37 below on at least one morning, she reported on Instagram and Facebook updates. While much of her trek has been solitary, she did run into one team of U.S. Forest Service personnel and was re-supplied by a team from the Ely-area Voyageurs Outward Bound School when she was in the Basswood Lake area.

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Emily Ford and her trusty sidekick, Diggins the sled dog, will spend 30 days trekking across the top of Minnesota.

Ford said the snow has been 30 inches deep across parts of the route, and that, while she can ski across the big border lakes, it takes her three passes of cutting trail on the portages between lakes to trample down a path enough to get her sled, or pulk, across without tipping.


Emily Ford' dog, Diggins
Diggins, Emily Ford's trusty sled dog, with a frosty snout on the duo's 200-mile trek along the Minnesota-Ontario border.
Contributed / Emily Ford

Ford took a “0-day," where she camped without advancing, and built a big fire to dry gear and rest.

Ford, 29, noted that she fell through some thin ice at one point but emerged fine. She has had to work around some open rivers, move through deep slush on some lakes and noted the trip has seemed almost constantly windy.

Still, her spirits seem buoyed by the beauty of the wild border country.

After 69 days on the trail, Ford becomes only the second person on record to complete a winter thru-hike of the trail.

“Regardless of the cold. This space is still stunning. I feel so lucky to be immersed in the Boundary Waters. The more time I spend here I know that I know that I know that we need this space and we have a duty to keep it safe and wild," Ford posted on Instagram. “The wilderness holds nothing back. For you. For me. For us.”

Ford, the head gardener at Duluth's Glensheen mansion, last year became only the second person ever to through-hike Wisconsin’s Ice Age trail in winter.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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