Winter Hike Across the North Country Trail

What it feels like to walk 120 miles in winter with wet socks? It’s bad, and your feet get sore. This went on for several days; 120 miles didn’t happen in one day. Every night when I went to bed, my boots were still wet—even though I have boots that are waterproof and wick. They can’t wick because they were covered in snow. Every night I went to bed and my boots would be wet and they would freeze like a block. When I got up in the morning I’d have to take the shoelaces out to get ’em on. Therefore, when I walked it would take quite a few miles, actually, to get them to limber up. So my feet would rub in there and get sore. It’s pretty miserable to walk day after day with your feet wet. It was amazing that my socks could dry out in the middle of the night. But the frozen boots, by the time the boots limbered up, the socks were wet. I never got a break on the wet socks. They’d get warm enough I could stand it after I walked a while, which is more motivation to keep moving. My feet were really bad.

What happens to the North Country Trail, especially in the wintertime, is that the trail becomes obscured. Some reason, the trail marker people would get out into a hardwood area, and they would not mark it well. You’d find a mark, then the next mark far on a hill. You had to go looking for the next marker.

You sort of get a little bit batty. I’d get an attitude: They should’ve had a mark on that tree there. I tell you what. You lose that trail, it would make you so mad. And maybe mad is a cover up for scared, but I’d get like, What the hell.

This one spot I was in I got so mad at the guy, ’cause when he marked the trail it went along a ridge down by a crick. And you’d have to cut down by the crick and then up on the bank—I was so disgusted with that guy. Cussing this guy out and he’s just trying to make an interesting hike for the average guy. But here I am, Why don’t he just stay on the ridge? Why does he want to go down to the crick?

There’s all kind of deadfalls, and deadfalls are terrible. You can’t just walk up over top of it, you’ve got to go around it. Say that tree fell on top of five feet of snow. And now there’s five feet on top, you’ve got a mountain. Deadfalls, they’ll fall and settle in the snow, but they’re a void there, you walk on that deadfall, and you’ll break through it and go down into the void. You had to go around the deadfalls, and in the swamps that is kind of dangerous.

You’d get crazy. But I talk to myself all the time anyway. I couldn’t remember the words to any songs all the way through, which drove me crazy.

I’d do a mental check with myself. I did that at night. I’d get in my sleeping bag, and I’d lie there and think, You know, okay, you only got lost once today. It’s going to happen tomorrow. I’d usually lie there and think, Boy, tomorrow I hope I don’t have any trouble on the trail.

I had trouble up around Silver Lake. There was a big storm up in there, and I had trouble there and in Tahquamenon Falls. It just snowed a lot and kept snowing. The markings on the trees weren’t high enough, and they’d get covered by snow. That’s when I literally scraped the trees looking for markers. I scraped down at my feet, looking for markers. The markings there are 6 or 7 feet in the air. But I’d have to dig down to find the mark. That was scary. I wasn’t mad at anyone for that one.

Article Comments

  • A friend shared this story with me. (I had never previously heard of For a slightly different type of “northern” adventure, view my own Pilgrim Log at I think you’ll find that my friend was concluding that I have something in common with Jerry Gauld. I’m flattered to think maybe so. If Jerry reads these comments, my hat is off to him.