Winter Hike Across the North Country Trail

There were giant ice floes. Big, old giant things higher than your head. It was cool.

Mother Nature is desperately trying to reclaim the North Country Trail all the time. Those guys have got a big job taking care of that trail. There were so many blowdowns along Lake Superior and so much erosion that in some of the places the trail was gone. There’d be big washout, and the trail would be gone.

Along the lake it looked like a forest of driftwood and old trees lying on the beach, the trees covered with stones from the lake churning. It looked like they macramed them on there because it was all covered in ice. You could see through the ice and see all the stones on top of the trees. It looked like somebody’s done it on purpose, but it was too big a job. You got to go up there and see. I’m telling you.

I was gone 39 days, and 34 nights I slept in my tent. You go through Grand Marais, Marquette and Munising. Most people wanted to know what I was doing. I was in Munising for about half a day. I had a prescription that needed to get refilled, and I’d been having some snowshoe troubles. I went to the hardware there and worked on my snowshoes a little bit, but I was in a bakery there and had something to eat, and then when I left the lady gave me this huge pasty, and that thing was a big one. It had rutabaga in it. It was delicious. I took that baby, and that night when I got in the old sleeping bag, I had that for my supper.

People were extremely kind, and they gave me a lot of goodies. I got a stone bear a guy give me, just a little figurine. And a bear claw. Guy gave me a cigar for when I crossed into Wisconsin, to smoke as my celebration cigar. I forgot about it. I’ve been mad at myself ever since. I got it home, and I wished I’da remembered and put it in my mouth and taken some pictures of myself at least.

I’d like to get paid to do this. I’m retired now; I could test out equipment for people. Try out a new pair of snowshoes. Go do some obscure winter trip. Spend time out in their sleeping bag. And if they wanted me to, I could cook.

I haven’t really plugged my equipment. I tell you what. And you can put anything you want about this. I got what they call an Exponent 2 tent made by Coleman. And most people think Coleman is just your basic family camping gear. Well that little Exponent 2 tent is only rated a three-season tent, and I went through some intense storms in that thing. That little tent would take the big winds. I slept really good on the snow. In that old sleeping bag, that minus 15, that was my salvation. When I got in that baby at night, life was good.

I hit a blizzard headed from Grand Marais. I had to wear a pair of ski goggles and a camp towel wrapped around my face and a hooded fleece jacket pulled way up. It was wicked.

I got to Ironwood. Ironwood news actually came out and interviewed me. My best friend whom I ski with had plans to meet me there. He came up and spent a week skiing. He came up to get me. When we finally met up in Wisconsin there, we didn’t hop in a car and head for home. I wanted to take a break. So we had something to eat and got a motel and that night I took my boots off. My buddy goes, “Jerry, I hate to tell you, but your boots are going to spend one more night outside.”

Jerry Gauld is planning to hike the major islands of the Great Lakes.

Emily Betz Tyra is associate editor of Traverse.

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.