An Unexpected Adventure: Couple hikes entire North Country Trail

The Dorroughs at the Trail's Western Terminus

The Dorroughs at the Trail’s Western Terminus

In one month, Dan and Ruth Dorrough will complete their end-to-end section hike of the North Country Trail. It’s an incredible journey that spans 17 years, 7 states, and over 4,600 miles.

The Dorroughs will complete their hike while at the NCTA’s Celebration in Fargo on Saturday, September 17. The Dorroughs will make a special presentation Saturday evening, “An Unexpected Adventure, Hiking the Entire North Country National Scenic Trail,” sharing stories and photos from their epic adventure.

We caught up the with Dorroughs recently, to ask a few questions about their hiking travels on the NCNST.

When did you start your end-to-end trip?

We discovered the Finger Lakes Trail about 17 years ago. It took a while before we learned that it was an Affiliate of the North Country Trail and afforded us a route to walk to North Dakota. For years we did small sections of the NCT. After retirement 3 years ago, we got serious about connecting the sections and completing the missing parts.

What prompted you to want to hike the entire trail?

Curiosity and the value of having a goal.

What has been one of your most memorable experiences?

After a hot hike in rural North Dakota this past Father’s Day, we were putting our gear away in the van when a car pulled up. The friendly driver asked us about our hike and then invited us to join his extended family’s celebration of the day. We were treated as honored guests and shared lots of laughs as we tried to guess each other’s occupations. After a delicious meal, one couple invited us to spend the night in their lovely air conditioned farm home. I (Ruth) even got to sit in a giant sprayer as we learned about mega farming in North Dakota.


Dorroughs exploring North Dakota with a group hike.

What’s been one of the most challenging things about this adventure?

Hiking the trail in sections, mostly day hiking with two vehicles, presented lots of logistic challenges – parking, trail access, finding camping near the trail etc.

The NCNST passes through such a wide variety of landscapes from towns to remote wilderness. How has that affected your hiking experience?

The experience has been greatly enhanced by the variety of landscapes. It has been a marvelous and most interesting way to see the country.

What was your favorite type of landscape and why?

Ruth: Being a bit of an Eastern snob, I was totally unprepared for the haunting beauty of North Dakota. The openness and ever changing vast skies created a walking experience unlike any I had ever experienced.

Dan: I especially like places with dramatic scenery. My favorites are Pictured Rocks, Border Route, Superior Hiking Trail and New York’s Watkin’s Glen.


What’s been one of the most important skills or lessons that you’ve learned along the way?

Ruth: I learned to drive in downtown Boston. Driving rugged, muddy, obstacle laden roads frightened me. I have gained confidence and am more skilled now. I even maneuvered the Subaru between a giant fallen rock near a ditch adjacent to a cliff on one side and a drop off to a stream on the other with only a slight scratch to the side of the car..

Dan: I have learned to graciously accept the kindness of strangers and have become more expert at navigation.

How has hiking together impacted your relationship with each other?

Not a lot. Perhaps it has fine tuned it a bit.

What advice would you give to someone considering an end-to-end journey of the NCNST?

Do it! Do it now while you can still have the trail mostly to yourself and a stranger walking rural roads and small towns is still a curiosity for the folks who live there. 

So what are your plans for after you finish the NCNST?

Ruth: Maybe we’ll do it all over again.

Dan: I’d like to relax for six months and then see what strikes my fancy.

We look forward to celebrating with Dan & Ruth next month at the completion of their journey.

Join the Dorroughs and many other North Country Trail enthusiasts in Fargo September 15-17 for the NCTA Celebration. We’ll explore the beautiful and unique landscape of North Dakota. Hurry, registration ends August 31!

One Response to “An Unexpected Adventure: Couple hikes entire North Country Trail”

  1. Jerry Warner September 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    What an accomplishment!! I caught your story live at the NCTA Celebration. Thanks for the “Beauty of North Dakota” comment. We really need more hikers here. I would love to have something like this under my belt someday; maybe a goal for after retirement.

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