Our Stories

Judy Conrad: NCT Long Distance Hiker

Categories: Hiking Stories


Judy Conrad

Pellston, Mich.
Central patch + Mackinac Bridge and 1,000-Mile rockers
Compiled by Joan Young

by Shari Sanderson

In the summer of 2015, I had been hiking with some girl friends who hike, bike, or snowshoe year-round on Wednesdays – we call ourselves the WOW ladies – when I noticed blue blazes on the trees and asked what they meant. They said, “Oh this is the North Country Trail.” Even though I was born and raised in Petoskey (Mich.) and lived my whole life in Emmet County, I had never heard about the Trail. When I mentioned it to my brother he said, “Oh yeah, our friend Jim Stamm is president of the Harbor Springs Chapter.” So a few weeks later I saw Jim and told him that I had just learned about this trail, and how cool it was that a National Scenic Trail went right through our area.

That same year I told my son Chris about the Trail. When he visited from Ohio we hiked a couple sections in our area. In April of the following year, Chris was again home and we were hiking near the Mackinac Bridge. I told him about my dream to hike the Upper Peninsula when we got this harebrained idea: I live near the Big Mac and he lives in Ohio… Maybe we should hike the lower peninsula of Michigan together? The challenge was on!

In 2019 our driving time was more than our hike time, so we started hammock camping along the Trail. Then came the year of the coronavirus: 2020. We figured what safer place to be than on the Trail? 230 more miles. The Ohio border was in our sights! I couldn’t wait for the 2021 hiking season.

After four years + one day, on April 18, 2021, Chris and I accomplished our goal! I reached my 1,000 unique miles goal on the same day! Chris and I had been hoping to do a 20-mile day, but we even surpassed that by hiking 21. All of these goals were accomplished and we did it before I was 80! Heck, I have eight more years for new challenges! I definitely have the final 150 miles of the Upper Peninsula in my sights.

Thank you to everyone for all the work you do for this Trail, this national treasure, it is a blessing! It is also a blessing to be able to hike it with my son.

An excerpt from this essay ran in the Summer 2021 issue (40.3) of our quarterly membership magazine, the North Star.

In 2012, a program was developed to provide a modest award and incentive to people who hike a large number of unique miles on the North Country Trail. Many hikers love patches, so a central patch and rockers were designed to give to those people who hike either [at least] one complete NCT state or 1,000 unique miles. In addition, those who complete the entire NCT under muscle power are given a certificate, and an outer rocker. Those who hike (including snowshoeing or skiing) the entire Trail are said to complete an end-to-end (E2E) hike. If some portions are bicycled, an end-to-end trip rocker is awarded.

To see the complete list of NCT Long Distance Hikers and find out how to apply for recognition, visit explorenct.info/NoCoLo. There are also links to known essays, journals, and more by these hikers.