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Look what came in the mail yesterday!

If you have been following along here, you will know that after finishing the Superior Hiking Trail in long sections last year, I was looking for a new adventure.  2020 was going to be all about the North Country Trail and exploring Minnesota’s most remote and rugged trails up in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.  I looked forward to building on my previous trips and earning my 4th North Country Trail 100 Miler Patch by hiking one more section of the longest National Trail in the United States .  My 2020 plan was to hike the Kekekabic, Sioux Hustler, Border Route trails and go on a big family trip to Idaho in between.

Having a goal and staying motivated in times of change

I mentally prepared myself to cancel these plans in mid-March as I the Covid-19 virus developed into a global pandemic and I started working from home.   I hung maps of the trails I had dreamed of exploring, along with a few that I had already fallen in love with, in my new makeshift home office and did my best to pivot (that word is so popular right now).

The North Country Trail,  Superior Hiking Trail, Boundary Waters Canoe Area, State Forests and all State park Campgrounds were declared closed.  Luckily, a couple of weeks into the Stay At Home order, I read on the Superior Hiking Trail Facebook page that the SHT and NCT were encouraging people to #hikefromhome and #hikeinplace  and that the NCT had created a special challenge that counted ALL miles hiked whether on a treadmill, sidewalk or local trail towards the 100 miler patch.   I was in!

I like having a goal to work towards. So, with all of my trips being potentially cancelled, I needed a little boost to keep myself accountable and find a reason to get outside with life changing on the daily.

The pup and I set out each morning and sometimes again in the afternoon…”hiking in place”, taking our time, stopping to watch birds, picking up trash and noticing the small beauties in our own community.   See that little blue medallion in my photo at the top?   That’s my pup’s award.  She earned it too!

What I learned

As I mentioned in my last post, my line between neighborhood saunter with the dog and “hike” has blurred into a daily habit that has left me wondering why I ever compartmentalized them in the first place.  It’s all about getting outside and exploring the nooks and crannies of nature wherever I can find it.  As I reflect on the last month, I am grateful for many things, but one of them is the ability to get outside every day and having a way to stay motivated to do so.  I miss the trail, but it’s kind of nice to leave my car in the garage for weeks at a time and start a hike right from my front door.

One day, I hiked 4.5 miles each way just to hop on a 1 mile long nature trail that is managed by Three Rivers Park District. My 10 mile hike lead me through neighborhoods filled with people waving from their porches, sprouting flower beds and budding trees.  Walking all that way to get a little dash of the nature area gave me a feeling of anticipation and appreciation for the trail.

You can do it too!

If you are interested in earning the 100 Mile patch and aren’t sure if your trail will be open this year.  The NCT has extended the challenge into the month of May!  If you need a little motivation to get outside every day or up your miles, this is a great way to do it!

What’s next?

I realize that not everyone gets jazzed up by earning patches, checking boxes or accepting challenges…  so, if that’s not your thing or it causes stress, by all means, do what works for you.   BUT… as I have mentioned before, having a goal or a challenge helps me stay motivated, so LUCKILY, I came up with a new one!   In my last post, I mentioned that I was working on the Hiking Merit Badge virtually with a Scout and her Mom.  I thought to myself, why not re-earn the requirements for the Hiking Merit badge this month?   I mean, that trip to the BWCA could still happen and it would be a really fun way to train and stay connected with the Scout that is working on her badge.  Two other hiking buddies want to do it too!   This will be my third time completing the requirements, and the thought of working my way towards another 20 miler before memorial day ignited a little spark in my heart.  I’m in!


Here I am, heading to a backpacking clinic the night before my SHT Thru hike.  The Scout Leaders didn’t believe I had everything in my little home made pack, until I unpacked it!

The Hiking Merit Badge


  1. 5 mile hike
  2. 10 mile hike
  3. 10 mile hike
  4. 10 mile hike
  5. 15 mile hike
  6. 20 mile hike

There are other requirements scouts must do to earn this merit badge, but here are the sequence of hikes that must be completed, and in this order.  Although scouts are the only ones that can actually earn the Hiking Merit badge, we can all use the information to gain confidence and have the satisfaction of knowing we mastered skills that can be carried with us for miles.

To catch up to the scout I am working with, I split Monday’s 10 miler into two hikes so I could go to work.   I’ll complete the remaining hikes in a continuous stretch.  It feels good to have something to work towards and a reason to load up my pack with weight.

I have a wild idea for a micro-backpacking adventure up my sleeve if the BWCA trip doesn’t happen, and it might actually end up being just as fun!  So, stay tuned for an upcoming trip report either way!

Hope you enjoyed this mid-week post and are finding ways to enjoy getting outside every day.   Are you working towards your NCT100 patch?  Finding ways to re-define what a hike is?  I love hearing what you are up to! Drop me a note in the comments or feel free to join the conversation on the Wandering Pine Instagram and Facebook Pages.

Happy Trails!





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9 thoughts on “The North Country Trail 100 Mile Challenge

  1. I’ve been missing the trail too, had plans, all is on hold. Been hiking the neighborhood and Three Rivers which I’ve enjoyed.

    Hope you get out to Idaho… I love Idaho… Lochsa River in Clearwater NF; Lower Salmon River BLM and Heaven’s Gate Lookout near Riggins; and Redfish Lake in Sawtooth Mtns near Stanly, lots of great dayhikes and more. Beautiful country, bring your bear spray!

  2. Very inspiring! My husband and I are working on our PA 50 patch…we also love collecting patches. 🙂

    1. Sweet! Patches are such a fun way to commemorate and remember special places and achievements. I haven’t heard of the PA50. Id love to hear about it. Happy trails!

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