At some point in the 1990s, I started hearing about the Superior Hiking Trail, a new footpath designed for hikers to see the sexiest peaks and rivers in the wilderness along the North Shore of Lake Superior. It didn’t come up very often in conversation until the year 2000, which is when it began to annoy me that I had never hiked a speck of it — other than maybe wandering away from the waterfalls at Gooseberry and noticing markings that told me I was on the not-yet famous trail I’d been hearing about.
It was April 2000 when an upstart Duluth newspaper called the Ripsaw began publishing weekly and I stepped up to be its managing editor. The paper had a weekly “Adventure” article and I suddenly found myself around people who had taken on parts of the SHT and heard stories about a handful of souls who had through-hiked the whole thing, which at the time meant trekking from Two Harbors to the Canadian border.
There was a rumor going around that Dusty Olson ran the whole trail in two days, which I found almost but not quite believable. The notion that such a feat could be close to true at least led me to believe I could do it in fewer than two weeks. Then I heard the first documented person to conquer the trail had a fused spine and partially paralyzed legs, and hiked with forearm crutches. That made it hard for me to think I wasn’t physically up to the task.