by Luke Kloberdanz, Director of Philanthropy, Ice Age Trail Alliance
For all trail organizations nationwide, 2020 provided more twists and turns than a series of switchback climbs. With thousands turning to trails for mental and physical health, our organizations faced unprecedented pressures. Naturally, determining whether or not to support thru-hikers as the pandemic spread across the nation was one of these challenges.
Many factors played into the myriad decisions linked to this issue, including the anticipated number of hikers, local regulations, and a host of other considerations. The Ice Age Trail Alliance made the decision, along with its partners, to remain open for business with limited support of thru-hikers and a strong emphasis on hikers being able to be self-supported.
This early decision by the Alliance allowed three successful thru-hikes reported to the organization, along with 28 completed section hikes. All of these accomplishments, especially during a challenging year, were amazing. Two of the three thru-hikes, however, were record-breakers.
The first, Coree Woltering, set the fastest known time (FKT) for the trail, completing the journey in 21 days, 13 hours, and 35 minutes in the summer heat. The other, Emily Ford, was the first woman to thru hike the IAT in winter. Emily and her companion sled dog, Diggins, completed the Trail in 69 days. Both Coree (@coreewoltering) and Emily (@emilyontrail) recorded their hikes on Instagram.
Coree Woltering (left; photo credit Dream Lens Media) and Emily Ford (right; photo credit Paula Tonn) made IAT history in 2020.