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'Strider' endeavors to complete 4,600-mile hike PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, July 30, 2013 12:00 AM


Staff Writer

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DELPHOS — Twenty-three-year old Luke “Strider” Jordan endeavors to become the fourth man to complete the 4,600-mile thru-hike of the North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST).

The trail, which begins in North Dakota, converges with the Miami and Erie Canal beginning in Napoleon and runs the general route of the canal towpath through many historic canal towns — Defiance, Ottoville and Delphos — all the way down to Tipp City.


Jordan, whose trail name is “Strider,” hails from Minnesota and has been an avid hiker since he was very young.


One motivation for the personal journey was his experiences as a kid camping with his family. Over the years, the simplicity of going to their favorite campground, pitching a tent and enjoying a ‘getting away from it all’ vacation evolved into experiencing the commercialization and urban sprawl, so to speak, into their refuge.

“It was hard to get reservations,” Jordan said. “Our family decided to buy a 10-acre lot and build a cabin near the North Shore. ”

It was during that first year he discovered, only a quarter-mile away from the cabin, a hidden gem of the North Shore — the Superior Hiking Trail.

Another inspiration for his trek across country is to follow in the ‘footsteps’ of a well seasoned hiker named “The Nimblewill Nomad,” M. J. “Eb” Eberhart, who at 70, hiked the NCT back in 2009.

While attending St. Cloud State University, Jordan volunteered time working on building portions of Superior Hiking Trail and joined the school’s cross-country and track teams. In December, Jordan graduated with a bachelor of science degree in ecology and natural resources.

“I just finished college and I knew I wanted to do something before I started my career,” he spoke decisively.

The NCNST stretches from North Dakota to New York and wanders 4,600 miles through America’s rugged northern heartlands. Stretching across seven states, this longest National Scenic Trail is brought to local communities through the dedication and hard work of volunteers. Of the 4,600 miles of tread, only 1,800 miles meet required standards and have been “certified off-road,” which means less than half the trail is forevermore protected. It is more than double the length of the infamous Appalachian Trail.

At this time, only three people have thru-hiked the entire trail including: Ed Talone (1994), Andrew Skurka (2004-2005), and M. J. “Eb” Eberhart “Nimblewill Nomad” (2009).

Prior to leaving Lake Sakakawea State Park in central North Dakota on March 27—a little over four months ago—Jordan prepared for the arduous trek by gaining 10 pounds and since his departure, has lost 15 pounds.

“I had endurance from long distance running in college,” he detailed. “Two weeks into it [hiking the trail], I got my runner’s legs back.”

During the winter months, Jordan said that one of the strangest situations he had to overcome was the fact that a portion of the actual trail ran behind a summer resort in North Dakota.

“It was weird,” Jordan mused. “Climbing over boat docks and hoping no one was watching me suspiciously.”

Jordan has dealt with some extreme weather conditions while on foot. In Minnesota during the latter part of April, two-foot snow accumulations kept him from making the progress he anticipated. At that time, the warmer 60 degree weather plagued his progression; his snowshoes would sink in, but slip sideways and his foot twisted with every step. In addition, his feet were constantly wet.

“I’m one week behind because of the late season snowfall,” Jordan explained. “The snow just kept coming and wearing snowshoes for a week slowed me down.”

Last week while blazing the trial in Michigan near White Cloud, Jordan experienced four days of hot and humid 95-degree weather and one day hit the 100 degree mark.

“I had to stop and take a break every hour,” he said.

While on the trail, specifically the towpath of the canal, Jordan has seen invasive species like Common buckthorn, which was brought to Minnesota from Europe in the mid-1800s as a very popular hedging material, and Garlic mustard, a herbaceous biennial cover that invades and disrupts ecological systems and suppresses native plant growth.

Jordan has also crossed paths with many species of wildlife; one in particular instilled a panic in him that he never felt before.

“I had a bear encounter, a 600-pound male,” he detailed his escape. “I puffed up my chest and acted as big as I could and walked away slowly.”

For the most part, Jordan has been embraced by all the communities he has visited. The exception so far has been a “run-in” with the law in Hickory Corners, Mich., which is a small town of 200 people near a crossroads of two highways. Everybody did not want him to be there and Jordan found the experience very disheartening.

“I was hassled by the cops during a lightning-filled thunderstorm,” Jordan explained. “Even with hail and tornadic weather in the forecast, the police were relentless about me getting out of town.”

The network of people helping him — offering shelter, leaving a cooler on the trail or hanging a bag of food with his name on it from a tree — are those who have posted on his blog or are kind-hearted individuals who he just happened to run into while on his journey.

“Trail magic is always appreciated,” Jordan said in earnest. “In a world where people focus on, hear and see all the bad, it’s the kindness and giving I have experienced on my journey that has restored my faith in humanity.”

Jordan is anticipating reaching the end of the trail at Crown Point State Historic Site in New York at the Vermont state line sometime in early October.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, July 31, 2013 1:09 AM

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