On July 4, 2020, I began my 310-mile trek on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT).

By hiking the SHT, I chose to speak out against racial injustice in the United States— brought to light by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Read more) 

I began my hike at the Wisconsin/Minnesota border and ended at the Canadian border. I completed my 310+ mile hike on July 28, 2020. (Read more).

The SHT is a rough trail with lots of roots, mud holes, and rocks, which I tripped over and stepped in many. I also slipped countless times. With each trip and fall, I was supported by my trekking poles. It was a reminder to get back up and to keep moving. For a lot of reasons, but one in particular, I was hiking the future generations.

For centuries, walking sticks have served many purposes: support for traveling on uneven ground, as a survival tool, a defensive weapon, and gradually a sign of power and authority.

Think of the wise mandrill monkey, Rafiki, in The Lion King. He carried his staff—or a walking stick for those wanting the correlation to hiking. Trekking poles are an extension of that staff.

As with Rafiki, the trekking poles allowed me to tune into nature and connect meaningfully with my ancestors who walked the land before me. The Indigenous spirits paved a safe passage. The trekking poles allowed me to bushwhack through tall grass and determine the depth of the marshy ground.

On other hikes, I’ve left my poles holstered, but I kept them in hand for the majority of this hike. Trekking poles help maintain balance over obstacles. I can say that my L.L. Bean Trekking Poles prevented sprained ankles and one potentially sprained knee.

In all the ways my trekking poles protected me during my hike, I still thought about the joint-locks and takedowns, when poles are used as weapons—snapshot glimpses of welts and bruises left on the backs of enslaved people. Sadly, those methods aren’t in the past. Watching the news, we see highlights of police officers in riot gear with batons (aka “riot sticks”) in hand at Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests.

My partner met me at the Northern Terminus. We planned to hike the summit overlook together (I was told a lot of thru-hikers end their hike at the trailhead, which is a parking lot. I don’t recommend that option).

When she arrived, she brought her two dogs and my dog Carma. Together, we all hiked the final mile to the overlook. As we walked, the message of control and the treatment of enslaved people played in my mind.

When we reached the summit, Carma wanted to be carried. I jokingly started singing The Circle of Life from The Lion King, holding her over the edge of the overlook — back to Rafiki, the trekking poles, the missed mishaps, the welts, and bruises inflicted upon Black flesh. The death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while being restrained by a white Minneapolis police officer.

George Floyd didn’t have trekking poles. George Floyd will never summit the overlook and breathe in the air.

I hiked 310 miles in honor of George Floyd, yet my journey felt incomplete at the end of 310 miles. 

Still in Minnesota, on July 30, I drove to the George Floyd memorial site at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. There, I was flooded with emotions rounding the corner where George Floyd took his last breath. I knelt because I genuinely could not stand. I cried over the chalk outline of his body.

Kneeling, it became clear that those poles were an agent of change. They can change how we approach relationships, from combatants to allies. Those trekking poles could lead to positive outcomes. If we all picked up trekking poles and went for a hike, could the violence end?

Someone would have to put down their sticks. I put down my sticks (trekking poles) in a symbolic gesture and left them on the momentum. I imagine this is progress.

Hike end: July 30, George Floyd Memorial at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis.

P/C: on trail @dkap09  (minus selfie)

P/C: memorial site @wanderingseagoat

SHT NOBO (Northbound, starting in Wisconsin ending at the Canadian border) Total thru-hike complete!

 

 

Total miles: 310+ In the spirit of transparency, I hiked approximately nine SHT trail miles on the Gitchi-Gami Trail. 

Trail start: July 4, 8:46 a.m. Southern Terminus, Wisconsin/Minnesota border 

Trail end: July 28, Northern Terminus, Canadian border

Hike end: July 30, George Floyd Memorial at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis.

 

 

Total days: 24 days total, of those it rained at some point 21 days.

Days off: Three neros (nearly zero, meaning a partial day off-trail or not hiking).

  • Because of a storm: a trail angel in Grand Marais picked me up. stayed with her family, went to a Black Lives Matter protest, and was a guest on WTIP Radio                    
  • To dry gear, shower, and sleep in a bed at Superior Ridge Resort Motel. It was a bit more than I wanted to spend but worth it! The owners were friendly and kind enough to drive me into town to resupply.             
  • For a post office resupply and to soak my arm in a bathroom with soap (I was thinking poison oak). 

Resupply: Two Harbor (post office). Beaver Bay (gas station/post office). Grand Marais (post office/grocery store).

Shortest miles in a day: 8.46

Longest miles in a day: 22 

Gear change – – – 

Pack: I started with the L.L. Bean AT 38 and switched to the Granite Gear Crown2 60 for more capacity when my tent failed me.         

                              

Shoes: I started with the L.L. Bean Alpine, switched to the Arcteryx Norva after several days of rain, mudholes, and an inability to keep the boots and my socks dry. I later switched back to the Alpines.         

                           

Socks: I started the journey with three pairs of socks, two for hiking and one for sleep. Due to conditions listed in the shoe section, the number grew to six, five hiking, and one for sleep.

 

Tent: I wanted to love the Nemo Hornet Elite. I did. But after several days of rain, it failed me. I reverted to my Marmot EOS 1P.

 

Animal encounters: Birds, a moose, and a cub. No harm came to me.

 

Favorite section: I thoroughly enjoyed the area from the Cascade River to Bally Creek. Walking through the large red pine forest reminded me of my childhood in Florida.

 

 

Least favorite section: I wasn’t too fond of the Sawmill Creek Pond Boardwalk. The boards were sunken, curved, slick, and missing in places. 

 

Random SHT $h*t: I became pre-hypothermic due to rain, wet gear, wet clothes—not severe or life-threatening, and thus, I live to write this story.

 

SHT Personal ranking: ⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐⭐

Volunteers and private landowners maintain the 310-mile hiking trail from Canada to Wisconsin. 

The sections range from well-marked, well-maintained paths to mud and tall grass-covered barley visible sections.

The SHT is a rough trail, lots of roots, mud, and rocks.

You definitely should “Hike That SHT.”

p/c: Instagram: dkap09

p/c: Instagram: wanderingseagoat

Surprisingly, my trek has gotten a lot of attention. Granted, I intended to speak out about injustice in light of the death of George Floyd by thru-hiking the SHT. I feel strongly that social justice and environmental justice are intrinsically linked.

 

I’ve encountered an array of people on my journey, including white people who seek me out for the following reasons: to talk about the ways they can eradicate racism, ask about ways to make ______ more inclusive, to take a picture with me (because they think I’m going to be famous), or they want to join the hike, to share they’ve helped a member of the BIPOC community and to prove they’re more “woke” than others (aka “performative activism”). 

 

These interactions have been anxiety-provoking. But then, there are the parents who see me out to say hi. Introduce me to their kids, either have me explain why I’m hiking or say things like, “She’s out here making a difference.” I enjoy those folks because they are encouraging and remind me why I’m out here hiking. All and all, I’ve not encountered anything too problematic until today.

 

Because of the folks generalized in paragraph two, I’ve been selective about who I share my location with to finish this hike. I’ve been in advance hiker mode, increasing my mileage daily. That’s uncommon along this trail (although thru-hiking in general is unusual).

 

I set out early on my 21st day of the trail, thinking of George Floyd and his legacy. I imagined what the world would look like when everyone had the opportunity and freedom to explore and engage with Nature. 

 

I envisioned the next generation who will follow in my footsteps. After hours of hiking, I had the option of stopping at a campsite at 16 miles or continuing to a small campsite directly off the trail, at 16.2 miles. I decided on the further one since I am trying to cover as much distance as possible.

 

When I arrived, a woman met me, who made it clear that she didn’t want me near her campsite. Although there was plenty of space for both of us (even with social distancing), she encouraged me to “keep trekking.” 

 

She informed me that a bigger campsite was just up the trail when I didn’t move. Referring to the one at 16.0 miles, I’d already passed since I was heading north.

 

The sun hadn’t been out all day but shined perfectly where I sat. I hung my wet tent on a tree and my socks on a nearby bench. The woman whispered something to her male companion, and away the two went. 

 

In all the annoyance I’ve experienced, I hadn’t yet felt unwelcome until I arrived at the North Bally Creek campsite. With a sense of entitlement, the white woman made my 16.2-day trek of dreams and hopes heavy. 

 

I am carrying the weight of my people, the fear and unwelcoming presence of those who think I don’t belong in outdoor spaces—those who believe that Nature isn’t for people that look like me. 

I felt unsafe at that campsite. Not physically, rather a sense that there was no peace for me in that space for that evening. I decided to backtrack after all, but I wrote a note to the woman first. On my way to the other campsite, she and her companion ran into me. They wanted to let me know that they checked the other campsite and had space.

Ultimately, I stayed at the campsite at mile 16. I met other friendly hikers. 

 

In a message to that woman and her partner, or anyone else who might need a reminder: NATURE IS FOR EVERYONE.

 

On Saturday, July 4, 2020, I began my 300-mile thru-hike along the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT).

This hike intends to raise money and awareness for PGM ONE, the People of the Global Majority in the Outdoors, Nature, and Environment.

As a tribute to George Floyd, the hike began at 8:46 a.m. and ended at the first 8.46 miles. 

I was joined by several white women who wanted to hike in solidarity with me as a stance against racial injustices in the US and to show their respect for George Floyd.

 

While on the trail, we were fortunate to see Minnesota’s state flower, the Lady Slipper. Perhaps due to a lot of recent rain, it was in bloom and plentiful. These flowers grow slowly, taking 4-16 years to produce their first flower. To see so many in bloom was symbolic.

Like the social justice movements, Lady Slipper sometimes needs time to bloom. And like the beauty of the flowers, these movements can bring about significant and lasting change.


Historical trauma has kept the outdoors from being a safe space for Blacks. The work PGM ONE is accomplishing is critical to correcting injustice. But my hike, and anyone who joins me along the way, are part of it as well.

The Lady Slippers couldn’t have grown without each of the raindrops they received. And we need not just PGM ONE, not just me, but as many people as possible showing up to make the outdoors inclusive of everyone.

We ended the 8.46 miles with a reflection circle. All and all, it was a fantastic thru-hike kick-off.

 

Hiker hunger is a phenomenon hikers encounter when our appetite becomes insatiable, and we crave some of the weirdest things. Some hikers will say that they’re starving. But having known starvation, the word hunger is suitable.

 

On the PCT, hiker hunger kicked in for me around mile 43ish. Here, on the SHT, the insatiable craving for cheese, funnel cakes (which I’ve only eaten four times in my life), fries, and sushi hit on day three, and I’d run out of food by day five.

 

Knowing that the SHT is a lesser-known trail, I’d prepared meals prior and shipped them accordingly. I packed food for six days at the start of each resupply. Unfortunately, my calculations were off, and I’ve been running out of food!

 

Amid a severe hiker hunger spell, I started listing all the things I wish I had: ice cream, mushrooms, pizza, Sprite, Reese’s, cheese, sushi, and fries. I also started calculating the miles to the next town.

 

Then the reality of my situation set it—I have money. I’m not restricted to the trail. I can buy whatever I want except sushi. I’m very hesitant to eat sushi in small-town Minnesota. Not everyone has the luxury to purchase food in general.

 

I received sample boxes of Patagonia Provisions meals for this trip. And while tasty, what seems to keep the hiker hunger at bay are Pop-Tarts, peanut butter, noodles, and tuna fish—cheaply priced items that I seldom eat off-trail. They aren’t the healthiest. Yet these are items that nourished me as a child (government cheese and syrup sandwiches are also on that list).

Hiker hunger is legitimate and (currently) fierce. It’s 2 a.m. as I write this post in my orange tent, lying on an orange sleeping pad, debating if I’m desperate enough to walk the five miles into town and wait until noon for the store to open in the off chance they sale orange American cheese.

 

Alternatively, I could untie my bear bag and cook some ramen noodles, or I could just go to sleep.

 

I was warned that the Duluth section of the SHT might come with a few roadblocks (meant both literally and figuratively), but the views would be amazing. Both of these things were true.

 

The roadblocks were plenty, and on my way out of Duluth, I found myself in what I have now termed the “endless Bagley loop.”

 

Non-SHTA neighborhoods have made trails, bike trails, ski trails, spur trails, and overlooks. These made navigating difficult and frustrating because not all of them were on the maps.

 

For nearly an hour, I circled the first (NOBO) campground directly on the trail. I was consulting my map, pocket guide, and phone. Finally, a young man in flip flops directed me toward his family-made trail that would take me to a road.

 

A deer that I’d seen previously and asked directions to aloud was on that path as well. The path led me out of the loop to the main road and (eventually) back to the trail.

I found my way out of the loop and to Tom O’Rourke, the Hartley Nature Center executive director (HNC)—or he found me. Regardless, I met Tom during a massive storm that made foot travel hazardous, slippery, and ill-advised.


We talked about the trails and the history of the HNC. We also spoke about canoeing and books. Tom mentioned he built a shack that he stocked with books in the middle of the woods.

 

Little did he know that one of my childhood dreams was to live in a cabin in the woods, filled with books and a typewriter for writing. There is something majestic about reading a good book during a lightning storm, and I was giddy with joy to see the Library Shack.

The shack features several glass windows, a wood-burning stove, and access to his family-made backcountry trail. I can’t vouch much for the trail, as I didn’t venture too far.

 

I highly recommend visiting The Hartley Nature Center, especially to thru-hikers who might want to set up camp at the Little Library Shack in the Woods.

Enchantment can be found even amid the uncertainty of a thunderstorm, especially when good company and books are involved.

The SHT has two non-section hikes: The traditional one starts at Martin Road Trailhead and is about 260 miles long. The total thru-hike starts at Wild Valley Road Trailhead and is about 310 miles long.

Whether northbound or southbound (NOBO/SOBO) makes no difference, I’m a NOBO total thru-hiker.

Backpackers often chose the traditional option because the total thru-hike goes through Duluth, and backcountry campsites are strictly prohibited inside city limits.

Unlike the PCT, people along the SHT aren’t familiar with trail angels (trail angels help hikers along their way).

I have met many SHT trail angels who have helped me in various ways:

  • Meeting me on the trail
  • Taking me to the store
  • Dropping me off at the trailhead 
  • Showing up to ensure safe passage through a non-friendly private section
  • Teaching me how to interpret the multiuse trail signs
  •  Making me dinner, and 
  • Allowing me to camp out in their yard

But my trail angels have also been social justice advocates. They have been educating themselves on my hike. They scouted my route beforehand, demonstrated alongside me, and used social media to promote my journey and make others aware.

 

A plethora of people organized for me to hike the 50 miles thru Duluth.

 

What would it take to bring a community together to help get young people to the same trailhead for a day hike? Or for a neighbor to set up a few tents in their yard for a backyard camp out?

 

I made it out of the city of Duluth!

I feel a bit like Eugene Henderson’s character in the book Henderson the Rain King. It seems that every place I’ve hiked, the rain has followed.

 

Many of the creeks and streams are dry. And here I was, thinking that water would be plentiful because Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes. 

 

Once I started the day with three liters of water. I didn’t make the usual brown sugar oatmeal that I so love. I opted for a protein bar and decided to push through the morning. 

 

As the day deepened and the humidity increased, I desperately hiked not only in the pursuit of moving forward—but also to find water. 

 

After many hours and several dry creeks, I did what any nearly dehydrated person would do. I found a spot in the shade and decided to get out of the sun. 

After resting and waiting for the sun to chase the sky, I moved onward and finally reached a muddy pool. 

 

I was ecstatic—I had access to water! Filthy, brackish, and unsafe, but water nonetheless. 

It got me thinking about folks without access to clean water, those who can’t afford a filtration system. 

 

Specifically, I thought of a significant environmental injustice right in the neighboring lake: the lead infiltration in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan—a predominately Black, poverty-stricken city. 

 

Flint shows us how environmental injustice and racial injustice are deeply connected. I think if a Sawyer mini could purify my water in under 30 minutes, why can’t we encourage other companies to enact changes? The knowledge is there.

I sat quaffing muddy water, “Damnit, there should be more water on the trail. Minnesota, this ain’t nice!”

On Saturday, July 4th, at8:46 a.m. I will begin hiking the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) in honor of George Floyd. Below are the changes to the original.

Patagonia provided me with their 29.3 ounces 850 down sleeping bag.

 

And I’ve switched to the 1 pound, 7 ounce Nemo Hornet Elite.

The SHT Association recommends that SHT users #RecreateResponsibly by practicing social distance.

 

I will begin my Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) thru-hike in precisely seven days. As of June 1, the SHT Association recommends that SHT users #RecreateResponsibly.

 

This hike intends to raise money and awareness for PGM ONE, People of the Global Majority in the Outdoors, Nature, and Environment. I don’t work for PGM One.

By hiking the SHT, I am choosing to speak out against racial injustice in the United States—brought to light by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

 

Gear is necessary for a thru-hike (historically, my ancestors traveled the trails with less, but the gear is vital nowadays).

I want to use reliable, lightweight products from trusted brands for this hike. In the past, I purchased solely off reputation. I read hundreds of my fellow Trek bloggers’ posts, devoured review after review, and bought gear accordingly. 

As I began hiking, I started to share my likes and dislikes over time. It makes sense. When you spend a great deal of time backpacking, your knowledge about gear, quality, and product attributes becomes somewhat second nature. 

Pack: Keeping it real, I didn’t know that L.L. Bean made hiking packs. I was a skeptic accepting this pack as there aren’t a lot of reviews. Much to my surprise, the AT 38 weighing in at 2 pounds, 12 ounces is comfortable, providing excellent back support. I haven’t put many miles on this pack yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it holds up on the trail. I received this item for free.

Granite Gear donated their Crown2 60, which is extremely lightweight yet rugged. Unfortunately, I don’t need two packs for the hike.  I received this item for free.

Shoes: Footwear is essential. The more trips I journey around the Sun, I increase the likelihood of an ankle sprain or twist on unsteady surfaces. Who am I kidding? On steady surfaces too!

For this hike, I wanted a shoe that provided the boots’ support with the comfort of sneakers. L.L Bean’s Alpine waterproof hiking boots (1.93 pounds) were my choice. I’ve found these boots easy to break in—like most of my gear; these boots haven’t seen much use. I’ve got high hopes for these! I received this item for free.

Navigation: I am an advocate of maps. Please give me a paper map over a GPS any day. I’ll be taking the SHTA pocket map (the approximate map for each segment). I received these items for free.

For my safety, and so that the people I love won’t worry, I’ll be carrying a SPOT Gen 3!

Headlamp: The Black Diamond ReVolt Headlamp. 

Sun protection: On the PCT, I opted for bug spray over sunscreen. I was sunburned, leaving the trail. I will be using sunscreen, a bug net hat, and permethrin-treated clothing. I want to share–I hate ticks!

First aid: I had to get stitches around mile 66 of my PCT hike. I have since gone through WEMT school. I’m prepared and will be bringing a first aid kit (a modified version of items I wouldn’t be able to replicate using materials found in the natural world). 

Knife: I spent the summer of 2019 traveling the Northwest. I became a fan of wilding. I’m bringing a whittling knife. 

Fire: Bic lighter or I will start a fire using a rock and a stick. Knowledge is power! 

Cookset: MSR Pocket Rocket 2 2.6 GSI Halulite Minimalist 0.39 pounds

Shelter: I have come to understand that a tent is like a home. I’ve gone through so much in my Marmot EOS 1P (39 ounces)—sections of the AT, PCT, CDT, Yellowstone, the Tetons, and various places in between. 

I’d love a new tent, though. 

In a sense, wanting to upgrade but being unable to do so is a daily reality for many people. 

I am lucky that I can choose to be homeless (a hiker) for a while and return to my apartment’s comforts upon completion of this hike.

And yes, I would love a $600 tent; however, I’d also like to pay rent when this thru-hike is over.

My sleeping system: Big Agnes Sleeping Bag Hazel SL 15° 41 ounces Klymit Sleeping Pad 19.6 ounces

Food: On the PCT, I brought a variety of meals, all with varying weights. I’m packing the same meals each day for better weight distribution for this hike. 

Water: I will use my Sawyer Mini and Katahdin purification tablets as a backup. Three 1-litter bladders, with one marked “dirty.” 

Clothes: Diversity and visibility are essential. That also goes for the companies I will be representing on the trail: L.L. Bean, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, which donated gear to me.

Miscellaneous: L.L. Bean Hikelite 4 Season Carbon Hiking Poles 13.6 ounces. I received this item for free.

With recent protests denouncing police brutality against the Black community—and systemic racism in general— individuals, companies, and organizations across various industries have declared support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

While social media posts and various hashtags are a fantastic opportunity to increase the visibility of Black Lives, I want to recognize the focused efforts of L.L. Bean, The Superior Hiking Trail Association, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, and Granite Gear. Through tangible support and donations, they contribute to diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. 

Each has not only pledged to make the outdoors more inclusive for all but has actively taken steps toward making change.

Photos Cred Instagram dk09 with the exception of the bug hat selfie 🙂