Emily Ford Ends Latest Winter Expedition Just Shy of Mark

On Friday, March 11, 2022, winter explorer Emily Ford and Diggins — a retired sled dog and her adventure companion — pulled the plug on the final days of their 320km ski trek along the Minnesota-Ontario border.

They had fewer than 50km to go and were just two days out from the intended endpoint of Grand Portage, the area where several streams coalesce into Lake Superior.

Open water

The Duluth native explained that she had initially planned to reach Grand Portage by skiing the Pigeon River, which began near the trip’s 270km mark. But when she and Diggins arrived at Pigeon River’s banks, they found it “open and flowing” — it was thoroughly intractable.

Ford signed off on the trip without any palpable regrets:

This was a fantastic trip. I did what I set out to do: traverse the Boundary Waters by ski and paw. I am so incredibly proud of myself and Diggins! We saw one of the most spectacular places in one of the most spectacular seasons. No. We lived in it!

The Duluth native is a passionate advocate for, in her words, “getting kiddos into the outdoors”. She uses her expeditions to fundraise for children’s wilderness trips.

The adventures of Emily Ford & Diggins

Ford and Diggins’s 28-day tour began on February 11 in Crane Lake, Minnesota. It was the duo’s second epic winter trek in less than a year. The plan was to ski, skijor, and snowshoe from northwestern Minnesota across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) to Lake Superior, at the state’s northeastern tip.

Their first expedition, and the one that put Ford’s name on the adventure map, followed the 1,900km Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin. Because of its length and remoteness, the Ice Age Trail rarely sees a complete thru-hike even in summer. Ford is only the second person to walk the Ice Age Trail’s entire length in winter.

Breaking Trail is a short film about Emily Ford and Diggins’s 2021 expedition that premiered at the Banff Film Festival last November. The documentary is available to stream (for a small fee) through The Banff Centre and will show at select venues throughout 2022 as part of the Banff Festival’s World Tour.

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life. She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network. She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.


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