Spotlight still follows Minnesota woman months after her winter hiking adventure

Emily Ford is @EmilyonTrail on Instagram.

Perhaps, @EmilyonTour is a better handle these days.

Ford famously — compellingly — thru-hiked the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin last winter. She became only the second person to claim such an achievement, which also included several firsts in winter, too. Ford was the first woman and person of color to cover the 1,200 miles of the National Scenic Trail.

All of the above, including her thoughtfulness, her modest hopes to inspire others and her bond with her hiking companion (a sled dog named Diggins), has made the Duluth woman in demand since she walked off the trail last March.

Now, there is a film about her. Ford and her adventure over 69 days are at the heart of a new documentary, “Breaking Trail,” which premiered Nov. 7 at the Banff Film Festival in Alberta. The 30-minute film is from director Jesse Roesler and Credo Nonfiction, a Minneapolis production company that spent time with Ford and Diggins on-trail. The documentary was among dozens screened, and Ford was in Banff. (“All I could think about was making sure I get there,” she said, recalling the tight COVID protocols for border crossings.)

Ford is the focus of attention again this weekend as a presenter Saturday at the Midwest Mountaineering fall expo in Minneapolis.

Ford estimated she has done as many as 50 or more podcasts, talks and interviews since she completed the Ice Age hike. So many, she said, that the thought occurred to her that she could do it full time. Nevertheless, she likes her other job and activities too much. She is head gardener at Glensheen Mansion in Duluth. Around that, she also has other playgrounds to explore soon.

Ford will begin an internship in early December at Wintergreen, the dogsled center in Ely run by Paul Schurke. Ford said she also is preparing for a winter trip with Diggins in 2022 Up North.

Ford is enthusiastic about the opportunities to learn and work at Wintergreen. Plus, Schurke’s wide experiences as an explorer with Will Steger and others connects her to another interest: the Arctic. She has gone on several backcountry dogsledding trips through Wintergreen in recent years.

“Working for Paul is a dream come true,” she said. “He is the most real deal.”

Who knows if those trips with the Schurkes planted the seed for her bracing hike along the Ice Age? Maybe so, Ford said.

“I fell in love with [the winter trips],” she added.

For all the speaking gigs and interviews, for the crush of Instagram followers (she’s at 14,000 and counting) waiting for a new post with tips, Ford said she has transcended the attention and frenetic pace thanks to the leavening support of her partner, Flo.

They strive for normalcy, focused on their jobs and their relationship — and their dogs — knowing the current flash of fame and interest can be fleeting.

“Flo always tells me, the adventures will still be there,” Ford said.

Bob Timmons 612-763-7899

Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo

Here is a snapshot of a few of the presenters at the Minneapolis retailer’s popular fall expo, Friday through Sunday, at its store and in nearby space at the University of Minnesota.

The Longest Way: Ice Age Trail thru-hiker Emily Ford, on her 69-day odyssey with her trusted companion, Diggins. (11:45 a.m. Saturday, University of Minnesota’s Hanson Hall, Room 104)

50 Years of Midwest Mountaineering: Owner Rod Johnson started it all with about $500 and selling gear from his kitchen. He’ll talk about the store’s evolution. (10:30 a.m. Saturday, Hanson Hall, Room 104)

Work Hard, Play Hard: James and Madeline Didier offer tips and planning for section-hiking all 310 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail in an efficient manner. (10:30 a.m. Saturday, Hanson Hall, Room 102)

Wild Ice Skating: Tia B Parks reflects on the recent seasons in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, with tips on safety and knowing when to go. (1 p.m. Saturday, Hanson Hall, Room 103)

Intro to Skijoring: Steve Schreader, Midwest Mountaineering’s dog gear and ski buyer, offers ideas and know-how on the activity. (1 p.m. Saturday,Midwest Mountaineering Expedition Stage, beneath the Camping department)