Nearly 20 years ago I was backpacking the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore Trail. Lost in my thoughts and daydreams I blurted out: “This trail is so easy, we could do the entire 42.4 mile trail in one day. Heck, we’re going to.” Morgan was not impressed or inspired, but after some convincing, he agreed to try it. So on a cool fall day we speed hiked the whole thing in 14 hours. As the sun was setting and we celebrated our victory I joked “how much would I have to pay you to hike back?” We both laughed believing it to be impossible.
Over the next decade I thought back on that day often and wondered if perhaps it was possible. In 2012, on the cusp of turning 40, I put together a group of 8 mostly accomplished hikers and endurance athletes to try. Two of us, Eric Carlson and I, finished in around 35 and ½ hours in what is still one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I discovered years later that we were had the FKT, likely because no one else had been stupid enough to complete the route.
Fast forward another 10 years to October of 2022.I had now become a runner, was about to turn 50, and naturally wondered how much faster I could “yo-yo” the Pictured Rocks trail if I ran it. I, once again, assembled an impressive group of runners to attempt it. We also had a total of FOUR support people among us which was amazing.
Things started off very smoothly. The air was cool but it didn’t rain much during the first half. Katie Kubont and Jake Remacle decided halfway was enough when we reached Grand Marais in 10 hours. Scott Kentner and I took a short break, grabbed our headlamps and started the journey back to the start around the time the sun was setting.
Our support crew was amazing. Not only did the Kentners let us sleep at their house and make us a delicious dinner the night before, Scott’s wife, Natalie also met us at various spots along the trail and even brought everyone hot and tasty pasties. Brian Rise was our truck accessible support and had everything we needed as soon as we rolled into the next checkpoint. He even had chairs set up for us to rest in while refilling our supplies for the next leg. Bryon Chamberlain canoed and backpacked into the backcountry in order to offer support during the out and the back on a 24-mile stretch that vehicles can’t get close to. Along with hot ramen noodles, Bryon had peanut butter sandwiches, gallons of purified water, and other snacks. On the return trip, at our Mile 61, Bryon had a fire blazing and even had chocolate coffee for us which was quite the treat!
Scott was an amazing adventure companion and selfless friend. While he certainly could have finished sooner than we did, he stuck with me even when all I could do is walk at the end. We finished our 86-mile journey 25 hours, 39 minutes, and 56 seconds after we started at the Munising end of the trail. This shaved off nearly 10 hours off of my previous FKT. Five and half days later and I’m still completely destroyed. I have knee pain, likely sprained ankles, and a toe that looks like it is going to fall off and I can’t walk very well. I keep telling myself that I’m never doing anything like that ever again. I suspect, however, that I’m just lying to myself.