Reaching Duluth, Minnesota, with 1,200 arduous North Country Trail miles already under their belts, Seth Siladke and James Thomas graciously welcomed our offer of soft beds in our empty vacation rental. In late May when we saw them, the two 25-year-old men from Traverse City, Michigan, had a long way yet to go on the 4,600-mile trail; a thru-hike fewer than 10 people have completed. They hoped to finish by late September.
My husband and I spent five days shuttling the pair to and from town and occasionally joining them on their hike. It became clear to us they were determined and hardy enough to make the full journey.
Navigating recently rerouted sections of the Superior Hiking Trail in the Duluth area is tricky. So I offered to lead Siladke and Thomas from my house, located on the trail between Spirit Mountain and Magney Snively, to the picturesque Ely’s Peak and onto Beck’s Road. Walking briskly at a 20-minute-per-mile pace, the two easily crossed the roots, rocks and creeks in their path, stopping only for me to point out various flowers and other wildlife.
When I think of hiking 20 miles over eight to nine hours day after day for eight months, I image you’d need to be a super fit person, eating only the most healthy of food. That is not the approach of Thomas and Siladke, however, demonstrating that youth and good health trump strict diets.
They trudge along with cans of Shasta in their hands and Gardetto’s snacks in their packs and reward themselves with beer and pizza after a long day’s hike. When I asked what they ate on their journey, the response was, “The junkier the food, the better!” Apparently Oreos and Snickers dipped in peanut butter was a favorite.
The entirety of Eve Graves’ story about the two North Country Trail thru hikers appears in the August print edition of Silent Sports magazine. To order a copy call 888-706-4045. Or avoid missing another issue and subscribe online here.