Since finishing the CDT, I have shifted focus, climbing local peaks and setting my sights on the Superior Trail. It’s been a trail I have wanted to hike for many years. I grew up in Michigan, and I’ve spent a ton of time on the coast of Lake Superior. It is hands down the most beautiful body of water I have ever seen. It is the third largest fresh water lake in the world by volume, and the largest by surface area. It is also the gem of the Great Lakes, and that cannot be debated. Anyone who has seen all five Great Lakes will agree, it is named Superior for a reason!I’ve spent much time on Lake Superior, both in the summer and winter. I love Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by Munising, Michigan. I would rank that hiking on the same level as that in any mountain range I’ve been in. Large cliffs dropping directly into the clearest water I’ve seen. Waterfalls dropping above overhanging cliffs right into the chilly waters. It’s a magical place. That is what attracted me to the Superior Trail. I’ve never been to Minnesota, and those who know me well, will laugh that I’m going there. I jokingly ‘hate’ on Minnesota all the time, just to pester my friends (specifically Scudz, who I hike the AT with). ‘It’s the Mid West, how could it be at all cool or interesting there?’, and ‘Might as well live in Ohio too! Yeah, that would be great!’. Kidding aside, I bet both those states have a lot of nice things going on. No, never mind, Ohio has nothing nice going on 😉
So, I’m heading back to Lake Superior, and hiking the trail that follows Lake Superiors western shores for roughly 306 miles in Minnesota. But I don’t have much time budgeted to hike there, so I’m going to have to speed hike this. As I thought about this more, I looked more closely at the Fastest Known Time for this trail, and Handy Andy surely got in my head, telling me I needed to try this. So, that is what I am going to do – attempt to hike the 306 miles in under 6 days.
Fastest Known Times (FKT’s) are becoming a huge thing in the hiking and Ultra Running communities. Most recently, Scott Jurek set the Fastest Known Time (supported) on the Appalachian Trail.
There are two types of FKT’s for long trails. The first is the supported FKT. In this, the hiker gets aid along the way. Scott Jurek had a full support crew feeding him, massaging him, and making sure he had everything he needed to go as fast as he could, and never have to leave the trail. He carried none of his equipment, most normally carrying just water and a few snacks while hiking.
The second type is an unsupported FKT. In this, the hiker has no support crew, and carries all of their own gear. There are many rules as to how to stay unsupported, including never having a pacer, hiking on your own, and not accepting any aid. This is the route I will take with the Superior Trail. I’ll be going unsupported, and unassisted, meaning I will carry everything (all 6 days worth) of food and gear from the very start. This will allow me to not have to resupply or get off trail ever.
I hiked with Handy Andy half of the summer, and the two of us talked a lot about how to go about an FKT. Handy Andy set the FKT on the John Muir Trail, hiking the 220 miles in just 3 days and 10 hours. That is unbelievable, and he broke a record that stood for 5 years, on one of the most sought after FKT’s in the US. He taught me a lot, and I have a pretty good plan on how to approach this trail.
It’s an exciting thing for me to try. I’ve never done back to back 50 mile days. There is so much unknown in all of what I hope to do. I could easily fall flat on my face and fail with this, just as I did with Nolan’s 14. But that’s exciting, to know that failure is more likely than not considering I’ve had no history of doing anything like this. Either way, it will be a good learning experience. And most importantly, it will bring me to a beautiful place that I’ve wanted to see for some time, giving me an opportunity to see it all in the time I have. Killian Jornet, the worlds fastest mountain runner, recently spoke that the FKT attempts are just an excuse to visit these beautiful destinations. I believe that this is especially the case for this hike. The highlight is hiking the Superior Trail, which I have heard wonderful things about. The FKT attempt is just the way I plan on experiencing the trail, and the excuse to get out there in the time that I have 🙂
Here is how I plan to approach this FKT attempt. It takes a lot of planning to execute a speed hike. Much more so than your average thru hike. Andy said that nearly half the battle is being properly planned. It’s a good thing I enjoy planning for hikes!
First off, I set a plan to average 52 miles a day. I have packed my food into 25 mile bags, containing roughly 2,500+ calories each. I have 12 of these bags. Each day, I plan to split the day into two 25-27 mile stretches. I will have my fanny pack, and side water bottle pockets stuffed with all of the food I need for 25 miles. This will allow me to hike without interruption (save getting water) for 25 miles straight. I then plan to break for 40-60 minutes, get a cat nap, organize my food for the next 25 miles, and then get back moving.
I have also dialed in my gear. Below is a list of the essentials and everything I will be bringing and wearing:
Shoes: Altra Olympus 1.5 size 11
Maximist trail running shoes. Shoes are one of, if not the most important part of an FKT. Your feet are going to hurt, but you want to minimize the pain. I used the Olympus for my 63 mile ultra in Zion, and for the beginning of the CDT where I knew I would be pushing bigger miles, and I love them. They keep my feet happy in big miles with maximum cushion and plenty of room for my feet swelling.
Backpack: Gossamer Gear Murmur, no hip belts – 8.8 ounces
Lightest pack on the market. I will not have hip belts, and I will have water bottle holders made by Handy Andy on the shoulder straps for easy access. It likely will be uncomfortable for the first few days, as I’ll have too much weight in it, but the last few days it will be great. Looking forward to using this!Sleeping Bag / Quilt – Enlightened Equipment enigma prototype 950fd and7D fabric 40 degree quilt – 9.35 ounces
This bag from Enlightened Equipment is just beautiful! Using their lightest 7D fabric combined with their 950 fill down, they got this quilt as light as possible! I’ve been using Enlightened Equipment bags for the past year, and they have far out performed any bags or quilts I have used prior (and I have used many). Their bags breathe well, are true to their warmth rating, and they skip the frills to bring the weight down. I saw more of these bags on the CDT than any other. That’s coming from the most experienced hikers, and speaks wonders to their reputation within the community. I’m really excited to use this customized bag for this trip!
Sleeping Pad – Gossamer Gear inflatable ultralight (air Beam) torso length – 7.5 ounces coupled with the 1/8′ sit light pad – 2.0 ounces
Lightest air mattress I could find. I use the 1/8′ sit light pad under the air mattress for added warmth, along with using it as the frame in the Murmur.
Tarp – Gossamer Gear Q Twinn – 8.5 ounces with stakes.
I’m going to check the weather forecast before I leave. If there is only slight rain in the forecast, I will not bring the tarp. Game time decision.Ground Sheet – Gossamer Gear Polycro Ground Sheet – 1.6 ounces
Could work as a tarp in a pinch if there is no wind.
Outside of the essentials listed above, I will be taking GG trekking poles, Patagonia R1 hoody top, thermal bottoms, fleece hat and gloves, GG rain Umbrella, one pair of Darn Tough Socks, sunglasses, my trusty (goofy) hat, two battery chargers for my phone (I’ll be relying on it for an alarm and photos), my iPhone 6, SPOT device for tracking (needed for proof of FKT), 10 wet wipes, a roll of TP, the Deuce of Spades trowel, Ice Breakers wool T-shirt, North Face running shorts, and Montbell wind pants and top.
I’ll be starting out Thursday morning, and you can follow along with my progress via Handy Andy’s SPOT device he’s loaning me: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0qO0Xsi5zHECFXQAoVq7bLyqXUysx4GV1