Peter Wolfe hiking near Ironwood, MI in 1978 (Photo by Donald George).
It was 1972, and Peter H. Wolfe had stopped drinking. For years, he had been, in his own words, “in and out of the rehabilitation center.” Then, he said, “God shut off my alcohol faucet.” Now, a question remained: What to do next?
Taking a Long Walk
Wolfe decided to “take a good, long walk.” In the summer of 1972, he hiked the Appalachian Trail. This would prove to be only a warm-up.
In 1974, he began hiking the North Country Trail. At the time, this spanned from Bennington, Vermont to Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. The first year, Wolfe hiked from Bennington to Schroon Lake, New York. He then returned to his home in Daytona Beach, Florida to wait out the winter.
This set a pattern that Wolfe would follow for the next six years: During late fall and winter, he’d stay in Daytona Beach, earning money as a handyman and preparing for the next year’s journey. In the spring, he’d take a bus to the point where he stopped hiking the previous fall. He’d then resume his hike from that point. He’d finally stop hiking in the fall, when he’d return to Daytona Beach and start the cycle over again.
End of the Trail
Peter Wolfe finally reached Lake Sakakawea in the summer of 1980. At the time, he was sixty-four years old and had traveled nearly 4,000 miles to his destination! Wolfe made many friends during his travels, as he remained in contact with people that he met along the way. He also took many photographs and kept records of his experiences. Today, his papers comprise much of the North Country Trail Collection, which is permanently housed in the Archives of Michigan.
A View of Lake Fanny Hooe, near Copper Harbor, MI. Taken by Peter Wolfe in 1978.
After the Trip
After completing his monumental hike, Peter Wolfe continued to lead an active life. He revisited several sites that he had encountered on the North Country Trail. He helped to remodel the North Country Trail Association’s headquarters in White Cloud, Michigan. He marked a new hiking trail, dubbed “the Adventure Trail,” in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He worked with Ruth Alford MacFarlane, a Mass City, Michigan writer, on a book of his hiking experiences. Eventually, he decided to take permanent residence in the Mass City area, and on July 21, 1987, he moved into a small house south of that town.
During the night of April 30-May 1, 1990, Peter H. Wolfe died in his sleep in his Mass City home. He was seventy-four years old. A memorial service was held in Ontonagon, Michigan, and his remains were buried in a family plot in New York. Wolfe was survived by three sons and eight grandchildren.
Peter Wolfe’s Campsite – Lake Fanny Hooe, 1978 (Taken by Peter Wolfe).