Pre-hike entry #1
June 28, 2003
Thank you for checking out my "Kek," "BRT" and "SHT" journal. I'll be heading to Minnesota, a part of this country I've never been, in less than two weeks. I've heard many enticing descriptions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, through which my hiking partner, Stumped, and I will pass on this adventure, and I recently saw some beautiful photos of the area in National Geographic
. Happened to pick one up when I visited my in-laws' bathroom, and I opened right to that article by chance. What a coinky-dink.
Anyhow, a little about my hiking partner. I haven't met Stumped (also known as Allen) in person. We connected on Backpacker.com's hiking partner forum about six weeks ago. Stumped, 62, lives with his wife of 40 years in Albuquerque and Mountainaire, New Mexico. He's section-hiked most of the Appalachian Trail, biked across the country, and hiked many miles of many other trails. Based on his numerous emails, I'm really looking forward to Stumped's company on this more than 300-mile trek, which will probably take us about a month. I'll travel by bus to Albuquerque on July 8th, then Stumped and I will drive to Minnesota together. We've made arrangements for a shuttle from Duluth to the start of our hike, the western terminus of the Kekekabic Trail near Ely, on July 13th, and will hike back to the vehicle. Looks like we'll have to carry ten or eleven days of food for the second stretch of our journey, as we've found no resupply opportunity between the Gunflint Lodge, at the western end of the Border Route Trail, and the town of Grand Marais near the Superior Trail. So keeping our base pack weights low will be essential, because we'll be carrying a significant amount of grub.
As far as journal entries go, I'll write them by hand as usual and, most often, the light of a mini-Mag flashlight, then send the entries home each time I come across a mailbox. My husband, Steve, is plenty busy these days getting his business going here in Arizona, but he'll post the entries when he can. I'll catch up with the rest when I get home, sometime in August.
In the column to the left of this journal, I've provided some basic information about the three trails Stumped and I will be hiking, but here's a bit of background:
The Kekekabic Trail, constructed in the 1930s for forest management and fire protection, was named after it's original destination, Kekekabic Lake, which derives its
name from the Ojibway word "Kekequabic," meaning hawk-cliff lake. That lake is now located in the central portion of the trail. The fire towers along the original route were abandoned in the 40s when airplanes came into use for fire surveillance. In the 1960s, with the increasing popularity of backpacking, the "Kek" was cleared and upgraded to a hiking trail, though use once again dwindled after the Forest Service stopped maintenance in 1982. In 1990, a newly-formed volunteer group called the Kekekabic Trail Club, with the support of the U.S.F.S., once more cleared the trail, removed 2,000 downed trees with axes and crosscut saws, and, using hand tools, rebuilt a 32-foot bridge across the Agamok River. The Kekekabic Trail Club continues to maintain the trail, having recruited and trained more than 1,000 volunteers.
After hiking the 38-mile Kek, Stumped and I will proceed onto the Border Route Trail, which was constructed by members of the Minnesota Rovers Outing Club beginning in 1972. Eight and a half years and thousands of labor hours later, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the opening of the trail, which had been finished except for a dispute over the right-of-way across private land between Gunflint and Loon Lakes. The "missing link" was donated in the fall of 1993, making the 75-mile Border Route Trail complete. Stumped and I will be hiking the 65 miles of the BRT located to the west of the Superior Trail.
Of the three trails, the SHT is, by far, the most heavily used. The trail heads south from its connection with the BRT at the Swamp River, and eventually follows the Sawtooth Mountains along the north shore of Lake Superior. According to the official SHT website, the Superior Hiking Trail "is the realization of an ambitious plan fostered by a group of visionaries -- federal, state and local government employees, artists, resort and business owners, and hiking enthusiasts -- who in 1986 incorporated the Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA) and made the first request for state funding for trail construction." The SHT was officially opened in 1987, and, in 1990, a Halfway Celebration was held, commemorating the completion of 140 miles of the trail -- approximately halfway to the goal of a continuous footpath from Duluth, MN to the Canadian border. To date, 235 miles of the trail have been completed, though there is a gap of highway between Two Harbors and the southwesternmost section. Stumped and I plan to hike the 219 miles of the SHT from the Border Route Trail to Two Harbors, for a total trip of 306 miles. Time permitting (Stumped has somewhat of a deadline due to a family commitment), we may hike the remaining, disconnected miles.
The Kek, BRT and SHT are part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which, when complete, will be the longest footpath in the United States -- 4,600 miles from New York to North Dakota. At this time, more than 1,600 miles of the NCT have been completed. For more information on this wonderful and ambitious project, visit the North Country Trail Association website at www.northcountrytrail.org