The Superior Hiking Trail starts at Jay Cooke State Park, south of Duluth. Keen readers will remember that I saw a SHT sign while at Jay Cooke earlier this year - it turns out that I was looking at the start of the trail. It goes northeast through Duluth but stops north of Duluth. The SHT picks up again in Two Harbors and continues north/northeast all the way to within a mile of the Canadian Border. This summer, the SHTA is working on closing that last 20-mile gap between Duluth and Two Harbors. Since I live in the area, I signed up to be on the Weekday Trail Volunteer mailing list. Anxious to jump right in, I waited less than a week after my Master Naturalist Graduation before starting to rack up volunteer hours.
|There's a trail in there somewhere. We need to dig it out!|
We met in Duluth and carpooled out to the day's work site. We were made up of volunteers, SHTA staff, and Minnesota Conservation Corps members. I didn't get a chance to talk to any of the MCC folks - next time I'm going to chat them up a bit. I love CCC history and am curious to see what the modern incarnation is like.
It was a good mile or two out to the work area. Someone had already gone through and roughed out a trail - flagging trees and leaving a very small path to guide us. Tools were distributed, and we started hacking roots, pulling roots and rocks, sawing trees, lopping branches, and tamping down dirt. Building a trail is hard work! My sad little Tyrannosaurus Rex arms were in for a real workout.
|This tool is called a McLeod. It's used for both raking and tamping down dirt.|
|This tool is called a Pulaski. It is used for chopping (the axe part on the left) and grubbing with the sharp grub hoe on the right.|
Not shown are the loppers - a crazy huge pair of snippers that can cut through a 4-inch thick tree trunk - and the Mattock, which kind of looks like a huge Pulaski. The Pulaski is smaller and sharper, and not meant to be swung over the head or used on rocky soil. The Mattock is more of a brute force tool. We also had rakes and saws.
I used the Pulaski most of the time, chopping and removing small trees and brush and digging up roots that would likely trip a hiker. There was a part of me that cringed when I first started hacking away at a perfectly good and defenseless tree...but I reminded myself that by building the trail, I was bringing people into the woods to appreciate and love the outdoors. The sacrifice of a few trees was worth it.
|Ah, there's the trail!|
I was only able to help for about 3 hours before needing to take the 'early bus' home. I needed to shower and then go in to work. 3 hours was a good first day out, though. I wasn't sure how my arms would feel. So far, two days after I put the Pulaski back into the truck, I feel pretty good. I feel especially good for being able to help with the trail construction. The people I met were great, it was really interesting to learn about how to build a proper trail (I will talk about that process on this blog one of these days) and I got a good workout. Win win win!