Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Volunteering: Building the Superior Hiking Trail: June 3, 2012

Now that I am a Master Naturalist, it's my job to be on the looking for volunteering opportunities.  I don't know if I've mentioned it on this blog, but...I love the Superior Hiking Trail!  It seemed natural that I get involved with the Superior Hiking Trail Association.  Not only am I a member and financial supporter of the volunteer-run and managed Trail Association, I want to get my hands dirty and help with the stewardship side of things.  That is how I wound up in the woods on Monday, June 3rd, building a section of trail.

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!

No comments:

Post a Comment