Monday, May 4, 2009

Save this trail!

It reads like a sad tale from Dickens. A younger offspring treated like a single child. One that never fit into the rest of the family. Falling into ill health now, just a trace of its former self. Now that the others have grown up and moved along, it will be abandoned.

Except it isn't a child. It's a trail.

I have Great Expectations: Save the Knife River trail!

Back in 1992 or 1993, a few local volunteers built a stretch of hiking trail from the town of Knife River up along the River itself. This might have been the start of the mighty Superior Hiking Trail, right there next to the Depot Campground. The trail was popular with Duluth folks, since it was the first and easiest part of the SHT to reach, just a ten mile drive out of town up the Expressway.

It's a lovely little stretch of trail, especially the first 2.5 miles up to Second Falls. The trail scoots up the left bank of the Knife River past First Falls, a scenic and wide waterfall that roars with spring melt. Then it crosses under the expressway and over the Knife River on the expressway's westbound lane. After that, it's near or on the Knife River most of the way.

Here's Second Falls:

Now the Superior Hiking Trail Association has other plans. In order to connect Duluth and Two Harbors, the route had to go way inland, up near the corridor for the North Shore Trail, the snowmobile corridor. This little stretch of scenic, accessible trail has been left all alone. For the first time in its history, the Superior Hiking Trail Association will abandon part of its trail.

When the SHTA abandons a trail, the trail loses its stewards. Who will clear downfalls in the spring? Who will repair and replace bridges? Who will make sure the route is clear?

I hiked the trail yesterday with Chloe. It is in rough shape. Footbridges are 15 years old and breaking apart. Trail markers are gone and the trail is crossed here and there by ATV traffic, confusing the route.

Despite the obstacles, it was great hike. The Knife River was nearly overflowing its banks with spring melt. The pine forests in the middle area were alive with bird song. There's a lovely little campsite at a bend in the river, perfect for lunch break before returning to the trailhead.

This gem of a trail deserves use and it deserves a new steward. How about it, Knife River Community Club? Lake Superior steelheaders? Izaak Walton League?


rootbeerlady said...

I wondered why this section of trail wasn't in the newest edition of the SHTA book. Thanks for the information.

Blogging the North Shore said...

I'm hoping some group steps forward before the trail gets completely abandoned. Know any civic-minded trail people?

rootbeerlady said...

We walked the first section of the trail yesterday (just the portion from the parking lot to the point where you come to the river). We encountered two trees which had fallen across the trail. My husband is willing to go back there with a chain saw and get these trees off the trail. We live in the Cities and get up to our cabin in the Knife River area every couple weeks so this bit of trail maintenance won't happen for a week or so.

Blogging the North Shore said...

Clearing trails like this on your own is a long tradition up here. The Superior Hiking Trail Association has people who "adopt" a section of their trail and do occasional maintenance, but since they are abandoning this one, there is no reason you and your husband shouldn't take a chainsaw out. I say go for it!

rootbeerlady said...

We went back to this trail with our chainsaw this weekend and found that the two trees I mentioned earlier had already been taken off the trail. Thanks to whoever did this bit of trail maintenance!

Andrew Slade said...

rootbeerlady: Some of the locals are organizing to protect the Knife River trail. They are really concerned about a timber sale happening there. Contact me if you'd like more information.