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?