When people look back at the development of the North Country Trail in Minnesota in the future, this year will stand out as a very productive year. Here are some of the highlights:
The Itasca Moraine Chapter’s new Waboose Lake Loop Trail
The Itasca Moraine Chapter finished developing a new 4-mile loop trail around Waboose Lake within the Paul Bunyan State Forest north of Nevis. This loop trail offers a scenic hike around the lake with many great views, a backcountry campsite, good fishing, and old-growth pines. This project had been in the works for the last couple of years. Under the leadership of Chapter President Bruce Johnson, an Americorps-NCCC crew worked this September and early October on completing the trail tread. Chapter volunteers had already cleared the trail and started tread construction. The loop trail is already getting use and the reports are very positive!
Four-tenths of a mile of the loop is the NCT, which skirts a bay at the lake’s northern tip. The Chapter’s original idea was to build a spur trail on the northwest corner of the lake thus adding another trailhead parking area at the Waboose Lake public access (this is a remote section of the NCT acessible only via forest roads). They quickly saw the benefit of building new trail all the way around the lake since they already had a spur trail off the NCT on the east side to the campsite located on a narrow peninsula jutting out into the lake.
There are actually three ways to hike the loop with each being a different distance. The shortest loop starts at the Waboose Lake public access and it 4 miles. The access is only 2.4 miles north of CR-2. The longest loop starts at the corner of Akeley Cutoff Forest Rd. and Old Township Rd. 2A (heads north off of Heritage Rd). There is shoulder parking and a forest road/trail that goes 0.6 mile down to the Lake passing by majestic old-growth white and red pines along the way. Hiking that way is a 5.2 mile hike. The final way to hike the loop is to park at the Akeley Cutoff Forest Rd. trailhead west on the NCT to the loop trail for a total of 4.8 miles. Visiting the campsite (with privy) on the spur trail adds another 0.2 mile round trip.
For photos of the loop trail, visit the NCTinMN Facebook page’s album.
The Laurentian Lakes Chapter’s new NCT construction
Using a Parks & Trails Legacy Grant from the Minnesota DNR, the LLC Chapter completed approximately 21 miles of new NCT northeast of Detroit Lakes. The new construction includes 6 miles across publicly-owned forestland from the southern boundary of Greenwater Lake SNA (which the NCT will be routed through in the near future) southwest to 400th Avenue, which forms the eastern boundary of Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. This stretch also passes through two privately- owned parcels thanks to permission granted by the Bergstrom and Rogstad families. Highlights of this section include a fantastic vista overlooking Tamarac NWR to the west.
West of 400th Avenue the NCT enters Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) which is managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Tamarac is the only NWR that the NCT currently crosses. A total of 14.5 miles of the NCT pass through Tamarac using a combination of gated service roads, existing XC ski and/or hiking trails, and new single track trail construction. Highlights of this section include old growth hardwoods, a 1000′ puncheon through a black spruce-tamarack bog, and a great diversity of habitats.
For photos of the NCT within Tamarac NWR, visit the NCTinMN Facebook page’s album.
Completion of the Superior Hiking Trail® between Duluth and Two Harbors
According to the SHTA’s most recent e-newsletter, the last missing link in the SHT is almost complete…
“Construction of the trail segments between Duluth and Two Harbors is nearly complete. Once the final two sections have been signed, blazed, GPS’d and mapped they will be opened for hiking, completing the trail connection between Duluth and Two Harbors. Because the trail intermittently shares the Northshore State Snowmobile Trail the crossings can be confusing so we encourage you to wait to hike the sections until maps are available. Watch for more information about the opening of these sections in the spring!”
The SHTA also did an awesome job responding to the historic June flooding in the Duluth area. The SHT is accessible except for the Jay Cooke State Park and western Duluth trailheads (Fond du Lac and Magney-Snively). For the latest info, visit the SHTA’s Trail Conditions page.