Two groups of North Country Trail hikers/volunteers met last week on the Kekekabic Trail in the middle of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in northeastern MN. The brief reunion featured swapping of trail conditions and plans for attending the upcoming NCTA conference in Valley City, ND.
One group was led by NCT long-distance hiker Joan Young, who was finishing the Superior Hiking Trail and hiking the Border Route and Kekekabic Trails on this trip. Her group included Ed Morse, Kurt Papke, Lyle Bialk, and Marie Altenau and they were hiking “the Kek” heading west. The other group included Brian Pavek, Harlan Liljequist, Carter & Florence Hedeen, Bruce Johnson, Ken Zimmer, and Matt Davis. They hiked the Kek in 4 days heading eastbound and did some trail maintenance along the way.
In general, we found the Kekekabic Trail to be in good shape, although it is definitely a wilderness footpath not much like other NCT sections. The trail tread was discernible for most of the way although the trailside vegetation was just starting to grow. Exceptions included where the trail passes through wet meadows near War Club Lake and in most of the burned area, where it is marked by blue flagging tape. We realized that the trail would be much harder to follow later this summer once the vegetation came up.
In general, we found hiking the Kek to be a very challenging, yet rewarding experience. We were fortunate to see a cow moose with two calves at Bingshick Lake, lots of bald eagles, a black bear, and a wolf off the Gunflint Trail on the way home.
Kurt Papke’s slideshow from their Kek hike is available online.