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Blitz, Brigade, and More Leave the Trail Better Than Before

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Blitz, Brigade, and More Leave the Trail Better Than Before

July 22, 2019

Here’s something we know: when a volunteer is trained and matched to the right task, they do amazing things for the Trail.

That’s why we’ve made it a priority to do both, by offering training opportunities and finding new ways to engage volunteers in discreet tasks that suit them well. And already this summer, our volunteers have made their mark on the SHT. Here are a few “Before and After” stories that show the good work being done to improve the Trail.

Blue Blaze Blitz

You’ve probably seen a faded blaze or one lost with a fallen tree aside the Trail. Many had not been refreshed since their original blazing over 12 years ago, which is why we organized a “blitz” to engage volunteers to help re-blaze many sections of the Trail in a mid-July weekend.

With training, templates, and appropriate tools, volunteers were given the go-ahead to refresh fading blazes and add new ones where they were needed.

Twenty six volunteers contributed over 170 hours during the Blitz weekend, re-blazing parts of over a dozen sections from Rossini Road near Two Harbors to Jackson Lake Road near the Trail’s northern terminus. Cool fact: Nearly all of the volunteers who signed up for this new effort were also new to volunteering with SHTA.

Volunteers weren’t the only contributors to the effort: several local businesses — Marshall Hardware, Finland Co-op, and Buck’s Hardware Hank — donated blazing supplies, and our friends at Castle Danger Brewery and Voyageur Brewing offered a complimentary beer for volunteers after their blazing work on the Trail.

Want to get in on the blazing action? We’re hosting another Blue Blaze Blitz in October.

Trailhead Brigade

The classic hand-routed signs at our trailheads are the first and last thing you see on a hike or run on the SHT, conveying important trail information and rules.

But many have fallen into a state of disrepair or been covered in extraneous stuff over the years. A new group of volunteers — the Trailhead Brigade — has been enlisted and trained to help rebuild and clean up these important signs.

Volunteer Alison Heebsh has replaced posts and cleaned up several SHT trailhead signs, like this one at the Highway 1 parking area.

New volunteer Brian Janssen removed unused panels and straightened up signs at Cove Point and elsewhere.

As trailhead signs inevitably need repair, we now have several volunteers well-suited to the task of keeping them in great shape.

Stone Building Training

At the end of June, SHTA hosted stone building expert Willie Bittner of Great Lakes Trailbuilders to lead a training on using natural stone to renew and improve the SHT.

Over the course of the training, SHTA volunteers and crew leaders learned how to find the right rocks to use, break and shape them to fit the job, move them with proper equipment, and install them in long-lasting structures. The result: a new beautiful stone staircase (pictured above) and steps across a long, problematic mud hole on the Bean and Bear Lakes loop. Read more about the training and new trail structures here.

More trail improvements and trainings ahead

During the remaining weeks of summer, SHTA will lead trail improvement projects in Duluth, at Pincushion Mountain in Grand Marais, on the Hovland Lakewalk, and more.

We’re also pleased to offer another skill-building workshop, the Elite Latrine Digging Squad training on August 17th.

If you’d like to get involved, check out our volunteer calendar or watch our Facebook page for more opportunities.