New SHTA Board Member Completes Thru-Hike

December 28th, 2023

Myrtle Turnquist crosses the Encampment River on stepping stones installed during a Trail Renewal Project earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Myrtle Turnquist.

During her thru-hike of the Superior Hiking Trail in September and October this year, Myrtle Turnquist saw lots of grouse, plants, mushrooms, and beautiful fall colors. She discovered her favorite spots “were the spots I didn’t even know existed,” Myrtle said. “Not the popular spots, the ones where there weren’t other people.”

“I like just being out there and experiencing nature,” she said.

Myrtle Turnquist of Wayzata, Minn. joined the Superior Hiking Trail Association Board of Directors in June of this year. Myrtle had wanted to thru-hike the SHT for years. “I’ve been following the SHTA because of that, and I saw they were advertising for financial people (to join the Board). I was excited to see that and applied. I do a lot of volunteering but sometimes I miss being in a leadership role, and that’s why I was excited for this role,” Myrtle said.

Originally from Northwestern Minnesota, Myrtle grew up on a farm, and then worked as a Financial Controller with Cargill. She retired five years ago and has been enjoying activities she didn’t have time to do while working – volunteering, hiking, and writing. “I’m doing a lot of artistic exploring after a career of numbers,” she said.

After joining the Board, Myrtle decided this was the year to complete the thru-hike she’d been dreaming of on the SHT. “I thought, ‘I need to know more about the Trail.’ I got to see every inch of the Trail. I learned how people use the SHT. I ran into people doing maintenance. It gave me invaluable information into all of the workings of the Superior Hiking Trail,” Myrtle said.

She is still wondering how volunteers paint the Trail’s signature blue blazes perfectly rectangular.

During SHTA board meetings, Myrtle’s thru-hike has also helped her understand project discussions in a new way. “I was there, I saw what was happening. That has helped a lot,” she said. 

Eric (left) and Myrtle (right) Turnquist on the Superior Hiking Trail this fall. Eric joined Myrtle on weekends during her thru-hike of the Trail. Photo courtesy of Myrtle Turnquist.

Eric Turnquist, Myrtle’s husband, still works three days a week but was able to hike with her on weekends and help with resupplying. “It was so great to meet him at the Trailhead on Friday afternoon and then we’d go into town. He would hike Saturday-Monday. He’d go home, and I’d keep going,” Myrtle said.

At the end of September as Myrtle and Eric neared Gooseberry State Park, it had been raining all weekend. “We got to the Split Rock River, and we were hearing people say, ‘You can’t ford; there’s too much water,’ and we had been walking through water all day,” Myrtle said. “We walked along the river for a while, confirmed we wouldn’t have been able to cross the river anyway, so we walked down to the Wayside Rest and decided to call for a ride and stop for a day and dry out.”

Like all SHT thru-hikers, Myrtle said her expectations of what her thru-hike would be like and what actually happened were very different. “When I was planning, I expected dry fall weather, beautiful colors, but I think I only had a handful of sunny days,” she said. “My thru-hike was a different experience than I thought. But I learned how beautiful the North Shore is in the fog, and I did have some sunny days, so that was good.”

Myrtle also met other thru-hikers doing 20 miles a day. Her longest day of hiking was 21 miles. “I can do it, but you can’t really stop that long, and I’m not that fast of a hiker either,” she said. “I learned I like to stop and smell the roses.”

After her thru-hike, Myrtle said she now encourages people to enjoy the Trail in their own way. “You don’t have to do a thru-hike; it’s so easy to get on and off. Hiking out-and-backs is a great way to do it too,” she said.

“People asked me, weren’t I afraid? You have to be sensible, but I didn’t encounter anything that made me afraid,” Myrtle said. “I think a lot of people don’t do things because they’re scared they might see a bear. Don’t be afraid.”

We are so grateful that Myrtle has joined our Board of Directors, bringing her extensive financial skillset to help guide the SHTA’s long-term success. And we are extra impressed by her accomplishment in thru-hiking the entire Trail this year, and how that will inform her service on the Board. Congratulations, Myrtle!

By Annie Nelson, SHTA Communications Director