New SHTA Board Member is an End-2-Ender

March 29th, 2024

Beth Toso at the Superior Hiking Trail’s northern terminus in 2017. Photo courtesy of Beth Toso.

Beth Toso spent nearly a decade day hiking the Superior Hiking Trail until she completed its entire 300 miles.

Beth discovered the SHT after growing concerned about climate change, “which we called global warming back then,” Beth said. “I’d read a book about climate change and the author said to understand it, you have to have a relationship with the natural world, and I really didn’t. I was mostly a city person; I went for a walk or run around the Minneapolis lakes now and then.”

To help her get out into nature, Beth bought a guidebook called “Hiking Minnesota,” and one of the recommended hikes was the Split Rock River Loop. “I remember thinking, ‘Am I going to be able to hike up and down hills for 4 ½ miles?’ I was so excited when I finished that hike and didn’t injure myself in any way!”

After a few more hikes on the Trail, Beth set a goal to complete the entire Trail. For almost a decade, she traveled to the SHT on weekends 3-4 times a year and hiked several sections each weekend.

Beth found the relationship with the natural world she was seeking. “What I remember most about my hikes were the animals that followed me. There would be a dragonfly that would fly with me for a while, or a hawk that followed me,” Beth said. “It’s a connection; [the Trail] gets you out and into a space where there are all these other beings, and you remember that we’re sharing this place with them.”

Beth poses in front of a sweeping vista of Lake Superior during her first weekend of day hikes after she set her goal to hike the entire SHT. Photo courtesy of Beth Toso.

Her decade on the Trail also provided a space for reflection during some major transitions of her life including a divorce, sharing custody of her children, and later her kids leaving home for college. “After the divorce, I didn’t have my kids every other weekend and the house felt so empty. The Trail really filled that space. It was wonderful to go do something that was so rewarding spiritually and physically.”

Not every hike was easy. When Beth first started her End-2-End journey, the Trail’s southern terminus was near Two Harbors. By the time she reached the 270-Degree Overlook at the northern terminus, there were 70 new miles of Trail south of Two Harbors. While completing the last 70 miles, Beth said she didn’t want to stop for winter so she decided to do a winter hike on a section that started at Hartley Nature Center.

“I thought it was going to be really easy hiking, right in Duluth. I went in late December and had city boots on,” she said. “I’m going along and realize nobody is walking this part of the Trail in December. There was no path; the snow was up to my thigh. The Trail markings were covered by snow. The one time I got lost on the Trail in 300 miles was in the middle of the city of Duluth. I ended up somewhere at the University of Minnesota, drenched, in totally useless boots.”

One of Beth’s favorite memories from her End-2-End was completing her hike at the southern terminus in 2020. “I was hiking very close to a younger woman who was doing a thru-hike. She was at the end of her hike, and I was at the end of my hike. There was this moment when we both got to the terminus, and she was very emotional and in tears. I thought, ‘This is so amazing to be a part of this.’ “

Those meaningful experiences are what motivated Beth to join our Board of Directors in June 2023. “When I first started walking the Trail, I didn’t think much about it – the Trail was just there. After a couple hundred miles, you realize someone is doing a lot behind the scenes. Those bridges don’t just show up!

“I wanted to help care for the Trail so others can have this experience, and I can continue to have it too,” Beth said.

Beth completed the Superior Hiking Trail in 2020 and is now considering completing the Trail again with a thru-hike. Photo courtesy of Beth Toso.

The Superior Hiking Trail Association was thrilled to welcome Beth to our Board of Directors in June 2023. Beth’s professional background spans a range of valuable skills: human resources, strategic planning, fundraising, and finance. She most recently worked as the Chief Financial Officer for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Beth said she’s inspired by her fellow board members, who represent the full range of trail users from trail runners who have set Fastest-Known-Time records to those who love to take their time.

Beth’s hopes for the Superior Hiking Trail center around sustainability. “Being from the nonprofit sector and working in finance, I think about financial sustainability a lot. And with the Trail, there is also environmental sustainability. How do we get to the next level of finances so there is reliable revenue for maintenance and repair needs for years to come? It all goes back to having it there for the next generation.”

As Beth transitions into retirement this spring, she is thinking of completing the Trail again but this time as a thru-hike. Welcome to the SHTA Board of Directors, Beth! We are grateful you’ve chosen to share your talents and knowledge of the SHT with our entire Trail community. And we hope to see you out on Trail on your thru-hike!

By Annie Nelson, SHTA Development and Communications Director