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SHT enters the Stone Age

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SHT enters the Stone Age

June 28, 2019

Which building material formed over a billion years ago, will probably last another billion years, and can be found in abundance across the entire length of the Superior Hiking Trail?

There’s only one answer — good ol’ natural stone — and it’s a resource we plan to use more as we renew and improve the SHT to be resilient for decades to come.

Getting Stoned with Willie

We recently hired stone-building expert Willie Bittner of Great Lakes Trailbuilders to host a five-day training at Bean and Bear Lakes on techniques for using local stone.


Moving instruction from the white board to the field, Willie showed us how to break and shape stones to install on the Trail.

Over the course of the training, Willie taught our crew of staff, volunteers, and partners from the US Forest Service how to:

  • Find and choose the right rocks for the job.
  • Break the big ones and shape the pieces to fit.
  • Use a griphoist and rigging to move heavy rocks without breaking a sweat (or their backs).
  • Install them in aesthetically pleasing structures built to last for millennia.

Volunteers put new skills to work

Volunteer Crew Leaders Kris Nurmi, Michael Loschieder, and Steph Hoff will take these new skills to their next projects on the SHT.

Using a highline and rigging, our crew learned how to safely transport heavy stones to the job site.

Over the course of the training, our rockin’ crew built a new stone staircase and a stepping stone crossing through a mud pit along this well-loved section.

New staircases and steps made of local stone are built to last, will improve the SHT experience, and help reduce the environmental impact of using the Trail.

Expect to see more of these structures on the SHT in the coming months and years. See more photos and videos from the training here


SHTA staff members Tamer Ibrahim and Denny Caneff were joined by three of our Volunteer Crew Leaders — Steph Hoff (and her son Grant), Michael Loscheider, and Kris Nurmi — who attended the entire workshop. New volunteer Rolf Hagberg attended most of the training, and several partners from the US Forest Service Wilderness Program — Ellie McCann, Chad Lefevere, Dan Disch, and Richard Pulsfus — joined in as well.


Special thanks to Willie Bittner and Great Lakes Trailbuilders for sharing your wisdom and to Tettegouche State Park officials for expediting their environmental and archaeological review to make this training possible.


This training was supported by a grant from Minnesota’s Coastal Program and by funding from REI Co-op.