Superior Hero Tale – Trail Clearing Volunteers

Throughout the year, we honor those in our trail community that have gone above and beyond to support the Superior Hiking Trail and the Association that takes care of it. Their stories are our…

A historic windstorm in fall of 2018 brought down hundreds of trees on the northern end of the SHT. This spring, an equally-historic response by SHTA volunteers sought to clear them from the Trail for the benefit of you and thousands of other hikers and runners. In this Superior Hero Tale, we’re pleased to recognize our Trail Clearing Volunteers.

This past April and May, SHTA hosted four trail clearing events that covered almost the entire Trail east of Duluth. During these events, over 1,200 volunteer hours went into clearing the Superior Hiking Trail — by far the highest total on record.

Nobody said trail clearing wasn’t fun. Photo by Roberta Laidlaw.

Steadfast trail clearing volunteers came from all over the state – and even a couple from out of state – to help out. Without them, the SHT would be challenging, nigh impossible, to navigate. Volunteers negotiated a nest of downed trees near Duluth, trudged through knee-deep snow near Schroeder, moved through mud puddles in Finland, and worked through windstorm-damaged sections near Hovland. The work was more difficult than most years, but morale was high and laughter harmonized with the roar of chainsaws. Importantly, safety of our volunteers was our top priority; this challenging work was completed without any serious injuries.

26 helpers, one goal: safe times on the Trail. Photo by Roberta Laidlaw.

At the heart of trail clearing are our certified sawyers. These dedicated volunteers attend chainsaw trainings and maintain first aid/CPR certifications in addition to supplying their own equipment and fuel. (We hope to expand our inventory to provide equipment for sawyers in the future.) Many certified sawyers lead teams of “swampers,” critical helpers who clear debris, during these trail clearing weekends; but many other certified sawyers adopt a section of the Trail and diligently clear it outside of SHTA’s scheduled events.

Dedicated sawyer Dave Miller and crew cleared a 40-yard mess of trees near the Caribou campsite.

So it’s all done now, right? Not quite. Our lively, unrelenting boreal forests ensure trail clearing never really ends. And we’re still battling the damage of that windstorm in Hovland, so expect to find downed trees, especially on the far eastern end of the SHT.  In the meantime, the majority of the SHT is ready for hiking season.

If a tree has a blaze, it can and probably will eventually fall on the Trail. Photo of long-time sawyer John Storkamp by Eric Hadrath.

We want to send a special thank you to all who make a cleared trail possible: our long-time contractor Han Taylor, section adopters, diligent kitchen helpers, adventurous swampers, and our dedicated sawyers. The Trail is better because of you.

Have a hero for the Trail you’d like to nominate? Let us know using this form.