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Thankful Thoughts from the Trail Team

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Thankful Thoughts from the Trail Team

November 27, 2019

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, the SHTA team took a moment to reflect on the 2019 trail season and give our thanks to those who helped us maintain and improve the SHT this year.

There are so many reasons for us to be grateful. Our work is benefited by many amazing contributions from our community that help us ensure the Trail remains a gem: thousands of hours of volunteerism, scores of trail users, local businesses, and foundations who continue to invest in the Trail’s future, our board’s vision and leadership, the thoughtful guidance and support of agency partners, gracious landowners who host the Trail on their property, and so much more. (Not to mention all those who came before us to blaze and build this marvel of a Trail.)

To honor the holiday, we’d like to share a few more thankful thoughts from the Trail team.

From our team to everyone in the SHT community, thank you — we are truly grateful for your enthusiasm and love for the Trail and Association.

Jo Swanson, Trail Development Director

Jo gets ready for the Trailbuilding 101 training this summer on the Bean and Bear Lakes loop.

This was SHTA’s first full year with the expertise and dedication of our Volunteer Crew Leaders. I’m so proud of them and grateful for all they accomplished, both on-trail and behind-the-scenes. They’re helping us tackle more projects, engage more volunteers, and increase our impact on the Trail. Plus they’re super cool people!

Because I hike a lot in my free time, I also enjoy random encounters with volunteers. In spring I met the Bruch family (Matt, Michelle, Sawyer, and Wes) while they were doing maintenance near Fox Farm Road. What a great way to teach kids about giving back! Later this fall near the Kadunce River, I happened upon longtime volunteer Leon Pitzen, who always gave me a ride to volunteer events during the Duluth-Two Harbors trail construction era. Meeting volunteers on the Trail by chance — whether they are working or playing — makes me so grateful for the community it takes to sustain this Trail.


Denny Caneff, Executive Director

Denny admires the world’s cutest waterfall at McCarthy Creek.

I’m grateful for our agency partners — U.S. Forest Service, MN Dept. of Natural Resources, the forest and highway staff of the four counties we’re in, Duluth Parks staff, county soil and water conservation staff. We would have no Trail without the access to the land those agencies manage. There would be no functioning Trail without their technical assistance and their being able and willing to cut the bureaucratic brush on our behalf. They’re smart, thoughtful, dedicated conservationists — and too often unsung. So, to them I say, “Huzzah!  And thanks a bunch.”  

Jody Nonnemacher, Trail Information Center Manager

Jody on the Trail during her quest to hike the SHT end-to-end.

First of all, I am thankful for this great Trail I have had the privilege to section hike across the years I’ve lived on the North Shore. I completed my final portions of it this past season!

I am also so grateful for the many amazing people in our community that I encountered this year. Whether it be the enthusiastic Blue Blaze Blitzers that battled bugs, bark and rain to accomplish this task or the enthusiasm of the many hikers and runners that stopped in the Trail Information Center to share their plans or accomplishments on the SHT. The common thread throughout these interactions is the love of this great Trail and the appreciation they have of what it takes to keep it available to them. What a great job I have!


Jaron Cramer, Development and Communications Director

Jaron (left) joined SHTA volunteers, friends, and Allen the Alien to host an aid station during the Superior Fall Trail Race.

I have a lot to be grateful for this year, but what I truly cherish are the stories I’ve heard of the impact the SHT has had on so many lives. I learned that the Trail was the right motivation to help a hiker lose weight and overcome a dependence on pain medication to be able to enjoy the outdoors again. I heard what it meant for a parent to see their young daughter arise to the challenge of their first backpacking trip together, enjoying every sight and sound along the way. I also listened to one hiker recall how a trip on the SHT provided exactly what he needed — solitude and rejuvenation of his soul — when his son was in the throes of chemotherapy for aggressive cancer. I’ve really appreciated hearing these personal stories — they make our work meaningful and give us motivation to do our best to protect the Trail.


Lisa Knight, Administrator

Tricia Ryan (left), SHTA’s first executive director, and Lisa (right) tour the Trail Information Center.

I’m thankful for the different granting organizations (and their amazing administrative staff!) that help us make the most of our volunteers’ efforts and the funds we receive from our supporters to accomplish even more on the Trail. With grants from federal and state agencies and private foundations, gifts to SHTA now go much further towards achieving our big goals of making the SHT more resilient and environmentally sustainable. We’re able to invest in the Trail and plan long-term projects with the funding these organizations provide. Thanks for keeping me busy!