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Rockin’ It, VCL-Style, At Crow Creek (Squared)

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Rockin’ It, VCL-Style, At Crow Creek (Squared)

Hiking near Grand Marais or Castle Danger? You can spot new trail work at both Crow Creeks. Photo courtesy of Steph Hoff.

In April 2018, four of our veteran volunteers joined two members of our staff for a Volunteer Crew Leader (VCL) training hosted by the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Many volunteer-powered organizations around the country use the VCL concept — a key feature of our Trail Renewal Program — to empower talented volunteers to take a more active role in planning and implementing trail projects. This summer, we launched our first two VCL projects, one at each of the two Crow Creeks on the SHT.

In late August, VCL Kris Nurmi and a rockin’ crew of volunteers took on a section of the SHT near Castle Danger, damaged by heavy rains that caused a small landslide that blocked the Trail and knocked out the bridge over Crow Creek. We placed big, heavy stepping stones across the creek and used more nearby rock to stabilize both of the steep, erosion-prone banks. The busted bridge did not, unlike many an SHT bridge, get washed to Lake Superior. Its carcass was dismantled and its lumber will be repurposed.

VCL Michael Loscheider, amazing volunteer Christie Tool Calin, and VCL Kris Nurmi admire new rock steps at Crow Creek (south, near Castle Danger). Photo courtesy of Nita Nurmi.

Then in September, Cook County’s Crow Creek got some much needed attention from VCL Steph Hoff and our crew of volunteers. This site has required multiple projects in recent years: first we had to find a new bridge site, build the bridge (in winter!), and lay out a new route. Steph’s project sought to complete the Trail re-route work around the bridge.

Smiles for days at Crow Creek (north, near Grand Marais). Photo courtesy of Steph Hoff.

With guidance from SHTA trail operations director Tamer Ibrahim, Steph and crew built approaches from the Trail to the bridge, forged a section of new trail to connect the new bridge to existing trail, built two sets of stairs up a steep slope on the west bank, and then dismantled the old bridge. Over 365 volunteer hours were donated during Steph’s project, and our friends at Upper Midwest Trail Runners also pitched in for volunteer camping and meals. Hundreds of additional hours were spent preparing and building the bridge earlier this winter, and that’s not counting the time that our partners at the U.S. Forest Service and our staff put in to ensure all stages of the project were completed to sustainable trail standards.

Volunteers hammer away to finish approaches on the new bridge at Crow Creek (north, near Grand Marais). Photo courtesy of Steph Hoff.

Our VCLs dedicated a lot of time away from the Trail, working with SHTA to plan and coordinate logistics. A huge thank you to Kris, Steph, and everyone who pitched in at both Crow Creeks.

Looking for your chance to build, maintain, or renew the Trail? Head to our Event Calendar to sign up. Have a skill or expertise that can benefit the Trail? Let us know how you can help.

This article was originally published in the 2018 Fall Ridgeline newsletter. Join SHTA to support the Trail and receive your copy of the Ridgeline.