Winter Freighting on the SHT

SHTA’s snow mobile fully loaded and ready to venture into the woods

On a recent snowy Saturday morning six volunteers and SHTA Trail Operations Director, Tamer Ibrahim, met at the Gunflint Ranger Station in Grand Marais to load the pieces of our new Fiber Reinforced Polymer (FRP) bridge which will be installed over Spruce Creek during the summer of 2022.  The pieces are not heavy, but long and awkward, and the plan was to take advantage of the deep snow and cold of the northern winter and slide them in using snowmobiles. The driver arrived, and luckily he was able to pick up and load the bundles with the crane on the truck, while the longer pieces we had to load by hand. Everything was strapped down, we caravanned to Cascade and unloaded all the pieces at the snowmobile trail parking lot.

Our hardy northern Minnesota volunteers preparing for the days work

A few days later, we were ready for the second round of work. Superior National Forest Recreation Staff members, Tammy Cefalu and Chad Lefevere, as well as Tamer brought snowmobiles, otter sleds, and a dray (a drag with two skis) to haul in the pieces. It is about 2.5 miles on the snowmobile trail to the intersection with the SHT, and we were able to sled materials another 600′ or so down the Trail. The bridge pieces are now staged just above Spruce Creek, about 500′ from where the bridge will be installed. In all, it took the three of us three trips to get all the materials in. It would have taken much more time, effort, and people to move all of these pieces in the summer.

Securing the stringers to the sled in prepartion of the approximately 3 mile ride

Special thanks (great to highlight just how many people and agencies it takes and how we have to all work together to get anything done) :

  • Volunteers: Ryan Blasdell (also a board member), Jim Shinners, Kalli Hawkins, Phil Oswald, Dennis Kaleta, and Craig Hunter.
  • Forest Service staff: Tammy Cefalu and Chad Lefevere
  • Contractor: Paul Higgins of Circle H Timber
  • Lutsen Trail Breakers Snowmobile Club for grooming the trails so nicely, especially getting the trail opened up that we needed to use to get to the SHT (it had not been groomed due to equipment failure, and it was almost completely impassable. They needed to bring in bigger machinery to get it done, and managed to get this done just before the freighting date).
  • Pete Mott, Cascade State Park Manager, for being so helpful and accommodating.  He allowed us to have the materials delivered and stored to the snowmobile trail parking lot and even plowed out more space for us to put everything out of the way.