The time has come for stewards of the Superior Hiking Trail to address the needs of one of the most visited and photographed parts of the 310-plus-mile trail.
Work begins Wednesday to finish a reroute of the trail that began in 2019 near the commanding overlook of Bean and Bear lakes near Silver Bay — sites that in some circles are synonymous with hiking on the North Shore. Instagram feeds in autumn can attest.
“This is a big project,” said Barbara Budd, volunteer and education coordinator with the Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA) in Two Harbors.
And it matters when getting on the Superior trail — or any trail — is seen by so many Minnesotans and countless others as essential infrastructure for recreation, from camping to running to bird-watching, and so on.
The Bean and Bear reroute is so significant that the SHTA is asking for the public to get its hands dirty and help. Directed by Trail Eyes LLC, a trail-builder and consultant, and association staff, volunteers will dig out vegetation, cut brush and build retaining walls to direct the footpath away from a chronically wet, muddy area through higher, more sustainable territory in the Penn Creek area. There are about 100 work shifts that still need filling out of 200 over the 11-day project, Budd said.
In tackling the reroute, the SHTA is moving on with work it identified in 2017 as part of its broad trail renewal plan, said executive director Lisa Luokkala.
There are at least a dozen other projects of various sizes planned this hiking season, too, from engineering better ways to keep the trail dry in notoriously wet areas to bridge-building, to replacing old, heavily trampled boardwalks.
“The trail really is never complete,” said Luokkala, recognizing the impact of the predictable (use, erosion) and unpredictable (intense weather seasons).
One notable project is the second phase of a well-known thorn among trail staff, volunteers, and hikers: the “Gooseberry Gap,” which reflects the private-public land balance that energizes the path and is top of mind at the association. A conflict with a private landowner forced the trail off a parcel and required the gap workaround in 2015.
Work has begun …….