24 June 2011

Kicked by the Kek: Beginning the trail


A few weeks ago I decided to do some backpacking and ended up backpacking in the BWCA. Yeah, no canoe, I hiked out to the lakes on the Kekekabic Trail, a unforeseen challenge.
The Kek, as it is known to some, sprang up back in the 1930s for fire suppression in Superior National Forest.  It fell into disuse until some Boy Scouts cleared it out in 1949.
Back in 1949 a Boy Scout said of this trail:
The Kekekabic Trail is one of the toughest,
meanest rabbit tracks in North America. The
trail struggles its way through swamps, around
cliffs, up the sides of bluffs, and across rocky
ridges. It is choked with nightmarish patches of
clinging brush. It is blocked with tangles of windfalls
and standing timber... It is the kind of trail
that would break the heart of a man who didn’t
have what it takes to go into the wilderness and
try and ‘smooth it.’”
He was right! Of course smoothing the wilderness is not politically correct anymore nor even of the leave no trace ethic.
The trail again fell into disrepair in the 1970s and was nearly abandoned until a club was formed to maintain it about 1989. They clear the Kek and other wilderness trail every year.
I decided to give a shot since I had planned to do years ago and felt this was as good a time as any to go. I made my way up to Ely and purchased the required permit. Most of the trail is in the BWCA and in fact went near some of the lakes I had been to last fall on my solo canoe trip.
After getting some needed supplies (like a thicker thermal shirt- it was cold!) and stopping through the International Wolf Center, I drove out to the trail head. With a heave-ho I loaded the pack on my pack and progressed down the path. Early on there is one scenic  overlook. From it you can see Disappointment Peak. I was attempting to get to that peak last fall but the darkness stopped my adventure.
The trail is full of felled trees, rocks, roots, and ruts. It gets steep in places and it others it is flat and rolling. Another section near the start must have been cleared recently because it looked empty and eerily out of place with a forest all around. I saw not a soul on the trail and hardly any wildlife, although I could now identify wolf scat and wolves must have been around, somewhere.
I hiked and hiked until it got dark and I needed to figure where there was campsite. Hardly any place off the trail seemed capable of being a campsite. The trail in darkness got me confused. I wandered around in a circle when another trail intersected. Finally I found a spot, which was so under my nose I don't know how I overlooked it. I believe it may be the campsite near the east side of the Becoosin & Benezie Loop.

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