22 November 2012

A time for thanks and a Thanksgiving pagaent

When you live in the United States there is much to be thankful. Though it seems we take much of it for granted- like paved roads and lights.
I am thankful I can ride my bike just about anywhere. I am thankful there are wild places which we can still visit. I am thankful for my Mostly Finnish Spouse, who loves me even when I mess up and make mistakes.

Way back in my college days- I was a DJ on KUMM in Morris. I started as a news reader and then did a little weekend show on regional music. One year, I think 1994, I wrote a Thanksgiving Pageant that some of my colleagues at the station decided to perform live on the air.
You can find the full audio download here.

09 November 2012

Around the Sioux Hustler Trail: Depature

The following is a continuation of the log from the Sioux Hustler Loop hiking trip I took in October 2012. In this entry I meet up with hiking partner 3 Names and head for Orr, MN.

Voyageur Welcome Center in Orr
 Due to a mutual friend's funeral- 3 Names and I met up in Thief River Falls. From there we drove to Clearbrook and spent the night out of the wet and chilly elements in a farmhouse of a Christian brother.
We left the next morning for Bemidji where we left 3 Names truck and then proceeded through the northland towards Orr, MN. Upon our arrival to Orr we stopped at the Voyageur Information center. I did not realise how close we were to Voyageurs National Park. No info on the Sioux Hustler Trail was to be found at the center. We progressed into town to get a bite to eat at the grocery store. Apparently the A&W attached to the store must only be open in the summer. It was not particularly busy place but it was not dead either. Minutes later we were progressing toward Buyck and the western terminus of the Echo Trail while enjoying an old time radio western.
After passing through some splendid scenery (especially the Hunting Shack River- which reminded me of a famous Hamm's scrolling sign) we were at the trailhead around 2 PM.15 minutes later we were on the trail. 1 hour later and at a dead end of sorts we realised we took a wrong turn. A major wrong turn. In fact we were no where near the Sioux Hustler Trail. What we failed to do was take the turn at a cairn quite a distance away from our present location. From all accounts we surmised that this may have been an old logging road which was abandoned. We noticed numerous rusting oil barrels strewn about the forest at this point. Not far from the dead end there was a spur trail going east. No action was taken to explore the spur but a primitive wood marker pointed us back towards the trailhead at the intersection. On our way back we had to go back over a pretty challenging bear dam and then through the 2 stages of  the "pits of despair." This segment is a bit hard to explain but there were all these little berms but with sections separating them that over time came to seem like pits. 3 Names' guess was in abandoning the road dirt berms were laid to keep vehicular traffic out.
We finally reach the correct turn off and start down the trail proper. We joked that our detour was just warming up for what lied ahead. And it was in some ways. We knew for sure that there would be a great amount of hiking to be done in the dark.

Waterfall on Little Sioux Indian River near Elm Portage
 After an hour, we found a flat rock section adjacent to the trail and ate. Thus far the tread way was pretty clean with the occasional root or rock outcrop. Light rain began to fall as we returned to hiking. By dusk we had reached the Elm Portage and stopped to refill our water. The descent to the Elm Portage is steep and rocky but very interesting geology. It is a gorge of sorts.
With the darkness descending quickly, we followed the trail beside the bank of the river with all its rock and root obstacles. We all began to see more downed trees at this part. 3 Names navigated us through a grassy bog area and our elevation began to change. The hardly perceptible rain made our boots wet.  Utilising our rain jackets proved to be more troublesome. The heat produced by the rigors of hiking was causing us to perspire and thus making wet our underlying clothing. It was a bit uncomfortable especially when the trail went up and then down and up again.
I do not recall when we reached the cairn of the loop cutoff. But I did know that it would not be long until we reached the Devil's Cascade campsite. I think it was something like 30 or 45 minutes later when we discovered the camp latrine. It took a few more minutes to figure out the location of the campsite since a portage trail crossed the trail near it. I hiked down the portage towards the river a bit until I came to the conclusion that it did not lead to the campsite. So be forewarned- in the dark it is tricky to discern trail for portage.
Moments later we found the site and unloaded our backpacks and sat on a large downed tree near the fire grate. The campsite sits quite a bit above the roaring cascade below. You could fall from it if you are not careful. After a rest we set up camp. I also pitched a lean to with the tarp and hiking pole I brought. The lean to provided enough space to keep our additional gear dry.
3 names found a phosphorescent mold on a piece of wood. It really did not photograph well, but it certainly gave off light. But not enough to keep us awake any longer than we had to.

08 November 2012

Around the Sioux Hustler Trail: The Facts

Small map of Entry Point 15- Sioux Hustler Trail
 A few weeks ago my friend Man of 3 Names I journeyed up to the BWCA to embark on an adventure. With it being October and the weather not always cooperative at that time of year (although in the past I have had some great October trips), I planned a rugged hiking trip. Our goal: hike the entire Sioux Hustler Loop. The challenge: the ~32 mile trail does not get much maintenance and is at best primitive. 3 Names and I were up to the challenge.

To the best of my knowledge and research- the Sioux Hustler Trail in some form has been in existence since at least before the Civilian Conservation Corps were working in the Superior National Forest. Part of it may even been hewn in the early part of the 1900s for use in fire spotting. I found an interesting and informative article about the wilderness fire towers off the Echo Trail here: http://www.kjackson.us/articles/ThreeWilderness.pdf
The article describes 3 fire towers including the one on the Little Sioux River above Devil's Cascade. The part of the trail that leads to the tower may very well have started as the path of the telephone line that ran to the tower. Eventually a cabin was built near the tower so I suspect the path may have been improved.
I can only assume that the rest of the trail was used for forest purposes as I can find no data concerning logging activity occurring in the immediate vicinity of the trail.

Overview of current Sioux Hustler Trail
 The 1960s the tower and cabin were dismantled but the trail was marked on a map I have from the same period. However, this map has the trail much larger than it exists today. In fact this map has the loop portion beginning and ending near the Echo Trail as opposed to the loop portion beginning about a mile south of the Devil's Cascade campsite. Still there is a trail which may have connected eastern portion of the current Sioux Hustler not far from the trailhead.

I surmise that between the 70s and 80s- during the swell of hiking enthusiasm in the US- the trail received a little bit of maintenance. Today the trail's western portion receives the most attention. The parts north and east of the Devil's Cascade get very little attention.
Most of the trail exists within the BWCA, so a permit is needed and fortunately between October and May- the permits are free. To get to the trail head you need to head up the Echo Trail- either from Ely or Buyck. The trailhead parking lot is marked and is Entry Point 15 it is just east of the Little Sioux Indian entry Point.

There is very little detail about the trail online. I discovered only a handful of articles. I am not sure even the Boundary Waters Journal has had an article about the Sioux Hustler. The Kekekabic Trail gets much more attention and even its own club. Best information is from a Canadian- http://pemmican.tannerpages.com/wiki/Sioux_Hustler_Hiking_Trail
But even some of that information is incomplete but did post photos to most of the campsites.
Goto Part 2: Depature