Today we bring you an inside glimpse of building and restoring the trails we love, from our current Trail Person of the Year. Enjoy!
Sugarloaf Re-route on the Superior Hiking Trail, June 12-14
By Stephanie Hoff
When I first heard about an opportunity to reroute the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), I said hell yes! There is nothing like building a new piece of trail, having hikers enjoy it, and being able to proudly say, I BUILT THAT! To me, it is truly one of the best feelings on earth.
We were fortunate that we got both the Schroeder town hall and all of the food donated for the Sugarloaf reroute by Upper Midwest Trail Runners. When people can come volunteer and not have to worry about paying for lodging or food, it makes the experience possible for everyone.
Tamer, Trail Operations Director for the SHT, and I had pre-marked the reroute with pin flags and distance markers so we knew how long each section was. When you do a reroute, it works best if you split the project up into smaller sections. These sections are then worked on by one crew leader and his/her crew. For this project, we split it up into 9 mini sections: we had three crew leaders and three days to complete the project, so the hope was that each day, each crew leader could finish one section.
Tamer and I pre-marking the reroute with a measuring tape and pin flags in the middle of May
On Wednesday June 12th, the first day of the project, all of the volunteers, crew leaders, Tamer and Denny (the Executive Director of the SHT), met at the Schroeder Town Hall. We went over the project, showed a map of the area, talked about safety and then we were off to the worksite.
As much as our goal was to build trail, there are two rules even more important than building a trail. Rule number one - be safe, rule number two - have fun. After those two rules, if we get some trail built, then we’re pretty dang successful!
My mom’s truck was loaded with the lumber she picked up in Duluth, to be used for a section of new boardwalk. We got to work unloading the lumber, and staged it to be used on day two.
My mom’s truck riding low
Once the lumber was unloaded, we headed onto the trail to walk the new section. I like to walk a new section prior to starting. I’ve found by physically walking it, it really gives you an appreciation for what we are about to tackle. We could barely pick our way through the new reroute section we were about to create. There were trees in the way, lots of brush, and a low bog area.
Tamer going over tool safety
We divided the volunteers up into three crews; Michael, Tamer and I took our crews and got working on the tread. Tread is the main part of the trail that hikers walk on. You need to dig down, past the organic matter to the soil. Our goal was to build a 24” tread. The first section my crew worked on was mini section number one. We got lucky with pretty good soil, minimal rocks and roots. Just before lunch, we walked our section again and talked about what we were going to do after lunch. I find that by walking the section several times throughout the day, it really shows the crew what progress we’ve made. By lunch time we had most of the tread built and just had some fine tuning to do.
Volunteers starting to work on the tread
Lunch break is always fun. We chat, we laugh, make jokes. After lunch, it’s back to work, trying to finish up three mini sections for day one.
My mom and I enjoying lunch break
Next, we built tread, made rock piles and dug a burrow hole (a separate hole away from the trail) for ‘fresh dirt’. We used that dirt to fill in holes on the newly built trail. Digging and hauling from a burrow pit is exhausting. By 3:00 pm on the first day, we were all pretty spent, and decided to haul in the lumber for the boardwalk to switch up the pace a little bit. It took us almost an hour just to haul all of the wood into where the boardwalk would be built. We finished the day by walking all three of the mini sections.
Day one crew! Logan and Grant hauling in the boardwalk boards
We got back to the town hall for dinner. (Thanks again Upper Midwest Trail Runners) After dinner on day one, we took a group field trip to one of the highest spots close to Finland. The views were amazing!
Tom and Liz enjoying the view on our field trip
Day two started with a mandatory quick trip up the shores to World’s Greatest Donuts, for treats for the whole crew. After breakfast, we headed to the worksite again and went over tool safety and tread construction for those that were just joining us. We again walked the reroute and talked about what we hoped to accomplish. After day one, we had one mini section complete, and had a great start on three other sections. The goal for day two was to finish up mini sections 3, 4 and 5, start building the boardwalk (section 2) and get a start on section 6. That would leave us section 7, 8, 9 for day three. Everyone was pretty tired after the first day, but they still did great.
Tamer showing us how to build the boardwalk; a trip to World's Best donuts is a necessity
During day two, we came across soil that was not so nice to us. We had to pull many stumps, rocks and lots of roots; it’s funny how the soil can change so much in a matter of 100 feet. It was great seeing my fellow trail runners learning new techniques on how to build trail.
Mike and Marianna pulling stumps; the crew spreads out during lunch
Day two was a success! We got through almost all of the sections we were hoping to, and made a great start on the boardwalk. We were feeling confident we would be able to complete the reroute by day three. After cleaning up from day two, we went back to the Schroeder town hall for dinner. After dinner, I took the crew on another field trip to Minnesota’s longest train tunnel. It was a fun adventure!
Day two crew; field trip to the train tunnel
To say I was tired and sore on day three would be an understatement, but the ‘finish line’ was in sight! Day three breezed by. We finished up the boardwalk, made the approaches to it, and finished up the last couple of mini-sections. We had a wonderful hard-working crew and were done shortly after lunchtime. We walked the new trail with the entire crew that day and marveled how in three days, we completely transformed the landscape.
Everyone was so proud of what they had completed. We finished the day by ‘plugging up’ the old part of the trail so that it is now impassable. Wow! So happy about what we did in three days!
The Friday crew...what an awesome project; the boardwalk is just about finished
I encourage you to get out and be part of a trail building experience. It is truly rewarding. Trail people—they are what sets Upper Midwest Trail Runners apart from other communities. I’m so lucky to be a part of this amazing group.
After a winter that just wouldn't loosen its grip, and a canceled Zumbro 100 series kickoff, the Gnarly Bandit series finally got underway at Kettle Moraine 100 on June 1. Thirteen fearless would-be Gnarlies toed the starting line in on a muggy Saturday morning in Whitewater, Wisconsin. They braved humidity, thunderstorms, and miles of shoe-eating mud and standing water in the first race of the 2019 series.
At the end, seven crossed the finish line. Congratulations to Timothy Adamski, Tammy Davis, Erika Lohn, Faye Norby, Erik Raivo, Daryl Saari, and Ryan Wanless for clearing the first Gnarly Bandit hurdle!
Will this year's schedule favor the Gnarlies? It's one of those uncommon years when the next race up, Black Hills 100, is four weeks after Kettle instead of the more usual three weeks. More time to rest and recover ahead of next week's challenge! On the other hand, after a cool and damp spring, it looks like the weather patterns are shifting, and the next race looks to feature all of summer's heat. Will our seven remaining would-be Gnarly Bandits make it through the hills of South Dakota? We'll know soon! Best of luck, Gnarlies! We're all cheering for you!
Happy Spring! It might not feel like Spring out there right now, but we're in high trail race season, and many of you have already been hitting the dirt for some amazing adventures. We just got done with the UMTR aid station at the Chippewa 50K, and the following week many members took part in The Willow 10/20.
As we turn our eyes to upcoming events there are TWO awesome opportunities that we need you tell you about. Many of you remember the great trail work event that UMTR sponsored last year on the Superior Hiking Trail. We want to do it again this year, but we need your help!
On June 11-14, 2019 one of our 2019 Trail People of the Year, Steph Hoff, will be once again leading a crew of people, working on the Sugarloaf Reroute project on the Superior Hiking Trail. The actual work days are the 12-14th, and we can use as many bodies as we can get. If you can help with some or all of this, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get you in contact with Steph. UMTR will be helping provide food and supplies for the event, and we'd love to have a whole ton of our members out there showing how much we love the trail.
BUT, before that, on June 1st is our annual LaCrosse Fatass! If you've wanted to see what the Hixon 25K/50K race course looks like, this is your chance. Come on out for a great day of trail time with awesome people. Check out the Facebook event, or our website event to RSVP. Everyone is welcome!
See you on the trails!
A Call for Volunteers at the UMTR Aid Station at Chippewa!
While many of you are planning for your first races of the year, we are also hoping you can take some time to volunteer with us at our first UMTR sponsored aid station of the season! We will be staffing an Aid Station at the Chippewa 10k and 50k races on April 27th, and we'd love to supply a full complement of volunteers for the day. Help us to support these hardy runners as they traverse the springtime trails!
When: Saturday, April 27th
Where: New Auburn, WI (Exact aid station location will be shared once volunteers have been committed)
Time: Set up at 7am, tear down at 4pm
If you can only make it for a few hours, please still feel free to sign up and just indicate the hours you can be there.
In 2018, we were pleased to have Randy Kottke as our sponsor of the Trail Run Series. Late last year, even as he underwent treatment for the leukemia that would later claim his life, he spoke of wanting to sponsor the series again. This community of runners meant so much to him.
So this year, we're honored to have been contacted by an anonymous donor, who wished to sponsor the 2019 Trail Run Series in Randy's name.
This generous donor writes: "You will not be remembered for your wins and DNFs. Nobody will remember the time it took you to finish. You will be remembered for the way you behaved, for trying your best and, mostly, for all the people whose lives you've impacted while out there. So go, try your best, face the challenges, and feel alive! But never forget to say "thank you" to volunteers, never forget to cheer for others, never forget to offer help, and feel no shame if you need help yourself. Live in the moment, appreciate what life has to offer, and be yourself! Randy exemplified all this and will live in our hearts forever."
Here's to The Rambler.
We hope that all of you are finding a way to enjoy the wet Spring that has taken hold over us here in the midwest. The mud and muck are a part of the changes that we experience every year in our region, and we know that on the other side of these changes, good things are coming. As the seasons change, UMTR is also moving into a new season in its life.
UMTR is a non-profit, and as such, it's important that we reflect that. Starting this weekend, we will be rebranding ourselves under UMTR.org. The .org domain is the traditional domain for a non-profit, and we feel that this better speaks to our mission as a community that gives back. Don't worry about the old umtr.net domain; it'll still be there, redirecting to the new umtr.org domain. Going forward though, all references to UMTR will change to umtr.org.
One of the biggest issues that UMTR has faced is finding a good way to retain members year-over-year. Oftentimes, folks forget to renew their membership, and so we lose them as members for years at a time. Thankfully, there is an easy way to solve this with technology. Launching on Sunday March 17th, UMTR is getting a brand new website, along with a full CRM (customer relationship manager) tool. What this means is that when you sign up for your yearly membership, you can opt to auto-renew, and never have to worry about it again. You'll have a user account which you can use to log in to your profile and keep your contact information up to date. You'll also get access to special areas of our new website, created for members only.
This also means that we are now switching to a 12 month membership, instead of a calendar year. (Finally!) If you sign up in March of 2019, you're good to go until March 2020. If you wish to participate in the race series, you need to maintain your membership throughout the year, including the banquet, to be eligible for prizes. With more and more trail running taking place in the winter months, we felt that it was important to acknowledge that we are not just a three-season sport - or community, for that matter.
Important: If you're currently a member - which you should be, if you're getting this email! - you'll be receiving another email in the coming days. This email will prompt you to set up your account on this new website. Please take some time to poke around in our new internet playground and share your feedback with us.
Finally, we want to say thank you for all of your support as this organization has learned and grown. We want to continue to build upon the organization we've all loved for many years, and we can't want to bring all of you along on an exciting journey. With a wonderful community such as this, we can't wait to see what amazing things happen.
- UMTR Board of Directors
Today, we're introducing Performance Running Gym, sponsor of the 2019 Gnarly Bandit Series. Thank you, Mark Johnson!
Performance Running Gym is a gym for runners by runners. Performance Running offers Woodway treadmills, a full weight room, personal training, group classes, recovery services, race coaching, nutrition help, physical therapy, and chiropractic services – a one stop shop for all things running. While all of those things are a huge part of PRG, the community at PRG is really the heart and soul. Monthly memberships currently offered at $44.95/month.
Located at 4940 W 35th Street in St. Louis Park.
Every year, we seek sponsors for each of our race series. This sponsorship allows us to provide awards for top finishers in each series, and it gives us the opportunity to highlight a few great businesses in our community who share our interest in trail running.
Today, we're thrilled to re-introduce a sponsor from last year, Dr. Chad Koterba! Dr. Chad sponsored the Ultra Series last year and wanted to come back for more! Thanks for being a part of our community, Dr. Chad!
Dr. Chad Koterba is not only a chiropractor, but also a certified athletic trainer. His background in sports medicine and chiropractic gives him a unique ability to treat sports injuries, as well as other nerve, muscle, and joint injuries. He specializes in runners and active individuals by using a comprehensive approach of treating through adjustments, specific stretching and strengthening exercises as well as soft tissue techniques such as myofascial release, Gua Sha tools, and trigger point therapy to relieve muscle tension which can lead to pain and dysfunction.
At Ultimate Health Chiropractic, we are runners, we treat and care for runners, and we get runners! You can see this from our wall of greatness filled with race bibs and medals from numerous patients who have trusted us to get them to the starting line and / or helped them with their recovery post-race.
Ultimate Health Chiropractic: Health Care for the Active. Located at 12991 Ridgedale Drive Suite A in Minnetonka.
Trail people love our trails. This past September a hearty crew traveled to the north shore to help work on a crucial section of the trail. UMTR Member and amazing trail runner Steph Hoff helped lead this crew, and wanted to share her experience over the weekend.
“There’s something inside of me that changes as I drive north past Two Harbors.” One of the volunteers told me this on the first day and I couldn’t agree more. As I sit here typing and I’m back into my routine of work, life and family stuff my heart longs to be back up north. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family but the satisfaction and fulfillment I get from working on the trail doesn’t compare to any other ‘work’ I do.
I went through Volunteer Crew Leader training back in April through a program that the Ice Age Trail puts on. I was excited to work on my ‘own’ project on the Superior Hiking Trail sometime this summer. I met with Tamer, the Trail Operations Director for the Superior Hiking Trail, back in August to discuss a potential project. We met at the Crow Creek site where, in February of 2018, they had put in a brand new bridge. The approaches to the bridge and a new set of stairs needed to be built and the trail needed to be rerouted. Tamer and I discussed possibilities and came up with a plan.
The work days for the project were September 19-22nd. Surprisingly, we got more volunteers for the Wednesday and Thursday shifts, than for the weekend. Thankfully, we had such an eclectic mix of people with wide ranges of background that it worked out perfect and there was someone for every job.
The morning of Wednesday September 19th we met at the Grand Marais municipal campground. I brought coffee, bananas and cookies for breakfast on the first day. We had a quick breakfast and then met at the work site, about 9 miles north of Grand Marais. At the work site we had a safety briefing, talked about the scope of the project and then started hauling materials into the bridge. It was about a half a mile hike to the bridge. This doesn’t seem far….unless you are hauling planks of wood and tools. Thankfully the USFS lent us a four wheeler and trailer to haul in the really big boards. It took us half the morning to haul in everything we needed and man, did I feel that the next day! Once we got it all hauled in we split up into two groups. I led the group that was working on the trail reroute and Tamer took a group to start the stairs. Coincidently while we were rerouting the trail, a hiker came by and started talking to us. He was from Pennsylvania and was hiking a section of the trail. He kept talking to us, eventually put down his pack, and started working with us. It was great and shows another example of the spirit of trail people. We took a lunch break around noon. We finished the day with my group working on the reroute and Tamer’s group working on the stairs. I feel like we had made some great progress on the first day.
After trail work, we headed back to the campground, made a quick stop at Voyageur brewing for a little bonding time and then went back to the campground for dinner. Joe, the hiker from Pennsylvania, even came with us. He decided he wanted to do trail work more than hike. We brought him back to the campground with us. Thanks to UMTR I had purchased a bunch of food ahead of time to feed the volunteers. I had made up some pulled beef the day before, so we heated that up with some potato salad, pineapple and brownies. The crew seemed to really enjoy the dinner. We ended the day with sitting around the campfire. Even the volunteers that weren’t staying at the campground came to dinner and the fire. Another volunteer told me how nice it was that the campground and food was provided. It made it easier for her to come and volunteer. Perfect end to a perfect first day.
The second started similarly to the first. We had a few more new volunteers join us so we went over safety again, the scope of the project and headed into the work site. It was so nice that we didn’t have to carry anything in today. We split up similarly to the first day. By lunch time, my group had the trail reroute pretty much finished. We took our lunch break, and then my group started working on the approach on the west side of the creek. For the west side approach we built 4 platforms, each 2 feet shorter than the previous, so that it would be like 4 giant steps. The group working on the steps was also making good progress and by the end of the day we had the west side approach almost complete and the first set of steps (there will be two sets) almost complete. Just as we were wrapping up it started to rain, we couldn’t have lucked out any better with the weather that day.
After trail work, we once again stopped at Voyageur brewing and then headed back to the campground for dinner. Now it was really coming down with rain and wind. I had hoped we could cook the hot dogs over a fire, but with the weather, that wasn’t going to be the case. There was a picnic shelter just off the lake, across from our campsite. There was two people doing CrossFit under the shelter. We asked them if we could share the shelter. We put up an Umbrella Mike had brought to block the wind, set up our two burner stove, and boiled the hot dogs and baked beans. It was almost comical sitting there under the picnic shelter. The wind whipping across us off the lake, huddled up to stay warm, meanwhile 10 feet away from us there were two beefcakes (one guy and one girl) doing CrossFit. I offered them a hotdog, but I’m sure you can guess their answer. We ate our hot dogs under the cold picnic table and then walked back to our tents and hunkered down for the night. We were all in bed by 7pm though I’m sure no one was sleeping. The wind would blow off the lake and whip your tent into my face where I was laying. Thankfully my cheap tent didn’t leak or break down but everything was damp.
Friday morning we woke up and the clouds were starting to break. It was barely drizzling. I was so thankful. Most of our volunteers had driven up from the cities and I didn’t want to cancel a work day because of the weather. We ate breakfast – yogurt, fruit, granola, coffee (made by my generator) and of course cookies – and then headed to the work site.
Day 3 of trail work and we were really gaining traction. We had the same two guys finish up the second set of stairs, another two guys finish up the west side approaches, 3 more working on the trail reroute (one of which was the Executive Director of the SHT) and 3 more starting on the east side approach. It was amazing how fast it was coming together. The weather cooperated for the most part with just a scattered sprinkling here and there. By the end of Day 3 we had minimal work to be done on the project, which was exactly how I was hoping it would go so that Saturday would be just some odds and ends and clean up.
Friday after trail work Tamer invited us out to his house for homemade chili. After a cool day on the trail, the warm chili and fireplace felt amazing. Everyone was in great spirits and appreciated the camaraderie. We drove back to the campground before dark and had another bonfire.
Saturday’s trail work was minimal. The handrail on the bridge was finished up, and a little bit of trail work on the west side of the creek for the reroute. All in all, it’s just simply amazing what we got done in the 4 days we were working.
The thing that I love about trail work is you can come back to the same section of trail year after year, bring your kids to that section and say – I did this, I built this! And each year hundreds, if not thousands of people will benefit from the 4 short days of work we put in one week in September!