Rain, Banadad Ski Trail, and Moose

Calm after the storm on day one, July 6 2012.

For our third trip this summer, my crew and I ventured out to the Banadad Ski Trail in the Boundary Waters.  On day one,  we encountered a massive rainstorm, which didn’t let up for more than five minutes at a time. Somehow, the crew’s spirits weren’t dampened, despite the wet and cold that we encountered.

In the mornings the crew would groggily rise out of sleeping bags and under the group tarp for breakfast, getting ready for the day, and silently paddle across Rush Lake to the ski trail.

The first section of the trail that we worked on did not require much maintenance and soon enough, my crew and I ended up in a burn area. Our whole goal of the trip was to clear the burn area. According to our project partner Ted, it was the area most in need of work. Trees were scattered all across the trail, brush was beginning to grow, and dead trees were leaning into the trail corridor.

Twenty-pound Northern Pike caught in Rush Lake, BWCAW. I caught it, Zach reeled it in, and here Nathan holds it!

The  Banadad Ski Trail and the Kekekabic Trail (our second trip), were both burnt in the Ham Lake Fire of 2007. Although the fire was the same, the remnants of the Ham Lake Fire at both trails  were vastly different. Instead of brush taking over most of the trail, trees on the Banadad were still standing, although dead. There is something liberating about pulling a tree right out of the ground and chucking it into the woods.

Section of Banadad Ski Trail, before clearing.

One morning, my crew leader Joel and another crew member paddled back to our truck in order to pick up a tool that we needed. During that time, myself and my two other crew members hiked in the mile and half to our work site. While we were hiking, we happened upon two moose, a cow and a calf. They were absolutely beautiful and ran off into the woods, thankfully not charging us. I had mentioned earlier in the week that if we were to ever see a moose or two on trail, it would definitely be on this trip–moose scat and hoof prints scattered the cleared area. I was ready to see a moose and I’m so glad I did!

The Banadad Ski Trail was a beautiful trail before we arrived to it, and as we were

Section of Banadad Ski Trail, after clearing.

hiking out on day seven, I was amazed by the beauty of it all. The battle in the work that we’re doing is staying positive–something that I strive to do everyday. Every morning I wake up and breathe in the fresh air of the wilderness and realize that I’m truly in a wonderful place; a place where most people will never venture to, a place where wildlife is thriving, the air is crisp, and nature is truly wild.

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Exploring the Boundary Waters, lopping the boredom away, and emergency evacuations

The trip that I returned from last weekwas the second of our six planned trips, and to my surprise, it was even more grand than our first trip. Much to my crew’s surprise, we were prescribed to be working backcountry for our second trip. However, instead of canoeing into our campsite, we backpacked in 3.5 miles.

Backpacking is great. Backpacking is perhaps one of my favorite things to do. However, backpacking gets very tedious when the backpack you are carrying weighs upwards of 65 pounds, the trail is severely overgrown, and you haven’t been wearing the ridiculous steel-toe boots for the six days you had off.

Needless to say, our hike into our campsite was a challenge that was completely unnecessary. Character building, I call it.

Campsite on Bingshik lake

But alas, we made it to our campsite and found that we had a great clearing where our tents could be set up, a trail that brought us right down to the lake, and views that can only be described as beautiful. We ended up camping on Bingshik Lake campsite and making our way to the work site after setting up camp. The area (and trail–the Kekekabic Trail) in which my crew and I worked on this week was special, in the sense that it was in the path of the Ham Lake fire of 2007. In 2007, an experienced backcountry camper was solo camping in the Boundary Waters. The conditions were dry. The camper stepped away from his fire and during the time that he was away, his contained fire had spread. Since the air, and consequently the brush, was so dry, the fire quickly spread, burning in total about 75,000 acres of forest.

Camp life with Nathan

In the five years since the Ham Lake fire, blueberry and raspberry bushes have blossomed at an astronomical rate (although they weren’t ready to be eaten yet, which proved to be extremely frustrating). Many of the large Birch and Balsam trees have fallen, and Hazel plants have grown in. The trail was mostly overgrown, although it was a rare occurrence to find shade. My crew and I had the difficult task in cutting back young trees and brush in an area that was just starting to see signs of life again.

Zach, fishing on Bingshik Lake.

The week was pretty smooth the whole time, except for the occasional bee hive or birds nest in the middle of the trail. That is, until the last day of our trip. On the last full day of our trip, our crew leader awoke with a swollen eye that was completely shut. Throughout the day, our leader, Joel, was frantically calling back to town on the satellite phone, trying to figure out what to do. After 9 hours of work, Joel announced that we would be heading back to camp.

When we got back to camp, Joel was finally able to reach base camp. We were told a mere twenty minutes after taking our steel-toe work boots off that we would have to strap them back on and hike the 3.5 miles out that night. Joel had to go to the emergency room.The hike out was treacherous. I mostly wanted to cry. The thing I looked forward to most in the day (taking off my boots, relaxing near the water, and reading) was now being traded for a 3.5 mile hike out, carrying a 65 pound pack, and figuring out what came next. Along the way, my crew members and I met the infamous Kekekabic man. The Kekekabic man speaks to unsuspecting hikers of the second coming of Jesus, and the healing powers of religion. Needless to say, I don’t think any of us were particularly thrilled to see another human being after not showering for seven days.

Me, pictured left, Zach, Joel (crew leader), and Nathan at our campsite one evening after work.

When we left the trail, Joel was rushed to the emergency room and the rest of the crew joined up with the Grand Marais crew (we’re Gunflint crew, if anybody was wondering). Setting up tents in the dark, being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and donuts in the morning made this trip strange, but wonderful in it’s own way.

Despite the fact that we ran into a few bumps along the way, I’m forever happy with my decision to work with the Conservation Corps. There’s no other way I’d like to be spending my summer.

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Traveling, training, and trekking

After 21 hours of driving, and 1200 miles, I arrived in Minnesota. Exhausted, but ready to start my new life in the North Country (that’s what they refer to it as, dont’cha know). I’m living in a small town called Grand Marais, with a grand total of about 1,300 residents.

The infamous “Artist’s Point” in Grand Marais.

It’s right on Lake Superior, I get to walk every where I go, and I’m minutes away from so many different hiking trails. It’s pretty much paradise.

In the first couple of weeks at my job with the Conservation Corps, my fellow crew members and myself went through orientation and training. During orientation, we participated in tree identification and orienteering, which is basically finding a point in the woods with a map and a compass, no trail included. We saw all sorts of awesome things during orientation and training, the most exciting being the black bear that treed itself when we startled him.

Living in North Carolina, it isn’t everyday that you see a bear climb a tree.This past week was my first spike trip. My crew and I were working on the Border Route Trail, which borders Canada and the United States. It was absolutely

beautiful, but my crew and I had a lot of work cut out for us. In the four days of work, we cleared a mile and half, but the trail looks completely different than when we first met it. It was absolutely enthralling to see a trail come together like that. I can get used to this type of work. I’m so happy I chose to take the job I did.

We saw all sorts of wild life this week: a baby snapping turtle, loons (the Minnesota state bird!), Grouse (a rooster-type bird that lives in the wild–this one almost attacked me because my crew member  stepped near its nest on accident!), frogs, toads! Hopefully I’ll see a moose from a safe distance by the end of the summer.

It’s going to be a summer full of physical, mental and emotional challenges, but I’m ready.

Can you feel my excitement?

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Packages, packing, and leaving

Over the past few weeks, I  have been accumulating package among package of things I’m going to need while working in the Superior National Forest. In total, I received (I think) 12 packages. It was like Christmas here! I would wake up and excitedly use the  “track my package” feature, figuring out where my gear was and when it would arrive on the door step.

So. Many. Boxes.

Once all of my packages arrived, I had the daunting task of fitting all of it into my 65L pack. For all those non-campers/non-hikers, packs are sized in liters. The larger the bag, the more liters of stuff it can fit, well duh. My pack is right on the edge of what backpackers recommend for the length of time I’ll be out on the trail (recommended 65-80L for week-long trips).

But, alas, choosing a smaller pack will probably be very beneficial for me in the long run. Since my pack will be filled with all of my gear, other things won’t be pawned off to me to carry! My fellow crew members with larger packs will have more space to carry things. This keeps my whole load low, and less achy shoulders🙂

My backpack is packed for orientation, where I won’t need most of my camp gear. I think my favorite piece of gear is my orange headlamp that will get many many hours of use!

But anyway:

Today is my last day in Raleigh. Tomorrow morning I will get into my car and start my journey to Minnesota. Although the excitement I feel deep down about starting this crazy new adventure in my life, it’s always hard to leave. I won’t be able to come home whenever I feel anxious about something; it’s just too far. But then again, this is part of the reason I’m leaving.

I want to see how far I can push myself. I know I’m a strong person. I just need to prove it to myself.

I hope you enjoy my blogging adventures through the summer. I’ll be updating as often as I can. I’m not sure what my internet access will look like, but I’ll try my hardest to blog after each of my trips.

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A Change of Pace

I sit here the night before the last day of class I will ever have (unless I decide to go back to school one day, but right now that isn’t on the books). I’m anxious. I’m worried. But for some reason, the reality that I am graduating in nine short days has not hit me. After discussing with my family and friends, I have come to the realization that my life is about to drastically change. I’m about to graduate college, turn 21, and move halfway across the country in one month.

Wait, did she say move halfway across the country?

Yes. I did.

I applied for a job with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota working on their summer trails program, and was offered a position last week. When I’m on the trail, I’m most at peace with myself and I figured that taking a summer to work on trails would be a good thing for me. The Conservation Corps is technically an AmeriCorps program. The way I envision it, somebody helped make the trails that made me fall in love with hiking. Here is my chance to give somebody else that opportunity.

I was given final considerations before accepting the position, and the first thing that was mentioned was that the program would challenge me mentally, emotionally, and physically. I’m ready. It will give me time to clear my mind, figure out where I want to go next, and see how far I can push myself.

Throughout the summer, I will be updating this blog with snippets of the trips that I will be going on.

I hope you enjoy.

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The beginning of the end

After a long winter break, where I lounged around and relaxed for three weeks, coming back to school in January wasn’t the easiest thing. However, the start of the semester wasn’t going to be delayed any longer and it was time to get the gears rolling. At the beginning of the semester, I was nervous about finding and internship and my eventual graduation in the fall. Oh, how things change.

Last week, my plan of interning during the summer and graduating in August changed dramatically. One of my professors contacted me in regards to an internship that would be starting immediately. Two days were spent running around campus, filling out proper forms, getting signatures, and meeting deadlines just so I could be enrolled in the internship class.

I’ll be updating once a week in regards to what I have learned and done during the week in my internship.

Let the craziness begin!

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The Final Countdown

As the end of the semester approaches, it seems like every professor has their projects due on the same day and time. As much as I hate this part of the semester, I’ve found ways to alleviate the stress around this time of year. I start my projects early, I work on them periodically, and I don’t waste my time. Usually this works out for me quite well and I’m never as stressed as my peers. Until this semester.

This semester, by far, has been my most trying. Not just academically, but also personally. The academics on top of it have  just made it feel like this semester will never end.

My final project for my news writing class was something I had planned out mid-semester, as per the advice of our professor. I had my idea, knew what angle I was going to take, and felt confident in what the final outcome would be. However, my planning got the best of me. Interviews kept getting pushed back further and further due to conflicting schedules, plans to meet were broken, and alas, a week before the final was due, I had nothing substantial to work with.

As the week went on, I was getting more and more worried about if I would actually have something to turn in. My outlook was looking quite gloom until I finally sat down for my interview.

The interview went fantastically and I couldn’t hope for a better interviewee: when I asked a question, she answered them but took it to a deeper level, essentially doing my job for me. She knew the follow up questions that would come and instead of having a break in between, she went ahead and elaborated on her points.

After the interview, I started getting my script together and figuring out what needed to go where, and so forth. Then I hit the f0ur pronged fork.

  1. My computer was running very slow, causing me to think I had a virus. I found a background program running and couldn’t find a way to track it down. After freaking out for a good 45 minutes, I realized that it was caused by my editing software and that no, my computer wasn’t going to explode.
  2. Cutting up the video like I had originally intended was making my computer run even slower. After figuring out where things needed to be, I had to cut the video up again in a separate program to reduce lag.
  3. When I started adding my audio and visuals into my video, my editing software closed completely, undoing about 30 minutes of work. At this point I wasn’t even upset and just picked up where I left off.
  4. After getting what I thought was everything in order, I realized I was missing some information and had to improvise with what I had.

Set back after set back, I couldn’t seem to get ahead. But FINALLY, something worked and everything came in order.

I was really worried for a while, like I said before, that I wouldn’t finish in time. The crunch is something I hate feeling and try to avoid it all costs. In the Communications world, I won’t be able to avoid the crunch, it is a constant. These types of things, although frightening, are necessary for me to experience. Without these experiences, I won’t know how to handle stresses this high when I join the workforce.

Only 8 more months until graduation. Can I just keep doing school for the rest of my life?

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