2020 Running for the Boundary Waters Update
Updated: May 27, 2020
This update is a long time coming. After finishing the Kekekabic Trail (“the Kek”) last October following my Border Route Trail (“BRT”) attempt (cut short by broken toe - but I learned a lot about myself, the trail, pushing to extremes, etc. and it led to a successful Superior 100 finish) I started this year dreaming of capping off my Running for the Boundary Waters project with the full Boundary Waters Traverse of running the BRT and Kek in one straight shot of 100+ miles of Wilderness Trail.
Then like everything else exciting planned for the summer around the world, the pandemic hit. Trail races across the country and world started falling one by one. 4 of the ones I registered for - that were part motivation to keep running and part training for the BW Traverse - canceled. Each race cancel has been devastating for a variety of reasons. I miss the trail running community. I miss the feeling of running amidst trees and on ridgelines. I miss pushing on even though every fiber of my being says stop. I miss seeing the sun rise and set on the same run.
But the importance of public health guidance amidst an unknown virus and bizarre set how people respond to the disease overwhelms every selfish motivation to run. Perhaps most important was the need to stay away from rural and indigenous areas with little healthcare capacity to deal with the crisis. This is perhaps the factor that weighed on me most. Our beloved towns of Ely and Grand Marais, Minnesota don’t have the vast healthcare network that exists in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area. We needed to join other Minnesotans and do our part of keeping the spread down to let the healthcare systems, testing and public policy catch up with the emergency. I quietly held out hope things would return to normal but of course there’s no normal anymore and we’re all still waiting and seeing.
Also logistics of being a full time working advocate for the Boundary Waters (www.savetheboundarywaters.org to learn more and donate!), full time e-learning tutor and tech support to three kids, full time chef to the same three kids (seriously snack and lunch every day that used to be provided through the schools - SO MANY MORE DISHES TO CLEAN), and new world logistics of keeping our family sane and safe has seriously cut into my ability to get out for longer training runs much less seeking out technical trails (hard enough already in the midwest) to train on have all added to the decision to cancel the big run this year.
So, the Boundary Waters Traverse will need to wait until next year, sad as that is for me.
However, since Minnesota did a relatively decent job of delaying the spread at least, the state has begun to open up a bit and some non-essential travel is now allowed - in particular dispersed outdoor recreation! The Boundary Waters is open for family units to access for example and I’ve been scheming of ways to keep my Running for the Boundary Waters project moving along this year still. Originally I was going to do the BW Traverse first, and then hit some other trails as “extra credit” wilderness runs. So I’ll do it in reverse instead!
There’s 5 Boundary Waters trails with more than 20 miles distance that I’ll be focusing on this summer. 2 of those will be repeat attempts of the BRT and Kek. I’m excited to get a full finish of the BRT under my belt and experience both trails again after having already run them.
Three others - the Snowbank Lake Trail, Sioux Hustler Trail and Pow Wow Trail are three more loop trails for more than 20 miles typically used for 3 - 4 day hiking and back country camping trails in the Wilderness. All these are lesser known and lesser utilized and there’s not a ton of publicly available information on them. Even the U.S. Forest Service sites haven’t had updates on the trail conditions since 2016 and outside some personal blogs there’s not much out there. Each trail will be super different and distinct and I’m really excited to get to see these new areas of the Wilderness by foot. I’m going to be working with the Forest Service and trail maintenance groups to help them get a documented status of the trail as of 2020 - using my GPS device to mark downed trees or other areas that need attention. I’ll also make the gpx file avail so people can download and access it for their own personal use. And I’ll write up my own run report like usual with descriptions and pictures of the trails.
So that’s that. The big update. BW Traverse delayed but roughly 160 miles of wilderness trails to run this summer. Silver linings.
I sincerely hope you are all safe and healthy. Thank you for following along. I’ll put up announcements of trail run attempts as my schedule allows.
And if you've read this far - please sign my petition at the Take Action link. We need more people every day stepping up asking for the Boundary Waters to be protected forever from sulfide-ore copper mining.