I intend to run across the Boundary Waters to draw attention to the threat of sulfide ore copper mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and to mobilize the trail running community to fight back.
This is canoe country. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is home to over 1,100 lakes, traversed mostly via paddling a canoe across a lake and portaging (carrying everything on your shoulders or back) across portage trails between lakes. Repeat as many times as you can in a day until you find the perfect campsite - then settle in for a campfire, a hard worked for meal and a great night's sleep with wind in the pines and loons singing you to sleep. Many of these routes were established back when the fur trade of Voyageurs crossed this land in search of beaver and other pelts to ship back to Europe. Part of the magic and beauty of this place is that it is so remote, relatively untouched, and the most expansive lakeland wilderness our country has to offer.
So - canoe country? But I'm planning to "run across" the Boundary Waters? Yes! Plenty of people have paddled across the Boundary Waters. Friends of mine, Dave and Amy Freeman even spent an entire year for the same purpose as mine - drawing attention to the mining threat which if allowed to proceed will pollute these pristine waters. But to my knowledge, nobody, or at most very few, have run through the Boundary Waters.
I think in this introductory post, I'll focus mostly on the project at hand and future posts will be more about the mining threat, the specifics of routes, planning, and most importantly - how you can help. I can feel myself already with wheels spinning wanting to write everything out at once, so I'll try to keep myself on task.
Ok, so with that in mind - there's 2 main hiking trails that cross the majority of the Boundary Waters. I am going to take this project on in 3 phases:
Phase 1) The Border Route Trail (BRT) - This is a roughly 65 mile long trail along the US-Canadian border. I plan on running it East to West and have set a date for June 29th. Current plan is getting on trail in the early dawn. I have no idea how long this will take me, there is an entry on the FKT site for just under 25 hours as the current record. There's no magic in the 29th for the date being chosen other than it is the closest to the summer solstice as my schedule will allow so I can maximize daylight during the run.
Phase 2) The Kekakabic Trail (Kek) - This trail connects to the western part of the Border Route Trail and continues west through the main unit of Boundary Waters roughly 44 miles ending at the trail head near Snowbank Lake. Tentative date for this run is later September or early October. There's no entry for this trail in the FKT, local intel in Ely, MN (nearest town) I've checked with doesn't have anyone who has actually "run" the trail straight through. So while I doubt it is the first, from what I can see this could be the first documented trail run of the Kek.
Phase 3) Run both! This will undoubtedly be main challenge and I'll learn a lot from the first two segments - both in time, terrain, gear needed, etc. I'm planning this sometime in the spring or summer of 2020 so this is more or less an after October planning exercise.
Both of these trails are segments of the North Country Trail that stretches from North Dakota to Vermont. They each have their own trail associations I'll be connecting with and working with. More also on that in later posts. I'll also get plenty of pictures while out there to post and will share out a run report after each phase.
But the main thing I want to get out of this project is bringing awareness of the proposed sulfide-ore mining projects in the watershed of the BWCA. Trail runners across the country have been increasingly stepping up in the fight to save our public lands and I hope by doing this project more people will not only learn but join in on the fight to Save the Boundary Waters.
And that's the project! - at least as I see it now. There are other hiking trails in the BWCA that I may run here and there as training runs, a lot of them are loops or shorter to specific points of interest but aren't connected to the BRT or the Kek. It would be super cool to be able to run every trail in the BWCA... so as I think this out in real time, I think I'll just make my intentions known now that I'll plan on it.
Future updates will include: specifics on the mining threat itself, updates from the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, updates on my planning and preparations, me editorializing on the run itself (what about bugs!! - a question I've already been asked a few times), etc. I look forward to this project, thanks for following along or at least making it to the bottom of this first post!, and please share it with your friends and family to help draw awareness of this issue.