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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Scouts Clear the Kekekabic

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'Lost & Found' backpacking the Kekekabic Trail near Strump Lake a month before the trail was cleared by the Scouts (taken by Mother Goose, used with the permission)

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written and submitted by Todd McMahan aka TMan

In early June, 'Lost and Found' hiked the Kekekabic Trail with 'Mother Goose' and called its interior section “the Trail of Hell.” Bob Kohlmeier and his family backpacked the interior section of the Kek in late July. “It was very, very recently cleared” Bob said, “Boy, did the foot trail stand out here. You could see every rock in the path.” So who cleared the Kekekabic? It was the Scouts.

More specifically, it was Boy Scouts who participated in the Order of the Arrow’s Wilderness Voyage Program at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base. The Canoe Base, generally considered a Mecca of Scouting in the Midwest, is located only about 5 miles from the western trailhead of the Kekekabic Trail. The Wilderness Voyage Program is a two week program where the Scouts do one week of service and then go on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters on the second week.

Phil Ashford is the Assistant Director of the OA Wilderness Voyage Program. According to Phil, six crews worked on the Kekekabic Trail this summer. Each crew has 9 people – 2 foremen and 7 participants each week. “Our crews started out by the Kek cabin and worked back west towards Ely,” Phil said. “By the end of the summer, they had cleared almost all the way back to Thomas [Rapids]. Let's call it roughly 9 miles.”

One of the obstacles the Crews working on the Kekekabic Trail had was gathering water. “Normally getting water isn't a problem, but the Kek crews would sometimes be several miles away from lake access” Phil said. “The time spent walking to and from just to fill water bottles diverted a significant portion of man hours away from trail clearing.”

Clearing the Kekekabic Trail presented some new challenges for the Wilderness Voyage program. According to Phil, “Another problem was the fact that corridor clearing is not typically the kind of work we've done in the past, so it took our foremen a little bit of time to devise the most efficient strategy for mowing down the alder. And even then, it seemed as though the Kekekabic Crews suffered more broken tools than the other work sites.”

Besides the Crews that worked on the Kek, the Wilderness Voyage program provided crews that cleared several portages in the Boundary Waters. Over 100 Scouts from all over the country participated in the program this summer at the Charles L. Sommers Canoe Base. Of that, 42 participants and 6 staff members worked on the Kekekabic Trail. Cory Mensen, a Forest Ranger for the Kawishiwi District in Ely, coordinated the service projects. He provided the tools from the Forest Service and the training to use the tools.

The Order of the Arrow is an Honor Camper Society of the Boy Scouts of America. Boys participating in the Wilderness Voyage program must be 16 years old and proficient in their outdoor skills.

Find out more about the OA’s Wilderness Voyage program. Be sure to check out their photo gallery

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