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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Tom Salwasser's Impressions of the Chippewa

NCT at Co 132 Chippewa NF
where the NCT enters the Chippewa NF at the east on County Rd 132- prior to maintenance! (photo by JHY)

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from Tom Salwasser (excerpted from a a post to NCT Friends)

I recently took over maintenance duties of a small section of the NCT from the Forest Service. I've been amazed at the quality and beauty of the NCT in the Chip, something I'd long ignored. The Forest Service did an excellent job in building this trail and gave each section an annual mowing, but we didn't do our part. It's gone largely unused except for the occasional NCT thru hiker. All the maintenance in the world won't help a trail that isn't hiked.

I hope to section hike all 68 miles of the trail this fall and spring. Last week I hiked the eastern most section of the trail, 3.5 miles from CR132 to the National Forest boundary plus a bonus 2 miles. This section of the trail may be abandoned due to the Arrowhead Reroute, which would be a shame.

Easy access off Hwy 200 east of Remer on CR132 leads to an ample parking area. The Carsonite post will lead you into the woods. After a half mile of freshly mowed trail, it joins up with a Forest Service road used by ATV's. This road follows the abandoned railroad bed of the Pine Tree Spur #309. From 1911 to 1916 gear driven Lima Shay locomotives hauled logs up grades approaching 13% en route to the nearby Soo Line railroad and ultimately a lumber mill in Little Falls, MN.

You cross a wide bridge over the creek between Saylor Lake and Thibeault Lake. These pristine lakes and stream offer a good source of water (be sure to filter) and unofficial campsite. I want to return with a kayak when I get a chance. The remainder of the trail has been over run by ATV usage but is a pleasant walk none the less.

At some point I left the Chippewa National Forest and crossed from Cass County to Aitkin County. This trail is a snowmobile trail in the winter with wide wet wallows in spots. My goal is to reach Holy Water Lake, another pristine, undeveloped lake I saw on the map and heard about from others. The lake received it's name when in the early 1900s a Catholic priest owned land near the lake. Surveyors discovered most of his land was at the bottom of the lake so they named it Holy Water. I did reach this lake and it was worth the extra 2 (or so) miles. It offered a couple camp site options and a beautiful sandy beach. It was as wild and beautiful a spot as I had ever seen. I cleaned up a pile of beer cans and trash from the camp site.

I do hope we manage to retain this section of the trail as a spur to the main NCT after the reroute. Tracing my route back to CR132 gave me a nice 10 mile hike.

I've posted a map of the North Country Trail in the Chippewa National Forest, MN in the files section NCT Friends group. This is my favorite map of the several available. It was published by the Forest Service many years ago but is now out of print. In addition to being an excellent map, it has lots of interesting and useful information about the trail.

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tvs said...

The photo was taken by Joan prior annual to Forest Service maintenance.

Sharkbytes said...

Thanks for pointing that out Tom, I'll edit the label!