Lost on the Trail
Two individuals thru hiking the Kekekabic Hiking Trail have been reported as "over due." The hikers began their hike on Friday from the trailhead on the Fernberg Road near Ely, MN and were to be on the Gunflint Trail on Tuesday. Concern regarding their whereabouts was reported and a search is underway.
The Kekekabic Trail is located in the Superior National Forest and the majority of it lies in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It is approximately 50 miles in length and is not maintained by the USFS. The Kekekabic Trail Club adopted the Trail in the late 70’s or early 80’s when the USFS could no longer afford to include wilderness trail clearing in it’s budget.
The Cavity Lake Fire of 2006 affected a portion of the Kekekabic Trail making that section difficult to follow. The USFS, following guidelines of other recreational areas, does not have any trail markings on the route. This is to keep the trail as wild and primitive as possible and in this most recent case of lost hikers it seems to have worked. Unfortunately for the USFS, and I imagine all users of the BWCA, the costs associated with any Search and Rescue event can not be collected by the lost party or their families. This money is taken from the User Fees collected to maintain campsites and portage trails in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
It seems to me the USFS might have been better off maintaining their own trails and leaving some trail markings on the Kekekabic Hiking Trail. I’m hoping there will be a happy ending to this story and that it motivates the USFS to add trail markings to this and other wilderness trails. I’m sure these two hikers along with anyone else who has hiked it would love the added reassurance of an occasional trail marker.