Frozen Feet

     I always thought Josh was being overly dramatic when he would cry in the warming house after an hour of freezing cold hockey, sorry Josh.  I now remember what it feels like to have frozen feet.

     There’s a hiking trail that leaves from the Seagull Lake landing at Trail’s End Campground called the Seagull Lake Nature Trail.  Before 1999 this was one of my favorite short hikes to take people on.  It meandered through tall pines, up rock ridges and through cedar swamps making it’s way to the narrows that is the beginning of the Seagull River.  There’s a little rapids there that is tons of fun to float through on a hot summer day.

     The Blowdown in 1999 messed up this beautiful hiking trail.  That summer two employees of mine came back from attempting to hike the trail and told me it was impossible to follow.  I took that as a challenge and set out to conquer the trail.  Up and over toppled trees and slithering beneath stacks too tall to climb over I picked my way to the point.  Two and a half hours of torture to travel what normally took about 20 minutes.  By this time the sun was starting to set and I was completely exhausted.  I was just deciding to swim back to the landing when a group of canoeists started paddling by.  Luckily they were nice enough to give me a ride back to the parking lot where I still had an almost 2 mile walk home. 

       The trail was almost impossible to hike after the blowdown until the Cavity Lake Fire or maybe the Alpine Lake Fire, I can’t remember which one.  It was then that a fire crew had a little extra time on their hands and volunteered to clear the trail for me.  After hearing it was done I went to hike it and discovered they had only cut it half of the way.  I showed them where the trail continued on and after a few more hours of clearing the Seagull Lake Nature Trail was back.

     Once again I was able to take friends and family on this wonderful hiking trail.  It was a bit damaged but still a great destination hike until the Ham Lake Fire in 2007.  I clearly remember watching my trail being devoured by flames as the fire made its way from Seagull Lake towards the campground.  The sky was thick with smoke and the fire was bearing down the trail like a locomotive.  I was sick with fear as I knew a group of firefighters was in one of the loops of the campground trying to put out a spot fire to prevent the fire from consuming everything in sight.  But that’s a whole different story.

     After the smoke had cleared and we were allowed back up the Gunflint Trail that was one of my first places I wanted to inspect.  I remember that morning just as clearly.  I had dropped the kids off at the bus and drove over to hike it.  Charred trees and barren earth greeted me.  I’m sure the tears that fell from my eyes as I hiked that day gave the new vegetation the needed moisture to grow.  The trail was quite difficult to find in places as it all looked the same.  I did make my way to the point and the narrows and remember trying to rinse off some of the black soot that covered me from head to toe. That’s a different story too.

    I don’t think I hiked the trail last year and hadn’t thought of it much until Saturday when I got an e-mail.  It was Sue Weber from the Gunflint Trail Association wondering what I knew about the Trail.  She informed me that a group was going to plant some trees along the trail during the Gunflint Green Up and that the USFS was going to be opening the trail back up this year.  There wasn’t any documentation of where the Trail went exactly so she was going to attempt to flag the approximate route before Easter.

     I was ready to go and hike it yesterday but Mike made me wait until today.  We set out with the kids and dog to find and flag the trail.  I thought about wearing snowshoes but unfortunately wore a short pair of hiking boots instead.  The conditions were not ideal.

     It was tough going to say the least.  In some places there was 3 feet of soft snow that I would sink into up to my thighs.  Needless to say I ended up with snow in my boots.  Lots and lots of snow that melted and created little lakes inside of my gore-tex boots.  I could have turned back since the kids had already stopped and were content waiting on a rock.   But I am stubborn and made it to the point once again.  After ringing my socks out and dumping the water out of my boots we headed back.

     Forty-five minutes later we were back to the vehicle and I had water running out of my boots.  At home my feet began to thaw and it was then that I apologized silently for thinking Josh was overly dramatic.  My feet were frozen and I was miserable.  I couldn’t stay miserable for long however because I knew the Seagull Lake Nature Trail or Disappearing Trail as I have named it,  was once again going to be cleared.  And as Mike said, "It’s going to look great for your grandkids to hike."  And it will always be a favorite hike of mine, frozen feet or not.