Monday, September 04, 2006

Fall Means Getting the Banandad Open for Skiing

The following is the first of two installments on getting the Banadad Ski Trail ready for skiing. This first article deals with what we did last year to open the trail. The second article concerns what is needed to get the trail open this year and is entitled, Help Need! BWCA Ski Trail Clearing Volunteers Sought.

What it takes! Opening of a Wilderness Ski Trail- the Banadad

Ski trails just do not appear tracked and ready for you to step into your skis and head out. Many hours of labor are required before the first tracks can even be set. In the case of the BWCA's Banadad Ski trail this is even truer! Twenty-six kilometers of the Banadad lies within the BWCA Wilderness. Within the BWCA all maintenance must be done with hand tools. And this takes time- lots of it!

Last year Boundary Country Trekking (BCT), which maintains and tracks the Banadad logged 604 person hours of labor, just to get the trail open for skiing. Within the wilderness portions of the trail all the work was done by hand and usually required crews to walk and in two-instance canoe many miles just to get to their work site on the trail.

According to Ted Young, trail administrator from BCT, "opening the Banadad is always demanding due to the Forest Service's restriction on the use of power tools within the BWCA. However, last year it was particularly difficult as a result of several sever windstorms that wiped through the area in mid November. In the storms' wake the trail was littered with down trees. But as always, we got the job done. The Banadad was opened.
Last year's Banadad trail work began in early fall. The first maintenance crew was a six person team from the U.S. Forest Service who canoed into Rush Lake where they set-up a base camp and from there they worked on a remote 1/2 mile section of the trail. Because of the remoteness of this section, it had been years since it was last cleared.

Then over the weekend of October 21 twelve members of the Twin Cities' based North Stars Ski Touring Club augmented by BCT's staff put in over 200 person hours working on the trail. The North Stars first assignment was another remote interior section on the trail's west-end. To get to this section the North Stars first canoed one and one-half miles down Tucker Lake. Near the west-end of the lake they landed their canoes. From here they "bushwhacked" through the woods along an unmarked section line 3/4-mile climbing over trees and through the thick brush to the trail.

By noon it began to rain.

On the trail the North Stars' divided into two groups- the larger group, armed with loppers, hand saws and a pole saw headed east to cut the side brush and trees that was slowly choking off the ski trail's right-away. The smaller group headed west - their assignment was to cut out any major trail brush or down trees.The crews worked all day; the rain continued. By the end of the day the soak crew had successfully widened 1/2 remote mile and opened another mile and one-half of the Banadad. Then it was "bushwhacking" back through the woods to the lake, paddling back down the lake to the canoe landing and return to their home base. Needless to say the crew was wet and cold upon their return. The next day, Saturday, with the rain still coming down the North Stars crew's assignment was to widen the most heavily skied section of the Banadad from the eastern trailhead to the Lizz Lake Portage. Another wet day with another socking wet crew but by day's end the job was completed.
Locals also pitched in on the trail. On November 11 a group of local skiers removed several large trees and cleared brush from the Banadad's western end. The crew also hand carried in six heavy loads of railing material 3/4 of a mile to the new Dawkins Creek's bridge and then assisted in install the railing.

The Minnehaha Academy High School's Nordic Ski Trail, took on another maintenance assignment. They arrive on November 11 and worked a day and one half logging one hundred plus hours of labor. The first day the team cleared about a mile just east of the new bridge on the trail's west-end.

The next day, November 13, the Gunflint was hit with its first major winter snow storm, when the blizzard conditions stopped at the end of the day five to six inches of new snow was on the ground.The new snow, however, did not stop the Minnehaha Academy's crew from continuing the clearing of the brush from the Banadad. The six girl their coach and another parent spent the better part of this day in the snow working on the trail's eastern end.
By mid November with enough snow on the trail to begin the final opening process BCT's staff took over. BCT crews began packing the trail with snowmobiles towing compactor bars and removing the remaining brush and down trees as they went. This year BCT logged another142 hours during this final trail packing/opening process.

According to Young, " I think all skiers who skied the Banadad last year should give a special thanks to the efforts of the North Stars, the Minnehaha Academy Ski Team, and the other volunteers for their help in getting the Banadad open and for the many other years they have volunteer their time on this trail." Young continued, "Without these volunteers I am not sure how we would ever be able to maintain this beautiful wilderness ski trail. This year if you are planning to ski the trail; how about lending a hand and pitching in on the maintenance."

The Banadad is a 30 km. public tracked ski trail connecting the Central and Upper Gunflint Ski Trail Systems. Most of the trail is within the BWCA. The trail was built 1982 by the USFS under a provision of the 1978 BWCA Act which mandated the creation of new BWCA ski trails and authorized the grooming of some of these trails by snowmobiles. Only two BWCA snowmobile groomed trails, the Banadad and a short portion of the Central Gunflint's Old Logging Camp Trail have been so designated by the USFS.

The Banadad trail system is supported, in part, by the State of Minnesota's Ski Pass. However this State support covers only about half of the actual annual operating expenses of $11,000-$13,000/year and the state contribute nothing toward the cost of plowing the extra parking spaces required to accommodate day skiers. The funds that are receive go to help support the volunteer expanses including, lodging, food, supervisory staff etc. and BCT's staff and equipment.

To help defray costs of providing parking space for day skiers a parking fee is charged at the Poplar Creek Guesthouse B&B parking area. Day skiers parking fee is $10/day car. However, parking is free for all volunteers who have worked on the trail this year, members of the North Superior Ski and Run Club and Sugarbush Trail Association members.
Parking at the Banadad's western trailhead located 1/4 mile south of the Loon Lake Public Landing is free. Parking here is limited to 2-3 cars. Access to the trail is also available at the Swamp, Lizz and Meeds Portages from Poplar Lake.

Banadad Maps can be purchased at the Poplar Creek Guesthouse B&B for $5; free printable online maps are available at www.boundarycountry.com/banadad.html

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