North Country Trail Column: Multiple rewards of maintaining a trail
I adopt a five-mile section of the North Country Trail in the "Gulch," which is part of the Paul Bunyan State Forest.
Duane Brevik and I, with the help of other volunteers, maintain this section by clearing fallen or leaning trees, brush mowing and lopping overhanging brush on the trail.
Last spring, while clearing the trail, I saw two guys with Easter baskets hiking down the trail. They were searching for morel mushrooms and had the baskets to carry out their finds, as they would get squished if put in a backpack. They were heading to a clear-cut area on the trail that had been logged two years earlier, believing the disturbed ground would be a good bed for mushrooms, but didn't find any. They were members of the Paul Bunyan Mushroom Club (PBMushroom.org) and told me when starting mushrooming to become familiar with two or three types of mushrooms and increase from there, due to the wide variety found on the trail and with some being poisonous.
Later in the summer you can be rewarded by finding wild strawberries, raspberries and blueberries along the trail. Blackberries are tasty, but their heavy-duty thorns make it hard to pull or clip their rapid growing runners off the trail. Small wild plums are a late seasonal fruit found on the trail in high, dry areas. These are some of the extra bonuses when maintaining or hiking the trail.
The Itasca Moraine Chapter of the North Country Trail covers from Itasca State Park to near Longville, approximately 70 miles through Hubbard and Cass counties. Mushrooms and fruits can be picked along the trail and within the state park for non-commercial and personal use.
If you enjoy the outdoors and want a sense of accomplishment, you should consider helping or becoming a trail adopter with the goal of making a trail section a pleasure to hike. The chapter will be holding a Trail Tune-Up Day this spring. Learn or be refreshed on how to lop the brush, blaze a tree, mow with a string or brush mower. The date is undetermined due to the late spring. For more information, contact Bruce Johnson, Hubbard County 732-8051 or Jerry McCarty, Cass County, 218-547-4678.