Amateur and veteran hikers alike clamor to the trails the moment the last snow piles in the north melt into the ground. Hiking is a hobby, a form of exercise, and a fun family outing. There’s nothing quite like following the trail, peering over every corner to see what’s just around the bend. The excitement of not knowing what animals and insects you’ll bump into keeps the smallest child moving ever forward, ready for the next encounter.
A few decades ago, hikers had to map out their trails and lug around a few extra gadgets to ensure their safety. But now, thanks to modern tech like smart phones and GPS devices, we can wander and know just where we are at almost any given moment. There’s something freeing about getting lost only to locate yourself as a small dot on a big map full of mystery. Just the same, there are extra steps you can take to ensure you remain safe, have fun, and create a memorable experience on the trail.
Start with Gadgets
Though reception can limit cell phone data in certain areas, bringing your smart phone is always a good idea. Trying to get away from the constant chatter of your everyday life? Turn it on airplane mode when you’re not using it. But just by having this device on hand, you have a powerful tool that can send calls or texts for help and pin point your exact location, or at least while in range of cell service. So what do you do if you don’t have cell service? GPS phone or tracker.
GPS phones ensure you can locate yourself when cell service is unavailable. But it also protects you if you find yourself set off from the trail. Maybe you followed that adorable beaver into the woods to get a better picture from a safe distance and found your feet far from the trail when you looked up. GPS phones and trackers will give you and your loved ones peace of mind before you hit the trail.
If nothing else, and just in case your electronic gadgets’ batteries die, packing a compass is a tried and true method for navigating hiking trails. Being able to tell directions can be the difference between life and death, especially during cold nights in spring or fall.
Trails and Apps
Voyageurs National Park has trails that range from easy to difficult. Rocks, narrow pathways, bogs, and more can pose challenges to hikers as they make their way further into the trail. The National Park Service created a list of trails, breaking them down by location, level of difficulty, time it will take to complete, and notes that better describe what you can expect.
But remember that smart phone we mentioned earlier? Before you set out on a hike, you can download numerous apps that detail the route, level of difficulty, and even help you make challenges to outdo yourself or your friends. Some apps allow users to review trails, providing their personal insight and experience for various trails so other users can better prepare. Here are a few of REI, the well-known outfitter’s, favorite apps for hikers.
Now that you’ve prepared for a safe hike and you’ve got your route picked out, all that’s left to pack is a filling snack, your favorite hiking boots, and a camera (or your smartphone that doubles as a camera). Happy trails!
Rainy Lake: Tilson Creek Bogwalk
The volunteers of the Polar Polers Ski Club from International Falls have invested many hours to complete the new Tilson Creek Bog Walk located near the Rainy Lake public fishing pier on Hwy 11 East of Ranier. The new bog walk is situated on the first .75 miles of the Tilson Ski Trail. There is a resting spot at about the half-way point. The walk is like a floating sidewalk made from boards and is about 6 feet wide making it perfect for runners, walkers or even pushing a stroller.
The bog is an important eco-system supporting a variety of plants including the Tamarack tree (also called the Larch) At first glance, these trees look like other conifers, but they are actually deciduous as they lose their pine-like needles every fall. What makes a bog different from a swamp is bogs are made up of a floating mass of rotting moss resulting in a soil known as peat. The decaying process causes the peat moss to "burp" in the spring time as the moss releases gas into the atmosphere. It is recommended to wear mosquito repellent as the bog is a perfect breeding area for those pesky bugs. Surprisingly, some of the plants in the bog actually capture mosquitoes and other insects with their sticky leaves and are able to break down their capture as a source of nutrient.
The walk does not allow motorized vehicles. More energetic visitors can continue beyond the end of the bog walk into the ski trail system which is clearly marked on the map at the entrance and also along the way.
Check out this newly completed feature of the Voyageurs Park area soon!
Rainy Lake: So Many Trails
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson”
That may be good advice for the adventurer or entrepreneur, but we recommend that you stay on the trails when hiking, biking, or ATV-ing the trails around Koochiching and St. Louis Counties. Whether on foot, horseback or ATV, exploring nature's woods and streams on one of the designated trails is an opportunity to make memories with family and friends, or to just get away by yourself. Spring trails will be open soon and are preferred by many as the weather is cool and the mosquitoes are few! It's always a good idea to bring a backpack with a supply of water, snacks and other basic items like a flashlight and outerwear. Let others know your planned route and when you expect to return. Spring is a good time to keep an eye open for Morel mushrooms, a blueberry patch to come back to later in the summer and signs of animal behavior. Be ready to snap some photos of interesting things along the way and you'll come back with a story to tell and an appetite for more.