The Sawbill Trail has become a beehive of activity this week and the busy tourism season hasn’t even started.
Many fire engines have been patrolling the back roads, including the Sawbill Trail, due to the almost continuous red-flag fire conditions that we’ve been experiencing. On Wednesday, with cooler temperatures and a solid forecast of coming rain, the decision was made to burn over some recent logging sales along the Sawbill.
This involves many people in many pickups, semis with heavy equipment and a lot of good communication with stakeholders and the public. The Forest Service is really good at fire, due to their thorough understanding of fire science and many decades of hard-core practical experience. The fires burned hot, the rain arrived on schedule and it was “mission accomplished” all around.
On the same day as the fires, Northland Constructors of Duluth started work in earnest on the eight mile paving contract that they have this summer on the Sawbill Trail, which is known to them as Cook County State Aid Highway # 2. Unlike the Forest Service, the County does very little public outreach when they start a new project. I guess they figure the stakeholders and public will figure out what’s happening when they see it. In chatting with the contractors though, they mentioned that they expect to be on the job for at least three months, with a month and a half of prep work and two months for the actual paving.
The Sawbill Trail was completely reconstructed about 20 years ago, so the paving will basically go on top of the existing roadbed. It looks like some culverts are earmarked for replacement. I’m hoping that the half-dozen “Dukes of Hazard” style frost heaves that form every year will be dug up and stabilized, otherwise the paving in those spots will be broken chunks by this time next year.
While there is something sad about encroaching civilization up the Sawbill Trail, I recognize that a gravel road is no longer practical for the amount of traffic received. The engineers also make a strong case for both the greater safety and long-term environmental advantages of pavement over gravel. Fortunately, the last six miles of the Sawbill Trail will never be paved, so the tradition of dusty washboard and bone-jarring potholes will continue for future generations.
As if that wasn’t enough activity for one little rural back road, there were also contractors that were placing some kind of foam protectors over recently planted trees along the Sawbill Trail. I assume it is a form of browse protection, but didn’t have time to stop for an explanation.
Very soon, the canoeists and fishermen will be mixing it up with all the workers along the trail, which will make for an interesting and lively summer.
I try not to put too much about my own family in the West End News, but I must break the rule to announce the arrival of my latest granddaughter, Kit Shirley, on May 7. Kit’s mother is our daughter, Clare, and father is our son-in-law, Dan.
The women on Clare’s side of the family have a reputation for fast deliveries, so that was a concern, now that hospital deliveries are no longer done in Grand Marais. When Clare’s labor started, she and Dan headed for Duluth as planned. However, little Kit really wanted to be born in Grand Marais, just like her mother and grandmother, and that’s exactly what happened less than two hours later and just minutes after arriving at the emergency room. It was an anxious and hectic trip to town, but the result was perfect and healthy in every way. Kit is now firmly in residence at Sawbill, where her parents took over management this spring. She may not be washing canoes this summer, but I expect she’ll be completely in charge of public relations.