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The Wilderness of the Banadad by Molly Brewer Hoeg

labeled the adventurous hills Whoopee One and Banadad Trail Association brings volunteers from Whoopee Two, so dubbed by early skiers. That all over the state to help with the constant trail If cross-country skiing is a silent sport, then day we declined the challenge and resumed our maintenance required to keep the path clear. We the Banadad Ski Trail is a world cup venue, my peaceful trek back. sat riveted, and listened, his stories a living history longtime friend Susan and I visit it as often as When we followed the Banadad from the lesson. we can. east we entered from Poplar Lake. We It was over one of Barbara’s sumptuous We glide along the narrow had no trouble finding the trail, breakfasts that we learned our fellow guests classic tracks, snow-laden but were mystified by the were getting a ride to the far end of the trail, in pines pressing into our strange grooming. It all order to ski to a yurt where they would spend the space barely missing our became apparent when night near the midpoint – another venture of the shoulders as we pass. we were overtaken Youngs. It didn’t take much encouragement for us Animal tracks break by two snowmobiles to hitch a ride and ski back to the Guesthouse. up the uniformity setting the ski tracks. The Banadad had not been groomed since a of the trail, from “Didn’t you find it recent snowfall, the tracks softened by the fresh delicate rabbit paths difficult to ski after the powder. It continued to snow lightly all day and to stealthy wolf prints dogs had come by?” we relished skiing through the fluff in intense and gigantic moose they asked. Turns out we silence. We didn’t notice most of the points of One of the yurts along craters. Only the swish of were following the tracks interest on our paper map, which gave us an the Banadad Trail. our skis breaks the intense of a local dog sled team! eerie sense of endless distance in the days before Ted Young photo stillness. Kilometers click by in Our first end-to-end ski GPS. Despite some uneasiness about finishing the muted repetition of the woods, came about by accident. By this before dark, we had no fear of getting lost and easing our minds into tranquility, letting time we had discovered the thoroughly enjoyed the seclusion. our bodies move on autopilot. Poplar Creek Guesthouse B&B, On the Banadad one need only We’ve been here before. 25 years ago we situated at the eastern end follow the trail, the only trail. stumbled on this wilderness trail when skiing in of the Banadad, run by And before we knew it, the northeastern Minnesota on our annual ski trip. We Barbara and Ted Young, signpost loomed ahead veered off the wide, PistenBully groomed trails pioneers in Boundary leading us back to the of the Central Gunflint Trail System and entered a Waters adventure Guesthouse. different world when we were swallowed by the trips. We soaked We piloted forest and followed the intimate Banadad trail. We up their passion our skis toward the only had time for a short sample that day, but it for the outdoors warmth of the lodge. instantly claimed us. We would return again and and gleaned their Ted and Barbara again. role in establishing enfolded us in their Given the solitude of the trail, it came as and maintaining the hospitality, caretakers The Poplar Creek Guest House B&B. no surprise to learn that the Banadad Trail lies Banadad Trail. of their guests just as Ted Young photo completely within the Boundary Waters Canoe “We’ve been part of they are of the trail. We had Area Wilderness (BWCAW). it from day one,” Ted admits. conquered the Banadad, but not The 1964 Wilderness Act first enveloped the He’s handled grooming the trail from for the last time. Boundary Waters in its coverage. Then, in 1978, its earliest years. The subsequent formation of the the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act provided far more specific terms for management and closed the logging roads that ultimately formed the route for the trail. It further refined the provisions for the US Forest Service to manage this area and they authorized construction of the trail in 1982. Grooming by snowmobile is allowed, but all other trail maintenance must be done by hand. Originally conceived as a connector trail between the Central and Upper Gunflint Ski Trails, the Banadad remains a destination of its own, at least as far as Susan and I are concerned. Our first few forays on the trail were outand-back ventures. Starting at the western end near Gunflint Lake we spent a cloudy, windless afternoon following the trail to its midpoint. The mostly flat, unthreatening terrain gave us our first taste of the Banadad’s backwoods nature. It was obvious when we reached our turning point at Banadad Lake, 12 kilometers into our ski. The author on the Suddenly the trail plummeted steeply in front of Banadad Trail. us, dipping down to the bridge over the lake and Submitted photo rising just as sharply on the other side. The map

14 Winter 2019-2020

Minnesota Trails