Hey! We've got a splendid new hiking trail that connects our Round Lake Road to the Kekakabic trail and then back around to make a 3.3 mile loop .
Andy and I knew one of the volunteers. Retired smoke jumper Jim Cherry was once director of Wilderness Canoe Base, on Seagull Lake. He was before my time, but that Wilderness community is a far reaching clan; which means there are lots of overlapping people between Jim and me (including Andy).
Jim’s kids also went to my Mpls Washburn High (may she falter never). But really, the reason I feel so fond of Jim falls back to the story of 3 Vietnamese brothers—refugees that stayed with my family for awhile after Saigon fell.
I think I was about 12, they were young adults (high school/college) who worked for Jim that first summer in the US. Incidentally those 3 guys and their families are still part of our ‘extended’ family, and they are remarkable world citizens, but that’s another story. (And I won’t even get INTO the egg rolls)
At age 12, I couldn’t begin to appreciate the kind of grief they experienced upon leaving their beloved family and country. But after a summer at WCB, it was obvious that Jim Cherry stepped up, and was a surrogate father type. And because I love them, I was always grateful to Jim for that.
You might call this experience the Transitive Property of Families---If A is linked to B and B is linked to C, then A is linked to C. And THAT is the roundabout story of why I give bright orange Jim Cherry a hug when I see him.
These smoke jumpers share a bond. They’ve fought in different battles, but they’re on the same team. Here are 3 of them---from the left Tom (also retired DNR official), Jim Cherry(retired Lutheran minister), and Jack (retired surgeon). Definitely they’ve had powerful experiences. Tom tried to describe the connection that he feels when he meets fellow smoke jumpers--like they're old friends already--made of the same sort of mettle.
I believe they offer their volunteer services in many different venues, but this September, we were the beneficiaries. Eleven of them joined forces with the USFS---- worked hard and fast, and cleared the way.
Around here, Andy and I refer to it as Tom Kaffine’s trail. Tom is the local USFS ranger. I don’t know exactly what his current title is—but he’s the woods expert. He's paddled here forever, and he knows all of the secret places. Come to think he rarely ever TELLS his secrets. But he's been around.
If you came to his Becoming a Boundary Waters Family presentation at Tuscarora this summer, you’d have seen some 20 year old pictures of the railroad bed, old cabins and treasures, and a younger Tom Kaffine. The Ham fire in 2007, cleared the way, and made it easier for Tom to explore and flag a hiking trail. He took his idea to the Forest Service to do whatever it is that has to be done to approve of a trail like this. I suspect that was no small task. It seems to me when they are managing property that belongs to 300 million people of the United States, they have to manage at least a few conflicting opinions with every step.
At any rate—the Centennial Trail follows the Port Arthur railroad bed that once connected the Paulson Mine (on the Kekekabic Trail) to Thunder Bay. I believe the train made one run….and if you are curious about details, we’re hoping Tom Kaffine will have a chance to crystallize some of his knowledge into some sort of interpretive source, someday...soon.
Until then—come and explore this lovely trail…still a little rough in places (which is why they hesitate to call it done)—but a great hike! It starts at the beginning of the Kekakabic Trail and cuts off about 1.2 miles in, and loops around to the Round Lake Road, and back to the Kek Trail parking lot.