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Wilderness Volunteers enjoy long commute

sandy stroo, gillian grantTwo faculty members in the UNT Intensive English Language Institute (IELI) recently spent some time getting closer to nature through Wilderness Volunteers in a week-long volunteer service trip for the U.S. Forest Service.

Gillian Grant, right, an instructor of English as a second language, and Sandy Stroo, left, who recently retired after 18 years on the IELI faculty, were part of a team of eight people who spent a week in August performing maintenance on the Sioux-Hustler Trail in the Superior National Forest in northeast Minnesota, part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The group camped on an island at Shell Lake and commuted by canoe and foot for two  hours and15 minutes daily to their worksite on the hiking trail. The commute took them through dense birch and pine trees, many of which had been felled by storms and were in varying states of decay.

“Much of the area has glacially smoothed boulders a foot or two below the surface, so try as the trees do to anchor themselves, eventually the windstorms win and take down tall trees to expose horizontally massive root systems,” Grant said.

The canoe part of the trip took gillian Grantthem through lily pads, lotus, wild rice and other northwoods flora in addition to multiple portages, where they had to hand carry their canoe between lakes.

Grant, Stroo and their other team members worked with silky saws and two-person saws to clear about 200 trees that had blocked portions of the hiking trail.

Each year, Wilderness Volunteers, a nonprofit organization based in Flagstaff, Ariz., takes on projects like this one and dozens of others around the country.

Grant said the park employees rely heavily on volunteers to maintain the trails because there are so many miles of trails. The Sioux-Hustler Trail had been neglected for years.

This was Stroo’s third trip with Wilderness Volunteers and Grant’s fifth.

Posted on: Thu 06 November 2014

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