Ran-hiked-slogged (slow jogged) the same route as Alex Falconer on Friday, October 25th. Finished in 9 hours and 14 minutes (9:13'59.3) from east trailhead sign to west trailhead sign. Measured distance was 39.28 miles with a Suunto Ambit. Weather was near perfect in the afternoon, but a little cold in the morning. Dusting of snow, icicles hanging from logs, and thin ice on protected portions of some small lakes when I hit the trail just before 8am. Made it to Agamok Bridge by 10:54am, Strup Lake by 1:05pm, and the Drumstick Lake sawblade by 3:20pm, and Snowbank Lake Rd. by 5:12pm (times pulled from geo-tagged pictures).
The burned portions of the trail (eastern 13 miles) are hardest to move quickly on due to rugged topography, beaver activity, and fire damage. Sections west of mile 21-31 are relatively rolling and smooth. I carried an ACR PLB rather than a SPOT or inReach device in case of emergency. I do not recommend attempting this route if you have not hiked it in full previously. There are no bail out options.
- Thanks to Kyle Gill for the vehicle swap. Kyle left his car at the Snowbank Lake Rd and paddled solo from Snowbank to Round Lake and the Gunflint Trail via South Arm Knife Lake on an overnight trip. I ran to his car Friday and he paddled to mine Friday-Saturday. We did not see each other during the swap.
- Ryan Nord lent me his Patagonia Nine Trails 20L backpack with shoulder straps that rub against your neck to create wounds that look like curling iron burns. Ryan warned me about the straps, and the pack worked in a pinch. Will run with a larger capacity vest next time that has chest pockets.
- The Kekekabic Trail Club has been very active in trail maintenance. The trail is in the best condition I've seen it in since 2008. I only had to crawl under two downed trees. The trail club's updated guidebook ($20) is a phenomenal resource for trail info, and a thoughtful weatherproof flipbook design that's perfect for referencing on-the-fly. I used this guidebook and a compass for navigation. Blue ribbon trail markings, rock cairns, and leaf-off conditions made rapid wayfinding manageable in all but two or three spots.
- Beth at Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply in Grand Marais let me purchase a Kekekabic Trail Guide (Sept 2019 edition) over the phone, and then stashed it outside their building so I could pick up the book after-business-hours.
- Alex Falconer for testing the waters first.
- Will skip the hydration bladder and just run with flasks and a vest.
- Will try to run with a partner will help reduce individual pack weight some. I packed conservatively and ran with first aid supplies, a hooded down jacket, a full change of baselayers, windbreaker, wool hat, headlamp, emergency blanket, two 1L hydroflasks, and extra calories.
Hey, congrats on this, just checked back on this trail after a while and getting excited for this summer's runs. I'm gonna reattempt again sometime this summer - with stopping less for pics and social media content next time! Share your appreciation for the trail cleaning crews, they've done an amazing job on these and the other wilderness trails the past 5 or so years.