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Trail work

Big plans this summer - we're moving ahead with scheduled development of the new trail on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail. Protection of this new trail from motorized traffic hinges on the new gate we installed Monday (May 16th).

Granted, there was a West Side logging operation last summer/fall that disrupted the beginning of the ski season on the West Side trails. But as a result of that timber sale, we'll be able to convert a logging road into a new route that will connect the west end of Excelsior Road with the inner loops of the West Side Trails. Take a look at the map (below) where the orange colored trail shows the new trail to be bulldozed and seeded later this summer.

Map showing new trail to be developed

This trail measures 1.3 km in length. From its starting point at Letter Y, the new trail meanders through the woods, dips and rolls, and gradually climbs to a high point a few hundred meters south of Letter Z. At that high point, there's a nice vista to the east from where you can appreciate the distant hills of the East Side of the trail system.This trail is going to be a wonderful addition to the West Side trails. We expect to groom it this coming winter. Click here for the countdown to Winter 2022.

Thanks to Rusk County Forestry for supplying the gate. Many thanks to our volunteer members that supplied the knowhow, tools, machinery and muscle power for the gate installation: Sam Behrends, Kent Meng, Tom Paulsen, Steve Porn, and John Waldron.

New gate - Blue Hills Trail in Wisconsin
John, Steve and Kent adding water to the 'fast set' concrete mix
New gate - Blue Hills Trail in Wisconsin
Steve mixes (probes) the concrete
New gate - Blue Hills Trail in Wisconsin
The concrete sets up quickly. The gate is level and nicely aligned.
New gate - Blue Hills Trail in Wisconsin
Visual trickery: the gate is level, it's the trees that are crooked.
New gate - Blue Hills Trail in Wisconsin
All of the 23+ miles of trails are non-motorized (Blue Hills Trail in northwest Wisconsin).
New gate - Blue Hills Trail in Wisconsin
Another successful project
Read more >

The many acres of trails on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail are often home to beavers. In years past, we've been able to tolerate a few of their permanent dams while trying to maintain the adjacent trails in the summer, and groom next to their dams in the winter.

Sad to say, too often we've resorted to trapping to remove 'nuisance beavers' (we report the problems to the County Forestry Department, and they hire out the work to a professional trapper).

All summer we've observed an active 200-foot long beaver dam that is located next to the ski trail (between intersections I and H), with about 130 feet of the trail wet enough to perhaps make it difficult to groom and ski this winter. Instead of trapping out the beavers at this spot, we decided to try a different approach. We'd like to learn how to coexist.

The first photo (below) shows this location in early September. See the small bridge? Beyond the bridge the trail has water slowly moving over the trail. We've debated various options, and yesterday (November 13th) decided to install a small beaver deceiver (pond leveler) device.

Here's what Sam, Benny, and Tom did...

·     Purchased five 10-foot lengths of 4" corrugated HDPE pipe ('drain tile') and one filter

·     Breached the beaver dam with the goal of dropping the water level about two feet

·     Screwed the pipe sections together, and fastened the filter on the upstream end

·     Drilled holes in the first 20 feet of pipe (to allow trapped air to escape)

·     Attached a weight five feet from the upstream end (to hold the pipe underwater)

·     Waded into the pond with the upstream end of the pipe (and the weight)

·     Placed the downstream end of pipe (30 feet in length) through the breach in the beaver dam, and under the bridge on the ski trail

·     Dropped the upstream end (and weight) into water that was probably five feet deep

·     Placed a vertical wood post in the breach of the dam, and attached the pipe to that post

·     Confirmed a nice volume of water flowing through the downstream end of the pipe

The materials cost about $30. We’re hoping the beavers quickly show up and repair the breach in the beaver dam. This hopefully would seal the pipe into the dam at a height that will control the water level – leaving enough water for the beavers to use the pond, but keeping the water level low enough to minimize the tendency for water to leak through the dam and flow over the ski trail.

We learned a lot from this first attempt at installing a pond leveling device. It was a nice muddy day playing in the beaver habitat, here’s hoping we can coexist.

Location of beaver dam on West Side of Blue Hills Trail
Location of beaver dam on West Side of Blue Hills Trail
Long beaver dam adjacent to ski trail
Long beaver dam adjacent to the ski trail
Sam breaching the beaver dam
Sam breaching the beaver dam
Benny searching for rocks to help weigh own the pipe
Benny searching for rocks to put in a container to help weigh down the pipe
30 feet of pipe to be placed downstream of the beaver dam
30 feet of pipe to be placed downstream of the beaver dam, and under the bridge
Benny directing placement of the pipe through the dam
Benny directing placement of the pipe through the dam
Tom checking for adequate water flow through the pipe
Tom checking for adequate water flow through the downstream end of the pipe
Read more >

Each summer, we evaluate our 20+ miles of trails to look for areas in need of bulldozing. The goal is to control erosion and/or improve trail segments to enhance skier enjoyment. The Rusk County Forestry Department usually donates the cost of two days of dozing plus the necessary grass seed; the dozing is performed by highly skilled local Wisconsin DNR foresters. We're fortunate to benefit from this ongoing relationship.

This summer, all of June and the first half of July were very dry for a change. This created an opportunity to bulldoze areas that would otherwise be too muddy for dozing. So we focused this year's dozing on two areas on the East Side trails: the Roundabout intersection, and the lower half of the Hairpin Trail.

The Roundabout Trail was created several years ago. It's a great way to climb to the Ridgeline, or to quickly descend from the Ridgeline on the way back to the warming house. It flows beautifully, and is one of our favorite trails. However, when this trail was built conditions were too muddy to create the ideal junction between the Roundabout Trail and the Rollercoaster Trail. When skiing downhill, we've been forced to stop and make a hard left turn to switch from the Roundabout to the Rollercoaster.

Good news - we just completed dozing that added a sweeping left hand turn that will allow skiers to maintain their speed while dropping from the Roundabout Trail onto the Rollercoaster Trail. It's gonna be sweet!

On the Hairpin Trail, the lower half (the southern half) had several rocky and rutted areas that made grooming a real challenge. As a result, that trail hasn't been groomed and skied very often. On their way back from working on the Roundabout Trail, dozers spent time improving several segments of the lower half of the Hairpin Trail. This should be a welcome improvement for groomers and skiers alike.

Our volunteers spread grass seed August 20th, first spreading an annual rye, then spreading a perennial mix that includes clover (makes for nice grouse habitat).

Many thanks to our DNR dozer operators (Bob Hauser and Colton Erickson), they did a super job!

Check out the following pictures taken August 20th...

Map showing location of recent bulldozing on the Blue Hills Trail
Map shows where bulldozing has improved the ski trails

CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO SHOWING THE NEWLY DOZED ROUNDABOUT-ROLLERCOASTER INTERSECTION

Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail at the Roundabout intersection
View from the Rollercoaster Trail where fresh bulldozing creates a new junction with the Roundabout Trail
Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail at the Roundabout intersection
New junction sweeps between the Roundabout and Rollercoaster trails
Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail at the Roundabout intersection
Bulldozing where the Roundabout and Rollercoaster trails are joined
Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail on the Hairpin Trail
Bulldozing on the southern half of the Hairpin Trail
Bulldozing on Blue Hills Trail on the Hairpin Trail
Bulldozing on the southern half of the Hairpin Trail
Read more >

It was a busy summer and fall for volunteers maintaining the Blue Hills Trail in northwest Wisconsin. For the past few years, wet summers have aggravated areas prone to erosion. Fortunately, the latter part of this summer was quite dry. As a result, several important projects were completed.

Here’s a quick summary of our accomplishments:

  • Approximately 50 hours of trail mowing.
  • Mowed and trimmed the trailhead (warming house etc) on three separate occasions.
  • Repaired 1200 feet of badly eroded East Side trail by dozing and seeding.
  • Filled erosion adjacent to an important East Side culvert by placing bundled straw and shoveling soil.
  • Cleaned out three areas of creek debris requiring chainsaw work.
  • Dealt with 3 plugged culverts that flooded and created impassable trail segments.
  • Repaired the crumbling floor in our older shipping container.
  • Cleaned and stained the warming house exterior.
  • Replaced a failing culvert on the West Side
  • Built a new bridge to cross a small intermittent stream on the West Side
  • Brushed and cleared branches and windfalls from about 70% of the trail system, East & West.
  • Brushed out a large portion of the snowshoe trail.
  • Repaired the log corduroy of an East Side stream crossing.
  • Chainsaw work on the West Side.
  • Repaired (shoveled) ruts on a short section of the West Side trail.
  • Replaced cable barriers at two vulnerable intersections along Rut Road (East Side).

Details regarding some of the major accomplishments…

 

Bulldozing

Erosion control is always an ongoing battle in the Hills. The annual spring runoff and all-too-frequent summer deluges take their toll on the downhills. Our bridges appear to be in good shape. However, on the East Side the long downhill north and southeast of intersection #5 really took a beating this summer. The washouts in this area were repaired with bulldozing performed in early August, with grass seed spread quickly thereafter. Many thanks to DNR Forester Gary Sarauer for his dozer skills, and the Rusk County Forestry Department for donating the cost of Gary's dozing time.

 

Staining the warming house

Our lovely warming house at the trailhead was built in 1998. Since it's on County land, technically it belongs to Rusk County. However, it really 'belongs' to our membership since we're responsible for its upkeep. It's been stained on two prior occasions since it was built. This summer, we hired Dave Roth (Ladysmith professional painter) who performed an exterior beauty treatment. Thanks to Dave for his extra special attention in cleaning with an industrial cleaner, then pressure washing, then returning a couple days later to brush on a Benjamin Moore ArborCoat translucent waterborne stain. In the absence of power and running water, that was quite a challenge. Thanks to Bjorn Hanson (Burnell's Decor in Rice Lake) for donating the stain. Thanks to Jeld-Wen Windows (Hawkins) for donating and replacing all the windows in January 2020.

 

Unplugging a culvert that was flooding the trail

In July we discovered a plugged culvert on the trail that crosses from the East Side to the West Side trails (this culvert is located between #23 and Letter L). The plugged culvert caused water to back up parallel to the Fire Lane Road for about 1/2 mile. Water was briskly flowing over the ski trail, and threatening to wash out the trail and culvert. In August, Steve P and Jerry S teamed up to open the plugged culvert, and rescue this section of trail. flow, then photos showing the trail after the culvert was functioning normally. A huge thank you to Steve and Jerry!

 

Replacing an aging culvert

On the West Side, the steep down/up segment of trail between J-K has presented an always changing challenge for trail maintenance. Seems like each year the water passing through that narrow valley (and associated culvert) finds a new way to make for a difficult trail crossing. We've tried various methods to negotiate the water that often flows over the trail: a sheet of plywood supported by 2x4s; taking delivery of a dump-truck load of rock to create a rock ford; bulldozing to repair the erosion; or in many winters, simply waiting for cold weather to freeze solid the standing water.

This summer, that area between J-K was flooded with knee deep water. After draining that water, we recruited a heavy equipment operator to evaluate the site. At his advice, we replaced the failing culvert where the stream crosses the trail. His backhoe work widened and smoothed the trail, and created a spot where high water events can bypass the culvert. 

Bridging a small intermittent stream

For many years, we've battled with erosion problems at a specific trench on the West Side of the trail system. It's located about 200 meters west of Letter I (refer to the above map). It's a 'choke point' for all the water that drains the west loop (D-F-G-H-I). As this trench has gradually enlarged and deepened over the years, it's posed an increasingly challenging obstacle for wintertime grooming and summertime mowing.

We've used various options to fill the deep trench, but they’ve all been washed out the next Spring. So now we decided to try placing a bridge at that site. In general, we try to avoid the use of bridges on the trail system since they're more difficult to maintain, especially with climate change triggering more numerous and heavier downpours.

The bridge was built in stages over the course of a couple weeks. The finished bridge looks pretty nice, it’s solid, and hopefully will withstand springtime runoff.


Enjoy the photos that follow.

Blue Hills Trail warming house after cleaning and staining
Warming house got a bath before staining the exterior
Blue Hills Trail map highlighting an area of erosion
Badly eroded trail needed bulldozing
freshly dozed trail
Dozed and ready for grass seed
spreading grass seed on freshly dozed trail
Spreading a mix of annual rye, perennial rye, and clover
replacing flooring in an older shipping container
Sam removing the bad section of flooring in the older shipping container
Blue Hills Trail has new flooring in our older shipping container
New flooring (on the front right) - topped with snowmobile glides for protection
plugged culvert with water flowing over the ski trail
Plugged culvert between #23 & Letter L. Water flowing over the trail.
water flowing around and over a plugged culvert
Long piece of birch used to probe the culvert from the downstream side
reopened culvert with water moving through the culvert
Culvert is unplugged. Whirlpool formed above the upstream opening of the culvert.
dry ski trail after culvert was unplugged
Water level has dropped, trail is again passable.
volunteers at the annual workday for the Blue Hills Trail
Part of the 'socially distant' workday crew - September 26, 2020
flooded trail on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail
Flooded trail at low spot between J-K
previously flooded trail now needs dirt fill
Flooded area has been drained. Red arrows show location of failing culvert.
new culvert and surrounding fill
Culvert was replaced. Then added fill and leveled the trail.
new and larger culvert on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail
Forestry Department donated a 30-inch metal culvert as the replacement
deep wet trench on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail needs to be bridged
Badly eroded trench on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail keeps getting deeper each year. It's time to build a bridge.
first stages of bridge construction
Round concrete barn pads provide support for the bridge stringers.
bridge stringers have been placed across the trench
The trick was getting everything level and square.
selfie image of some of the volunteers
Time out for a selfie
golden retriever supervising the bridge construction
The bridge passed inspection
bridge with decking in place
Log 'corduroy' at both ends of the bridge created a ramp of sorts.
the volunteers that set the decking in place
Part of the decking crew
Read more >

We have a great new section of trail for skiing. On the West Side of our trail system, beginning this winter, we have permission to close off and groom Excelsior Road for skiing. Look at the map (in the images below) to get an idea where it's located.

Excelsior Road has great potential for skiing, but closing it for skiing upset the hunters/trappers that have used that road for decades. To paraphrase Jeremy Koslowski (Rusk County Forest Administrator), we all want to play in the same sandbox, we just need to figure out how to get along.

At the December 2019 monthly meeting of the Rusk County Forestry Committee, the wintertime use of Excelsior Road was on the agenda. After much discussion, a new compromise for shared use was passed by the committee. Please read on...

Background

  • Out of control beaver activity on the West Side trails in August was highly discouraging
  • Because of the beavers, we pictured a future time when we might be unable to maintain parts of the West Side - including the East/West crossover trail
  • The idea of closing and grooming Excelsior Road was discussed
  • A proposal to close and groom Excelsior Road during the winter ski season was presented by BHTA to the Forestry Committee at their September meeting; it passed unanimously
  • With the unexpected early arrival of wintry weather in late November, we started grooming Excelsior Road approximately December 5 during the muzzleloader deer hunt season
  • Vehicle traffic continued on Excelsior Road despite signs requesting it be considered non-motorized
  • After discussions with Jeremy K, we decided to hold off on more grooming until the antlerless deer hunt ended December 15
  • The evening of December 15, we again groomed Excelsior Road and also arranged for a large berm to be snowplowed into place - effectively blocking car/truck access where Excelsior Road meets the Firelane
  • Hunters expressed their concerns to the Rusk County Forestry Department

December 18, 2019 meeting of the Forestry Committee

  • One of our officers represented BHTA and sat next to the three hunters in attendance
  • The hunters don't want to lose access to the many acres along Excelsior Road where for years they've hunted with their dogs; hunted coyote & rabbit through the winter; bow hunt deer into early January; trap during the winter
  • There was a reasonable exchange of ideas, BHTA tried to represent our membership
  • Forestry Committee then unanimously passed a resolution to allow limited motorized access during the winter ski season - allowing ATVs and snowmobiles on the south side of the road, with the north side reserved for ski trail grooming
  • BHTA continued the dialogue with the hunters outside the meeting room
  • We're going to try sharing Excelsior Road and plan on continued exchange of ideas

We're going to give this a try (the newly passed resolution), and review the results at the January 2020 Forestry Committee meeting. Our officers are hoping to dialogue with the hunters and discuss various options prior to the January meeting. We respect their right to use the County Forest, and recognize their time in the out of doors is an example of a healthy activity - not unlike the hunting and trapping that many of our members enjoy.

Mid December conditions on the West Side are excellent. Don't let the idea of sharing Excelsior Road with ATVs & snowmobiles scare you away, we expect that traffic to be light. Ski Excelsior Road when you can, any feedback is welcome.

Read more >

We performed some long anticipated trail work today. Read on...

Several years ago, about 1 km of East Side ski trail was heavily damaged when a truck was driven on soft trails. The perp cut through a heavy chain securing a cable barrier, then drove 2/3 the distance from #2 to A1 before turning around at a muddy water crossing. What a mess! (Refer to map image below to get your bearings.)

Since that damage occurred, we've added more signage reminding visitors that the trails are non-motorized. Ever since that trail damage, we've been planning on replacing two cable barriers with more substantial gate barriers. Other trail maintenance issues received higher priority until we found the time today to install these gates.

The Rusk County Forestry department donated the gate materials -- in exchange for our volunteers supplying the concrete and labor.

A group of five of us set aside Sunday (November 17) as our gate work day. The weather forecast called for 1" of fresh snow and temps in the 30s.

We awakened to 2+ inches of wet snow. Not to be discouraged, we met at the warming house at 11 a.m and collectively identified spots for the gates, then went to work. This included:

  • Measuring 16'4" between post centers.
  • SB started melting snow to prepare hot water to mix with the quick set concrete.
  • JW used his tractor and power auger to start the holes.
  • When the auger was stymied by rocks, we took turns using long pry bars and post hole diggers to approach our target depth of 4 feet (that's a pretty deep hole when considering the glacial rocks in the way).
  • SB set up his transom to make sure the depth of the holes would result in a level gate.
  • We placed the gate posts in the holes, made sure they were plumb, added hot water in the bottom of the holes, then added 4 bags of quick set concrete in each hole.
  • After allowing the concrete a few minutes to start setting up, we were able to place the gate on the poles and fine tune the position of the posts.
  • Fitment was very good!
  • After completing the gate at #1, we moved down the 'Gravel Road' and repeated the process at #2.

Fun day sharing the work, we finished in about 3 hours. Glad we didn't let the weather get in the way. Relieved to find the grassy surface had prevented deep frost. Pleased to see the concrete set up so quickly - it should be solid before it has a chance to freeze.

We realize that barriers tend to keep out only the honest folks. The chosen gate locations will hopefully discourage trail damage, these new gates are more obvious and much safer than cables, and the gates visually are a nice addition.

Many thanks to our work crew of 5: Sam Behrends, Lori Larsen, Kent Meng, Tom Paulsen, and John Waldron. Special thanks to Sam for rounding up the concrete and many of the tools; and to John for braving slippery roads to trailer his tractor and power auger to/from the trailhead.

Picture(s) with this message were taken November 17, 2019.

volunteers digging post holes while installing gates
Taking turns digging a post hole
new gate for limiting access to the non motorized trails on the Blue Hills Trail
Completed gate at intersection #1
the volunteer crew that installed two gates in November 2019
Gate crew at intersection #2
new gate for limiting access to the non motorized trails on the Blue Hills Trail
Completed gate at intersection #2
Read more >

After the September 28th annual trail work day, we realized the West Side of the trail system needed plenty of additional work. Here's the story...

On the September 28th work day, John Ziemer and Tom Ralston rode an ATV and brushed and cleared many of the trails on the West Side. In addition, they identified a localized blowdown of large oaks on the Lollipop Trail (D-E-D); and an unexpected deep wet spot between Letters J-K.

At that point, we asked for help from two of our most trusty volunteers: woodsmen and chainsaw experts Steve Porn and Jerry Schneider. 

This past week we had a limited weather 'window' of several days of dry weather. So Jerry and Steve spent October 9th navigating and repairing damaged West Side trails. They spent 1.5 hours removing a big oak blowdown on the Lollipop Loop (very challenging chainsaw work). Then they removed a number of smaller downed popple trees from the West Side trails. Then they repaired a washed out trench west of Letter I by dragging logs out of the creek that were placed as log corduroy in that trench in October 2018 (washed downstream with the abundant meltwater Spring 2019). Below are 5 photos taken October 9th.

Then Steve & Jerry explored a newly flooded trail segment located at the deep dip between Letters J-K - where they were surprised to find a massive (125 yards in length) beaver dam that was built since mid August; plus another large dam terraced to a different water level. Not to be discouraged, they scouted access to this flooded area of willows and Steve returned October 11th with chest waders, hand saws and a dam busting tool.

The 7th image (below) shows the currently flooded trail between J-K; the next four photos show the large flooded area located south of trail segment J-K on the West Side. (As of October 11th, it was flooding the trail with water 2 feet deep.) In those photos, the red arrow points to a very large beaver lodge. As you can see, with a bit of handiwork, the dam in that area was breached October 11th. The next dam, located a bit further east, was also breached October 11th.

But when inspecting those dams October 12th, they had been rebuilt overnight!

So there's more work to be done in that area.

The last 3 photos show another flooded trail segment, 100 feet in length - before and after repair work.  In July, we discovered this 100 foot section deeply flooded by a beaver dam situated on top of the trail. We encouraged the beavers to move out; the next to last photo shows the trail in September after the water receded. The last photo shows the trail after it was bulldozed October 9th to make it passable again. Many thanks to Gary Sarauer (DNR forester & dozer operator) for his fine work.

Picture(s) with this message were taken early/mid October.

downed trees blocking one of the ski trails on the Blue Hills Trail
West Side blow down near Letter E - challenging chainsaw work
chainsaw work in the process of clearing the ski trail
A can do attitude helps a lot!
trail reopened and ready for skiing the Blue Hills Trail
Trail re-opened -- ready for skiing this winter

Read more >

Plenty of trail news from this past week. Find a comfortable spot, grab your favorite beverage, and read on...

1 - Trail Conditions


Fall colors are very good right now. Ignore the damp weather and go hike the Hills. The trails are firm, well mowed, and a great place to unwind. Be sure to wear a bit of blaze orange: it's archery season for deer, there's a youth deer gun hunt this weekend, bear season is winding down, and various bird hunts are taking flight.

2 - Work Day results


Our Annual Trail Work Day (Saturday morning, Sept 28) was attended by 15 volunteers, and their 40+ hours of work accomplished a lot - THANKS! Kneeling in the group photo below are Tom Paulsen, Sam Behrends, Ben Behrends, Jenna Behrends; standing are Tom Ralston, Lori Larsen, John Ziemer, Paul Johnston, John Olson, Irene Olson, Mike Cragg, and John Hinde; photo take by Jan Paulsen; missing from the photo are Frank Lowry and Kate Plachetka. Their accomplishments:

  • As the above photo shows, we like to start 'em young. An eager two-year-old makes a good helper when cleaning the roof on the warming house.
  • We brushed and cleared branches and windfalls from about 70% of the trail system.
  • Two East Side bridges had their lifespan extended by adding fill and/or riprap rock where it had disappeared.
  • Trenched a 30-foot section at the edge of an East Side trail to help channel water off the trail.
  • On the East Side ridge-line, saved a culvert by exposing a hidden bypass water channel - filling it with rock then topping with soil.
  • Cleaned interior and exterior of warming house.
  • Stuffed gaps in the warming house logs with wool batting.
  • Caulked cracks on top surfaces of warming house logs (to avoid standing water).
  • Caulked a gap in the soffit.
  • Removed dirt adjacent to the foundation, wire brushed the exposed pink foam insulation, painted the foam with a foundation protector, then replaced the dirt.

3 - Camoplast tracks - SOLD!

The evening of Sunday, September 29th we posted an ad to sell our old set of Camoplast tracks that were installed on the Gator in 2014. The listing appeared on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. Already Monday morning there was a big response, and the tracks sold the next day (the 30th) to the first person to inspect them. We're now running the Gator with a new and improved set of Camoplast (Camso) tracks. Your financial support keeps things running smoothly!

4 - Busy Beavers

In mid August, when performing touch-up mowing on the West Side, we were stunned by the amount of recurrent and new beaver activity that was flooding the trails. As of this past week, with a little help from our friends, the beavers have vacated the premises, water levels have dropped, and trails appear usable. Over the past several years, West Side beaver flooded trails have been a persistent and worsening problem. To address this, we met with the Rusk County Forestry department; and at their September departmental meeting, we were granted permission to close off and groom Excelsior Road during the winter months. In the future, if we need to abandon certain West Side trails, we can instead use Excelsior Road (this is the road we all use to access the West Side trailhead) as an option for skiing routes that wouldn't be impacted by beaver activity. In fact, there's a pending West Side timber sale that will eventually create a hauling road that could connect the Lollipop Loop (near Letter E) with Excelsior Road. Check out the West Side map, and use your imagination - this could develop into a very good ski trail, similar to our favorite 'Gravel Road' on the East Side. We'll see how this develops as the winter progresses.

5 - East Side logging    

Take a look at the map (below) that shows a Timber Sale that impacts the East Side of the trail system. On our East Side map, the active logging is south of Rut Road between 20-21-22, and on either side of Hemlock Canyon from 21-A4. We were expecting this timber sale to be logged during the winter, thus disrupting our East Side core loop - but good news! I hiked in that area a few days ago, and quite a bit of that sale has been logged. Most of the logging is a 'select cut' which leaves a beautiful hardwood forest standing. Kudos to the County Foresters for preserving a buffer for the ski trail, and for preserving the beauty of the forest. A few pictures (below) were taken on the lower portion of Rut Road to show you why you should avoid this fairly muddy area when hiking this fall. And prepare for a different vista - as you ski toward the warming house down the long gradual downhill that is Rut Road, at the spot where you bank off Rut Road, there now is a clearcut in the distance - as shown in the photo. And compare the 2013 photo of the skier with the last photo that shows essentially the same corner as you bank off Rut Road. We'll try to put up some signage in that area to make sure folks stay oriented. (Note: Loggers are expected to ditch and smooth the trails once they're done.)

6 - November 2nd Fundraising Banquet

Our guest speaker at this year's fundraising banquet is Birkie Founder and Legend... Ernie St. Germaine! If you've already registered, help spread the word. You can find a banquet link on our home page on your computer or smartphone.

Picture(s) with this message were taken late September.

volunteers cleaning pine needles from Blue Hills Trail warming house
September 28, 2019 - Annual Work Day
volunteers at annual work day for the Blue Hills Trail in northern Wisconsin
September 28, 2019
volunteers cleaning pine needles from Blue Hills Trail warming house
September 28, 2019
Read more >

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Blue Hills Trail

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Summer mowing operations have begun at the Blue Hills Trail. We mow with our Honda Pioneer (with Mattracks) pulling our AcrEase trail mower cutting a 57” swath. Visit our website (link above in bio ⬆️) where you’ll find a link to ‘Trail Conditions’ at the top of the page. #skitrailwork #crosscountryskiing
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Moving forward with development of a new trail on the West Side of the Blue Hills Trail. The new route was blazed during logging this past winter. On May 16th we installed a new gate that will greatly discourage illicit motorized traffic. Later this summer, we plan bulldozing and grass seeding. Should be ready for skiing this coming winter! #ruskcountywi #skitrailwork #crosscountryskiingwisconsin #xcskiing
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Thank You to a Great Group of Volunteers that helped move our grooming equipment into storage today. And guess what? It’s only 269 days until winter! #skitrailgrooming #wisconsinwinter #ruskcountywi #snowisgreat
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Mild temps, sunshine, & lots of skiers from distant locales. Great way to celebrate the tail end of winter. We enjoyed sharing our trails with so many Birkie participants. #ruskcountywi #wisconsinwinter #birkiefever
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Lots of smiling faces yesterday. Here are just a few. #funonskis #ruskcountywi
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Feb. 6 seemed like Lady’s Day at the Blue Hills Trail. Lots of gals flying around the trails. #womenskiers #ruskcountywi
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Happy Groundhog Day from the Blue Hills Trail! Grab winter while you can. #kidsonskis #ruskcountywi #xcountryski
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1.5" fluffy powder snowfall overnight Friday. Saturday this fluffy powder made for pleasurable skating to start the day, and nicely covered the oak leaves in the classic track. On the skate deck of the heavier trafficked trails, the early bird caught the worm - later in the day, the traffic on the skate deck in the powder snow created a slower snow structure that meant more work for skaters - very interesting phenomenon. Side trails with less traffic kept that wonderful sensation of floating on feathers. As the new snow in the classic track was skied in, it was faster than the skate deck and provided good kick. #skateskiing #powdersnow
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It’s been pretty dusty here the past week. Several light snowfalls (dustings) have left a dreamy creamy coating on the ski trails. On top of the firm underlying base and classic track, this has made for wonderful x-country skiing. #ruskcountywi #wisconsinwinter #dustingofsnow
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Yesterday: bluebird sky, shadows, and smiles! Kudos to our groomers. #ruskcountywi
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Really nice skate skiing yesterday. Look at these guys flying around the Core Loop on the East Side trails. #skateskiing #wisconsinwinter #ruskcountywi
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Saturday's one day moderation of frigid temps brought out loads of smiles at Wisconsin's Blue Hills Trail yesterday. A huge thank you to our groomers for braving nasty wind chills to turn Wednesday's snowfall into such nice skiing for the weekend. #crosscountryskiingwisconsin #ruskcountywi #wisconsinwinter
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After a roller coaster weather ride in December, it looks like winter has arrived at Wisconsin’s Blue Hills Trail. Happy New Year! #ruskcountywi #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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Washed out culvert presented a big challenge when discovered in late September - located on the trail that connects our East Side trails with our West Side trails. Repair work was completed mid October. Photos show before & after. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #ruskcountywi
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We just completed some bulldozing that will really make our skiers happy this winter. Visit our blog for more photos, video, and the full story: link above in bio⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #ruskcountywi #skitrailwork
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Taming the tall grasses on the Blue Hills Trail. Hiking & biking conditions are good. Visit our website to see where we’ve been mowing (look at ‘Trail Conditions’ top center of the page). #ruskcountywi #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skitrailwork
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Nice day for a walk in the woods. Pause to appreciate the hidden gems. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #naturegems #springawakening #ruskcountywi
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Crazy is as Crazy does. Had to cross multiple stretches of bare ground to find skiable snow on the East Side Ridgeline yesterday. A laughing fun adventure - shared with the snow fleas. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #snowfleas #snowinthewoods #skiingondirtisbetterthannoskiing #skiingondirt
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Sap’s running. So are my skis. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #springskiing
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What a fantastic week of skiing it was! Celebrate our week long ‘Virtual Birkie Races’ by visiting our blog. Link in bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #birkiefever #winterwisconsin #wisconsinwinter
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Fresh snow Wednesday morning, fresh grooming Wednesday evening, then Thursday sunshine and temps in the mid thirties. A perfect Bluebird day in the Blue Hills - another memorable day for Virtual Birkie skiers. Congrats to all! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluebirdday
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2” fresh snow Sunday evening, then groomed about 3/4 of the trail system Sunday night. Found untouched fresh corduroy this morning. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #freshcorduroy #skitrails #skitrailgrooming #winterwisconsin
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Mighty fine skiing today. Look at all these smiley faces! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #nordicskiing #kidsonskis #winterfun #ruskcountywi #birkiefever2021 #birkiefever
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Classic classic track. Shady Way trail on the East Side. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #birkebeiner #waxmyskis #snowisfun
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Monday sunrise -25 F was coldest day of this otherwise mild winter. Reached zero by mid afternoon when classic skiing was a kick! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #colderthanapolarbearstoenails #winterfun #belowzero
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Cold, sunny days. A good time to explore our snowshoe trails. Human rope tows are a FUNctional assist on the steeper hills. Swipe to see a video example. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinsnowshoeing #northwoodswisconsin #ruskcounty #subzerofun
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Come ski the Hills! Virtually! The Blue Hills Trail is excited to be a BIRKIE VIRTUAL VENUE PARTNER. We've outlined three separate race routes for our trail system. A snapshot of one of those routes is shown with this post. VISIT OUR BLOG to see the rest of the routes and get the details. Link in Bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #birkiefever #americanbirkebeiner
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Single digits Fahrenheit. Toko mint grip wax. A classic day on Excelsior Road. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skiclassic #tokowax #kickwax #wisconsinwinter
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This is the steep straight down/up portion of our trail that connects our East and West Side trails (located between J and K on the West Side). Swipe to see what’s hiding under the snow. Last fall Scott Gudis Sand & Gravel (Bruce, WI) did a great job of replacing a damaged culvert. Thanks to Scott, we can safely ski this hill. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #culvertreplacement #heavyequipmentoperators #brucewisconsin #skiingisfun
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Excelsior Road and West Side trails: THE place to ski yesterday. Fantastic conditions! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #groundhogsday #classicskiing #skateski
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Another day full of smiles at the Blue Hills Trail. Ain’t winter great! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #aintwintergrand #wisconsinwinter #xcskiinglife
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The equipment that grooms our ski trails takes a beating. We recently were again amazed by the capabilities of a nearby machine shop that fabricated a special washer for improving the durability of our Camoplast tracks. Visit our latest blog post to be amazed: link in bio⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #cphenterprises #waterjetcutting #ruskcountywi
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Gator rescue! Our John Deere Gator suddenly stalled out on a steep hillside a couple days ago. Yesterday we got it running, and were able to move it back to our trailhead before it quit again. Swipe to see the 5 videos showing the rescue. Now it’s time for Dr. Gator. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #gatorrescue #winterchallenges #skitrailgrooming
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Dynamite grooming. Dynamite skiing. Come Ski the Hills! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #covidescape #skiforfun #ruskcountywi
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Video shows our groomer looking ahead while setting classic track behind. Swipe for photo of finished results on ‘Excelsior Road’ trail. Nice to see the sun again. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skitrailgrooming #powdersnow❄️ #foresttherapy #freshcorduroy #fluffypowder
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Rollercoaster Trail at Blue Hills Trail. Built a dozen years ago, anyone can ski it in the uphill direction. Downhill, it’s a bit of a thrill. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #rollercoasters #rollercoasterride #skicrosscountry #funonsnow
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At the Blue Hills Trail, “what goes down, must come up”. Plenty of hills to satisfy your training needs. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #getoutside #cardioworkout #crosscountryskiing #skateskiing
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January 20, 2021. A very good day. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #otterslide #fastskis #skinnyskis #ruskcountywi
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Busy Sunday in the Blue Hills. Skate skiing on the ‘Gravel Road’. Classic skiing on the East Side Ridgeline. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #snowislife #skiforfun #wisconsinlife
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Photo shows our trails midday today. Surprisingly firm and skiable despite warm temps and some rain. We’re gonna try grooming this evening. Please be patient, it might take a few days to get yesterday’s new snow up to snuff. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #skitrailgrooming #aintwintergrand #heavywetsnow #wegotsnow #winterwisconsin
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A quick lesson in ski trail grooming: With snow headed our way, this was a good day to use our trail compactor to level the high spots and washboard on a few select trails. Should result in a smoother skate deck. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skitrailgrooming #snowgrooming #skateskiing #skateski #ruskcountywi #bluehillstrail
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Hoar frost / Rime frost topping on the trails today January 12th. Wonderful skiing - do yourself a favor and SKI THE HILLS January 13th - you’ll be happy you did. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #bluehillstrail #foresttherapy #ruskcountywi #getyourvitamind #iloveskiing #escapetothehills #winterinwisconsin
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As Good As It Gets! Two January 10 videos show great skiing on Excelsior Road - Blue Hills Trail in northwest Wisconsin. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #xcclassicski #skiclassic #skateski #asgoodasitgets #januaryinwisconsin #wisconsinwinter
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Another fun day getting my kicks in the Hills. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #xcclassic #xcskier #chasingyourdream
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Not much snow, but our groomers have made the most of it. Two videos showing good skiing on the East Side trails - January 6, 2021. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #januaryinwisconsin #wisconsinlife #wisconsinoutdoors #wisconsinwinter #skateski #ruskcounty
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A ‘Rime Frost’ blue skies sunny day - fun day for skiing the Blue Hills Trail. Pictures are from the West Side of the trail system. Swipe for video taken on the ‘Lollipop’. Trail conditions updated daily at website, link in Bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #fundayonskis #wisconsinwinter #sunnyski #mansbestfriend🐶 #justenoughsnowforme #justenoughsnowtoski
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Sun burnt off the fog, visitors enjoyed a hoarfrost snowfall on the trails. Great place to socially distance with family & friends! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #sociallydistanceoutdoors #hoarfrost #wevegotsnow #fasterskier #skiwithfriends
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Packed powder skiing on New Year’s Day. Loads of visitors welcomed 2021! Video shows the East/West crossover trail. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #packedpowder #skateski #classicski #welcome2021
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Good skiing through the hoarfrost on New Years Eve day. Get the daily scoop by visiting ‘Trail Conditions’ on our website - link in bio⬆️. Wishing you a happy healthy 2021! #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skinnyski #skinnyskis #crosscountryskiwithkids #xcski
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Excelsior Road (West Side) and The Gravel Road (East Side) were groomed last evening. Skiing this afternoon I was treated to 1” of feathers on top of the fresh grooming! Gonna groom these same trail segments again this evening. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #silentsports #silenceofnature🌳⛅️🗻 #skiingonfeathers #beautyofwinter
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Many of our 20+ miles of ski trails have received initial grooming in the past several days. The best skiing is shown as green highlights on the attached maps. And did you know our West Side trails are dog friendly? Be sure to visit our website where you’ll find ‘TRAIL CONDITIONS’ updated daily: link in Bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #skijoring #foresttherapy #classicskiing #dogsonsnow
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Christmas in the Blue Hills. Very good skating on Excelsior Road this afternoon; pretty good striding as well. Groomers will be out working again tomorrow. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #christmasski #ruskcounty #skateskiing #skiwithdogs
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After yesterday’s rain, Santa brought snow - enough to start grooming the ski trails! This afternoon we rolled the ‘Gravel Road’ on the East Side trails, and ‘Excelsior Road’ on the West Side. Thanks Santa. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #earlywinterskiing #xcs #xcskiing #skinnyski
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A little more snow and we may be able to do some grooming. Today we moved our workhorse snowmobile to its winter home. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinoutdoors #ruskcountywi #weneedsnow #crosscountryskiing
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Lunch time. Even busy beavers need a break now & then. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #busybeaver #busyasabeaver #timber
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Not enough snow to ski the trails. BUT very good skiing on Audie Lake - 2.5 miles northwest of the warming house. Audie is always an enjoyable getaway. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #wisconsinwinter #xcskiingonlakes #xcski #frozenlakes #silenceofnature
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Pictures from our ‘Rabbit Trail’ where bunnies made a fresh appearance on the Blue Hills Trail today. It felt like October today - 48 degrees F - way too warm for December! It’s time to cool down, then Santa needs to bring us some snow. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #whereiswinter #xcskiingwithoutsnow
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Every other year our volunteers replace all the intersection maps. That’s 60 maps, but who’s counting? Combined with excellent signage, it makes it easy to get your bearings on the Blue Hills Trail. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #trailvolunteers #xcskitrails #foresttherapy #findyourselfoutside
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Good hiking in early December. Frost is entering the ground, the ski trails are ready for snow. Photos show the biggest oak tree in the County Forest; hiking on the ‘Far East’ trail; and our Gator doing some trail work on the West Side trails. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #trailwork #hikingwisconsin #weneedsnow
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Big News! Wisconsin's Blue Hills Trail has revised its website, its maps, its blog - and added an Instagram account. Spread the word. VISIT THE BLOG for details – link in bio ⬆️ #bluehillstrailwisconsin #crosscountryskiing #skinnyski #ruskcountywi #ricelakewi #travelwisconsin #tomterrifik
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1.5” big fluffy parachute snowflakes today. Might actually be able to ski on some of our trails — even though the underlying ground isn’t yet frozen. #bluehillstrailwisconsin #winterinwisconsin #crosscountryskiing #xcskiing
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Tight corner. Placed orange driveway markers at the edge. Gotta keep our groomers on track. #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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After unseasonably warm weather in the first week of November, more wintry weather will start to freeze the trails. Hopefully x-country skiing is just around the corner. This photo was taken on the East Side trails - it shows one of our most important bridges. #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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Bridge building in October successfully spanned a small creek that was always a challenge to summertime mowing & wintertime grooming of our ski trails. #bluehillstrailwisconsin
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