Blue Hills Trail CONDITIONS
Good fall color. Good hiking and biking throughout the trail system. A small segment of the East Side trails still needs mowing (look at the mowing report below). As of September 1st, THE ENTIRE TRAIL SYSTEM has been cleared of downed trees resulting from the devastating December 2022 ice storm. Click here for maps showing the open trails. Trails involved in logging this past year have a dirt surface rather than grass (see logging notes under 'Important Updates').
Insect activity is low.
1-Logging on the West Side between intersections Y & Z is done for now.
2-Autumn 2022, loggers cut a large timber sale on the East Side. It's probably wise to avoid hiking those trails in all but very dry weather. Click here for a map showing the involved trails.
April 30: damp leaf top dusting
grooming & MOWING
Blue Hills Trail Association, Inc.
May 23, 2017 8:02 PM
Meeting called to order
by Ron Jasperson, president, at 7:02 p.m. at Burdy's Bar and Grill (Weyerhaeuser, WI)
Officers: Ron Jasperson, Patty McGown, Tom Paulsen
Members: Sam Behrends, Dan Bjugstad, Mike Cragg, Nels Curnow, Kathy Laffin, Kent Meng, Jan Paulsen, Steve Porn, Steve Schleppegrell
Non-members: Adam Brockman, Olivia Selvig
Motion by Patty McGown, second by Steve Schleppegrell, to dispense with reading of the prior minutes of May 2016 and to accept the May 2016 minutes without changes. Unanimously carried.
The fiscal year runs September 1 to August 31 inclusive. An interim budget report was presented by Tom Paulsen. Expenses ($45244.20) exceeded revenue ($35630.40) by $9613.80. Overall expenses were significantly above budget due to many planned and completed projects and equipment purchases; revenue was significantly above budget thanks to steady support from business/individual donations, memberships, banquet fundraising, trailhead receipts, and equipment sales. Our bottom line shows a positive balance at this time (available cash) of $28063.03. Budget for 2017-18 was presented. Discussion was held. Motion was made by Sam Behrends to approve the Treasurer's report as presented, and seconded by Dan Bjugstad. Unanimously carried.
- Election of officers
- Old Business
- Membership Fees
- New Business
- Designate committee members for the upcoming year
Election of Officers
Dave Putnam completed one year as vice president, but chose to remove his name for consideration of another one-year term, and was thanked for his support. Ron Jasperson and Tom Paulsen agreed to serve another one-year term. Jan Paulsen nominated Ron Jasperson for president, seconded by Tom Paulsen, and passed unanimously. Patty McGown volunteered to serve as vice president, she was nominated for vice president by Tom Paulsen, seconded by Ron Jasperson, and passed unanimously. Patty McGown nominated Tom Paulsen for secretary/treasurer, seconded by Dan Bjugstad, and passed unanimously.
Fall banquet: held at Lehman's Supper Club in Rice Lake. Attendance was excellent (88), the food was delicious, attendees enjoyed humorist Michael Perry's presentation. Thanks to Nels Curnow and Patty McGown for decorating the banquet site, and Patty serving as emcee. The banquet was financially successful (raising $2592 from sales of silent auction items). The method used for prize distribution was less hectic than in the past - each silent auction winner was allowed to pick out their prize(s) themselves.
Fundraising: fundraising was very successful this past year. Donations from businesses ($10,070), individuals ($7433), and at the trailhead ($2203) were either at or above budget. Memberships increased by three to 97 households ($5600). Sales of raffle tickets ($1080) were right on target as was the revenue from silent auction items at the fundraising banquet ($2592). We sold our 2012 Skandic SWT snowmobile for $6000. Interest income from our on-line savings added $234.
Winter Fun Day: no attempt at hosting a race this past year, the costs to host a small race remain prohibitive. A "Fun Day on the Trails" (a potluck moonlight ski/snowshoe) was held Friday February 10, 2017. It was lightly attended, temps and snow conditions were good, food was great, a warm fire added to the mood – and we were entertained by a full moon and shooting stars.
- Our major equipment expense this past year was the purchase of a new Tidd Tech G2-6 grooming implement with tracksetter ($5095). It's pulled by the snowmobile, and works great.
- The storage shed underwent a major remodel, costing almost $7000. The doors were replaced with larger taller doors to accommodate the Gator. 3" of spray foam insulation was applied to the walls and ceiling. A direct vent furnace was installed and connected to a digital thermostat. A tough polypropylene liner was purchased for the floor – it collects the melt water. A 250-gallon propane tank was placed east of the shed. The Gator spent the winter in the shed, periodically heating the interior if the tracks needed thawing, or when maintenance was due. So very nice to be able to work on the Gator at the trailhead rather than transporting elsewhere for thawing and maintenance.
- While performing the spray foam insulation of the storage shed, we also added 1" of spray foam insulation to the ceiling of the shipping container to control the tendency toward condensation. That appears to be working quite well.
- During the grooming season, monthly periodic service of the Gator was handled on site in our heated storage shed by volunteers Steve Gest, Ron Jasperson, Tom Paulsen, and Steve Porn.
- In January, we discovered slight loosening of 2 of the 4 spindle bolts that secure the Gator’s Camoplast track. After cleaning the shaft and bolts, the bolts were replaced with new bolts with fresh LockTite applied. To help avoid a catastrophic failure like February 2016 when the left rear track broke off at the hub, we plan on checking these bolts for torque tightness at 100 hour intervals.
- We purchased a Tidd Tech wheel kit ($360) to use when moving the equipment during the off season. We haven’t had a chance to use it yet.
- We repaired our snowmobile trailer at a cost of about $1000 (new wheels, tires, bearings, lights; welding repair of fractured lengthwise supports; new decking; plastic decking skid protectors; rubber TraxMat on the center of the decking).
- Our officers discussed various recommendations for replacing our 2012 Skandic SWT snowmobile, and we purchased a new snowmobile in early March for $13800 (list price $15200). We received a decent price reduction on this 2017 Arctic Cat Bearcat XT Groomers Special – locating the last one available in the Midwest, picking it up at a Minnesota dealership northeast of Saint Cloud. It’s a big workhorse machine, designed specifically for grooming x-country ski trails, ready to hook up and groom (although we need to give it a break-in period before hauling big loads).
- As stated earlier, we sold our 2012 Skandic SWT snowmobile. We advertised it for sale at $6500 on Craig’s List Northern Wisconsin, Skinnyski.com, and ABR. Craig’s List triggered immediate interest, and we sold it 5 days later for $6000.
- Instead of selling our small G2 implement as discussed one year ago, we worked a deal with Sam Behrends using the small G2 (G2-4) and tracksetter for grooming a trail for the Bruce High School team. In return, Sam and the high school are repairing the old G2-6 for resale. If we run into a situation where we need a backup, Sam will return the G2-4 to our trailhead.
- Bob Wieckowicz has volunteered to evaluate/repair our grooming implements each summer, and already inspected and greased the G2 implements in early April.
- A 5" quick deluge in late May 2016 severely damaged two major culverts (one near #30A, the other near #7), the bridge at #31, and further damaged the abandoned bridge west of #23.
- The abandoned bridge west of #23 was disassembled and removed from the creek bed by an enthusiastic volunteer work crew in June 2016.
- The culvert near #30A was repaired in July/August as part of a MAJOR reroute of the trail between #30A and #30. Thanks to Gary Sarauer (DNR) for that dozing. We supplied volunteers to rip-rap that culvert, and spread grass seed on the fresh dozing. The blown out culvert south of #7 remains unrepaired and impassable at this time. We expect it will be repaired when a logging crew works in that area (perhaps this coming winter?).
- The damaged bridge at #31 posed a serious challenge. We debated replacement using a 40-foot flatbed trailer as the support structure. After input from several individuals, we decided to replace the bridge with a wider taller wooden bridge. This was done in stages – using decking from the damaged bridge and from the abandoned bridge west of #23; plus longer 16-foot 4x8 stringers (2x8 dimension lumber sandwiched to make 4x8) donated by Lamperts of Ladysmith. We also created an approach ramp on the west side of the bridge. Results are satisfying, only time will tell if the wider taller bridge will withstand high water events. It did withstand the very high water this past week that triggered widespread flooding elsewhere in Ruck County.
- Erosion damage of the hill between 10-29A-29 was repaired by DNR dozer operator Gary Sarauer. We spread the grass seed.
- Thanks to Gary Sarauer (DNR) for dozing to expand the parking at the Westside trailhead.
- The County Forestry Dept mowed the Westside and limited parts of the Eastside where trails were dry enough to withstand the weight of their tractor mower; softer Eastside trails were mowed using the Gator and our trail mower. The Gator with Camoplast tracks easily floated over soft/damp/muddy areas without leaving much of an imprint. The mowing crew of BHTA volunteer members included Sam Behrends, Steve Gest, Pete Grassman, Ron Jasperson, Tom Paulsen, and Steve Porn. Using volunteers for the mowing saved about $1000 in contracted labor costs.
- Anticipated logging of the Eastside ridgeline didn’t resume until well into late summer and fall. A few more weeks of logging is needed this year to complete that timber sale, then dozing of the new trail (2A to S-curve) will be possible.
- The Work day in October was fairly well attended and focused on bridge and culvert repair. There wasn’t enough time to brush the trail margins.
Grooming: After a very wet summer and fall, we finally started grooming on December 7. Grooming was handled mostly by Steve Gest and Adam Brockman, with help from Mike Cragg, Ron Jasperson, Tom Paulsen, and Dave Putnam. Huge challenges resulted from another low snowfall winter, and three big rain events. Thanks! to Steve and Adam for their meticulous grooming that was able to hide most of the eroded sections of trail. Winter ended VERY early with a big warm-up and rain that even canceled the Birkie. Our last grooming was on February 19 when skiing was still great despite the rapidly disappearing base.
Signage: Tom Paulsen replaced the few trail signs & maps that went missing. We continue to use blue squares that clearly label the core loop. We added more signage (markers) for the snowshoe trail.
Snowshoe trail: further improved and expanded by Dan Bjugstad and John Kann. This included the addition of GPS accurate maps at the beginning of each trail, and placement of many directional signs on the trails, and the addition of a third trail to the east of the beginner trail. Visitors clearly enjoy these snowshoe trails.
Storage: Ron did the homework on shipping containers, and in April we purchased a like-new shipping container ($4000 purchase price, plus $250 for delivery) so we can store grooming implements on site. It’s temporarily located in the parking lot near the warming house. With permission from the County Forestry Department, later this summer, a site will be dozed near the storage shed, then the shipping container will be hauled into place by the dozer. It has the same security lock as the older shipping container, keys match.
- Since we don't need to insulate the warming house as tightly as a private residence, Lee Westlund (the warming house builder) recommended we not bother caulking the exterior of the warming house. Instead he suggested the use of sheep's wool (available on the internet from log house building suppliers) to plug any obvious gaps. The sheep's wool has good insulating properties, it wicks moisture, and it isn't itchy like its fiberglass alternative. We purchased the sheep's wool (wool ropes) to repair any insulation gaps, it's in a bin In the storage shed.
- Tom keeps the mice under control using traps and/or bait.
- Those in attendance agreed our website remains a highly useful portal in providing info for members and visitors; also we occasionally distribute messages using Facebook and Twitter. Hopefully our members can provide more numerous and frequent trail condition updates to skinnyski.com
- We pay a yearly fee ($190) for use of the Adobe Muse website design software (previously this was donated by Kristine Paulsen); we also pay an annual fee ($50) for website hosting (we use Bluehost.com); and we pay an annual fee ($60) for website scanning & repair (security company called SiteLock). Ongoing thanks! to Kristine Paulsen for her savvy & artistic involvement with the website and it’s various complexities.
Ski clinic: no ski clinic this past December, the weather wasn't favorable.
Current annual dues are $45 for individuals, $65 for families. Dues were increased by $10 in October 2014, and the number of memberships has remained stable at 97 member households. After a brief discussion, Dan Bjugstad moved to keep the annual dues at $45 for individuals, $65 for families, this was seconded by Patty McGown, and passed unanimously. Trail head fees were not discussed, and will be unchanged (encouraging users to donate based on their level of enjoyment – suggesting a $5 daily donation per person as a minimum). By not raising daily fees, this will allow many diverse individuals to access the trail system and help fulfill our mission as a non-profit organization. We trust that businesses and individuals doing well financially will continue to provide generous donations.
Fall Banquet: the approach for the annual fall fundraising banquet was discussed. We again will offer many silent auction items, and one or two major raffles. Patty McGown has agreed to again head the banquet committee; Ron Jasperson offered his help. This year’s banquet will be held on Saturday, November 4, 2017 at Lehman's Supper Club (Rice Lake); alternative banquet sites were not discussed. For this year's banquet, we have a commitment from writer and journalist Julie Buckles as our guest speaker. Ms. Buckles is the author of "Paddling to Winter: A Couple’s Wilderness Journey from Lake Superior to Northern Canada", a memoir about the time Buckles and her husband paddled 1,700 miles from Lake Superior to northern Saskatchewan, then stayed the winter chasing caribou, snowshoeing, hanging with locals, and watching the northern lights. She has presented to groups around the Midwest about her canoe trips, dogsledding adventures, travels with kids, and girl empowerment.
- Tom Paulsen will again spearhead the fall fundraising in the Ladysmith area, with help from Dick Pebler representing the Rice Lake area. As in the past, fundraising appeals will focus on supportive individuals and businesses, and BHTA members.
- Tom Paulsen requested help stuffing envelopes for the August mailing - Dan Bjugstad, Ron Jasperson, and Jan Paulsen volunteered.
- The method for distributing banquet prizes (silent auction items & raffle winners) worked well this past year, and will be unchanged. Individuals will pick up their winning items, calculate the amount they owe, and pay Tom before leaving.
Winter Fun Day: Officers will try to coordinate 1-2 potluck ski events as a good way to socialize while attracting members/visitors - perhaps during a full moon if the weather cooperates. To enhance attendance, we will return to a Saturday as the most likely day for the event. We discussed a simpler approach of limiting refreshments to coffee/cocoa, but the group prefers the potluck approach while welcoming anyone to join the fun.
- Our new Arctic Cat Bearcat snowmobile supposedly handles so well that our gooseneck hitch won't be needed.
- We have no idea of the life expectancy of the Gator, but plan on providing periodic maintenance per the manual (lubrication of drive line and Camoplast tracks at 50 hour intervals, oil changes at 100 hour intervals, check torque settings on hub bolts at 100 hour intervals) and thorough annual maintenance to include replacement of the Camoplast hub bearings each year.
- Our old Tidd Tech G2-6 is undergoing welding repair by Sam Behrends using volunteer labor at the Bruce HIgh School. When the work is completed, it will be advertised for sale.
- The heavy rains one week ago disrupted the upstream rip rap of the bridge at #31. We need a small crew (soon) to repair that damage by repositioning large rocks in the creek bed. Tom will seek volunteers. That bridge also needs 4-6 straw bales on the southeast corner to control erosion.
- Rusk County usually mows the Westside in July, and portions of the Eastside that can withstand the weight of their tractor. For the damp (soft) areas on the Eastside, we plan on again using volunteer labor operating the Gator pulling our trail mower. Our same mowing crew (volunteers) is available this summer.
- One board needs replacement on the north side of the bridge at #2. The mowing crew should make note of this.
- Deep tractor ruts from the Forestry mowing operations exist on the Westside between points D&F and need repair – Nels Curnow is willing to perform the repair?
- We hope summertime logging will complete the active Eastside timber sale on the ridge line, then we'll need to coordinate dozing (Gary Sarauer - DNR) of the planned new trail that will run from 2A to top of the S-curve between 2 & 20 (to include culvert placement by Dave Putnam).
- To reduce the likelihood of illicit truck traffic on the trails at points #1 and #22, we have an agreement with the Forestry Department to place metal gates at #1 and #22. If we pay for metal fabrication for gates ($560 maximum per gate), the County Forestry department will install gates at #1 and #22. Sam Behrends thinks the welding class at Bruce High School could make these gates for us after school resumes this fall. We'll discuss this option with the County Forestry department.
- The persistently wet area just inside the gate at the warming house needs repair. After the 40-foot shipping container is hauled into place, we may need to repair that spot with a couple loads of gravel, ditching and culverting. Hopefully the County Forsetry Department will supply the gravel.
- We need to select a fall work day – our officers will do that later this summer.
- Tom Paulsen showed a map from Paul Teska (Rusk County Forester) showing active and future Eastside timber sales.
- When planning year round trail maintenance, Tom refers to ‘Trail Time Line’ outlined by Carolyn Chatterton (this file is named "Trail Time Line" and is available on Tom's computer ).
- To provide winter shade for certain portions of the trail system, tree planting has been suggested by a couple of our members. John (Rusk County Land Conservation Dept) suggests the use of spruce (more deer resistant) or red pine. The County Land Conservation Dept sends us an email in January with details regarding available trees –they are available in the early spring as 12"-18"-24" trees; perhaps the Forestry Dept would pick up the cost? After planting, they would need timely watering the first year; as well as grass control twice monthly. To date, only one of our members (Tyler G) has shown interest in this tree project. Tom will contact him to determine his level of interest.
- The washed out culvert just east of #7 is impassable – hopefully that will be repaired during the winter as part of an upcoming timber sale.
- Three timber sales are active on the Eastside, and we know of more planned.
- Due to chronic erosion and poorly situated trails, it's extremely difficult to maintain, mow and groom the most distant Eastside trails (5-6-7-30A). Once the leaves are down this fall, we'll study topo maps and search for a better route between 5-30A -- looking for a traverse further up the hill that takes advantage of natural ridges to avoid erosion problems. With anticipated winter time logging in this area, this fall would be an ideal time to mark trees for removal in anticipation of subsequent dozing.
- The bridge at #31 is located in a curve of the creek, and will always be susceptible to high water events. While exploring a new snowshoe trail with Dan and John, Tom discovered a very desirable new route from #23 to the top of the hill north of #31 that would allow a better creek crossing. This needs to be further evaluated with foresters Paul Teska and Gary Sarauer.
- On the Westside, the trail segment adjacent to the beaver dam on the lake northeast of Letter F is a very tricky area to groom. Tom will discuss trail revision options with Paul Teska and Gary Sarauer. This might include using log corduroy on the lower trail segment, building a boardwalk on the lower trail segment, or dozing a new route around the perimeter of that small lake.
Grooming: Steve Gest and Adam Brockman remain interested in handling most of the wintertime grooming; we’re also recruiting at least one more person to add to the regular grooming crew. Our goal remains quality grooming of the entire trail system with major emphasis on the Eastside core loop. We will consider a fall meeting between officers and groomers if it seems necessary. If any of our members know of someone interested in grooming our trails, please contact one of our officers.
- Annual replacement of missing or faded trail intersection maps needs to be done late fall or early winter. Each fall, Tom Paulsen contacts the Rusk County Extension Office to arrange printing of current maps. If help is needed, Tom will seek volunteers for map replacement this fall.
- We also discussed the possible future revision of the numbering/naming system for the Eastside trails. One suggestion: renumber the core loop so all the numbers follow sequentially; then provide all the branch trails with names (e.g., Hemlock Canyon, Washout, Beginner Trail, Florida Loop, etc). This would be a big project that should be deferred until current dozing plans and trail revisions are completed.
- When ready to generate an updated Eastside map, Adam Brockman volunteered help using his GPS device.
Snowshoe trail: John Kann and Dan Bjugstad will continue to maintain and/or revise the snowshoe trail. John & Dan have already started adding a fourth snowshoe trail that will run from #23 up into Hemlock Canyon (the area north of #2).
Storage: The snowmobile trailer is currently stored off site, but we expect to lose that location – we need someone to volunteer to store it close to the trailhead where it can be easily accessed. Contact one of our officers if you can help.
- We need to find a ‘carpenter’ to evaluate and repair minor problems on interior/exterior of the warming house as well as placement of sheep's wool. No one responded to Tom’s email message when this issue was approached two years ago. Sam Behrends volunteered to evaluate the warming house for needed repairs. If he can't perform the repairs, he'll contact Tom to hire a carpenter to evaluate and perform necessary warming house maintenance later this year.
- There is a large outdated sign in the parking lot that is unnecessary. Tom will ask Paul Teska if the forestry department could remove the sign.
- Dave Olsen has perpetually been in charge of pit toilet 'cleaning' - and hopefully will continue.
- We switched to Sheldon Coop (Heartland Coop) as the propane provider June 2010, they are delivering a good service. We fill the tank during the summer (July) when rates are the lowest. The new propane tank near the storage shed will need to be filled once every few years while the ground is frozen.
Annual Fall Work Day: to be selected later this summer.
Website: Tom will continue to manage the website. Suggestions for further improvement of our Internet presence are always welcome. We could draw more visitors to our trail system if our members would provide more numerous and frequent trail condition updates to skinnyski.com
Ski Clinic: those in attendance appreciate the occasional ski clinics conducted by Steve and Jyneen Thatcher. Hopefully they can continue offering these teaching sessions. Sam Behrends suggested we consider coordinating 'ski weekends' to help draw more families.
Insurance: no changes anticipated, no discussion of this item.
We discussed area ski swaps. In November, Tom will send an email message to members to remind them of ski swaps at Spring Street Sports (Chippewa Falls) and Out There (Rice Lake).
To be carried over with additions as highlighted in bold
- Banquet Committee: Ron Jasperson, Patty McGown (chair)
- Fun Day / Full Moon Ski Committee: open
- Equipment Committee: Steve Gest, Bob Wieckowicz
- Fundraising: Jan Paulsen, Tom Paulsen, Dick Pebler
- Grooming and Trail Maintenance Committee: Frank Lowry, Steve Porn (chair)
- Ski Clinic Committee: open
- Snowshoe Trail: Dan Bjugstad, John Kann (chair)
- Website: Tom Paulsen (chair)
Motion to adjourn by Tom Paulsen, second by Ron Jasperson. Adjourned at 8:10 p.m.
Taken by Tom Paulsen, Secretary
A Listing of Active Committees
- Banquet Committee
- Fun Day / Full Moon Ski Committee
- Equipment Committee
- Fundraising Committee
- Grooming and Trail Maintenance Committee
- Ski Clinic
- Snowshoe Trail
- Website Committee