Another reason to visit the Afterhours TrailAs skiers glided over the snow at the Afterhours Trail in Brule Sunday afternoon, the steady tramp of feet on packed snow could be heard from the forest.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
As skiers glided over the snow at the Afterhours Trail in Brule Sunday afternoon, the steady tramp of feet on packed snow could be heard from the forest.
Snowshoers now have a place of their own at the Afterhours trail system.
Two new loops designed for snowshoeing were added this winter, with plans for a possible third trail next year.
“This has been in the works for probably five or six years; we’ve been talking about it,” said Gary Rutledge, a member of the Brule Valley Ski Club. “We just started last winter and snowshoed it — Cordell Manz and myself and Rhonda O’Leary — and we kind of laid it out were we wanted it.”
O’Leary, also a club member, always felt it was a shame people could not snowshoe as well as ski at the Afterhours trail system.
“Sometimes in families, some people ski and some people don’t,” she said. “I guess they were sending them three and a half miles down the road to snowshoe. This way, families can do their own thing and still gather together in the warming hut.”
The Afterhours Trail has long been a prime cross country ski destination, and trail managers believe the addition of snowshoe loops will draw a more diverse group of visitors. At Sunday’s grand opening event, everyone from elementary school children to grandparents came to snowshoe.
“It seems like we’re getting some fairly decent use,” said ranger Kevin Feind. “You see people out here in the parking lot, but you get back on the trail and you never see anyone.”
When Feind groomed the ski trails before the snowshoe grand opening, he was surprised to see about half a dozen sets of snowshoe track at the crossings. O’Leary had a similar experience when she walked to trails with some friends to pack down the snow for Sunday’s event.
“Someone had already been through before I got here,” O’Leary said. “So it’s being used, and I think it’s well enough marked that with the blue markings and your trail map you should be able to get through even if it’s not packed down.”
Two loops, both starting at the trail parking lot, are now available for snowshoe use at the Afterhours Trail. The shorter Fox Loop, .8 mile roundtrip, takes hikers through an aspen forest with only a few dips and climbs. The 2.2-mile Coyote Loop follows the same route before branching off and leading snowshoers through spruce and hemlock forests.
“There’s some talk about trying to extend another route down by the river,” Rutledge said. “I think the attraction out here is the river, so hopefully that will happen.”
The ski club will wait to see how much use the new snowshoe loops get before it a new trail down to the river, but Manz, president of the Brule Valley Ski Club, was optimistic another snowshoe route would eventually be put in leading to the Brule River.
About 30 people came to the Afterhours Trail for the grand opening event. The snowshoe trail itself reflected the diversity of its users, as the long, dragging strides of traditional shoes mingle with the spiked imprints the metal trail shoes. Any type of snowshoe can be used on the Afterhours loops, but those without grips may want to carry poles to take on the hills of the 2.2-mile Coyote Loop.
Chloe Manz ventured over to the Afterhours Trail to test out the new loops with her son Sunday. She enjoyed her hike on the Fox Loop, but with her custom-made wood and rawhide Ojibwa-style snowshoes, she found the Afterhours snowshoe trails a bit slick. She said her shoes are better suited for deep snow than the hills and packed snow of the Afterhours loops.
“I fell twice,” she said. “I started sliding and I couldn’t stop myself.”
Despite taking a tumble, Manz still raved about the Afterhours trail system.
“This is a fantastic facility. Everything they’ve got here is fabulous,” she said.
A state trail pass is required to ski or snowshoe the Afterhours Trail.