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Border Route Trail Guide Needs Updating

Reviewing: M Scott & C Hoffman The Border Route Trail Guide And Map  |  Rating:
Joan Young By Joan Young on
Badge: Editor | Level: 34 | Travel Gear & Planning Expertise:
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This is the only guide in existence to the Border Route Trail, so it is better than nothing, but it is so out of date that it’s nearly useless.

This spring a group of us hiked the northernmost section of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which includes the Border Route Trail and Kekekabic Trail. These trails have been in the news some in recent years due to people getting lost on them, particularly after the Ham Lake fire swept through the area in 2007. However, the trail adopter group has been working very hard to clear blowdowns and restore marking where allowed (not in the designated wilderness) to make it easier to find.

Although I knew this book was out of date I felt that I should make use of the information it had since at least some of it was bound to be correct. That’s the kindest thing I can say about it: some of the information is correct.

This guide was last updated in 1999. That is simply too long ago to be of use in an area that has changed as much as the northwoods of Minnesota.

The guide is written in a narrative fashion, which is more entertaining than really helpful to a hiker. This style is particularly poor if you are trying to hike in the direction opposite from that in which the guide was written. There is a lot of interesting but extraneous information about wildlife, etc. The photos are all black & white and not very good.

The book does begin with some history of the trail and the group, the Rovers, who began to build the trail in 1970. The route, however, is much older, with it’s roots in Native American and Voyageur routes. A song from the early 1900's even celebrates the trail, demonstrating it’s long history.

The maps are based on topographical maps, in black and white, at 1:100, 000 (I think) scale. The text is very small on them. We did find the maps to be helpful while hiking (I copied them out of the book), since the route at that scale hasn’t changed too much, and there really aren’t other maps. There are a couple of GPS tracks available from individuals.

If you plan to hike this trail, you probably will need to buy this book for the maps, if nothing else. But for more up-to-date narrative, see the North Country Trail Association Wiki guide.