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ASH RIVER RECREATIONAL TRAIL KABETOGAMA STATE FOREST

LENGTH 4.1 miles

TIME 2:15

DIFFICULTY Moderate

ROUTE-FINDING Easy-Moderate

MAPS & PERMITS DNR Kabetogama State Forest map. USGS quads: Baley Bay and Ash River SW. No permit is required.

GETTING THERE Drive east from Country State Highway 53 on County Road 129 for 5.8 miles to the parking area on the right side of the road.

TRAILHEAD GPS 48° 23′ 10.3″ N 92° 52′ 31.5″ W

There are times when a hike has no panoramic views to revel in, when the forest presents no windows to the outside world. Instead it confines you to a world within walls of trees. So often we want the big experience, like a spectacular view, in order to get the corresponding rush of emotion. We do this to the point that all else is seemingly insignificant. In these cases, hiking may become a series of blind walks from one vista to the next with little attention given to what lies in between. This hike, like several others in this book, has something different from what hikers might ordinarily demand of a good hike. While there are brief glimpses of the expansive coniferous forest from ridges along the way, I didn’t find the views to be as dramatic as those on other hikes. What I did discover was a splendor within the forest.

While walking a wide trail through a stand of towering aspens, with white birches and maples forming a devout congregation, the path suddenly became an aisle arcade. Like sunshine pouring through clerestory windows, beams of sunlight poured through breaks in the canopy overhead dappling the path. The lofty woods became a cathedral. Tree branches wove a delicate tracery for its walls. Puffs of wind lightly chanted psalms in the rustling aspen leaves, the music filling every corner of the lofty interior.

Aspen-White Birch-Maple Forest Community

The aspen-white birch-maple forest is one of a number of different types of forest communities found in northeastern Country. In 1971, Lewis F. Ohmann and Robert R. Ream described thirteen upland plant communities in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) based on the relative importance of certain tree species. While the route of this hike is not in the BWCAW, the plant communities Ohmann and Ream identified do not restrict themselves to that wilderness area. The aspen-white birch-maple community is characterized by an overstory of aspen and birch with a strong presence of maples in the understory. It is found anywhere from valleys to the upper slopes of ridges, as is the case on this hike. The community indicates a rich moist soil with a depth of from 20-40 inches to bedrock. With the suppression of forest fires, this community type will probably see an increase in dominance of the more shade-tolerant maples and spruces.

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