Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tracy Ridge Part 2

As promised at the end of Tracy Ridge Part 1, I would be doing a second post about ideas for getting people to hike at Tracy Ridge. I believe that having two loop trails with overlooks of the Allegheny River should be attracting many people to go hiking at Tracy Ridge. During the Fall Colors Season, the parking lot at Tracy Ridge should be full of cars. Here are some ideas to make that happen.

The Map is Crap
Have you looked at the map of the trails at Tracy Ridge? It is a really bad map for hiking. The overlook loops are shown really small, and there is no topography on the map. Also, there is no mileage on the map itself, you have to look at a separate chart for mileage.

View and print the map here:

And I also found a couple mistakes on the Tracy Ridge Map. Plus, the map doesn’t print out very well for the people at home. It is a good overall map for Tracy Ridge, but if the Forest Service wants more people to hike to the overlooks, perhaps they should have a map just for the overlook trails.  Fortunately, there is a Map Illustrator in the house.

That would be me. I have done several map illustrations including 42 maps for “The Guide to the North Country Trail in Minnesota.”  I have created a new map that features the Overlook Trails in Tracy Ridge. 

you can view and print the map here:
Now, I have taken some liberties being the map illustrator. I believe every trail and campsite should have a name. I was unable to find names for the two loops to the overlooks, so I made up names. The names that I called them are the “North Reservoir Overlooks Loop” and the “South Reservoir Overlooks Loop.” The names actually describe why you should hike the trails. It’s because you want to see the overlooks of the Allegheny Reservoir. I feel that the name “South Reservoir Overlooks Loop” is better than calling it the Junction 13 to Junction 15 Trail. It’s nice that the trail junctions are labeled; especially since there are several trail junctions and sometimes there are also clusters of trail junctions. But actually having a name for the trail gives the trail a little more character and can describe the trail. (Update: apparently, there are no overlooks on the overlook trail because they have been allowed to fill in.  The Forest Service needs to go down the hill and clear out the overlooks again.)

Also, according to the North Country Trail map of the area, there is a campsite at the bottom of the Tracy Run Trail near where the Tracy Run Creek goes into the Allegheny Reservoir. I decided to add that campsite to the map and call it the “Tracy Outlet” campsite. And there is a trail that goes between Johnnycake Trail and Tracy Trail up on the plateau. I decided to call that the Cut Across Trail. And the Trail that goes south from Junction 4, I have decided to call the Sugar Bay Connector Trail because it goes in the direction of Sugar Bay.

have a map box at the Trailhead and the Campground
Perhaps the trails already have names that I don’t know about.  If so, I would be happy to revise the map.  If there is other information that is needed on the map, I can make the changes.  Apparently, according to one video I saw on the internet, there is a trail where you have to ford a creek.  If so, I would like to add that information to the map.  Also, I have rounded off the mileage for the trails.  The Forest Service lists the mileage from Junction 10 to Junction 9 as 0.87 miles.  I really don’t think you have to go to so much detail as listing the mileage in hundredths of miles.In that case, .9 miles is more than good enough.
Amerigo Vespucci
 Yes, I have taken some liberties with the map by making up names for places. But that’s the Great American Tradition. We are the United States of America. The name America was created by mapmaker Amerigo Vespucci who called it the latin version of his first name. Fortunately, Amerigo didn’t use his last name or else we’d be known as the Vest Pukers. 

I need the Forest Service to look at the map and let me know what changes are needed. I will make the changes then ask the Forest Service to approve the map.

Group Campsites are needed for Real Groups 
Yes, you can reserve a group campsite at Tracy Ridge. What happens is that you can reserve a camping loop. The loop can have a maximum of 168 people, 42 cars and costs $50 a night. I’ve never seen a Boy Scout Troop with 168 people and 42 cars. Instead, a normal Boy Scout Troop might need a campsite for 15 tents and 5 cars.
You can rent a whole loop for your group at Tracy Ridge
 So, I propose that the Forest Service create such group campsites by combining 3 or 4 regular campsites.  They would have to remove some of the vegetation between those campsites to make it a more open area and have more tent pads.  For individual campsites it’s good to have vegetation between the campsites for some privacy.  But for Group Campsites, a wide open area with clear sight lines is needed so the Scout Leaders can see what’s happening around the campsite. 
My illustration of combining several individual campsites into group campsites.
 And it is perfectly all right to have one or two spaces for an RV to be included with a group campsite.  Sometimes Groups like to have a RV to cook in.  This is the case with the Heritage Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, which I am a member.   

My Sister and her family cooks for the Heritage Chapter using an RV site next to the Group Camp at Copper Falls
 We camp at a Group Campsite that has room for about 12 tents and we park a camper nearby for our cook.  This would work well for family campouts.  Plus, Boy Scout Troops often have Troop Trailers.  A RV pad would work well as a place to park the Troop Trailer.

a Troop Trailer at a campsite
 Again, I would combine 3 or 4 campsites for a group campsite. Since the Tracy Ridge Campground is usually only 10% full, it really wouldn’t matter too much if you combined a few campsites. I would charge around $30 a night for those campsites. This would still be very reasonable for Boy Scout Troops with only 10 people and would be very reasonable for Boy Scout Troops with 30 people. The Forest Service would probably make more money from this than selling a whole loop for $50 because it will get used more often.

These Group Campsites would work well for Boy Scout Troops, Girl Scout Groups, Church Groups, School Groups, Family Campouts and other groups. The reason I mainly refer to Boy Scouts is that I am very familiar with them from being a Scoutmaster for 10 years. I think the group campsites that I am describing definitely would attract Boy Scout Troops. The main reason is because Boy Scouts need to hike. One of the requirements for Second Class is the following:

“Using a compass and map together, take a 5-mile hike (or 10 miles by bike) approved by your adult leader and your parent or guardian.”

Tracy Ridge is the perfect place for a 5 mile hike. All you have to do is hike from the campground, do one of the Reservoir Overlooks loops to and hike back to the Campground, and you have completed over 5 miles.

Hiking Merit Badge
 Also, Hiking Merit Badge is on the list of required Merit Badges for the Eagle Rank.  For Hiking Merit Badge, a Scout must do 5 hikes in the following order:  one 5 mile hike, three 10 mile hikes and one 15 mile hike.  After all those are done the Scout must do a 20 mile hike in one day.  Tracy Ridge is a perfect spot to do some of those hikes.  Plus Boy Scouts need to do Service Projects to complete their Rank Requirements, so, maybe some of the Troops will adopt a section of trail.

Having Group Campsites like I have described is one advantage the Tracy Ridge Campground would have over the Willow Bay Campground, which has no Group campsites.  Boy Scout Troops could always hop in their cars and go down to Willow Bay for swimming.  They don’t mind driving around a little bit if they have an inexpensive place to camp.

If the Forest Service does make some Group Campsites by combining several regular campsites, they should send out a press release to every Boy Scout and Girl Scout Council in the Region. Boy Scout Troops are always looking for new places to camp, so I’m sure many Troops will be headed to Tracy Ridge. Also send out the press releases to all the newspapers in the region.
Bullwinkle and Rocky at Wossamotta U
 And here’s one more idea for the Group Campsites that I am proposing. The Forest Service should allow groups doing trail maintenance to use those campsites for free. Let’s say the Outdoor Club at Wossamotta U wants to come for a weekend to maintain trails. The Forest Service should just let them camp at one of these Group Campsites for free. Wossamotta U is Rocky And Bullwinkle’s Alma Mater, so naturally their students are interested in animals and the environment.

Tracy Ridge Hiking Festival

How about having a Hiking Festival at Tracy Ridge? The Itasca Moraine Chapter of the North Country Trail has been having a hiking fest at Itasca State Park for the last 10 years. It may not be the biggest festival in the world, but it attracts people interested in hiking, and it also garners some news coverage. Check out this story on a TV newscast:

Maybe some organizations like Friends of the Allegheny Wilderness, the Allegheny Chapter of the North Country Trail and the Allegheny National Forest could join together and organize such an event.  I wouldn’t expect it to cost too much to put on because the main activity is guided hikes.  Perhaps, they would need to rent a party tent for presentations, food, etc. You might want to get some porta potties, too, if the party tent is located too far from the Campground Latrines. The groups holding the event could set up their own pop up tents for displays, etc.  

The Heritage Chapter of the North Country Trail has a booth at the Copper Falls Harvest Festival
 Matt Davis, Minnesota Regional Coordinator for the North Country Trail Association wrote in a email to me about their hiking fest.

            “We've had as many as 200 participants over the last 10 years at Itasca but it's never been all at once...meaning they participate in various activities scheduled throughout the day….  Our guided long hikes have drawn anywhere from 20-50 people. We have picked up a few new members from the event and possibly a few volunteers but the biggest goals are 1) promotion of the trail and 2) promotion of the NCTA and what we do.”

Do I think a Tracy Ridge Hiking Fest could attract 200 people? Well, not maybe the first time around, but in future years it could become a tradition with over 200 people. The Hiking Fest at Itasca gets more people because there are lots of people already visiting the park and some wander into the Hiking Fest. The same cannot be said of Tracy Ridge. They hold the Hiking Fest at Itasca in late August. But if Tracy Ridge did a Hiking Fest during the Fall Colors time period, it could be quite popular.
Zach Johns on the Lakeland Television News
Plus, the Tracy Ridge Hiking Fest would be an opportunity to have Tracy Ridge get some coverage in local newspapers and even TV stations.  All you need is an enthusiastic hiker spokesperson like Zach Johns


There probably will be a Tracy Ridge Part 3 eventually
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