Boundary Waters, Trip Reports, BWCA, Stories

Kekekabic Trail Run
by Cedarleaf

Trip Type: Hiking
Entry Date: 10/13/2020
Entry Point: Other
Exit Point: Other  
Number of Days: 1
Group Size: 1
Trip Introduction:
Yesterday I completed a goal I set for myself back around the time COVID19 forced us all inside, sequestered away from family and friends. It’s been a hard few months. For 7 months I’ve been running hard, focused on running the Kekekabic through the heart of the BWCA with a couple of very good friends. As the year of CoVid19 goes (everything is always uncertain! Bah!), those friends ultimately couldn’t make it and had to abandon the run a few days before we were going to run it. I decided I’d still do it, because I wanted to control my destiny during CoVid19 and not wait around for the world to eat me up with anxiety, uncertainty and cancelled dreams.
Bit of a Warning:

The Kek is a very rough run and it should not be attempted alone unless you have properly trained to be on your feet 12+ hours and have a good ultra-running-base. There is no "bug-out" option on the Kek other than getting out yourself, on your own feet. Sure-- you can SOS the Garmin InReach, but then you're sending a helecopter into the BWCA and costing yourself $$$$. You should also have some Wilderness First Aid training (here is an excellent set of videos ACEP WILDERNESS MEDICINE) due to the remoteness and difficulty of the Kek, there is a high probability of injury--so you should know how to treat yourself with what you have (as in if you break an ankle--what do you do?)
Also, as with the whole BWCA, the Kekekabic is a LEAVE NO TRACE PLACE -- so all garbage must be carried out--every little gel wrapper, everything--I carried all my dang banana peels! --gross! ;)
Actual report:

Woke up at 4am, prepped my gear and my head-space. Drove up the Gunflint in the dark with drizzles and fog. Got set at the trailhead with my little running backpack, hugged my Dad (for the first time in 7 months!! -- dang COVID!), turned on my headlight and set off into the BWCA via the Kekekabic Trail. It had been abnormally dry up in the BWCA so most of the trail was pretty dry-- other than it rained/sleeted the day of. starting temp was about 40 with sprinkles. I didn't feel too cold because i was so excited and nervous!

First part of the run is pretty straight forward -- trail is easy to see and follow (FYI I also programmed the whole trail (way-points) into my Garmin watch). Once you get past the popular mine-- the trail gets much more rocky/harder to follow. The trail club has done a great job clearing the trail and the corridor was still easy to follow.

The "hills" section from about mile 8 to mile 20 is so tough. Whomever chose the Kek route, definitely went right for the hardest elevation gain. Felt like many portages I've faced in the last 30 years--no switchbacks, just straight up to the highest point... huge steps over boulders and slick sections of mud from the rain/sleet early in the day.

I stopped twice on the run to filter water and refill my water. The 2nd time I noticed some "floaters" in my bottle. I worried about giardia, but so far, no symptoms.
The silence out on the Kekekabic was absolutely stunning. I felt like I communed with the BWCA and time seemed to pass very quickly.

Miles 20 to 31 was my favorite part of the trail as it was generally flat slowly sloped downward.

Miles 32-39 we're still relatively easy-compared to the "hills" section of the trail, but at mile 36 there is some really difficult up and downs that just about broke my spirit. I was thankful for the running poles because I really needed to use my arms at that point. The poles also kept be from falling 20-30 times throughout the day. As I've noted before the Kek is really rough in parts and I almost fell many times only to be saved by the poles. I did fall about 1 mile before the finish and skinned my knee. --ouch!

The Kekekabic Trail is an incredibly beautiful and difficult trail. Every step of the 39.36 miles is a relentless rocky-slippery-off-kilter-up-down adventure. I can’t count the number of times I climbed almost straight up a muddy ridge to only head back down to a muskeg bog of orange and yellow larch. I communed with soul of the BWCA.

I carried all my own food (potato chips were essential at mile 32!) and filtered my water in hidden lakes that may never have had a canoe touch their waters. I experienced profound silence and refreshing wind through unbroken forests that stretched for miles and miles in every direction.

I cried with joy (many times!) and felt the pulse of the forest floor with every step.

The Kekekabic Trail is a treasure and should be protected at all costs. It is relentlessly tough from beginning to end. It is the heart of the BWCA and I am so thankful.

10 hours, 44 minutes, 11 seconds = 39.3 miles
16.22 per mile average
5,499 elevation gain

What I carried (in an Ultimate direction backpack/vest and waist-belt):

1 extra pair of wool socks
1 merino wool had
1 set of arm warmers
1 Garmin inreach mini
1 Kek Trail guide
1 - sawyer water filter (bag version)

3 - Maurteen gels
4 - Cliff cubes - packages
3 - bananas
1 - small bag of potato chips
2 - peanut butter and honey sandwiches (never ate-- as a backup if I got injured)
1 - small bag of peanuts/raisins/m&ms (never ate-- as a backup if I got injured)

1 - Emergency blanket
1 - extra battery
1 - headlamp
2 - running poles
2 - garbage bags - (1 for food waste, 1 for rain jacket)
1 - waterproof matches
1 - lighter
1 - couple of squares of TP
2 - gauze pads
1 - wrap (compression wrap)
1 - Swiss army knife
8 - Ibuprofen/ 3 tums/1 Loperamide/ 1 Oxycontin
3 - band-aids
1 - Small body glide
1 - small roll of duct tape
4 - KT tape strips
2 - extra gopro batteris
1 -gopro (on chest mount)

Here is a Video of the run:


Here is proof of the run: