Robin Baker Blueberry Hills Trails Systems

Robin BakerIn December my uncle Robin Baker received a special honor from the Itasca County Trails Task Force (ICTTF) and the Deer River City Council. They approved a motion to add his name to all of the city’s ski, horseback, ATV and snowmobile trails, which will now be known as the “Robin Baker Blueberry Hills Trails Systems.”

“Robin has been a driving force in the success of trail sports in our area and has been especially influential in the lives of the youth in the Deer River area and beyond,” said a letter from Steve Feyma, ICTTF Chair, as reported in the Western Itasca Review. The task force said “the ski trails were his baby,” and boy were they right about that. It all started more than 25 years ago when Robin coached the ski team and it was the coach’s job to help take care of the trails. He went above and beyond the call of duty, dedicating countless volunteer hours over the past quarter century to develop, improve and maintain those trails.

I’m not sure why I never got out to Blueberry Hills before this, but I saw Robin’s devotion to the ski trails first-hand in 2012. Just before the Fourth of July that year, a devastating storm ripped through the area. My father went with Robin to help clear the trails, and my sister and I joined them one day. I’ve included some photos at the bottom of this post, and here’s a Haiku to describe what we saw:

Once tidy ski trail
Cluttered mess, a hoarder’s house
Packed full with downed trees

We worked so hard that hot July day, and we cleared a ton of trees, but we barely made a dent in the miles of trails within that system. And what we did was barely a fraction of what Robin has done over the years. As tiring as the work was, I understood why Robin spends so much time in the woods. It was a peaceful day filled with satisfying work, and I felt a connection to the past. Here’s another Haiku I wrote to remember a place on the trail where Robin showed me evidence of those who passed through these woods before us:

Path shadows ski trail
Man-made gulley through big woods
Winter road of yore

Unlike those original settlers, at least we had chainsaws to speed up our work. It was clear Robin was on a mission to get those clogged trails cleared before winter, and his passion was inspiring. Eventually, through his efforts with the City Forester, funding was secured and a contractor helped with the task. But something tells me if that hadn’t happened, Robin would have been out there with his chainsaw until the last branch was cleared.

Quite a lot has changed since that day in the woods in July 2012. This past October, Uncle Robin was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer. He and Aunt Brenda have as much appreciation and respect for nature as anyone I know, and something tells me all the time they have spent communing in the woods will serve them well as they face mortality head on. While Robin still walks this earth with us, it’s pretty cool that he, his family and his friends heard the thrilling news that his name will be branded on Blueberry Hill (we all knew it was indelibly inscribed there anyway). No one could have volunteered more time and energy to deserve that honor more than you, Robin. Congratulations!

Update 2/13/14: Robin was named “Volunteer of the Year” by the Deer River Nordic coaches. The two nomination letters tell a lot about his dedication to not only the ski trails, but also the youth in the community; click here to read the letters.

Robin cutting trees

Wall of TreesSki TrailKrisDave Barb Robin


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