Lake County Demonstration Forest remains a hidden trail jewel

Beneath the well-marked trails and neat log cabin-style outhouses, there's buried history in Lake County's Donald D. Ferguson Demonstration Forest Area.

Beneath the well-marked trails and neat log cabin-style outhouses, there's buried history in Lake County's Donald D. Ferguson Demonstration Forest Area.

"There's an old railroad trestle buried beneath the ground," said Wayne Seidel of the Lake County Forestry Department as he pointed out a subtle ridge in the landscape.

History reveals itself above the surface as well, in the remains of an old homestead and foundations of railroad camp buildings.

Lake County Forestry has been continually improving and adding features to the Demonstration Forest, which is about five miles north of Two Harbors on the Drummond Grade, but Seidel said it still is often overlooked by tourists and locals.

The forest was created in 2001, the brainchild of Donald D. Ferguson, a longtime Lake County resident and forester. He proposed the idea of a 400-acre forest to be used for educational purposes.


"He owned land just north of the forest," Seidel said. "He would always drive by and he knew about all the history there. He started putting together a group of people who could make [his idea] happen."

A 10-person Demonstration Forest Committee, involving the Lake County Forestry Department, the Department of Natural

Resources and the Lake County Highway Department, worked on the project. It was paid for by grants and donations.

What can a forest demonstrate? "It's an example of how modern forestry practices can be a benefit not only to wood producers and industry, but also recreation and wildlife," Seidel said.

The forest contains four small hiking loops and a portion of the Superior Hiking Trail. Visitors can take a self-guided tour to 23 points of interest -- from rivers and wildlife openings to the remains of the Pepperlin homestead, complete with a plum orchard.

The North Shore State Snowmobile Trail runs through the forest, a new ATV trail is being built, and parts of the hiking trails can be used for skiing in the winter.

Recent upgrades to the forest include more parking spaces, a half-mile of additional trails and two new restrooms. And they are no ordinary outhouses. The restrooms are equipped with solar lights and have log cabin-style paneling on the outside.

About 240 more acres were added to the park last year, bringing the total to 480 acres. Seidel said the committee has hopes of building a pavilion structure with a warming area for winter visitors, if they can find the money.


Seidel said the forest is designed for all visitors, but it's especially family friendly.

"We designed the trail in smaller loops, so it's different than the Superior Hiking Trail, which is a linear trail," Seidel said. "It's a less aggressive hike that's great for kids."

The trails in the Demonstration Forest also are quieter and less heavily trafficked than some of the popular sections of the Superior Hiking Trail along the North Shore.

"I met with a couple visiting from Rochester, and they loved hiking the trails," Seidel said. "They appreciated learning about the history of the area and the natural resource features by following along in the brochure ... and they will be back."

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