Leave No Trace talk at Hungarian Falls

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Maria Czyzio of Flushing, Michigan, takes a photo of the upper Hungarian Falls during a guided hike at the falls Tuesday night.

TAMARACK CITY — Two paths diverged in the woods by Hungarian Falls. The group of hikers, as instructed, took the one more traveled by.

While arguably the less poetic choice, it’s the one that better protects the trail.

The hike was part of Hungarian Falls Hot Spot Week, a joint activity of the Keweenaw Land Trust, which owns land at the site, and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, which promotes the responsible enjoyment of the outdoors.

Amanda Jameson and Junaid Dawud, a team in the Center’s Traveling Trainers program, spoke about steps people can take to preserve and enhance the beauty of the area for future visitors.

Dawud pointed out evidence of burned pallets and broken glass.

“Everybody’s got really good reasons to get outside and have a good time,” he said. “We don’t want to stop people from doing that, but hopefully we can get people to think about the next time they come back, do they want to be stepping on nails?”

Jameson said fire can scorch the soil for more than an inch down, killing off the microbes that help to replenish it.

There are other ways to avoid leaving an impact, they noted. Several spots on the trail had wide puddles. Those grow wider through time as more people step to the side to avoid them, causing erosion.

“This is one time where walking in the mud is good for you,” Dawud said.

In 2013, Keweenaw Land Trust purchased a 10-acre parcel at the falls in order to protect public access. That parcel includes the uppermost falls, a pond and a historic dam constructed in 1900 by Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. The rest of the site, including the middle and lower falls, is owned by the Department of Natural Resources.

Clay Hixson, an advocate for the falls who notified the KLT when it went on sale, led the tour and spoke about the spot’s importance. He grew up within walking distance of the falls, and spent much.

“Most of my fondest memories as a child were up here, with friends and family,” he said. “It’s still a special place to me now. I come here often. It’s quiet most of the time — not as quiet as it used to be, but still quiet.”

Beyond acquiring property, the Keweenaw Land Trust is also making ongoing improvements to the site, both through cleaning it up and making improvements to the site.

“The fires are less common than they used to be, but recognizing that people like to have campfires, we’ll see if we can work with that,” said Executive Director Evan McDonald. “So maybe we’ll build a designated fire ring out here, and that’s the way to contain that and let people know the right way to have fires here. We don’t want to say no to everything. We want to find what’s compatible with the site.”

Maria Czyzio of Flushing, Michigan, came up with her family to drop off their son at Michigan Technological University. She was impressed with the talk, and even more so by the view.

“Beautiful,” she said. “My god, it’s beautiful.”

Other events during Hungarian Falls Hot Spot Week:

• 7 p.m. Wednesday, Hungarian Falls: In addition to the Trainers’ talk about Leave No Trace techniques, Hungarian Falls: Erika Vye from Keweenaw Geoheritage will talk about the geology of the gorge. Meet at the upper trailhead on Golf Course Road. • 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Quincy Mine: A hike at the Quincy Mine, followed by a 7 p.m. presentation as part of the “History on the Hill” speaker series. The Trainers will discuss “Leave What You Find,” about the importance of not disturbing historical artifacts. Meet at the Quincy Mine Hoist off of US-41. • 4-7 p.m. Friday, Downwind Sports: A meet and greet with the Traveling Trainers at Down Wind Sports in Houghton. • 7 p.m. Saturday, Orpheum Theater: Stories from the Traveling Trainers about their journey, with live music from Keweenaw Brewgrass. Cost is $5 per person. • 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Hungarian Falls: Help out on various projects in the gorge, from invasive species removal to trail cleanup. Bring gloves, water, and grubby clothes for working outside. Meet at the upper trailhead on Golf Course Road.