Kevin Klimczak had faced many obstacles by the half way point of his trail audit in Altona.
ALTONA - He's waded through swamps, worked his way down muddy and rutted trails, forded creeks, dealt with missing signs and was even pulled over by the RCMP who wondered why he was biking on the border road just north of the United States border.
In other words the first half of University of Manitoba student Kevin Klimczak's trail audit has been a great success.
Klimczak arrived in Altona on Sept. 16, after completing the first half of the roughly 1,300 km trail. He's doing it on his mountain bike, as a university project and a paid job with the Manitoba Recreational Trails Association.
He said the biggest issue he's seen is signage. In some cases the trail has been changed from the original 2005 map and the signage hasn't kept up. In other cases the signs are only placed at the turns, leaving users of the trail unsure of where exactly they are.
"There should be way finding signage at every intersection," he said. "They've left some gaps. It's not exactly easy going."
Part of the problem is likely because of how familiar the local groups that take care of trails are with where they go. They don't realize someone from outside the area might not be sure where to go. "When it's your own back yard it's not as noticeable," Klimczak said.
He attracted attention from the RCMP between Morden and Altona. Although the new trail runs at least a mile north of the border, the original map showed Road 0, (the border road) as the one to use. Klimczak said he decided to give that route a try.
"'They don't want people going down the border," he said with a chuckle. "Road 0 is kind of a security issue."
Klimczak was biking down the road when he saw the RCMP coming his way. He stopped and chatted with them, who he said explained someone had contacted Border Services who in turn contacted the RCMP to see what was going on.
Klimczak said the RCMP simply checked him out, and did not ask him to leave that trail.
Other issues along the way involve changes in property ownership. At one point near Roblin, Klimczak said he was surprised to see what was across the trail. "The trail went through private land and I (came up) to a barbed wire fence," he said.
In other cases the trail abruptly ended at a creek where a bridge should have been. Birds Hill Creek was one of several occasions when he had to get wet. "You've got to wade through water," he said.
A lot of small streams northeast of Morden also needed to be forded.
Other challenges included a portion of trail in Assessippi Provincial Park, where ATV's had made ruts in the path. ATV use is banned on that trail. "The trail's just trashed," Klimczak said.
His first day was the toughest however. A section of trail between two lakes had flooded, turning into a swamp.
"'The water was up to my knees, I couldn't even see the trail," he said, describing how he slowly made his way carrying his bike on his shoulders.
"I wasn't even done the first eight kilometres in four hours," he added.
There were many positive experiences along the way. Klimczak said the community of Sandy Lake (near Clear Lake) was a beautiful area.
He also cited the trail through Spruce Woods as one of his highlights, explaining the trail was a crushed limestone base.
"It's rolling hills and you barely have to pedal," he said.
But he saved his biggest praise for the area approaching Morden. "The trail is just beautiful there," he said. "It's mountain bike heaven."
Klimczak said it was both challenging and a fantastic experience cycling through the changing fall colours. "I really can't wait to get back there," he said.
Klimczak ended his week in Emerson and expects to finish his trip in the first week of October.