With Wayne off on a mission to find a boat and go fishing with my dad and Cory, I decided I'd tackle a section of the Superior Hiking Trail. Detailed information about the trail is hard to find on the internet (is no one in Minnesota blogging about their hikes?) but there is a store in Two Harbors with merchandise and information about the trail. None of the information is free and my mother made the mistake of writing on what she thought was a free pamphlet and the gent behind her bought her $1 mistake for her since she hadn't brought her purse.
|Loaded up with camera gear and raring to go!|
Armed with our $1 map (no more information than a line on a piece of paper, really) we headed to the road where the trailhead was located for the section that I wanted to hike. I planned to go 9 miles from Castle Danger to Gooseberry Falls and have my mother pick me up later.
|lots of lichen on the trail|
I was so excited that I didn't really give the sign I posed at more than a glance. All I did really notice was that it didn't say Gooseberry Falls but I thought maybe it was because there would be a sign farther along with additional destinations. There was also a sign hanging across the trail entrance warning of a water crossing ahead with details on how to go around via the road for thru hikers that didn't want to get wet but I had on my waterproof Lowa boots so I was all for it.
|Sudden drop-off at the top, better pay attention!|
The first half mile was a narrow track through the muck and trees but I wanted to go slow and not miss anything. Good thing I was going slow because the trail stopped at a sudden drop-off and a stairway was built in to the side of the rocky ravine after navigating a few outcrops of rocky "stairs".
At the bottom was a bridge crossing Crow Creek and the view down the ravine was pretty cool. I didn't even mind the slope I had to climb on the other side. I thought it looked like a fun adventure and assumed that most of the rest of the hike would be not as steep.
|loose rock, step carefully!|
From there it was a continuous roller coaster of gradual uphill swings until I was at the top and looking out over Lake Superior from what I assume is Red Pine Overlook. I of course would know none of this if not for the sign I thoughtlessly posed in front of. It was the only sign on the 5.3 mile trail section besides the blazes.
Again the day was relentlessly sunny and I took off my hat and draped it around my neck to let the heat out from my head for awhile. By the time I got to the lookout it was gone, dropped along the way. I thought about going back a ways to look for it and decided it was my least favorite hat anyway and I was going too slow as it was.
I thought for sure now that I was "at the top" the going would get easier and I could pick up the pace but the trail was barely a trail and with every step I was picking over rocks and roots and other obstacles which slowed me down quite a bit. I stopped for a rest even though I felt the clock ticking. I even got to watch some little blue butterflies swirling around. Similar to the Karner Blue, but without any orange spots and not as vibrantly blue. I don't know what they were, but they were so tiny that those "sticks" in the picture are dried pine needles.
Eventually what goes up must come down and it was time to cross Encampment River. I checked my phone for the picture at the trailhead and was dismayed to realize I had still only gone 2.6 miles. They were hard miles! No way was I going to be able to do 9 miles that day unless the terrain got much easier.
|I only got wet up to my ankles, thanks to my hiking stick|
Safely across the river I wearily eyed the trail as it ascended yet another steep climb. Up, and up, and up I went, getting so hot and exhausted that halfway up I had to stop in the shade and remove my shirt to let myself cool down for a few minutes. No worries, the woods were so quiet that I doubt even a squirrel saw me and got shocked to see a lady lounging around in her sports bra.
More views and a short stretch where the walking was a little easier. By this point I was checking Google Maps and confused as to why it was showing I was south of my departure point instead of north of it.
It took me awhile to figure it out, but there must have been two different trailheads within the parking lot, one going north and one going south. How did we miss the other one? The trail had started out in the right direction but then taken a sharp turn according to the map and then recrossed the road the lot was on a little further up. I only crossed 3 roads and none of them were marked like they are on the Ice Age Trail. Something I took for granted in Wisconsin could have saved me a lot of trouble here in Minnesota. If there had been a sign stating the name of the road I would have known quite a bit sooner that I was going the wrong way.
|First time I've seen Morels in the wild!|
Slightly embarrassed that I'd been laboring in the wrong direction, the fun was definitely gone out of the hike that I'd been struggling to enjoy as it was. Between the picture from the trailhead on my phone and Google Maps I figured I had roughly another 2 miles to go before I could get out to a road and have my mother pick me up. Rough turned out to be an apt word, first there were more ups and downs to tackle.
|More like rock climbing than a hike in some spots!|
Left knee throbbing, back sweaty, I finally made it to Route 613 and called my mom to come get me. I walked another 0.8 miles on the lovely and flat downhill dirt road. Who knew I'd ever be so happy to see a dirt road? Seems like I'm always learning lessons on these hikes. Stow away your hat more securely, make sure you don't leave your hiking stick leaning against a tree, and oh yeah, read the signs and make sure you're heading in the right direction!