Friday, July 22, 2016

Cooling off at the Beach at Park Point

My weekend has not gone at all like I had planned. I had grand plans of hiking a few sections of the Superior Hiking Trail that had not yet been completed when Noelle and I left Duluth about 5 years ago. On Wednesday night I attended the evening program of a colleague and camped at the Woodenfrog State Forest Campground for the night. In the middle of the night a nasty storm rolled through. There was lots of wind and some rain and lightning, but altogether not too bad. I had survived.

I packed up camp in the morning and started to make the drive south to Duluth. By the time I reached Hermantown I started to notice a lot of trees downed along the side of the highway. Traffic lights were out all along Highway 53 in Hermantown. It was starting to look like a change of plans was in the cards. Rather than drive to the trailhead in the far northeast part of Duluth, (which seemed to be one of the areas that the storm had hit hardest) I opted to head to Brighton Beach.

At the east entrance to Brighton Beach a pair of trees blocked the way and so I headed over to the west entrance. I parked in some shade and got the bike off the back of my car.
Brighton Beach
I decided to ride the Lakewalk, which had been extended to Brighton Beach since we left Duluth, down to Canal Park. The ride was warm, and mostly uneventful.
lakewalk sign
There were a few sections of trail blocked by fallen trees,
blocked trail
but overall the trail was remarkably passable. I did notice some new construction going on that was very visible from the trail.
mile marker and construction
When I arrived in Canal Park I opted to try the Canal Park Brewing Company for lunch. The food was okay, not great but not terrible; and the beer was unremarkable.

After lunch I walked around for a bit and then got back on the bike for the ride back to the car at Brighton Beach. On the way I got to race the North Shore Scenic Railway!
North Shore Scenic Railway
I then headed to Jay Cooke State Park where I would spend the night.

This morning I decided to give the Superior Hiking Trail a try. I somehow navigated through Duluth like I had never left and found downed trees at the trailhead parking area and a large aspen tree blocking the first 10 feet of trail. Things were not looking good for a hike on the SHT and so I headed out to Park Point to cool off at the beach. Once I had arrived I opted to hike the trail that leads through the pines and the Minnesota Point State Natural Area.
natural area sign
There were some nice views across Allouez Bay to the docks at Superior.
big ship
There were a few wildflowers blooming, notably milkweed
milkweed
and harebells.
harebells

I made my way through the dunes
dune trail
to the ruins of the old Minnesota Point Lighthouse.
lighthouse ruins
I then continued on to more ruins, this time ruins of an old boathouse
boathouse
and another small building,
ruins
perhaps an outhouse. Both were covered in graffiti.
face
open door
I had made this hike about 5 years before with Noelle, her mom and her Aunt Lisa. There's a bit more graffiti on the walls of the boathouse now.  Soon I found myself at the end of Minnesota Point and my turnaround for the hike. I opted to hike the beach back to the car.
shoreline
However, that meant that I had to wade through some muddy water and bash through some brush. All that work had made me hot and so I cooled off in the refreshing waters of Lake Superior.
relaxing at the beach
I also saw some bird on the way back to the car: 3 bald eagles (2 immature,
eagle flying
one adult), a great blue heron and a belted kingfisher.

When I had finally arrived back at the car I was hungry for lunch. I decided to go to the Brewhouse at Fitger's for a wild rice burger and a beer. Then it was a long drive back to International Falls.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Photos of the Day: Fishing Rainy Lake

After dinner we decided to head to the next-door neighbors' dock and try a little bit of fishing. We did not manage to catch any fish, but it was enjoyable to be outside on a fine evening nonetheless.
Sierra and Mommy fishing
Noelle fishing 3

Friday, July 15, 2016

Voyageurs National Park: Black Bay Beaver Pond Trail and Rainy Lake City

We had another great family adventure today. We headed out on Black Bay and crossed the water
headed to Beaver Pond Trail
over to the Kabetogama Peninsula to hike the Black Bay Beaver Pond Trail. Along the way we saw a huge snapping turtle swimming in the water just feet from the canoe. We pulled up to the dock at the trailhead
trailhead
and hit the trail with some water, an empty plastic container, our Hike to Health book and a crayon.

The trail started off in thick woods
hiking the Black Bay Beaver Pond Trail
and quickly crossed over a portion of the Black Bay Ski Trail system. Then the trail climbed to some exposed rock outcrops where there was plenty of sunlight and lots of blueberries!
blueberries
We started to fill our container.
Sierra picks berries
Besides the blueberries there were some harebells in bloom.
harebells
harebells 2
After picking berries in certain areas for a while we would move on
hiking the ridge
and then find more berries and stop to pick. At the end of the trail we found a nice overlook of a large beaver pond,
Beaver Pond
but the lodge did not look to be in use anymore.

We turned around and started to make our way back to the trailhead, stopping every now and then to pick more blueberries.
looking for blueberries
By the time we had finished our berry picking, we had quite the haul!
berry pot
We got back into the canoe and paddled further away from the boat ramp to the site of Rainy Lake City. In the 1890s Rainy Lake City boasted a population of over 500 residents. Today, all that remains is a log structure,
Rainy Lake City Site
reputed to be the site of a saloon during the prohibition era. We went inside to investigate a little
inside teh old saloon
and then headed back to the canoe to start to make our way back to the boat ramp.
dock at Rainy lake City
yellow flowers

On the way back we stopped at a small sand beach to get out and stick our feet in the water. There were some leeches swimming here and there, but they were not too bothersome. We used Sierra's net to try and catch some aquatic life,
Noelle with net
but all we managed to catch were leeches
leech on finger
and a minnow. Looking in the sand
Sierra with rock
we found a few interesting items: a metal part, a small piece of porcelain,
porcelin
and some fragments of brick. There was also a piece of pipe sticking out of the vegetation nearby.
wierd pipe
Could these items be vestiges of Rainy Lake City?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Lake Bemidji State Park: Bog Walk

I've had a rough week at work. I worked 8 straight days without a break and things have been a bit stressful lately. I felt like I just needed to get out of town for a day. Noelle agreed a trip to Bemidji might do us some good. We packed up the car and hit the road headed southwest through a good portion of  Koochiching County, through a small part of Itasca County and into Beltrami County. We stopped at Lake Bemidji State Park where we ate lunch in the picnic area overlooking the lake and swimming area.
eating lunch and looking at the lake
milkweed
Sierra on beach
After lunch we checked out the small visitor center and then headed out to start our hike.

The hike began on an old logging road.
on the Bog Trail
It was wide and smooth and easy to hike. We saw a chipmunk that showed no fear of us
chipmunk
and continued our hike passing several different types of wildflowers in bloom.
purple flowers
more flowers
st johnwort
 curving trail
mint flowers
Soon enough we came to the start of the bog walk trail which was mostly boardwalk.
Mommy and Sierra
The bog walk was very impressive. There were lots of pitcher plants
pitcher plants
and many of them had flowers.
pitcher plant flower
There were other flowers in bloom
maroon flower
including orchids.
orchid
I thought the sundew were the most impressive of the plants we saw.
sundew
They were much smaller than I had imagined.

The trail made its way through some tamaracks
tamarack
and ended at an overlook of a bog fringed lake.
bog lake
We retraced our steps back to the car
still on the trail
and headed into Bemidji. We played at the playground near Paul Bunyan and Babe
Paul and Babe
and then walked downtown a bit, heading to the Bemidji Brewing Company.
Bemidji Brewing
I wasn't expecting much, but the beers were really good. I thoroughly enjoyed my Summer IPA and Noelle enjoyed her porter. After about an hour in the brewery we got dinner and then ended our day with ice cream at the really excellent ice cream parlor, Big River Scoop near Paul and Babe. On the way home, Sierra sat in the back seat and chanted "Take me to Bemidji!" I never thought I would see this day.