Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gooseberry Falls State Park: Fifth Falls Loop

It was flurrying as we got into the car and headed up the North Coast. However, we lucked out and by the time we arrived at Gooseberry Falls State Park the clouds had parted and the sunshine and blue skies made their presence felt. We hiked upstream along the Gooseberry River to Fifth Falls and then back downstream on the opposite side of the river. When we got back to the visitor center area, we checked out the Middle and Lower Falls on the Falls Loop Trail.

After our hike was over we were hungry, so naturally we headed over to Betty's Pies for lunch. I got some cherry pie for dessert while Noelle opted for the Bumbleberry. Both were delicious. From Betty's, we headed south on 61 to Flood Bay wayside where we looked for Lake Superior Agates. We found many small ones, but no large ones. Another great day in the great outdoors.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Walking Tour of Duluth, Minnesota

It was raining pretty hard this morning, but a little bit after noon the sun came out. I felt I just had to take advantage of the sunshine, and so I grabbed Parker's leash and treats and we headed out the door for a long walk. I didn't really have a destination in mind when we first set out, but then I decided to check out the park with gazebo I'd seen a few days previously when driving along Mesaba. It turns out the park's name is Cascade Park, and while I did not see any cascades in the park, it did offer wonderful views of Duluth.
Cascade Park Gazebo

From Cascade Park, Parker and I headed further down the big hill to the Lakewalk and Canal Park. We had great timing too. We got there just as a 1,000 footer passed through the canal, and then we got to see a much shorter ship pass through as well. Parker seemed to enjoy the walking and he got a lot of attention from the people in the park as well.

Beluga Fidelity

From Cascade park it was a long uphill walk (a bit tough for Parker) back home. When we got there we were treated to the sight of a rainbow!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lester Park: The Deeps

Today Noelle, Parker, and I visited another one of Duluth's many excellent city parks. This time we headed east to Lester Park where two branches of the Lester River converge. Because the water here flows down rocky hillside creeks, there is plenty of scenery to look at on the walk. We started out on the trail and followed a branch of the river to the spot where the two branches converge and then headed upstream to what is called "The Deeps" where a fairly tall waterfall plunges into a deep pool. In the summertime swimmers are known to jump into the pool below the falls.

On a cool day like today, however, we saw no one attempting such a stunt.

It is a very pleasant, short hike though. Noelle wasn't feeling completely well and so we opted not to hie to "The Shallows." We'll have to save that for our next visit.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Jay Cooke State Park: CCC Trail and Thomson Pioneer Cemetery

Today was a beautiful day, and so I went back to Jay Cooke State Park. I didn't go alone today though, Noelle came with me. Before we set off on the trails though, we went to the Cozy Restaurant and Lounge for lunch. Noelle and I both got the same thing: the Cozy Sandwich. It was very good. Ham, turkey, melted cheddar, horseradish and cranberry sauce. Yum!

After lunch we hit the trail. We went to the suspension bridge to check things out before a short hike along the CCC trail. Then we hiked over to the Thomson Pioneer Cemetery before returning to the car. A great day to be outside.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Wisconsin Point

It was beautiful this morning, so I decided to go or a hike. I wanted to stay somewhat close to home and so decided on Wisconsin Point, a short drive away in Superior. I quickly grabbed my pack and drove off in the car, across the Blatnik Bridge and into Wisconsin. The drive was a little bit longer than I had expected, but the blue skies and relatively warm temperatures made today a great day for a hike. Despite the fact that it is Saturday, I saw few people as I hiked along the beach.

My destination was the Wisconsin Point Lighthouse. As I walked it seemed that no matter how much I hiked, the lighthouse got no further. I guess the walking on sand made the walking a bit more strenuous than I expected. After about an hour and a half I had made it. I walked out on the rocky breakwater to the lighthouse itself and then back to the beach. On the walk back I checked out the Ojibwe Burial Ground and then walked along the road and faint trails back to the car.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Jay Cooke State Park

I decided to go for a little hike today. I wanted to get a little ways out of Duluth for the hike, but didn't want to travel too far. I consulted my copy of Hiking Minnesota and found that the closest hike was in nearby Jay Cooke State Park. I'd hiked through a small portion of the park a few weeks ago when walking a portion of the Superior Hiking Trail, but today I wanted to see the main attraction of the park: the St. Louis River cascading its way through a narrow gorge of slate and graywhacke.

I drove I-35 to the Carlton exit, and found my way to the park via state highway 210. Wow! The drive along the river was quite spectacular. Even though the trees are past peak, there was still quite a bit of color left in most of the park. In other areas, however, it looked like winter already. I purchased a year Minnesota State Park Pass at the information center, affixed the sticker to my windshield, and then hit the trail crossing a foot suspension bridge across the river.

It was a dramatic hike along the river, but when the trail headed into the woods, the hike became quite a bit less exciting. It still felt good to be outside. When I returned back to my car I read some of the interpretive panels outside the information center and learned a little bit about Jay Cooke. He was a railroad baron from Philadelphia. When I returned home I did a little bit of research about him and learned that he built and owned a mansion named Ogontz not far from my boyhood home. He is also buried in Cheltenham Township. I will have to find out more about him next time I visit my parents.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Superior Hiking Trail: Bagley Overlook to Martin Road

i have now officially hiked the entire Duluth segment of the Superior Hiking Trail. Today I drove to the western-most end of the Duluth Segment on Martin Road, parked the car, and started hiking. The trail was pretty flat and so the hiking went pretty fast. I soon found myself on Vermilion Road for a nearly mile long road walk. It actually wasn't too bad though, traffic was very light and the fall colors were spectacular.

After the road walk I found myself inside Hartley Park. It is a nice little park that reminds me a little bit of McConnell Springs without quite so many invasives. From Hartley the trail hit another short road section and then headed into UMD's Bagley Preserve. Once inside the preserve the trail climbed steeply up to the overlook to which I had hiked a few days before. I stopped at the overlook, ate a snack, and then took a photo of myself since I had now completed hiking the Duluth SHT.

My hike for the day, however, was not over. I still had to retrace my steps back to my car. The hike back was uneventful. It feels good to be done. I may go back to Jay Cooke State Park before it snows to finish the section of trail (for some reason its not listed as part of the Duluth Segment) there.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Park Point

The more time I spend in Duluth, the more and more I like this city. Even though it's much smaller that our former home of Lexington, Kentucky it feels so much more like a "real city". The downtown area is quite built-up and very densely populated with hotels, condos, and office buildings. There is a lot to do here as well: a zoo, a few museums, a few places to see live music, and a world-class parks system.

The wonderful parks of Duluth were evident again today in our hike to Park Point on the largest freshwater sandbar in the world. Noelle and I hiked this trail and beach with Kati and Noelle's mom again. This time Parker also walked with us. We spent the first half of the hike looking for Lake Superior agates, pebbled pieces of glass and other interesting objects that had washed ashore.

At the halfway point we inspected the ruins of the old lighthouse there and then headed back to the parking lot along the trail through sand dunes and forest. An added bonus of the hike was when we got to watch a float plane make a landing at the Sky Harbor Airport. A very enjoyable hike and knowing we are so close to the beach adds some diversity to the already large options of recreational activities we can participate in here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Superior Hiking Trail: Enger Park to the Rose Garden

Today on my hike of the SHT I was not alone. I had three hiking partners: Noelle, her mom, and her sister Kati. We started at the Enger Tower where we got some great views from the top of the tower, even if it was a bit crowded up there. From the tower we headed towards the Twin Ponds, crossed Skyline Parkway, and then descended through some woods. Eventually we crossed I-35 on a pedestrian bridge and then headed towards Canal Park and Lake Superior itself.

There were a lot of people at Canal Park. It was a beautiful day and I think that everyone wanted to enjoy what may be one of the last really nice weather days for a while. As all four of us were hungry, we walked along the Lakewalk to Fitger's. Since we had a half-hour wait for lunch, we spent some time exploring the Fitgers complex. We learned that it was the ice cream place Bridgeman's last day for the season and that they were giving away free ice cream! needless to say we took advantage of this generous offer, eating dessert before a delicious lunch at Fitger's.

After our lunch we were all very stuffed. To burn off some of our calories we decided to walk through Chester Park. Once again Chester Park offered some beautiful scenery and a really pleasant walk. We were all tired and full by the time we got home!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Superior Hiking Trail: Rose Garden to Bagley Overlook

I knew that today's hike was going to be an urban hike and so I dressed accordingly. Instead of my normal zip-off pants, hiking shoes, and synthetic gear I wore jeans, cotton, and sneakers. I wasn't expecting too much from this hike other than a walk through a bunch of neighborhoods, but I was pleasantly surprised. Let's just say that Duluth's Chester Park is amazing. It has to be one of the best, if not the best, urban park I've ever been in. The SHT closely follows Chester Creek through the park with non-stop views of cascades and waterfalls. There is even a short section where the creek flows through a short, but deep gorge.

From Chester Park I made my way back into a a neighborhood and then the UMD campus. I finally made it back into the woods at the University's Bagley Preserve. Inside the preserve is a nice little overlook. I made the overlook my turn-around for this hike and then made my way back to Chester Park where I hiked the trail on the other side of the creek. Another great day on the trail!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Superior Hiking Trail: Kingsbury Creek to Getchell/Highland

Today I decided to fill in the "missing link" of my SHT hikes. In a light rain I drove to the trailhead off Skyline Parkway and headed into the woods. The trail immediately paralleled Keene Creek and the creek was once again beautiful with many little cascades and small waterfalls. The first segment of the hike along the creek was quite enjoyable. The next segment of the hike, however, was quite forgettable. After passing under I-35 the trail was constantly in earshot of the highway: not good. To top it all off the trail wound its way through invasive vegetation: buckthorn and my arch-nemesis bush honeysuckle.

While I enjoyed being outside; even in the rain, I have to admit that this was my least favorite section of the SHT so far. One of the more interesting sections of trail included a walk on taconite pellets which must have fallen off of railroad cars loaded with them over the years, as they were all found underneath a railroad bridge.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Superior Hiking Trail: Highland Getchell to North 24th Ave W

I got an early start on the trail this morning due to the fact that I intended to hike my longest segment yet: 5.7 miles of the SHT which meant a round-trip of 11.4 miles. The hike started out cold but as I hiked further the temperatures started to warm up. I hiked through a small section of Lincoln Park along a pretty little creek and then headed into the alders and aspens. There was not a whole lot spectacular about this hike. There were areas where the trees opened up offering some long range views, but the overcast sky and lack of beauty to look down upon were really nothing to write home about. Still I really enjoyed being out there on the trail.

Many sections of the trail had a very urban feel to them and I even spent a small bit of time on a road-walk in nice little neighborhood. Perhaps the highlight of the walk was the section of trail that paralleled Keene Creek. The creek wore a deep gorge here and the water tumbled over a series of cascades and small waterfalls. The trail here crossed over an old bridge, perhaps a former section of the Skyline Parkway. I spent a little bit of time checking out the bridge and seeing was was underneath. It was a beautiful concrete span that is now covered with graffiti.

Shortly after inspecting the bridge I found myself at the trailhead. I decided that instead of retracing my steps I would hike back to my car on Skyline Parkway. It was a section of the road I'd never been on before and offered a lot of great views and fall colors. Before I knew it I was back to the car. it was another great day of hiking!

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Superior Hiking Trail: North 24th Ave W to Twin Ponds

I was busy running a lot of errands today, so my plan to hike a long section of the SHT was put on hold. In fact I had so little time when I was finally ready to go hiking that I decided to skip ahead a few trail sections to a shorter one that is only 1.7 miles long. The short hike length meant, however, that I was able to take Parker with me. We had a great hike together on a really interesting section of trail.

The hike started at the Twin Ponds in Enger Park. From there we hiked uphill to Enger Tower. There is a short spur trail there that leads to the tower itself and since it was a fairly nice day, I decided to hike up to the tower and climb the stairs to see the view. I was not disappointed, the view from up there is amazing! I was even able to see a ship move through the canal and under the Aerial Lift Bridge.

After some time up in the tower Parker and I headed back to the trail. We hiked a weird section of the trail that passes through "Forgotten Park", an old, abandoned park complete with overgrown basketball court and weedy baseball field. Shortly after passing through the park we were at the next trailhead and ready to return to the car. A short but interesting section of trail.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Superior Hiking Trail: Magney Snively Park to Spirit Mountain

It was cold this morning when I gathered up all my stuff and some treats, water bowl, etc. for Parker. We hit the road driving southwest to Spirit Mountain Ski Area. I parked at the Superior Hiking Trail parking lot near the Duluth, Superior Alpine Club and we started hiking. I was still cool when we hit the trail but the hiking kept us plenty warm. Today's scenery was not as dramatic as yesterday's, but still we both enjoyed the walk.

When we got to the Magney-Snively Trailhead I decided that we would make our way back to the car via Skyline Parkway instead of retracing our steps on the trail. I this this was a good decision as I think Parker was starting to get tired. We made it back to the car in no time at all.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Superior Hiking Trail: Spirit Mountain to Kingsbury Creek

I spent almost all day today working on a job application for a job as an environmental educator outside of Duluth. After heading to the post office to mail the application and registering my car at the DMV (I now have Minnesota plates on my car!) I finally was able to hit the trail.

I started my hike near the Lake Superior Zoo and traveled along the beautiful Kingsbury Creek. Water in the creek cascaded over boulders and bare rock and the banks of the creek were lined with aspens and birches in their wonderful golden leaves.
Before long I was near the top of a ridge and from there the trail paralleled Interstate 35. I was worried that hiking so close to the interstate would detract from my trail experience. While there was some noise from the highway, I was largely able to forget I was in the city due to the wonderful scenery. Early October in northeastern Minnesota is wonderful! Cool temperatures and fall colors make hiking easy.

I hiked through some grassy areas covered by large trees and the lighting was spectacular. While I had originally intended to hike all the way to Magney-Snively Park where I had started and ended my previous SHT hike, I knew I would not have time. Instead I hiked to the spur trail which led to Spirit Mountain and then retraced my steps. i think I'll bring Parker with me tomorrow to hike the section I skipped.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Superior Hiking Trail: Munger Trail to Magney-Snively Park

Finally, a really great hiking day. This morning the sun was out and the sky was blue. The aspens, maples, and birches were showing off their pretty colors. The hike today was the best one yet along the Superior Hiking Trail. There were plenty of views as the trail traversed many open rock ledges. The trail today also afforded an opportunity to do some "peak" bagging. I found myself on top of both Bardon's Peak and Ely's Peak. While the peaks were not at all high by any standards, they did offer some great views.

The hike today also offered a chance to hike a short portion of the Willard Munger Trail. This paved trail looked very interesting and I look forward to a chance to bicycle it this coming summer. After an 8.6 mile hike I found myself back at my car and headed home for lunch.