Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ten Year Anniversary

Today marks the ten year anniversary of the start of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. In honor of this momentous occasion I went for a day hike in Split Rock Lighthouse State Park which I described in my previous blog post. The most shocking part of this anniversary however, has been the similarity in the weather I experienced today in northern Minnesota and 10 years ago in Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia. Both days were very warm with overcast skies.

Ten years after the big hike I often contemplate back on it and wish I could go back again. I don't think that I ever will though. I just miss the feeling of utter feeling that I experienced while hiking every day. While I know that I do not have the time and money to go on such a long hike at this point in my life I have made the decision to go on a mini long distance hike on the Superior Hiking Trail.

My plan is to hike the 200+ miles of the trail from the Canadian border to the section of trail that ends outside of Two Harbors. I've already hiked the "Duluth section" of the trail, and the trail is not yet completed between Duluth and Two Harbors. In effect, when finished with my trip I will have walked every section of trail that is at that time completed and open to the public.

The tentative start date for my hike is May 2nd. I hope that the early start will let me avoid the worst of the mosquitoes and other biting insects. This start date also allows me to finish in time to start my new seasonal job at Gooseberry Falls State Park. In addition, I plan on keeping a journal of my hike online at

Shorts Weather!

Today was the first day that I was able to dig out the old shorts. The high temperature of 71 degrees tied the record high for March 31st in Duluth. Lucky for me, it was my short day at work. I made best of the warm temperatures by doing some much needed speed-work on the track at UW Superior.

After my track workout I headed back over into Duluth for lunch before making my way up the north shore of Lake Superior for some hiking. I decided on Split Rock Lighthouse State Park because I had not yet hiked the Hiking Club trail in the park. The hike turned out to be a nice one. It was 5.8 miles in length and took me into parts of the park that I'd never been into before.

Amongst the highlights were a visit to the point where the Split Rock River empties into Lake Superior. From there the trail wound its way along the shore of the big lake to Corundum Point. Near the point I was able to check out the remains of a long abandoned corundum mine, a mine that never actually produced any of its namesake mineral. After the mine the trail passed over Split Rock Creek (not to be confused with the Split Rock River) and then returned to the parking lot.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Savanna Portage State Park

Today Noelle and I headed about an hour west of Duluth to the beautiful Savanna Portage State Park. having never been there before we weren't sure what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised to find a quiet little park with plenty of solitude.

We parked the car at the Lake Shumway trail-head/boat launch. Our first stop was the short bog walk. I wasn't sure what we would see in the bog this time of year. Spring is slow in coming to northern Minnesota. We did, however, spy some really cool carnivorous pitcher plants. upon close inspection I even discovered that the water that collects inside the "pitchers" freezes in the winter. Besides the pitcher plants we saw plenty of moss and black spruces.

From the bog walk we started hiking a triangular loop made up of the Continental Divide, Old Schoolhouse, and Savanna Portage Trails. The loop started by traversing past an old homestead with some rusting farm machinery relics. Our loop then headed uphill to a view of Wolf Lake and the surrounding grasslands and forests. Finally we made our way to the historic Savanna Portage, a portage connecting the Mississippi River and Lake Superior watersheds and an important shipping route for native Americans and voyageurs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mission Creek Trail

Another nice early spring day. Noelle and I decided to get outside for a walk on a real trail and so we headed over into West Duluth and the Fond du Lac neighborhood to hike what is called the most difficult of the trails that the city of Duluth maintains. I had been on the beginning of this trail before, it is considered a spur trail of the Superior Hiking Trail, but had never been above the junction with the SHT.

The trail, while not all that scenic, was not too muddy. The fine weather made the hiking enjoyable. Before we knew it we were on the paved Willard Munger Trail which we walked for a short distance to its intersection with the old Mission Creek parkway which is now a multiple use path. The trail here was quite muddy, having seen some ATV traffic, but it was amazing how remote the area felt. We crossed over several old bridges on the old parkway before we got to several creek crossings where the bridges had washed out. With lots of spring meltwater runoff the creek was high and the crossing difficult.

Finally, we made it to an intersection with the SHT, followed it northeast to the Mission Creek Trail and back to the car. It was a good hike and we followed it up by heading into Superior to the Thirsty Pagan for some pizza and microbrewed beer.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Northland Tourist Day

Noelle's mom and Aunt Lisa came up to Duluth for a visit this weekend. We were excited to show Lisa around a bit since she had never really been to Duluth before. We decided a trip up the north shore was in order and so our first stop was Betty's Pies. At Betty's we got some appetizers and of course pie.

From Betty's we moved north to my future place of employment: Gooseberry Falls State Park. There we hiked the short loop that goes past the middle falls and lower falls. We also looked around the gift shop a bit and I bought a book about north shore waterfalls. It should come in handy.

After our stop at Gooseberry, we moved on to Split Rock Lighthouse. There we looked inside the visitor center and then hiked down the old tramway to my favorite view of the lighthouse. On the way back to Duluth we stopped at one of the waterfalls in my new book: Second Falls of the Knife River. It was a good day.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring has Sprung!

It was another beautiful late winter day in the Northland today. Since Wednesday is my short day at work, Noelle and i decided to get outside and enjoy the warmth. There's just one problem, most of Duluth's trails are closed right now to protect them during the "mud season". We decided to hike one of the few open trails in town, the Western Waterfront Trail. It is a partly paved and partly gravel trail, and while it is not too scenic, it was nice to get out and walk a bit with the dog. We even got to see some of the last remaining snow in the Northland. It was up on Spirit Mountain.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Osaugie Trail

A beautiful day in the Northland and Noelle and I were in the mood for taking Parker out for a walk. Since most of the trails are slushy swamps we wanted to hike on a nice paved trail. I felt like we've spent an awful lot of time on the Lakewalk in Duluth though and wanted a little change of pace. As a result we decided to head into Superior and walk the Osaugie Trail.

While the Osaugie is certainly not as scenic as the Lakewalk, we enjoyed the walk with views of some of the ships in their winter harbors. We even got a glimpse of the crew of the Indiana harbor getting ready for the upcoming shipping season. Besides the ships, the Osaugie Trail offered views of ore docks, grain elevators, and the last hearty ice fisherman of the season risking their lives on the slushy ice.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Snowshoeing, skiing, and hiking!

Today was just one of those great late winter days where you have to get out and enjoy the warm sun and melting snow. I decided to make the most of the day by participating in three of my favorite activities. I started the day off by driving to Two Harbors for a a snowshoe of one of the newest sections of the Superior Hiking Trail that was guided by a member of the Superior Hiking Trail Association. It was fun to get out, even if it was not the most spectacular part of the trail. The highlight of the snowshoe hike was seeing the remains of a wolf killed deer.

From the snowshoe hike I headed into town to get lunch and then headed further north to Tettegouche State Park. I headed for the western section of the park I had not been to before to hit a ski trail that leads to Tettegouche Camp. The ski features a long ascent of a ridge, and then a long descent down to Mic Mac Lake and the camp itself. It was pretty interesting to see the camp in winter. The skiing however, was a bit more difficult than I had anticipated. Difficult, not because of the ascent and descent but because of the warm temperatures. In the sunny sections of trail the snow got wet and sticky and made for some slow gliding. However, any time I hit a shady patch the snow was icier and considerably faster. The is made the going, especially downhill, a bit tricky.

After my fun ski i headed to the Tettegouche visitor center area for a short hike to Shovel Point. The two mile trail to Shovel Point is extremely scenic. It is one of those relaxing hikes that I could walk again and again and not get tired of. I saw some climbers out scaling the cliffs and Lake Superior was quite active, showing her fury in the form of large waves. Some of the boulders that lay at the water level were covered with a thick layer of ice which added to the ambiance. It's starting to feel a bit like spring here in Minnesota!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Piedmont Trails in Duluth, Minnesota

It is a nice warm day today and I just had to get outside to enjoy it. I'm not sure how many ski days are left and so I decided I would enjoy myself outdoors by skiing. I decided to head on over to the nearby Piedmont Trail system and I took along with me the somewhat silly video sunglasses that my mom gave me for Christmas. I thought it would be interesting to see what I see when I'm headed down a steep hill. I guess the video is somewhat interesting if you don't get sick watching it.