Saturday, June 26, 2010

Midnight Sun Midnight Run

Last night Noelle and I braved the cool, foggy, misty night air to run in the unusual Midnight Sun Midnight Run. Like the name would suggest the run started at midnight. Unlike the name would suggest, there was no sunshine. The course was interesting, running along the Lakewalk. This made for some nice, though dark, scenery and cool breezes. However, the Lakewalk is not very wide and so the race, especially the start were quite interesting. Why is it that the slowest people on the face of the earth always flock towards the front of a 5k start? It was very interesting trying to pass people on the narrow course, especially when the race got to the point where there were runners heading in two different directions of the Lakewalk. I wasn't sure what type of time I would run, as I hadn't trained very hard for the race, but I ended up running a 19:40 5k. Noelle's time was 31:08.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scenic State Park

Yesterday I packed up my stuff for another solo Eric adventure. I would be heading to McCarthy Beach State Park and Scenic State Park with a stop for a short hike in Superior National Forest. And so at about 10 a.m. I hit the road, passed the Miller Hill Mall and headed up towards the Iron Range.

My first stop was the grocery store in Virginia, Minnesota to get some food for camping. I then got back into the auto and headed into Superior National Forest. I briefly stopped at the Laurentian Divide picnic area for a really short hike along an interpretive trail.
I then headed deeper into the forest for a hike on an overgrown ski trail along side the Sturgeon River. The hike was scenically uninteresting, but on the way back to the car I got buzzed several times by some sort of hawk. That was exciting.

From the Sturgeon River Trail I headed to McCarthy Beach State Park. I hiked the Hiking Club trail there. Other than a walk along Pickerel Lake where I watched a loon dive and resurface a few times, it was another uninspiring hike. I had intended to camp at McCarthy beach, but it was still pretty early when I finished my hike and so I headed farther west to Scenic State Park.

Scenic State Park in appropriately named with a few really pretty lakes. I set up camp alongside Coon Lake, ate dinner, and then went for a hike to the beautiful Chase Point on an ice age relic esker. I was able to catch the sunset from the esker, before returning to my campsite in a thick swarm of mosquitoes.

Today I woke up and laid inside the tent for a while avoiding heading out into the early morning mosquitoes for as long as I could. Eventually I got up and ate breakfast, and then headed over to the park office to rent a kayak.

The paddling out on the lakes was fun. I paddled over to and around a small island. There were a lot of water lillies growing in the shallow areas. I then paddled across Coon Lake to check out a few loons that I saw swimming around. One of the loons dove practically under the kayak! I also saw a curious muskrat swimming around and checking me out. After two hours of paddling I returned the kayak and headed out. I had intended to hike the Hiking Club trail at Schoolcraft State Park, but it started pouring rain on the way there and so I headed home to Duluth.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Photo of the Day: French River Falls

This is a photo of French River Falls which lies just off of Minnesota highway 61. Most people speed right by it, not realizing it's even there.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Soudan Underground Mine State Park

A pretty interesting lightning storm passed through last night but I was able to stay dry and safe in my tent. This morning I packed up my wet tent and hit the road headed west to Soudan and the "Cadillac of Mines". What an interesting place! I got there a bit early and spent some time wandering around the surface of the park. I checked out the Engine House and Crusher house as well as the Headframe and trestle.

At 10am I went on my tour. I opted for the underground Mine Tour which began with an over 2,000 foot descent down into the cool, dark depths of the mine. Once we departed the cage, we rode a train to actual tour area. The tour was okay, but the mine itself was quite interesting.
Railroad Car and Trestle
Upon returning to the sunlight, I hiked the short 2.5 mile Hiking Club Trail. The trail passed by some more remnants of the mining industry. I went over the 50 mile mark in my Hiking Club book and was able to collect my second patch.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ely, Minnesota: The Coolest Small Town in America

Yesterday evening after work I hit the road for some more adventure. I headed up Highway 61 and then veered away from the North Shore and headed west on Highway 1. My destination was the fair city of Ely, Minnesota which was voted the "Coolest Small Town in America" by Budget Travel. I found a campsite at the nice South Kawishiwi River campground.

I woke up this morning after a great night's sleep and headed over to Bear Head Lake State Park. At the park I hiked a little over seven miles, practically every trail in the park. While the scenery was not the most exciting I've ever seen, I enjoyed the walk and saw some birds, frogs, and a turtle. I was able to chalk up three more miles in my Hiking Club book.

From Bear Head Lake I headed back to Ely and explored town a little bit. I got lunch at Dairy Queen and then headed over to the very interesting Dorothy Molter Museum. In case you're not familiar with Dorothy Molter, she is also known as the Root beer Lady. For years she lived at Isle of Pines on Knife Lake in what is now the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. She operated a small resort on the island until the area was designated a wilderness. After that she lived there and offered visitors root beer and hospitality for donations. She also happened to be a nurse and helped out many canoeists who ran into trouble on the lakes.

After the wilderness designation there Molter was informed that she would have to leave the area, but after some legal wrangling with the forest service she was allowed to stay until her death. I picked up a book about Molter called "Root Beer Lady" by Bob Cary. So far it's an interesting read and I hope to learn much more about Molter before I finish it.

My tour guide at the museum told me about a nearby waterfall that I hadn't before heard of, so after my tour I headed out of town to check out Kawishiwi Falls. The falls were more impressive than I expected. Finally, I checked out the famous Pillow Rock of Ely Greenstone before returning to my campground.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Northwest Company Fur Post and St. Croix State Park

Today Noelle and I drove on down to the Hinkley/Pine City metro area to check out the Northwest Co Fur Post and (weather permitting) do a little hiking. The fur post was interesting. We checked out the inside exhibits and walked around the reconstructed fur post. We even got to skin a deer.
It was an interesting and stinky experience! We walked the trails there as well and donated a bit of blood to the local mosquitoes.

After the fur post we had lunch at Tobie's (a Minnesota tradition). We then took the deceptively long drive to St. Croix State Park to get in a quick walk before the impending rain started. A quick side trip took us to an interesting fire tower where the views were long and the winds were strong. Our hike was short due to the trail ending at a pool of water whose depth we were unable to determine. We retraced our steps to the car and swatted the mosquitoes as we walked.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Paddling the Bois Brule

Today Noelle and I went over into Wisconsin to the Brule River State Forest to paddle the Bois Brule River. We rented a canoe from the outfitter in town and drove to the Winneboujou Landing where the outfitter came to pick us up and drive us to the starting point of our river trip the Stones Bridge Landing.

Since it was a weekday, and not particularly sunny out, we knew it would be a good day for solitude on the river. Unfortunately, we got rained on. It rained pretty hard for about 15 minutes before the sun came out for a while and dried us out. Along the way we saw lots of interesting birds. We saw about 5 bald eagles, 30 common mergansers, some belted kingfishers, cedar waxwings, a great blue heron, pileated woodpeckers, and American robins. We also paddled past some interesting old cabins, including the Cedars, one of the summer White Houses of Calvin Coolidge. Interestingly, several other U.S. presidents have fished and paddled the Bois Brule including Dwight D. Eisenhower and U.S. Grant.

Besides the Cedars there were plenty of other neat looking cabins. Many of them were complete with elaborate boathouses with many canoes on their docks. It seems like a great spot for a vacation home. While I'm usually not really into seeing civilization while paddling, the rustic architecture and history of the cabins along the Bois Brule added to the ambiance of the paddle rather than detracted from it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Superior Coast Hike

I pulled out the ol' Wisconsin Hiking Guide this morning looking for a hike close to home and the Superior Coast hike jumped out as a logical adventure. At around 10:15 I threw my day-pack into the car and headed into Superior. I made a quick stop at my old place of employment, the Challenge Center, for a visit. It was nice to see everyone and many of the people there seemed excited to see me. It made me feel good.

After the visit, I drove out of town and onto route 13 for a drive to my destination. Soon enough Becks Road was into view and I turned up the road and followed it to the beach. At the beach I first stopped to eat lunch and then followed the beach east hugging the shore. There were few footprints in the sand, at least human footprints. There were however, plenty of deer tracks, raccoon tracks and some type of wild dog tracks.

I was able to walk on the beach most of the hike, but there were a few times where trees blocked the entire beach and I was forced to wade in the lake. Luckily it was nice and warm and the cold water felt pretty good. I stopped at a point where the beach was totally eroded away and ate a snack there before retracing my steps back to the car.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Eagle Mountain: Minnesota's Highpoint

Parker seemed quite surprised to hear loons in the middle of last night. Noelle and I were delighted. It was chilly when we woke up this morning and the inside of the tent was wet with condensation. We decided to leave the tent set up and pack up everything else in the hopes that while we hiked the tent would dry out.

We hit the road to the Eagle Mountain trailhead at 7:15. About a half an hour later we were on the trail. The hiking started out relatively flat with a few sections that passed over swampy areas on boardwalks. Soon we entered the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The trail began to get a bit rocky and rugged but there were no real climbs until we reached Whale Lake.

At Whale Lake there is a nice view of the false summit of Eagle Mountain. The trail climbed pretty steadily up to some nice views of the wilderness area. There were no roads or buildings to be seen anywhere, just trees and scattered lakes reflecting the morning's blue sky. A short time later we reached the summit, marked with a historical marker.
We spent some time resting there before heading back down to the car. Parker did great, the 7 miles round trip was his longest hike to date.

Once we got back to the car, we returned to the campground where we packed up our dry tent. We then headed into Grand Marais for gas and pizza at Sven and Ole's. The drive back to Duluth was anticlimactic. We stopped at Tettegouche for a short hike to Illgen Falls before resuming our trip back home.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Road Tripping Up the North Shore

Today Noelle, Parker and I packed up the Subaru and headed northeast up the North Shore of Lake Superior. We had a few stops planned along the way to a few waterfalls that we learned about. The first stop was Beaver River Falls. Next we headed further up the Beaver River to Glen Avon Falls. From the Beaver we headed further up the coast to Caribou River State Wayside. It was a short hike up to the very impressive Caribou Falls.

A short drive from there took us to the Cross River. The falls there are right off of highway 61. We took a side trip to see Father Barraga's Cross. The story behind the cross is that Father Barraga was a missionary who was headed up the shore of Lake Superior to treat a group of Ojibwe who were stricken with disease near Grand Portage. At a point near what is now called the Cross River, Barraga and his native guide ran into bad weather and rough seas. They were luckily pushed over the sandbar of the Cross and into safer waters. They responded to their luck (or divine intervention) by placing a wooden cross at the mouth of the river. The wooden cross was later replaced with the current stone one.

From the Cross we headed through Grand Marais and up the Gunflint Trail to Devils Track Lake and a nice little campground. Our site has a little trail to the lake with a nice view. There are some loons swimming around as well. We're hoping to hear them tonight.