Sunday, January 30, 2011

Skiing Superior Municipal Forest

Noelle Skis Through a Meadow

Today Noelle and I headed over the bridge and into Superior for the first time in a while. Our destination was the Superior Municipal Forest, which is rumored to have some of the best ski trails around.
Conditions for skiing were very good; the groomer did a great job and the place was pretty crowded. The trails were great, but interpreting the maps was difficult. We had a hard time figuring out where we were several times. Altogether, a good day on the snow though.
Noelle Skis the Woods

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Skiing Jay Cooke State Park

Skiing Jay Cooke

This morning Noelle and I headed out of Duluth to Carlton to do some skiing at Jay Cooke State Park and get ourselves some Cozy Melts at the Cozy Restaurant and Lounge. We got our food first, and it was delicious as usual. We then proceeded to Jay Cooke to burn off some of the calories we had consumed.

We started at the new park visitor center where we got our annual State Park sticker. We then grabbed our skis and walked them across the swinging bridge to start our ski.
Crossing the Swinging Bridge

It was a warm day and a few snowflakes fell as we glided our way along a loop on the easy Ridge Trails.
Noelle Skis

When we finished our easy loop we were ready for some more skiing. We opted to ski the intermediate difficulty Silver Creek Trail which offered some nice steep downhills and then the inevitable tough uphills back to the swinging bridge.
Deer on Ski Trail

Eric at Trail Shelter

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Korkki Nordic Ski Center

Korrki Start
Today Noelle and I along with some friends headed out of Duluth again to do some skiing. This time our destination was the Korrki Nordi Ski Center between Duluth and Two Harbors. I had heard a lot of good things about Korkki, but was afraid to take Noelle there to ski because I had heard that it was better suited to expert skiers. I'm glad we finally made it our there.
Korkki Skiers
The trails at Korkki are awesome. It is for classical only, which means no freestyle skiers zipping past. The trails are very narrow, just wide enough for the track which were well set. Overall the trails were groomed excellently. There is also a nice little interesting warming hut at Korkki which is filled with interesting ski memorabilia. We spent a few minutes inside warming up and looking around. There was even a ski bib from the Salt Lake Olympics on the wall. 
Two Paths Diverged In a Wood....

In Korrki's Warming Hut

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Skiing and Drinking (at an Ice Bar)

Skiing Two Harbors

Today Noelle and I headed out of Duluth and up the North Shore to Two Harbors for some skiing and an apres ski trip to the Blu Ice Bar in Castle Danger. The skiing on the Two Harbors ski trail, also known as the Herkki Harju Trail, was not the greatest due to the fact that the trail had not been tracked. We made the best out of the situation though and enjoyed a nice ski.

After our ski we headed out of town and up the North Shore Highway to Castle Danger, home of the Ice Bar. It's only open on Saturdays from 4 to 8 pm. We got there shortly after 4 and each enjoyed a Ginger Stag which is a drink featuring one of those newfangled sweet bourbons and ginger ale. We then sampled some Leinenkugels beer before heading home.
Castle Danger Ice Bar

Noelle on the Ice Bench

Eric Ice Bar

Leinies in Canoe

Friday, January 14, 2011

50 Trails in 50 States

Section 13 View

This past spring as I was completing my hike of the Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota I got an idea about an official long trail for each of our 50 United States. The criteria for each state's trail is that it is long enough to backpack (several days of travel), it is contained mostly within the one state which it represents, it is used primarily for hiking/backpacking, and it is not a segment of a longer trail.

Some of my decisions for an "official" state long-distance hiking trail were relatively easy in that the trail's name is derived from the state in which it is located. Some good examples of these would be the Florida and Colorado Trails. Other decisions were easy because the trails chosen were iconic trails in the long distance hiking community. Some examples of these iconic trails would be Vermont's Long Trail and Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail.

Choosing a representative trail for some states, however, was very difficult because it seems that there are few long hiking trails located within the state or the long trails in the state travel a long distance in other states. Delaware is an example of a state I had a difficult time making a decision about, along with New Mexico. Anyway I've finished a draft of the list and have included it here. If there are any readers with information about better trail choices for my list I would be happy to hear about them. I've also included a link to each trail's official website if one is available.

1.   Alaska: Chilkoot Trail
2.   Alabama: Pinhot Trail 
3.   Arizona: Arizona Trail
4.   Arkansas: Ozark Highlands Trail  
5.   California: John Muir Trail
6.   Colorado: Colorado Trail
7.   Connecticut: Metacomet Trail
8.   Delaware: Brandywine Trail
9.   Florida: Florida Trail
10. Georgia: Bartram Trail
11. Hawaii: A Loop in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
12. Idaho: Idaho's Centennial Trail
13. Illinois: River to River Trail
14. Indiana: Knobstone Trail
15. Iowa: The Backpack Trail in Yellow River State Forest
16. Kansas: Perry Lake Trail
17. Kentucky: Sheltowee Trace
18. Louisiana: Wild Azalea Trail
19. Maine: Grafton Loop Trail
20. Maryland: Catoctin Trail
21. Massachusetts: Mid-State Trail
22. Michigan: Waterloo-Pinckney Trail
23. Minnesota: Superior Hiking Trail
24. Mississippi: Black Creek Trail
25. Missouri: Ozark Trail
26. Montana: Chinese Wall Loop
27. Nebraska: Pine Ridge Trail
28. Nevada: Tahoe Rim Trail
29. New Hampshire: Cohos Trail
30. New Jersey: Batona Trail
31. New Mexico: Loop in Pecos Wilderness
32. New York: Long Path
33. North Carolina: Mountains-to-Sea Trail
34. North Dakota: Maah Daah Hey Trail
35. Ohio: Buckeye Trail
36. Oklahoma: Ouachita Trail
37. Oregon: Timberline Trail
38. Pennsylvania: Mid-State Trail
39. Rhode Island: North-South Trail
40. South Carolina: Foothills Trail
41. South Dakota: Centennial Trail
42. Tennessee: Cumberland Trail
43. Texas: Lone Star Trail
44. Utah: Bonneville Shoreline Trail
45. Vermont: Long Trail
46. Virginia: Massanutten Trail
47. Washington: Wonderland Trail
48. West Virginia: Allegheny Trail
49. Wisconsin: Ice Age Trail
50. Wyoming: Teton Crest Trail

For the most part I am very happy with this list. There are a few hikes I am not completely sold on though. Among them are the Teton Crest Trail for Wyoming and the Chinese Wall Loop in Montana. While I'm sure both these hikes offer spectacular scenery, I feel like there must be some longer options for these two states. There are also a few which I feel don't really meet my listed criteria because they contain long distances in other states. An example of this would be the Ouachita Trail which traverses not only Oklahoma, but also Arkansas. Finally I would like a more detailed hike for Hawaii and New Mexico.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Grand Day of Skiing and Snowshoeing

Woke up to some cold temperatures outside this morning. The actual temperatures (without wind chill) was a cold -20 degrees F. We headed out in the cold anyway with our first stop being the Trezona Trail a four mile long groomed ski trail right inside Ely.

The skiing was great with some nice gentle downhills and some challenging uphill climbs. The cold temperatures left Noelle with frosty eyelashes and the most interesting section of trail passed by the headframe of the old Pioneer Mine.
Skiing near the Pioneer Mine Headframe

After our ski adventure we had not had enough fun in the snow and so we headed back up the Echo Trail to the Bass Lake Trail. The snowshoeing started out very easy on a packed smowmobile trail. After a short distance the hiking/snowshoe trail veered off to the left and we entered into the woods.
snowshoe woods
It was an amazing winter wonderland in the woods. The trail climbed and descended constantly and after about a mile we found ourselves at Dry Falls. Being frozen the falls weren't much to look at, but there was a nice overlook of the lake there.

Soon we moved on and the trail was much less used. While snowshoes weren't really necessary before the falls, I was glad we had them for after. There were also lots of snow laden tree and shrubs hanging over the trail and they would often dump their loads of snow on us as we made our way through their tangled branches.
Snowy Tunnel
The hike seemed to go on and on forever. We were very tired and hungry before it was all over. I was working hard breaking trail much of the way and we nearly got lost when the trail followed a snowmobile trail for a while.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The International Wolf Center and Hegman Lake

Pictographs at Hegman Lake
Day one of Eric and Noelle's great Ely winter adventure! Our first stop was the International Wolf Center in town, The center was interesting with some great exhibits. We attended a great interpretive program and checked out the Ambassador Pack, the resident wolf pack.

After the Wolf Center we headed back to our hotel room for a delicious lunch of sandwiches, soup and chips before heading back out for a drive up the Echo Trail. Our destination was the canoe put-in for Hegman Lake. Of course in the winter we were not headed there for a canoe trip, but for a ski across the frozen, snow-covered lakes to check out the famous Native American pictograph panel found at North Hegman Lake. The drive was a bit snowy, but we made it to the "trail-head" in one piece and excited for a great strip. We strapped the skis onto our feet and headed on down the portage trail. The trail was a bit tough for skis and by the time I made it to the wilderness boundary I was worried about how Noelle was handling the conditions. After meeting up at the bottom of a steep downhill section, we decided that since we were unsure of the conditions up ahead we would return to the car and  switch over to our snowshoes.

The going on snowshoes was quite easy. We soon entered into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and then made a our way down to South Hegman Lake.

The weather conditions, while quite cold, were wonderful with warm sunshine and no wind.

The snow coverage on the lake was good, but there was a layer of slush under the snow. Every time we placed one of our poles into the snow, it reached to the slush layer and was coated with a layer of ice.

After repeating this hundreds of times thick balls of ice would form on the bottoms of our poles making them quite heavy. It is probably a good thing we decided against the skis. Ice buildup on the bottom of the skis would make for some extremely slow going.

Soon we crossed from South to North Hegman Lakes, where we passed a large erratic boulder in the lake and soon found ourselves at our destination the Hegman Lake pictograph panel.

We spent a few minutes there before turning around and retuning to the car. Despite the limited sunlight left in the day we passed three groups of people headed out on the lake. I was glad to be headed to the car.

After getting back to the car we drove back into Ely where we showered at our hotel and then headed over to the Boathouse Brewpub. The food was okay and the beer was good, but nothing that exceptional.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gooseberry Falls State Park: Fifth Falls Ice Caves

Headed out of Duluth and up the North Shore for the first time in months and the first adventure of 2011. Our destination, my ole place of employment Gooseberry Falls to hike along the Gooseberry River and check out the frozen Fifth Falls and some ice caves that I saw pictures of while working over the past summer. After the heavy rains we had a few days ago and the present cold temperatures I figured we would not need our snowshoes and my assumption was correct. The trail was a solid mas of ice covered with about 2 inches of snow which made for some easy walking and it meant the Parker would have an easy walk as well.

We parked the car, used the restroom and then hit the trail paralleling the unusually high Gooseberry River. I was really surprised to see so much water flowing given it is early January and the local rivers are usually frozen solid this time of year. The sound of the rushing water however, proved to make for some nice background noise as we made our way upstream.

Soon, we were at our destination, Fifth Falls. The high water level meant that the river would be too dangerous to cross to get to the main ice "caves", but we were able to observe them from the opposite side of the river.

I was also able to safely cross a narrow section of flowing water to get to two smaller ice caves and explore a bit. There were lots of icicles hanging from the ceilings and even a few small ice stalagmites.

After a few minutes of exploration we crossed the river on a footbridge and followed the snowshoe trail downstream and back to the parking lot.

As we headed back towards Two Harbors we noticed a ship heading into port  and decided to watch it pull into the ore docks. I'd imagine it will probably be one of the last of the 2010-2011shipping season.