Groomed Trails, Fatbikes, and the Gallatin National Forest

During the winter of 2013/14 a group of SW Montana fatbikers became aware that the local U.S. Forest Service district had written a special order banning bicycles from the network of ski and snowmobile trails in the Gallatin National Forest.  These trails are open to skiers and snowmobilers and we felt that there was little to no reason they shouldn’t also be open to bikes – particularly with the absolute onslaught of fatbikes now hitting the market.  The special order was more than likely put into place as a means of putting bikes on hold while the USFS had time to “think things through” but it was in our opinion a bit shortsighted considering numerous other Forests and forest managers throughout the nation were dealing with bikes in a very positive and successful way.

A group of us set about lobbying our local district and the team of FS employees were very easy to work with, were accommodating, and did an excellent job of balancing all forest user’s needs in the process.  Although it took more than a year to make things happen, during the summer of 2015 the special order was rescinded and fatbikes were written into the travel plan as being allowed on the more than 400 miles of marked snowmobile trails in the Forest.  Although ski-specific trails remain off limits we are considering partnering with local ski clubs to gauge interest/dislike for consideration for access to these in the future.

A friend was visiting from Seattle and we borrowed a fatty for him and we headed South to a long, groomed creek corridor and laid down eight miles of pedaling among trees heavy with snow, a creek slowly becoming choked with ice, and a sunny, warm sky overhead.  It’s amazing what four to five inches of rubber running low pressure can allow you to pedal through.

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Twelve Months, Twelve Photos

As the year comes to a close, a time of reflection overcomes me. The goals I set, the things I hoped to accomplish, and the unknowns that are now known all water under the bridge. Fellow outdoorsmen and acquaintance Dave C. gave me a good idea to record my thoughts on 2014 in a blog post entitled “Twelve Months and Twelve Great Trips in 2014” and a similar post from him this year spurred me on yet again. So in this time of reflection here are twelve photos that represent a highlight of each of the twelve months of 2015.

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January: The birth of ones child can probably not be topped by any other event.  The first week of January was not particularly cold and was actually quite forgiving.  Bringing this beautiful little girl into the world and stepping outside for the first time a few days later was as empowering a thing as my wife and I have ever been through and each and every month of this year has been an amazing journey watching and participating in her growing process.


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February: With a newborn life tends to slow down a bit.  Sneaking off for even a quick jaunt to the hills above town on the bicycle during my lunch hour provided much needed fixes of adventure.


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March: I took my first real trip away from town for the entire day in March, joining two good friends for a day of splitboarding in the Gallatin Range.  We explored a micro-zone located next to a very popular spot and had fresh tracks from top to bottom.


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April: Snow continued to fall into April and while we awaited for the warmer temps of Spring we holed up inside as a family, enjoying each others company and watched with excitement and curiosity as Maeryn grew and learned.


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May: In my childhood in Minnesota, Memorial Day weekend marked not only a time to remember our veterans, but also the beginning of the camping season.  I had reserved a campsite at Holland Lake up in the Seeley Swan for the maiden voyage of our new camper trailer.  This coincided with the start of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Open and I chatted with a number of the participants prior to their journey into the Bob.


2015-06-felix

June: I managed to get out on something in the range of 20+ mountain bike rides during the summer of 2015 and that felt really, really good.  Long hours of sunlight and driving back into town from the trailhead after dark allows for some very solid post-work rides.  Photo’ed was a stellar evening with three other friends when we drove far enough North of town to leave the rain to find tacky trails and distant rainbows..


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July: I felt comfortable enough to take an overnight trip away from the family in July.  I left home late, riding from town into the forest to a nice saddle that overlooks the lights of the city.  I packed a small shelter, some grub, and a couple tall cans of beer.  I sent a few text messages to my wife as night approached making sure everyone was safe and sound.  I awoke early, around dawn, donned a warm jacket and barreled the downhill back into town in time to have breakfast just as our child was awaking.


2015-08-selection

August: The infamous GORUCK Selection event took place in Bozeman in August.  As the resident aficionado of the wide open spaces in our fair city I was consulted by the Cadre in planning the event.  Having a hand in how the weekend would pan out was extremely rewarding for me and much more so when participant Stony from Canada performed solidly and finished.


2015-09-gravelly

September: A car camping trip into the Gravelly Range is quickly becoming an annual tradition for our crew and this trip in September was no exception.  We didn’t do huge miles and we only stayed one night but man what a solid group of people and location.


2015-10-ynp

October: I skipped hunting opener because it was a goal of mine to get our little girl out on a backpacking trip sometime in 2015 and the weekends that would qualify as “warm enough” to do that were essentially gone.  We loaded up the car, headed for Yellowstone and made the short hike to Ribbon Lakes.  I packed the woodstove and tipi to make things reasonable and we had a stellar time.


2015-11-hunting

November: General rifle hunting season was a bust for me in 2015.  I spent 30 hours in the woods hunting deer but didn’t take one home.  On the last day I had one doe in my sights and I hesitated a crucial 1/4 second and she stepped behind some trees leaving me a bit disgusted.  Missing out on a deer was easily made up for by many sights like the one photographed wherein I enjoyed beautiful sunrise after beautiful sunrise (albeit some in below zero temps) on the Bridger Mountain Range.


2015-12-hunting

December: With the general rifle season come and gone and our family freezer without venison I set out with a neighbor to hunt cow elk in the Castle Mountains in the last few days of the month.  We found ourselves within 450 yards of a herd which was simply too far for either of us to humanely take a shot and as such were unsuccessful in the hunt.  Once again though the views made up for it and the day was still a success.  Gazing south to the Bridgers and Crazies as well as the generally good feeling of a day out in the mountains can not be written off as anything but excellent.


“Alone in the Wilderness” with Dick Proenneke

Richard Louis “Dick” Proenneke (May 4, 1916 – April 20, 2003) was an amateur naturalist who lived alone for nearly thirty years in the mountains of Alaska in a log cabin he had constructed by hand near the shore of Twin Lakes. Proenneke hunted, fished, raised and gathered his own food, and also had supplies flown in occasionally. He documented his activities in journals and on film, and also recorded valuable meteorological and natural data.

The following is the 57 minute self-made documentary shot by Mr. Proenneke entitled “Alone in the Wilderness”. This is one of my favorite pieces of wilderness living film and each time I watch it I am amazed and astounded at the vast set of skills, the motivation, and dedication that it took for someone to live off the land.

Dick’s cabin on Twin Lakes is now on the National Register of Historic Sites and is located within Lake Clark
National Park & Preserve in Alaska.

An Overnight in Yellowstone National Park

Our daughter was born in January and our hopes for the summer were to get out camping as many times as we could to let her experience sleeping outside the home as the regular way of the life in our family.  We managed to spend something like 20 nights in our pop up camper trailer and a couple nights in a tent but these were all in the front country and we had not yet taken her backpacking

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Going out on a low mileage but true wilderness backpacking trip was something we really wanted to do before the snow fell this Fall so even though it was the season opener for rifle hunting I decided to push that back a week and we gathered our gear for a trip into Yellowstone National Park.

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Torie had Mae on her back in our vintage Tough Traveler kid pack as well as as much other gear as would fit in the lower storage section. Subsequently I was responsible for everything else and as such I borrowed the Kuiu Icon from the gear library at work in the 5200 cu. in. (85 liter) size.

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We chose a campsite in the Canyon area of the park which is my favorite. The incredibly steep, sulfur-strewn canyon walls that sweep majestically down into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River are about as impressive a site as I’ve seen anywhere. Our campsite was situated a few miles from “Artist Point” and the well-worn trail leading out to it followed the canyon rim closely for much of the journey.

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We arrived at camp a few hours before sunset and with temperatures set to be near or below freezing overnight I immediately set about gathering and sawing wood for use in our tent wood stove.  Torie played with Mae while trying to get our sleeping gear set up as well so when night time did set in on us we’d have our shelter all set to go.

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We cooked up a batch of couscous topped with a delicious pesto sauce served alongside sliced pepperoni and then washed it down with chocolate cookies and a few splashes of whiskey.  We brought along some organic pre-packaged food for Mae which, like pretty much everything we’ve ever fed her, she lapped up eagerly.

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Nighttime falls early in these parts but I set about putting a warming fire into our little wood stove which is designed perfectly for our tipi (both are the awesome little cottage gear company, Titanium Goat).  Temperatures quickly reached the height of comfort and soon enough we were sitting around in short sleeves and no hat.

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Mae awoke at around 2am giving a little cry and although she seemed plenty warm she was awake and not ready to fall immediately back to sleep.  I took the time to start up a new fire in the stove while Mom nursed our little one.  We stayed awake talking for about an hour until Mae was able to fall back asleep which lasted until 7:20 in the morning.

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It was a brisk morning but a re-kindled fire in the wood stove followed by hot coffee and warm granola made for delightful times as the sun shone over the trees and onto the lake causing the ground frost and mist over the lake to simply sparkle.

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We drove home at a leisurely pace taking the time to enjoy just how empty the park is at this time of year.  Some of the spots we stopped and enjoyed are typically buzzing with hundreds of tourists during the peak season and for us to be able to sit and enjoy a view for a solid 30 minutes while only seeing a handful of other people was really quite enjoyable.  Even the grizzly sightings we had to and from our trailhead had but a few cars stacked up at the site – something that in the summer could easily have turned into an hour-long traffic jam.  Not taking the simple pleasures of where you live for granted is a very important lesson, wouldn’t you say?

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MYOG: Gazetteer and Atlas Cover

The gazetteer that lives in my truck gets pretty abused. It is stored between the seat and the console and gets used a LOT. My wife and I are both map junkies so she is pretty much always looking up various geographic features when we’re headed to a camping spot or trailhead. As such the edges of our standard Benchmark Montana Road & Recreation Atlas are dog-eared and the pages all show signs of wear.

In order to prolong the life of this handy and oft used book I spent some of my afternoon after I had finished my work for the week sewing a simple non-coated, 1000d Cordura nylon cover. I bound the upper and lower edges, added a 2″x3″ loop panel to the front so I can adorn it with various velcro patches, and attached a length of 550 cord with a bright orange webbing piece affixed to the end to act as a permanently attached bookmark.

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Sub-24 Hour Overnight Bikepacking in the Gallatin Mountains

I am the father of a seven month old so opportunities to get out into the backcountry are precious these days.  I don’t want to miss out on time with my baby and wife but I also don’t want to miss out on nights spent in the mountains either so last evening I threw my leg over the top tube of my bicycle at 18:00 and pedaled from town twelve miles up into the high foothills of the Gallatin Mountain Range arriving around 20:00.  I live only about a block from access to our town trail system and I chose a route that consisted of mostly trails and gravel road all the way to my camp requiring only three miles of riding the shoulder of a mid-speed asphalt road.

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I hunted deer in this zone thoroughly in the Fall and have explored this timber-cutting road system on skis in the winter as well so I knew generally where I wanted to make camp.  I came to a wide, flat pass but pushed on another mile to see if the next switchback would offer better views.  I decided it did not and turned around to return to the pass.  I left the road and headed to a rocky promontory that made up the Eastern part of the pass and set about making camp… well, more like I cracked a beer and enjoyed the view for a few minutes before making camp.

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The view off to the SE through a gunsight set of peaks of the rugged Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness complex was sublime and I couldn’t help but gaze off into it thinking of past trips in that wild set of mountain ranges.  Opposite that view the lights from my town of Bozeman and the greater Gallatin Valley were beginning to twinkle.  The sun was setting to the West and the silhouette of the Tobacco Root Mountain Range drew my attention heavily.

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Camp made I took off my shoes and those diaper-like cycling-specific under shorts and found a comfortable spot on some sun-warmed rocks.  The weather was delightful and I sat in my short sleeves until long after dark just taking in the view of the setting sun, the lights of town, and the slowly rising nearly-full moon.

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Sleep came slowly as large critters banged through the woods near me.  Presumably just an elk or a deer but the notion a bear is hanging out near your camp is a hard one to ignore regardless of the fact I’ve spent hundreds of nights sleeping out in the wild.

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I don’t know what time I fell asleep but I lay with the door of my simple shelter open and allowed my gaze to drift to the night sky.  The full moon made things very clear and the stars were alight with the twinkle ever-enhanced by being even just a few miles away from the light of the city.  I awoke at dawn, climbed out of my bag and scanned the distant hills for wildlife.  I will hunt this zone again this fall and seeing even just one critter on a nearby hillside was a pleasant sight.

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My trusty Bushbuddy fired up a few cups of water and I had a cup of coffee in hand by 06:30.  While it brewed I broke camp and packed my gear back onto my bicycle.  I spent the evening leisurely soaking in the surroundings but my plan for the morning was to attempt to make it back home for arrival about the time my wife and daughter were awaking.  The beauty of a twelve mile climb on the way in is you know you’ve got a fast, twelve mile descent on the way back out.

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I made it home by 08:00 just as my family was waking and my lovely wife had a second cup of coffee at the ready.  We made up a proper Saturday morning breakfast of bacon and eggs and now have the whole weekend still lies ahead of us.  Make the most of your minutes, hours, and days.  Enjoy the company of your family as well as your solitude.  I enjoy living in the moment, especially since each and every one of them equates to huge changes in the life of my little girl.  But at the same time I look forward with great interest in having the family join me in future micro-adventures.

 

 

Backyard Roots – A Montana and Wyoming Ski Series

Beau Fredlund and Kt Miller have spent a fair amount of time living in a small  town in deep in the mountains of Southwest Montana that spends a good portion of the year buried under deep layers of deliciously low density powder snow.  A Powder guide and photographer by trade the two seem to have an excellent rapport as ski partners who are both willing to put in great levels of effort to tick off exquisite lines in their “backyard” – the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Over the course of the 2014/2015 winter the duo produced a series of short films they dubbed the “Backyard Roots” project that focuses on the concept of exploration just outside the front door of ones home.  Each episode then takes on its own individual theme ranging from the caution we must take, to how our peers affect our decisions, to overcoming and facing our fears.

Episode 1 – Patience is a Virtue

Episode 2 – The Social Media Factor

Episode 3 – The Sleeping Giant

A Nice Day in the Snow

I’ve had my hands full with there being a very small, new addition to our family earlier this year but with family in town visiting to help out I took the opportunity to head for the hills.  Two friends and I left town around 6am and headed for a mountain trailhead about 40 minutes away.  We toured into a zone new to me, checked out a possible future camping zone we’d spied on satellite imagery and then rode a heavily tree’d face, avoiding cliffs as best as we could and then exited via a creek bottom back to the truck.  All in all we skinned and rode just over six miles and were out around four and a half hours.  The day was quite cold although sunny which made it an overall great day to be out in the woods riding cold, fresh pow.

Live Just Became a Little More Posh

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I’ve been researching camping trailers for the past year and the right one finally came along in my Craigslist perusals this past weekend.  This 1983 Coleman Columbia is in fair to good shape and is camping ready.  I already have a list of updates, fixes, and mods that will help “make it ours”.

This  is going to be a great addition to our camping repertoire – especially once the newest member of our family starts to walk and backpacking becomes a bit more difficult.

Superior Hiking Trail Thru Hike 2005

The following is the account of my 2005 thru hike of the Superior Hiking trail as told through photos and the daily journal I kept along the way.  I did the trip in lightweight, but not ultralight backpacking style (gear list). I hiked the SHT end-to-end between May 1st and May 15th, 2005.  The first eleven days I was solo and had no resupply, the remaining days I was joined (and resupplied) by my girlfriend at the time and her two dogs.    

If you are planning a Superior Hiking Trail thru-hike I highly suggest using trip reports like this as well as others to help plan your trip. Also join the Superior Hiking Trail mailing list as it is frequented by dedicated SHT hikers willing to impart copious wisdom regarding conditions, camping, water availability, re-supply, and more.


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I grew up in Minnesota in a camping family but fell in love with backpacking in my late-twenties. I became quite a hiker and backpacker while working on a trail-maintenance crew in Glacier National Park, West Glacier, Montana. Spending so many days and nights in the backcountry gave me the realization that I could, without too much difficulty do an average length thru-hike.

I’d heard tell of the Superior Hiking Trail and had set my mind to hike it some time previous to my undertaking. I ordered an ancient copy of the Superior Hiking Trail Association’s guide to the trail from a used bookseller over the internet. I also ordered the official set of four maps from the SHTA themselves at the http://shta.org website. Gayle and the staff there are very helpful and willing to answer your questions over the phone.

Next I set out to create my itinerary so that my trip fell within the dates I had free to hike and so that my daily mileage would be within the bounds of my hiking abilities. I also had to tweak my usual gear list to be as lightweight as possible – leaving out all but the absolute essentials. Well, I admit I took a camera, a book and a pipe with me as well.

I planned my original itinerary and gave copies to my family and girlfriend so that they would have an idea of where I was each night. This was a basic template which I intended to follow, however, if I was feeling up to more hiking on a particular day then I allowed myself flexibility to change the itinerary as the trip went along. This did in fact happen. If you look at the original itinerary and compare it with the itinerary listed below you’ll see my trip went from the scheduled seventeen days down to an actual fifteen days. In my post evaluation of the hike I believe completion is possible in ten or eleven days. I guess it’s something to shoot for the next time I thru-hike the SHT.


Itinerary

Day One – South Carlson Pond
Day Two – Little Brule
Day Three – Woods Creek
Day Four – Cascade North
Day Five – Poplar East
Day Six – Springdale Creek
Day Seven – Sugar Loaf Pond
Day Eight – Sonju Lake
Day Nine – Section 13
Day Ten – Bear Lake
Day Eleven – Beaver River
Day Twelve – ???
Day Thirteen – Blueberry Hill
Day Fourteen – Crow Valley


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Photo: Signing the entry trail register as my mom looks on.

Sunday May 1st

10:00
Had hugs with Mom and Dad as well as some photos. Signed trail register and read some past entries including one by Andrew Skurka (hiking from the Atlantic to Pacific).

12:01
Looking over Jackson Lake. Stopped for first rest. First 2.5 mi of trail was mucky but still very hikeable. Spotty snow just past Andy Lake Rd on way up to “Highest Point on SHT”. So far very happy w/ trail signage and elements (i.e. bridges, corduroy, etc).

12:35
Met Scott and Al from Duluth and Burnsville doing clearing w/ their 21” Husqvarna.

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13:49
Photo: “Hellacious Overlook”.

Exquisite first view of the lake. Weather can’t decide sun or snow. It’s graupelling but I’m warm. This view/weather combined is georgeous.

14:37
Can see a couple homes below me as I look over the lake. Would love to live there.

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16:06
Photo:Beaver Dam at South Carlson Pond

10:11 – 17:20
Step Count – 32272


Monday, May 2nd

06:01
Woke up to a light dusting of snow and pretty chilly temps. Slept well, not too cold. Think it’s time to break camp and get some blood pumpin’ though.

07:05
Gear is packed, my clothes/boots have some warmth in them. I think I’ll hike an hour or two then stop and eat.

07:48
Rounding a slight corner and ascending the top of a knob a crackle of branches and leaves directs my eyes down trail 50 meters where a moose gallops away from me!

09:45
First whitetail bounching across an old private clearcut.

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Photo: Private land sign just before Camp Road 20

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Photo: Devil’s Kettle Falls.

13:30
They say the water that flows into the hole on the left disappears without a trace.

14:30
Had a nice chat on phone with pa. Tried to reach Heather but she wasn’t home : (

19:12
That was one hell of a day. I woke up very sore and with two bad blisters. I was in pain hiking the whole day. I will survive. I will survive. I will survive.

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Photo: Self portrait at North Lil’ Brule River camp after hell hike of day two.

I’m relaxed, smoking a pipe and reveling in the beauty all around me – – what I came to see.

07:15 – 17:30
Step Count – Unknown


Tuesday, May 3rd

05:15
Awoke an hour or so ago and put my boots into my sleeping bad with me to get them warm. Had done same thing with water earlier. Tight fit and was shivering a bit. Bag is cinched all the way. Laid awake for a little bit and decided to get up.

06:47
Camp is struck and I’m about three minutes from heading out. One more set of stretches and I’m off.

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Sketch: Beautiful bridge over Little Brule

08:47
I’ve arrived at the lake . . . pause a moment in awe . . . It’s the largest lake in the world, yet it’s ability to be so serene and provide this overwhelming sense of calm is amazing. My photo of the lake as the background, and island as the middle ground and a SHT marker sign in the foreground won’t come close to capturing this sense, this mystical feeling. In the end I hope ma nature wins.

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09:39
Photo: Shoreline looking South about .5 miles North of West end of Lake Walk.

10:30
Just made my first mistake. Saw trail sign but didn’t see second one.

11:11
Make a wish, right? Here’s hoping Heather is safe and happy. I love you. Stoppin’ for a bite to eat and a rest. Kadunce River is probably less than a mile away but I was feelin’ more like stoppin’ in a “faerie” place like this one. As I sat down I heard a large animal crash away through the brush. I wonder what it was?

12:12
Signing registry at Kadunce couldn’t help but notice entry by “J.V.” about kayaking cascade on 4.23.05. Is this Heather’s friend?

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12:31
Photo: West Fork of Kadunce River

14:17
Haulin’ ass again. This is the Sam I know. The Sam who loves to hike and can push past a little pain. Yesterday was really hard on my soul. I was in pain from mile one through mile sixteen. Blisters, sore (AS HELL!!!) knees, the works. This morning I fashioned a couple hiking poles out of some medium sized pieces of downed birch and BOY! am I amazed at how much it’s helping – – especially on the downhills.

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15:44
Photo: Just bones and hair – winter’s kill on the trail.

16:17
I’m beat, but only have 1.5 mi to go today. I have reached the prettiest vista thus far. Wildflower Hill affords a 180 degree panorama of the lake in all it’s stunning glory. To witness the sunrise from here would be a cathartic experience to draw pondering from for years to come.

17:29
Arrival at Woods Creek camp. I’m fucking spent.

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Photo: Wildflower Hill.

07:15 – 17:00
Step Count – 33279


Wednesday, May 4th

Awoke a little before 05:30 this morning thought I was packing fast but still wasn’t out of camp until 06:45. Stopped for a drink and read trail signs / consult map at County Road 50 parking area. Eighteen miles to go. Let’s get ‘er done!

07:38
Stopping for breakfast. Climbing southwest along Devil’s Track Canyon’s West side. Aside from the lake this is the most imposing natural feature I’ve encountered. The trail balances mere inches alongside hundred plus foot drops to the rocks and water below.

08:25
Devil Track River East camp looks totally stellar. The bridge that follows shortly after is quite a sight also.

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Sketch: A-Frame bridge at Devil’s Track Canyon.

09:47
I think I should move to Grand Marais someday. While overlooking the town, reading an informational sign I learned:

Lake Superior:

  • Largest freshwater lake by surface area
  • 10% of world’s fresh water
  • 1333’ deep at deepest point
  • Average temperature 40 degrees F
  • Kitchi-gumi

Some other areas to research and someday explore:

  • Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park
  • Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
  • Pukaskwa National Park
  • Lake Superior Provincial Park
  • Michipicoten Island Provincial Park
  • Isle Royale National Park

13:20
The boardwalk across Sundling Creek runs across a beaver dam. Don’t know if it’s always in a rough of shape as now, but I’ll say it’s proper fucked!

13:47
Crossing Sundling Creek was the most adventurous section of the SHT so far. Before I crossed, as I stood on the other side and looked at the shambles of a one and two plank walkway I couldn’t see the whole thing. Parts of it have slumped over and as I glanced at it I wondered if I’d be taking my boots and pants off and going for a wade across the beaver pond. If it was 10 degrees warmer I’d certainly be going swimming in this lovely place. But instead I think I’ll sit a spell and partake in a pipe. All is well in my world.

14:03
How delightful I chose to spend time in this place. Perched on the bank of the pond I was made privy to a swiftly swimming beaver as s/he made his/her way across from the dam upstream.

19:05
Arrived at camp at around 17:00 – well before I predicted. I got a bit caught up about a half hour out. I ran into another hiker (only the sixth I’ve seen). His name was Greg and he lives near St. Cloud. He comes out this way in the spring and fall to avoid bugs and crowds. We had a nice chat about hiking. It was very pleasant to converse for more than three words.

06:44 – 17:15
Step Count – 37886


Thursday, May 5th

05:00
Damn that’s a lot of “fives” (05.05.05, 05:00)! After much deliberation Ive decided my stove needs much repair. I monkied with the damn thing for over a half hour and am now finally boiling water for some oatmeal. Shorter day today though so should be OK.

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08:28
Photo: There’s even some graffiti along the SHT!

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10:37
Photo: Cascade Falls

12:30
I’ve arrived at a place I remember so well, even though having visited it only once before in my pre-teens. I remember it because it has always been in my head as one of the most beautiful places on earth. I didn’t know for certain if the SHT would cross this place or not for I only remembered what it looked like, not what it was called. As I sit and reminisce from Lookout Mountain in Cascade State Park I remember thinking as a youth that if I ever got married, it would be in a place like this. I would love to sit here for hours but thunderheads are rollin’ in so I’m rollin’ out.

18:00
Arrival at East Poplar River camp.

08:00 – 18:00
Step Count – 40839


 

Friday, May 6th

08:05
Travel a road and you travel through the landscape. Travel a trail and you travel with the landscape.

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08:40
Photo:A wonderful set of rock steps near Lutsen.

11:58
Atop Moose Mountain I came across a sawn log with a metal placard bolted into it with the words, “Now this is a tree with a story to tell, May 8th, 1990”. What does that mean do you suppose?

14:35
A warm wind is blowing. I hung up my pack and hiked up to a little overlook by the name of Cedar. It provides an exquisite view of the Lake as well as Leveaux and Oberg Mountains off to the left. After yesterdays power hike through the pouring rain, today’s sunny stroll is welcomed with open arms.

15:38
Arrived at Springdale Creek camp before 16:00 – yeah! I’m going to get some much deserved sitting-around-time this afternoon. I hiked three extra miles yesterday and I’m SO happy about it now!

07:40 – 15:38
Step Count – 24900


Saturday, May 7th

05:45
Got up at 04:00 this morning so I could hike Britton Peak for the sunrise. Got hear about ten minutes ago and sun was still behind far off hill. It just rose moments ago. It was quite stunning. Would’ve liked to have seen it from Carlton Peak because it rises over the lake.

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07:05
Photo: Self Portrait from atop Carlton Peak

08:40
Temperance River State Park. The river gorge is almost a slot canyon. There is one point where the opposing walls are only about six or seven feet apart. I’m sure many a daring punk kid has leaped it. However, its almost certain death by waterfall below.

09:30
Chatted with Jeremy, he knows Nate Schuler on GNP Trails.

10:00
Had a nice chat with Keith from Maple Grove. He was doing three days from Caribou Wayside to Lutsen.

10:31
Saw two female backpackers and said hi. They seemed awfully rushed.

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Photo: An elegant bird. A grouse perhaps?

16:56
Having just finished a lovely supper of garlic veggie rice noodles, dehydrated split pea soup and rice I was looking over tomorrow’s trail data when a lively whitetail deer ran straight through camp. What a joy. Sugar Loaf Pond camp.

05:42 – 02:56
Step Count – 41000


Sunday, May 8th

Awake at 05:30 after night of rain. Lazy-ish morning cooking oatmeal and packing gear.

07:56
On the trail. GRD for eighteen miles!

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Photo: SHT covered bridge

East Baptism River camp. Latrine needs relocation for rain/spring melt has completely flooded into and around pit. Possible consideration of completely moving camp might be necessary.

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16:45
Photo: Ducks on Sonju Lake.

17:00
Well, I’m halfway done and I’m still feeling good. It seems that a lot of pain I was suffering at first has gone away – – but I still get sore. Today I wasn’t even all that exhausted as I got to camp and it was an eighteen mile day. I will forever look at ten mile days as cakewalks I think. I wonder what this journey will do for my body, mind and personna after I leave the woods? Speaking of leaving I have found myself dreaming about taking Heather to Pizza Luce on Sunday night when we get out : )

19:00
All the domestics are done around camp and I’ve come down by the lake to sit on the lovely little dock here. The sun hangs in the sky, lazy. The choir of creatures surrounding me don’t mind me being here and have just struck up a tune. A choir with tens of thousands of players, no composer and no sheet music. A jazz combo of epic proportions. The first few mosquitos of the summer buzz solo parts in my ear. They are huge.

08:00 – 16:15
Step Count – 37120


Monday, May 9th

09:15 – 03:15
Step Count – 28500


Tuesday, May 10th

06:58
The sun is peeking through the clouds, I’ve cooked oatmeal, packed my gear and just waved goodbye to my – can you believe it – campsite partners! Jim and Laura from Mpls. Jim’s a librarian and Laura will be attending grad school for environmental policy.

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Photo: Self portrait from vista in Section 13 area

13:30
Just climbed “The Drainpipe” – by far the most technical section of the SHT. It was 150’ all-fours climb through a narrow chute of rock. While resting atop it I met Amanda and Jay who happen to be thru-hiking also! They were on day four of eighteen, up from Mankato for adventure.

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Photo: Trail moving through giant boulders along Sawmill Dome ridge.

14:30
Just summited Mount Trudee and the views are breathtaking. Three lakes to the North, the Lake to the East and the Sawtooth’s and other hills all around. The landscape is slightly speckled with civilization but it adds a feeling of reality to an otherwise pristine setting.

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Photo: High Falls at Tettegouche State Park from below.

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Photo: Beautiful rock steps prior to Bear Lake

18:56
I’ve just sharpened my pencil. w00t!

19:28
When I set out to make this journey – wait, let me rephrase that. When I first got the idea in my head to do this thing, this incredibly intense and taxing event in physical and mental stability and reliability I had it all figured out. Just go out there with the right stuff and get ‘er done. Nice and simple, 1, 2, 3. Ponder now these past days as I solo hike upon the shared ground of two great ecosystems of how in-tune with self and nature one can become if they let go of worry and face hardship and discomfort head on. A tough skin and steady nerves joining in a duet with the environment around you. Wow…words.

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Photo: Reclining in the evening after all the chores are done at Bear Lake camp.

07:10 – 16:35
Step Count – 32297


Wednesday, May 11th

10:09
Reset the alarm twice this morning because I just felt like sleeping a bit. Ended up getting up at 06:30. Got on the trail about 07:30ish. Trucked along, stopping for a minute to gander at beautiful view down onto Bean Lake. Found my way into Silver Bay and asked a jogger where to find a pay phone. Turns out it was where I am now, “The Lounge” bar. Made my call and then ordered a nice glass of Leinenkugels. Ahh, it’s relaxing. Sitting here with a couple locals, sippin’ a brew at ten in the morning. Took a nice sink shower and will roll over to the grocery store for a bit of eats before setting off to find Heather.

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Photo: Bean Lake

00:00 – 00:00
Step Count – Unknown


Thursday, May 12th

17:30
So glad to be with Heather again. Her, Tasha, Lily and I did an easy seven miles today.

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Photo: Heather and Tasha

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Photo: Heather posed with dogs with Lake in background.

10:00 – 03:45
Step Count – 18000


Friday, May 13th

17:50
It was an overcast and chilly day with lots of swamp walking. Some nice looks down into Split Rock River gorge though. Afternoon provided us a nice cliff to sit on and stare out over the birch covered landscape. We’re constantly surrounded by the sound of traffic now, but all is still very tranquil. Tomorrow we’ll hit Gooseberry pretty early and then hopefully hike on to Crow Creek Vista. Sunday will be the last leg of the trip. It will be eerie setting foot into an automobile again, but I’m ready for a little pampering I think. It’s been so nice having Heather and the dogs around – it has and will make the last days seem like a new, fresh set of miles.

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Photo: Heather and Tasha near Split Rock River.

09:00 – 16:34
Step Count – 15000


Saturday, May 14th

Had some nice words with Dave and his son Travis who shared camp with us last evening. Hit the trail and warmed up at Gooseberry interpretive center. Short walk along river then set up stove for lunch beside some rapids. Seven miles of hiking and we’re at Crow Valley camp. Still wet and shitty out so we cooked under the vestibule and are just laying around until we fall asleep.

09:37 – 17:45
Step Count – 15000


Sunday, May 15th

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Photo: A sigh of relief over completing the Superior Hiking Trail.

14:00
NWC!

09:00 – 14:04
Step Count – 14467


A gallery of all the photos from this trip is located here.

An approximation of the gear I carried is located here.