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.


sht-trail-sign

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


shit-trail-register

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.

sht-hellacious

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.

sht-beaver-dam

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.

privateproperty

Photo: Private land sign just before Camp Road 20

devilskettle

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.

selfportrait

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.

Photo unavailable

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.

sht-beach-lakewalk

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?

kadunceriver

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.

sht-winter-kill

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.

sht-wildflower-hill

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.

Photo unavailable

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.

shit-graffiti

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

sht-cascade-falls

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.

rocksteps-lutsen

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.

sht-selfportrait-carlton

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.

grouse

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!

sht-covered-bridge

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.

sht-sonju

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.

sht-selfportrait-sect-13

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.

trailthruboulders

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.

sht-high-falls

Photo: High Falls at Tettegouche State Park from below.

rocksteps

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.

sht-feet-bear-lake

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.

beanlake

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.

heathertasha

Photo: Heather and Tasha

sht-heather-tasha-lake

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.

heathertasha-rockcolumns

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

sht-grd

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.

 

Superior Hiking Trail, Sunday, May 08, 2005

Sonju Lake, May 2005

From my Trail Journal, Sunday, 2005-05-08, Sonju Lake

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.

November Canoeing on the St. Croix River

The need to re-write the already spectacular trip report of this journey by friend and fellow Wilderness enthusiast Greg Seitz is hardly necessary so I’ll present you with a quick de-brief. If you’re a canoeing enthusiast or appreciate blogs with a flare for both the written word and photography be sure to click over and read Greg’s post, Once more to the river.


Greg looks at the info kiosk at Osceola Landing.


The St. Croix has a great riverside signage system.


Greg taking a break from paddling.


We lunched at “The Spot”.

Night Mountain Bike Riding; Minneapolis, MN

I was visiting family in Minnesota for the past week and had a chance to get out with my brother who is an avid cyclist and photographer. We chose a night ride at Murphy Hanrehan Park Reserve located south of Minneapolis.

Scott was on a full-suspension Ventana and I borrowed his single-speed Salsa Selma, a fine specimen of a 29er constructed of scandium tubing with carbon seatstays. We both had high-powered HID light systems which worked well for the first seven miles until Scott’s pooped out. We opted to ride a dirt road back to the trailhead rather than cut our speed in half and try to ride with one light. All in all it was superb to get out for a ride with my brother.

Photo © Scott Haraldson

View a map of the route we chose at Murphy Hanrehan on EveryTrail.

Silver Bay to Section 13 on the Superior Hiking Trail

This trip took place April 20-22nd, 2007.  Participants were Andy, Logan, and Sam

Logan, Bean Lake

April 20th – Friday night we arrived at the Silver Bay trailhead just before dark. We were able to move the 3.5 or so miles to the Bear Lake campsite with no difficulties. We ran into some fellow Duluthians at the trailhead but they were camping at a closer spot and we lost track of them.

Arrival at camp was quick and efficient as all three of us are experienced backpackers. Tents were erected, dinner prepared and a comfortable fire built just in time for the “alpine-glow” to be replaced with darkness.

Feet, Bear Lake

April 21st – Morning was just as efficient and gratefully so as the rain began to fall just as we were closing the tops of our packs. We hit the trail as the chilly drops of rain sent their wake up messages to our bodies. We hiked to Tettegouche State Park where Andy had to make his departure to meet some family members for a backpacking trip elsewhere along the trail but Logan and Sam continued on the rest of the sixteen odd miles to Section 13 camp.

Section 13 Cliffs

A chilly but relaxing evening found us cooking some warm grub and chatting about the old days back in Montana followed by an early bedtime. It had been awhile since either of us had done any real trail miles so we were feeling the sixteen miles.

ULA Equipment Conduit

April 22nd – Morning came with no real pain and we quickly packed for the short mile and a half back down to the highway and Logan’s waiting Jeep. We were in Duluth eating wild rice burgers at the Brewhouse by 11:30.

View entire trip photo set on Flickr.

Revisiting Old Trips – Superior Hiking Trail, MN, USA

Sam above Duluth, MN with Lake Superior in the background
Sam Haraldson above Duluth, MN and Lake Superior, October 2005

I’ve decided to take all the trips I’ve documented on samh.net/backpacking and create blog posts about them here so that I can have one all-encompassing trip reports website. The majority of these posts will be short and focus on photos but others such as my trip reports for my thru-hikes are quite lengthy.

This particular post you are reading now will cover two trips, one from July 2006 and another from September 2006 – both on the Superior Hiking Trail on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota.

I took an overnight trip in July 2006 into Crosby-Manitou State Park along the Superior Hiking Trail. I had really only begun practicing ultralight backpacking the year previous and was getting into the process of trying out new gear and techniques. In the photos below you can see my heavy nylon tarp, makeshift nordic ski poles, Equinox “About-a-Pound” pack, DIY Tyvek stuff sack, REI WPB bivy, and Gatorade water bottle.

Tarp and bivy camping, Crosby Manitou
Tarp and bivy camping, Crosby Manitou

In September of 2006 I had acquired a Golite Poncho Tarp but was still rockin’ the same nordic ski poles and bivy. I did a lot of volunteer trail maintenance and a lot of backpacking that summer. It was wonderful exploring the North Shore of Lake Superior and re-visiting the SHT again after having thru-hiked it on a visit there in 2005. On my hike into Sonju Lake I was surprised to find fellow trail-maintainer and friend, Kurt with two buddies who were out on a multi-day trip.

Poncho tarp and bivy camping Sonju Lake

Bissel’s Mound – Summit Cheeseburger Project


When he proposed the idea he had a glint in his eye usually reserved for those in the industry of taking fingers. The heavy silence that followed did little to ease the sudden tension that often settled in whenever he had an “idea”.
“Are you in?” Sam inquired after a long silent stare at his comrades.
“In on what?” Matt and Jon asked with a puzzled look on their faces.
“Yes or no?” Sam stated with a simple insistence.
“You still haven’t told us…”
“The details are unimportant. There is only one certainty – – we will need to get cheeseburgers.”
Silence overcame the room as Matt and Jon looked at one another in bewilderment.
“Are you in?” Sam reclined in the car seat and and folded his arms across his chest.
“I’m in.” Matt said, similarly leaning back and folding his arms moments before he remembered he was driving.
“Okay, how about you, Jon?”
“Well…”
“Yes or a no. Are you in?”
“Oh all right. I’m in,” Jon said with a tone of nonchalance.
Ten hours, twenty-four beers, and a hastily constructed and detonated firework later found the intrepid trio driving the seven miles deep into the heart of farmland in Washington County, Minnesota with a Tupperware container full of microwaved White Castle cheeseburgers. It was not until then that Sam finally revealed his plan.
“So, we go out to this spot in Washington County that’s supposedly the highest point?” Jon asked from his position in the back seat.
“That my friend is correct,” Sam nodded enthusiastically.
“And we climb up it?”
“Duh.”
“Then eat a cheeseburger?”
“Obviously”
“That’s silly.”
“And…?”
“Well, let’s do it,” Jon shrugged. “It’s as good as any place to have breakfast I suppose.
As the Toyota began easing over to the side of the rural road, Sam took a worried look around. “We just have to watch out for the neurotic Nazi ninja monkey who, by a staggering coincidence are all named Mr. Tinkles.”

Matt and Jon, normally allowing such nonsensical tripe to pass without comment, both gave Sam a puzzled look and began subliminally calculating how long until the car was traveling at a low enough velocity to jump out.
“What the hell are you talking about, moron?!?” Matt demanded before his silence reflex could kick in.
“I’m just saying, this is neurotic Nazi ninja monkey country, and it’s been warm enough that they’re probably done hibernating. I just hope we don’t stumble on to one of their group hugs. A neurotic Nazi ninja monkey is most dangerous when he’s hugging.”
Simultaneously Matt and Jon’s mental calculations turned to how much damage would be incurred if Sam were to be pushed from the moving vehicle while accelerating. Both arrived at the conclusion that apart from a little hippie-splatter the car would probably be fine.
Just as Matt’s hand was slowly snaking towards Sam’s seatbelt release button Sam’s arm shot out causing both Matt and Jon to jump.
“That’s it!” He announced enthusiastically. “Pull over here.”
Jon and Matt exchanged one more glance of unease as Matt pulled the Toyota toward the side of the road next to a large empty farm field.
“So where is it?” Jon said, squinting out the window.
“There!” Sam pointed.
“I can’t see it, is it near that dirt-mound?”
“It IS the dirt mound.”
“You what?!” Matt and Jon both turned towards a smug-looking Sam.
“That, my friends, is Bissell’s Mound, the highest geological point in Washington County. And we, my friends are going to climb it. Oh yes, we will climb it and eat cheesburgers atop it while we take in the glorious view of…” Sam was interrupted by Matt clicking the release on his seatbelt and kicking with all his strength while Jon leaned over and opened his door causing Sam to tumble from the car in an indignant heap of profanity and lightweight hiking boots.
“Thank god for that,” Jon said flopping back down in his seat.
“That might have worked better,” Sam’s head suddenly popped back up, “if the car was actually moving.”

“Damn,” Matt said as he looked at the keys in his hand.
“Double damn,” Jon said as he realized they would never get another chance.
“Ok, let’s go – and don’t forget the cheeseburgers,” Sam said as he gestured towards the tupperware container cooling on the seat.
“Damn,” muttered Matt, the parking brake catching his foot and preventing him from kicking himself. “Now what?”
“Looks like we scale a mound,” Jon sighed.
“Ok, what if we were to break an ankle getting out of the car?”
“I if you were to cut your foot off completely he’d still make you climb.”
“It wasn’t MY ankle I was thinking of.”
“It won’t help.”
“I know.”
Thirty seconds later, after convincing Matt to leave the aluminum bat behind, the three adventurers began trudging along the edge of a muddy farm field towards what appeared to be a gigantic earthen pimple on the otherwise flat expanse of landscape.
“Hey, are we trespassing?” Matt observed the wooden fence that ran the perimiter of the field.
“Hey, yeah! We should probably get the permission of the landowners before we do this!” Jon chirped, “I bet that’s their house right there.” He pointed at the house with conspicuous satellite dish in the front yard.
“That’s a good idea!” Matt nodded a little too enthusiastically. “I bet they have ESPN.”
“Oh for God’s sake, you guys!” Sam suddenly halted and spun on the pair. “It’s maybe a hundred feet of walking up an incline, it’s not like I’m asking you to crawl across a field of broken glass with your pants fly unzipped!”

“That’s a good point,” Jon mused. “But on the other hand it’s a hundred feet of walking up an incline.”
“He’s right,” Matt patted his shoulder. “It had to happen sooner or later but he’s actually…”
“Just walk, you spaghetti-spined whiners,” Sam said as he turned and continued on towards the dirt-heap.
“I think he was talking about you,” Matt whispered to Jon as they followed along.
It wasn’t long before the mound loomed before them in all its vertical glory. Surrounded by a perimeter of trees it sloped steeply upwards to, as was mentioned, the highest point in the county.
“I think if we circle to the left a little where the trees are thinner, we could easily get through,” Sam said, pondereding the potential routes upward.
“Or, we could just set fire to this side and wait a few days. The way would be clear then,” Jon stated, stroking his chin in what he hoped was a thoughtful way.
“Don’t be stupid,” Matt poked him in the ribs. “The cheeseburgers would be cold by that time. Does your chin itch or something?”
Jon stopped stroking his chin and returned to moping.
“Or, if we could get through the underbrush here it would be an easy ascent. Did either one of you bring a machete?” Sam stoked his chin in what was indeed a thoughtful way.
Matt and Jon stopped giving each other threatening looks and turned to Sam in unison with bewildered look on their faces.
“Well?”
“No, sorry,” Jon answered. “I left it back at my apartment next to the weed whip and the barrel of agent orange.”
“And I don’t believe in defoliation,” Matt said, folding his arms defiantly. “It’s against my religion.”
“Right, this way then,” Sam led on, completely missing the sarcasm that was oozing out of every pore of his traveling companions.
“Hey, look! There’s a beaten path through the trees right over there! This is going to be easy.” Matt began towards the opening but Sam’s arm shot out and stopped him.
“No!” A wide-eyed Sam half whispered, half shouted. “That’s a neurotic Nazi ninja monkey trail! If they’re nearby they’ll sense our disruption and come running armed with pointy sticks and self-doubt.” He studied the path intently. “It looks like they just got it the way they like it, so you don’t want to disturb a single blade of grass there. Believe me, they’ll know.”

“Uh-huh,” Matt nodded. “Yeah, I can see how that would be a problem. Say, on a completely different subject, have you eaten any strange-looking mushrooms in the last few days?”
“No, why?”
“Have you had any severe blows to the head?” Jon asked.
“No.”
“Do you want one?”
“Shut up.”
“You got it.”
Quietly the group wound they’re way around the base of the mound until they found a spot where the trees didn’t quite form an impassible wall. Sam, being the more experienced hiker, deftly wove his way through them while Matt and Jon simply plowed through with clumsy determination. Halfway in Matt whispered to Jon.
“Are you getting thistles in your underwear too?”
“Yeah!” Jon grinned goofily.
“Ew.”
When they finally emerged from the dense undergrowth the three were startled to find themselves half way up the hill. Jon looked back as the last traces of their path disappeared, reabsorbed into the thick foliage.
“Let’s do that again!” He almost sang.
“NO!” Both Sam and Matt shouted back.
“And take that raspberry vine out of your pants!” Matt added.
“No.”

“Oh please yourself, then. Just be aware that raspberry stains are even harder to explain to the girlfriend than they are to wash out,” Sam shouted over his shoulder as he continued up the steep incline.
“I’ll take my chances,” Jon muttered as he followed after.
“Just don’t drop the cheeseburgers.”
“Are we there yet?” Matt sighed.
“Actually… yes.” Sam suddenly noticed that the slope had become far less vertical and only sky presented itself when he looked upward.
“We are?” Jon said stopped and realized the only change in altitude that he could make was now downwards. “We are!”
“We made it?” Matt looked around startled.
“We are officially at the top of Bissell’s Mound, gentlemen,” Sam said as he smiled broadly. “Time to break out some burgers.”
“Right, then.” Jon set the Tupperware container on the ground and popped the lid off letting the smell of soggy microwaved White Castle cheeseburgers waft out. Each man took one of the small sandwiches and stood looking out over the landscape.
“Cheers!” Sam held up his burger as if it were a fine wine in an expensive crystal glass. Matt and Jon each held theirs up as well and “clinked” them together causing a few onions to crumble to the ground. The only conversation that followed was the unmistakable sound of chewing and savoring.
When the first three burgers had been devoured the three adventurers allowed a moment to pass as they gazed at the landscape stretched out before them. It was mostly farm land, with a few brushy clusters of trees dotting the areas where it was impossible to drive a tractor. Far beyond was the faint sound of the highway, muted by distance and a lingering humidity that wasn’t quite fog. Jon was the first to speak.
“Wow. From up here everything looks so…”
“Majestic?” Sam ventured.
“Awe-inspiring?” Matt guessed.
“Flat.”
“Remind me not to talk to you later, will you?” Matt sighed.

“Who’s ready for seconds?” Sam rubbed his hands together, eager to end the conversation.
As each one reached down to pick up another cheeseburger a sudden cracking of twigs could be heard behind a clump of dead trees. A few whining wails could be heard drifting on the light breeze and the overpowering smell of sauerkraut and wasabi wafted past the three friends.
Matt squinted in the direction of the sounds and smells. “What the hell is-“
“SHHHH!” Sam, now wide-eyed, motioned for everyone to crouch down. “Keep down, and whatever you do don’t say anything supportive in Japanese or they’ll come running!”
“Who?!” Jon demanded in a harsh whisper.
“What do you mean who?! I’ve only been talking about them all day. It’s the neurotic Nazi ninja monkeys! If they catch us they’ll force us to listen to all their problems in haiku form and then try to annex Poland!”
“Well, that doesn’t sound so bad,” Matt shrugged.
“Yeah, it might actually be kind of funny,” Jon began to stand but Sam pulled him back down.
“And they’ll also beat us up and throw feces at us. Did I mention that part?”
“Are you seriously saying there are actually a bunch of monkeys over there who are not only ninjas, but who also have severe personality hang-ups?” Matt whispered incredulously.
“And throw their poo, yes,” Sam hissed.
“That is wholly unbelievable,” Matt countered.
At that moment a small furry hand appeared above the level of the undergrowth. It was held ridged at an angle with the palm down as if it were…
“Holy crap, is that thing giving a nazi salute?” Jon gasped.
“Yes! They hate anything that isn’t their own race, and that means us!” Said Sam.
“We should probably get out of here,” Matt said nervously.
“Wait!” Sam held up his hand.
“What?”

“We haven’t finished our cheeseburgers!” Sam exclaimed, holding aloft his precious meal.
“He’s right!” Jon looked in horror at the burger in his hand.
“Ok,” Matt, obviously conflicted between his love of grilled meat and his love of being able to walk under his own power, finally came up with a solution. “Eat fast!”
Without a moment’s hesitation all three simultaneously began stuffing the small cheeseburgers into their mouths and frantically chewing.
“Oh mahh aahhth guuuhhd,” Jon mumbled through a mouthful of processed meat and cheese.
“Lethh go,” Sam said, swallowing.
The three began creeping on hands and knees back the way they came as quietly as possible through the dried weeds. Every now and then they could hear a high pitch howl of emotional pain and confusion behind them. Just as the group reached the tree line the howls built in volume and frequency until they hit a crescendo of animalistic wailing.
“Oh, God! I think they’re hugging!” Sam’s face paled. “We’ve got to get out of here. Now.”
“I don’t think they know we’re here,” Jon whispered back. As if in answer to this statement a small silver object flew past his face and buried itself in the trunk of a tree.
Jon blinked. “Was that a-“
“Throwing star!” Matt screamed.
“RUN!” Sam stood and made a break for the trees.
Matt and Jon needed no more encouragement as the clamor of screeching simians was beginning to quickly close in. As they ran Jon hazarded a glance over his shoulder and immediately snapped his head back.
“Is it just me,” He panted as tree branches and other assorted bracken whipped past him. “Or do they all look a little like Woody Allen in tiny black jumpsuits?”
Matt looked back for a moment and nodded the best he could with a squirrel’s nest narrowly missing his face. “They do bear an uncanny resemblance.”
Without warning the three suddenly broke through the tree line and found themselves running across an open field. “There’s the car!” Sam shouted.
“I think they’re getting closer!” Matt realized their pursuers would overtake them long before they made it to the car. “I also think we’re screwed.”

“Wait! I have an idea.” Sam stopped and turned to face the howling throng of angry monkeys.
“What the hell are you doing?!” Jon called to him as he ran past a few steps and stopped.
“You’re insane! They’re going to bore you to death!” Matt stopped slightly behind Jon.
Ignoring both of them Sam raised his finger, pointing to a spot somewhere behind the horde of simian supremacists.
“Hey, Mr. Tinkles, look!” He hollered at the top of is lungs, “It’s Ben Stiller in drag!” To everyone’s amazement the monkeys stopped and looked around.
“And I think he’s got Prozac in his pocket!” Matt added, catching on.
“And he’s signing another movie deal in which he plays a guy living in New York but has to cope with something outside his element!” Jon shouted. “And they’re paying him twenty million to do it!” He added for good measure.
This seemed to instantly enrage the spandex-clad primates and they ran off in random directions, screeching angrily and clawing at their eyes.
“That was close,” Jon said. As he turned around he was greeted by two fists that introduced themselves to his face at high speed, knocking him to the ground.
“OW! What was that for?!” Jon rolled around on the ground cradling his jaw.
“Don’t even joke about that!” Matt kicked him in the side.
“I’d rather face the monkeys naked and covered in banana paste than even think about another Ben Stiller movie!” Sam stomped his foot down on Jon’s gut.
“All right, all right, I’m sorry! I panicked!,” Jon coughed and wheezed. As he began to catch his breath both Matt and Sam grabbed an arm and helped him back to his feet.
As the three walked back to the car Matt turned to Sam. “So, is it always like this?”
“Nah,” Sam shook his head. “Sometimes it’s actually exciting.”
“But it’s always cheeseburgers?” Jon asked.
“Ever since Sir William Weber scaled Mount Sirloin with a Hibachi strapped to his back.”
“Huh.”
The crew walked on in silence for a while until they finally reached the car. The sound of angry neurotic Nazi ninja monkey nazis tearing the mound apart in their fruitless search echoed across the landscape as Matt unlocked the doors.
“So,” Sam said as he stretched out. “What are you guys doing for lunch?”

Superior Hiking Trail – Dayhike to Bean and Bear Lakes

Having put in my forty hours of I was able to leave work at 11:30 on a beautiful, sunny Friday. I went home, put together my pack with the ten essentials, jumped in my Subaru, stopped at my girlfriend’s house to pick up Maya dog and headed up the North Shore to Silver Bay, MN and the Superior Hiking Trail. Below you can watch a video blog I produced of the hike. Also feel free to peruse a photo gallery of some of the sights Maya and I saw.

While hiking I kept my camera handy and put together a short video blog for your enjoyment.

Winter Backpacking on the Superior Hiking Trail

Chad, Jim, Kat, Sam and Todd on an overnighter at the Gooseberry Multi-group Campsite along the Superior Hiking Trail, February 23rd and 24th, 2008.

View Trip Photos

Chad and Sam headed up to the Split Rock Wayside, Sam with his pack and Chad with his pulk sled and hiked the six miles to the Gooseberry State Park headquarters. They arrived around 14:30 with plans to meet Jim, Kat and Todd at 15:00. Food was consumed outside the headquarters in the sun and the rest of the group arrived in a timely fashion. Everyone quickly gathered their gear and hit the trail for the 2.7 mile jaunt to the campsite.

The trail was packed powder having seen dozen of pairs of snowshoes previously in the season and made for easy walking. Chad vocalized he wished he hadn’t added the fins to his pulk sled but seemed to maneuver it well regardless. Snowshoes weren’t necessary but the crampons on them were handy for the ups and downs.

Arrival in camp was around 16:30-ish and everyone immediately set up their camps. Kat and Todd put up their respective tents, Jim rigged up his tarp and Sam and Chad laid down their bivies. All was set before dark and next, out came the cooksets. Food was warmed and snow melted for the evening and next day’s water. Chad and Todd masterfully created a fire around which everyone sat, warmed and conversed for a couple of hours.

Winter camping is synonymous with early bed times and most hit the hay around 20:30. The stars were brilliant and the moon was very, very bright. No headlamp was necessary for potty breaks in the night. But the lack of clouds brought tempertures into the teens.

Eleven hours later the sun was peeking through the trees to the East and bodies climbed from their cocoons into the crisp morning air. Oatmeal, granola and coffee was warmed up, warm clothes were donned and the warmth of the sun put smiles on the campers faces. Everyone had eaten and packed for the trail by around 9:45. A little over an hour later we arrived back at Gooseberry headquarters, did some car shuttling, took a final group photo and were on our way home.

View Trip Photos