[at-l] Minnesota adventure Part 6

Mark Hudson mvhudson at gmail.com
Sun Sep 19 18:36:34 CDT 2010

9/4: South Beaver River Campsite -

Very cool and breezy this morning, but not as windy as yesterday... and
SUNNY! Being a short day I didn't roll out of the bag until seven. It was
almost dark last night when I heard voices come into camp. Since I was
already snug in the bag and half asleep I didn't get up, but this morning I
found it was the J's. Hung around the morning fire with them, it wasn't
until nine that I left camp.

Started hitting step-over blowdowns from yesterday's wind right away. Ups
and downs over to Bear and Bean Lakes. The ups had me wondering what was so
ripe inside my Frogg Toggs jacket :-)

Went down to Bear Lake but only got a picture. I wanted a swim but the water
wasn't warm enough to make up for freezing my ass off in the breeze when I
climbed out. After Bear Lake I started hitting the holiday weekenders, five
backpackers and about a dozen dayhikers just on the way to the first paved
road. Not far south of that road I found a sunny overlook for lunch. During
the extended lunch-sun soak three kids passed, then mom, then the
grandparents. Leaving lunch I met a single woman going the other way, then
five or six college age backpackers and another half dozen dayhikers...

Short, pretty easy run over to here. This spot is next to the river falls
and so scenic I never went to check on the north campsite. Another half
dozen dayhikers have already passed through to enjoy the falls. I went down
to soak my feet in the water, that pretty much took care of any dreams of
swimming... damn cold! Maybe if it was 90 out.

Passed plenty of ATV trails today; I have to say that the Minnesotans
respect the “No Motorized Vehicles” signs on the SHT, I haven't even seen an
attempted incursion. In West Virginia the ATVers regard that sign as a
challenge. The only thing I've seen wrong on the trail was mountain bike
tracks in the Lutsen ski area where the signs said “No Bikes”.

The only problem with these short days is the temptation to raid the goody
bag after you're in camp. Got here at 1:30, it's 3:30 now, it's hard to tell
the stomach that no, it's NOT dinnertime yet.

Hmm, didn't look like the North Shore Mining plant was running for Labor Day
weekend, but the railroad tracks aren't far away, and they sound even closer
when the trains whistle for a grade crossing. So this little piece of
wilderness is sandwiched between the tracks and the road we cross tomorrow

My eyeglasses repair held up well all day, but now is getting pretty wobbly
– hope it's not something I'll have to take care of every day :-(

Funny, the only people I've seen here was the crowd right after I arrived.
Haven't even seen any more weekend backpackers... even the J's haven't shown
up yet, they must really be moseying along.

Two 13-14 mile days, and a 7-miler to the end. Tomorrow looks like a lot of
up and down, I hope my feet have enjoyed the rest day :-)

 9/5: Northwest Split Rock River Campsite -

More people last night; four teens showed up fishing, the J's pulled in at
dinnertime. One woman dayhiker passed heading for the road, then two women
wandered down from upstream. Finally two German backpackers pulled in and
camped at dark.

VERY cold this morning, needed my gloves. Woke the J's so they could get an
early start to Split Rock, the campsites are only a mile from the road so
there may be a lot of competition for them this weekend.

Took off on a tear out of camp, trying to generate body heat, where's a
climb when you really need one?! Passed North Beaver River campsite where
there was a car-camping sized tent set up, from the marks in the trail they
literally dragged it in from the road.

Shortly afterward I scared something into the river (beaver? Otter?) but
never got to see it.

The trains for the mining company ran all night, meaning I heard two or
three of them. Not long after crossing the road I heard another one coming
and raced to an overlook, only to find the train too far away for a
picture... LONG train too. The next overlook brought another train, going
slow inland and uphill, and close enough for a pic.

The guide said this section was difficult – I flew to my first break at 9am
trying to stay warm. There was some rocky footing around the Fault Line
Campsite, and some climbs to views and descents to valleys, but not much to
slow me down. Finally about 10:30 I met the first hikers of the day, two
young women backpacking to the Beaver River today. They said how beautiful
the first campsite at Split Rock River was, and mentioned a chance of
showers tomorrow. Met four more backpackers heading north before the state
park, passed one group of four heading south, and inside the park one young
guy carrying a full pack (boy scout style) with a young woman carrying
NOTHING. Then stared hitting more hikers and dayhikers than I could count –
including one very large group from Iowa State.

Got to the first campsite – taken. Got to this site at noon, in time for
lunch, multi-group site with no one in it. Not nearly as nice as the first
site but at least I have a place to camp. Went and rinsed the t-shirt and
long pants in the river and fetched water. Lots and lots of people along the
river... soaked my feet but the water is too cold for a swim. The water here
is also the clearest on the trail, no floaties in the water bottle :-)
Sucked it up and decided that the fastest way to dry the t-shirt was to put
it on... brr!

One third of a mile to the foot bridge and the next campsite – should have
looked in the guide before pitching here, but there's already a tent set up
there and it's not nice enough to get me to move.

Jen just pulled in from the state part roadside – looks like she packed a
guitar too. At least this is a multi-group site so the pads are a little
spaced out, if you're sharing the other sites you're almost in each others
laps... and the number of people along the river today is just incredible!

Went down to the river to get some more pics when the J's showed up. About
an hour later Josh showed up to camp – he's finishing up a section hike of
the SHT this week.

 9/6: Crow Valley Campsite -

Stayed up chatting around the campfire until almost 9:30. Not as cold last
night as it's been, but cold enough this morning to make it hard to get
started, especially knowing that there wouldn't be any competition for
campsites tonight.

Said goodbye and rolled out of camp about 8:20, pretty easy walking all day.
A bit warmer than yesterday, but a bit breezier too – I think it averaged
out. Clear blue skies this morning, very light cloud cover this afternoon,
very nice day despite the “chance of showers” forecast.

Easy walking over to the Gooseberry River State Park. The river was nice but
pretty tame compared to the other rivers the trail has passed lately. It did
make for easy walking since the trail followed the river for a long ways.

Found a spot in the sun for lunch; the last of the bread, cheese, mayo and
mustard gone. Last of the dried fruit is gone too. I did find I have an
extra candy bar for dessert tonight.

Ran into four backpackers, and about an equal number of dayhikers today,
everyone is heading home from the weekend.

More easy walking after lunch, but water was starting to look iffy. Stopped
at a “seasonal stream” and got a quart and a half out of the seasonal puddle
that was left (nice and cold anyway). That water looks like nectar compared
to what's at this campsite.

Rolled in about 2:30, the guide says the water here is “unreliable in dry
periods”. It may have been flowing recently but is now a series of puddles.
You think it would be better going downstream – there's more water in that
direction but the quality gets worse the farther you go; the first puddle
has floaties, but the puddle 100 feet downstream has a positive scum on it

The J's were talking about finishing their hike today and heading back to
camp at Split Rock SP, instead of following their plan of two short days and
finishing tomorrow.

The last campsite on the trail for the last night. 7+ miles of trail left,
2.3 miles on the road down to Rt 61, and two miles into Two Harbors. I may
spend the night there, and even volunteer a day at the SHT office, depending
on what my options for getting into Duluth are. It would be nice to at least
have a shower and get laundry done. So I'm kind of winging tomorrow.

After hearing pileated woodpeckers for the last four days or so I finally
saw one fly across the trail on the way into Gooseberry SP. Also ran into a
couple of red squirrels a bit too acclimated to humans, got a good picture
of one.

Darn quiet in camp after all the company I've had lately. Oh well...

Time to put warmer clothes on. Went and burned my paper trash and ended up
with a campfire out of boredom. Never did note my new term from this trip;
you pass through so many birch groves, and the bark is so readily available
and so flamable, that I've been calling birch bark “Minnesota Napalm” :-).

So from the people I've met on this trip I have some recommendations for
town; Jake says the best pizza in Duluth is Pizza Luce (Athena pizza –
spinach, feta, and artichoke hearts). Josh – beer at Fitzger's Brew House.
Dave – Celtic jam at Sir Ben's. Jen – Lou's Fish Shack in Two Harbors has
motel rooms. Need to find a good book store, and maybe shop for some new

5:25, post dinner. Dinner was roasted garlic mashed potatoes. I was hoping
to have some spare cheese from the lunch bag to throw in, but the last of
the cheese barely made lunch. What I did have was one last little squeeze
package or horseradish sauce, it actually worked out really nice.

The sky has grayed up solid, we may get that chance of showers after all...
wouldn't that be great, wet gear to pack in the morning.

I can hear occasional traffic on that road a mile away. A LOT of me wants to
be done; the me with the sore feet, the me that needs as shave, shower, and
clean laundry, and especially the me that realizes just how little food is
left. This may be as close to empty as I've ever finished a hike. But some
part of me is always reluctant to go back. Thinking now about some of the
campfire conversation last night, I realize that most people look at the
wilderness as a nice break from civilization. I look at civilization as a
(sometimes) nice break from the wilderness. The rat race awaits...

6:25pm – the fire's died down, the sky if anything is grayer, and I just
crawled in the tent. It's going to be a long night...

7pm – crawled out to check on the fire just as the gray sky started to spit.
Not enough to call it rain yet but it seems to be trying to work it's way

Just occurred to me that if I stay in Two Harbors I should see if there's a
library there. All the “town stop” stuff to do but resupply. ..

Starting to sound like real rain...

 9/7: Two Harbors -

If last night was a chance of thunderstorms; we had one at 8, one at
8:30,one at 10, and the one at 10:30 lasted all night. Woke up with a small
puddle at the foot of the tent, but the foot of the sleeping bag was VERY
wet, apparently it did a good job of sopping things up. I knew that last
night was going to be a long night, but that was just nuts!

The rain stopped towards “dawn”. Mother Nature called at 5am, could barely
find the privy without a light. Couldn't get out of the wet fast enough,
breakfast by headlamp and out on the trail at 6:25.

Pretty warm morning, but “damp” doesn't describe it. Climbed the ridge and
while descending the rock ledges to Wolf Rock I saw an eagle soaring over
the valley, but too far for a picture. It did seem the eagle brought
Nature's blessings...

Ups and downs, more than I thought... down to the Crow Creek gorge, back up
a ridge, down to the Encampment River, back up another ridge. Some mist from
the sky thrown in, then the sun trying to break out. The trail spends a long
time paralleling the road, you can hear traffic but it never gets any
closer. The trail started getting very swampy in there too. Finally crossed
the road and hit the last trailhead, took some pics, and did the short road
walk down the dirt road to the main road to hitch; third vehicle – young guy
in a pickup, dropped me at the laundry here.... :-)

Some last notes as I adjust to civilization; motel room at Lou's – hot
shower and scrubbed pink, hacked beard off. Lunch at a “Vietmanese”
restaurant, made up for the fat shortage anyway. Stopped at the Superior
Hiking Trail store and replaced my guidebook (burned as I went along). The
new edition adds 30 more miles (hot off the press)... but I did what I came
out to do...

And it looks like my Leatherman Micra disappeared someplace.

Seems the best way into Duluth is by thumb – but that's tomorrow, and a
different adventure... :-)
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