Superior Hiking Trail – Part II
I decided to drive my truck up to the Superior hiking trail this year. I left work about 2:30 Friday September 21st and started my drive up. After a very long drive, I ended up in Duluth about 3:00 am. Since I’m too cheap to get a hotel for 4 hours sleep I slept in the front seat of the truck and was awoken about 6:45 with the sun rising over the city of Duluth down below me.
I quickly changed clothes and began the drive. Up the coast of Lake Superior. The day was clear and the sun glistened in the water as I drove up the coast. I stopped in Two Harbors for a bite to eat and a photo op in front of the Superior Hiking Trail Association office.
Back on the road again, I headed up to the Split Rock Lighthouse to check it out before my hike. The Lighthouse was in fantastic condition and there was a keepers house open as well.
I then headed to Lutsen in order to meet my shuttle van at 12:15. I grabbed a burger and a beer before he arrived and we began the arduous task of stopping at every trailhead down the coast until I finally reached county road 301 where I finished last year.
Day 1 – Saturday 9/22/18
Starting: County Road 301
Ending: Crow Creek Campsite
Trail Miles Hiked: 7.4
I reached the trailhead about 3:30 and jumped right into my hike. I needed to get 7.4 miles in before dark. The trail started out a little muddier than I had expected. There were two small creeks to cross right off and the bridges were washed out of them both. I continued down the trail which had several ups and downs over the rocky hills. This was a pleasant change from the flat wet section I hiked last year. About 3 miles in I came to the enchantment River and it was flowing quite well and about 50′ wide. I removed my pant legs and walked across. The water was ice cold but only about 12″ deep in the middle. As I approached The castle danger trailhead I came to crow creek where the volunteers had just finished placing large stones and building steps up the bank. This was a pleasant surprise. Thanks SHTA volunteers. After passing through the Castle Danger trailhead. The trail began a steep ascent up the mountain revealing a nice overlook to Lake Superior. The trail continued on and I eventually reached the campsite right at dusk. I set up my tent, cooked some dinner and visited briefly with the other campers at the site before retiring to my tent to catch up on my sleep.
Day 2 – Sunday 9/23/18
Starting: Crow Creek Campsite
Ending: Southeast Split Rock River Campsite
Trail Miles: 16.9 Miles
I was up about 6:30 before anyone else in the campsite was stirring. I fixed my scrambled eggs (not a huge success) and by the time I broke camp it was 7:30. I started up the trail in the drizzling rain and began climbing out of the valley, Before long I was a Gooseberry Falls State Park. This is a nice park with several waterfalls and strategically placed bridges to provide ample photo opportunities. The trail has a detour that starts here and I spent the next 2.1 miles on the paved Gitchi- Gami bike trail. It followed beside Highway 61 and there was nothing to block the cold wind. This trail did go by Thompson Beach and because the wind was coming off the lake there were huge waves there. After the paved bike trail, I got off on a dirt road and hiked another 1.2 miles before getting back on the trail. I stopped a blueberry hill campsite for lunch before heading toward Split Rock River. The bridge over this river washed away a couple years ago but it can still be forded if the water is low enough. I lucked out and I was able to ford the river with water only about mid thigh deep. Once up on the other side it was a quick 1/2 mile to my campsite for the night. This place is awesome. It sits down by the river and has a view of the Split Rock and the pillars. I’m here by myself tonight. Everyone else is smarter than to go camping in the cold rain. I cooked dinner, cleaned up and am in bed early still trying to catch up on my sleep.
Day 3 – Monday 9/24/18
Start: Southeast Split Rock River Campsite
End: South Beaver River Campsite
Trail Miles: 14.5 Miles
I woke up this morning to a surprise beautiful day. The wind and rain had stopped overnight and it was going to be a great day. I packed up camp and hit the trail climbing upwards to some nice views of Lake Superior. The trail stayed mostly up on a ridge for quite sometime before starting the perpetual ups and down it is famous for. There were several great overlooks both to the lake as well as into the mountains of northern Minnesota. I stopped for lunch on a rock and must have really ticked off a squirrel who chattered at me through my entire meal. Back on the trail I continued the ups and downs eventually reaching a long boardwalk before coming out of the woods at the Beaver Bay Trailhead. The trail followed an ATV trail across a bridge over the Beaver River and turned sharply down the bank to follow it. Since I had not wanted to drink beaver pond water this afternoon I was pretty thirsty and stopped to down a liter of water as soon as I could get to the river. After a quick drink it was about 3/4 miles to the campsite which was situated right on a huge waterfall area of the Beaver river. There was a gentleman there from the Twin Cities who had set up camp and I set up next to him. About 30 minutes later a couple from Wisconsin joined us and set up their hammock in the woods a short distance away. I cooked my Chili for dinner and enjoyed the conversation of the group until it began to sprinkle about 7:30. Everyone hurried off to bed in hopes of the rain finishing overnight
Day 4 – Tuesday 9/25/18
Start: South Beaver River Campsite
End: East Kennedy Creek Campsite
Trail Miles: 17.3 Miles
Well the rain ended overnight and I awoke to a wet camp, but no rain. I got myself together, got packed and it was almost 7:30 before I left camp. The trail followed the river downstream, but soon turned off into the woods. It soon came out to a culvert under a train track and began climbing immediately afterwards. The trail climbed to a ridge that afforded a fantastic view of Silver Bay and the taconite loading facility. After meandering around the mountain for awhile the trail descended toward the silver bay trailhead. After the trail crossed the highway it continued the ups and downs with views from the tops of several mountains. I eventually made it to Penn Creek campsite where I took a break and discovered a great little waterfall there. Back on the trail it climbed upwards to provide great views of Bean Lake and then shortly afterwards Bear Lake. The trail continued to climb leading to Mt. Trudee and more great views. The trail then began a descent towards Tettegouche State Park and I continued on through a light rain. As I was working my way through the park anticipating “The Drainpipe”, a steep rock scramble down about 150 feet. I soon came across a couple of workers working on a very long set of stairs. When I got to the bottom, the sign going back up said “The Drainpipe”. They had built the stairs right over it. The trail continued through the park and led right to the High Falls. There was a great boardwalk on both sides and a suspension bridge crossing the river above the falls. After getting some great pictures of the falls, I continued up the trail as it climbed to the County Road 1 trailhead. Only 2.4 miles to my camp for the night and the rain was just continuing to drizzle down. I reached the campsite about 6:30, got water, and set up my tent. The rain got a little harder just as I got everything set up and I jumped inside with my wet clothes and gear. After changing into dry clothes, I boiled water in the vestibule for my dinner, ate a hardy bowl of dirty rice, and prepared my tent for bedtime.
Day 5 – Wednesday 9/26/18
Start: East Kennedy Creek Campsite
End: North Sonju Lake Campsite
Trail Miles: 17.9 Miles
The rain ended sometime before midnight, but I woke up again to a wet tent and campsite. I got my stuff together pretty quickly and got on the trail about 6:45. My new phone charger was not charging my phone and I was going to have to stop in Finland to pick up a iPhone charging cord. I had only 64% battery left so I didn’t run the Gaia app today. This really conserved my battery as I got to camp tonight with 45% left. Anyway, I got on the trail early and it climbed up to a view of Lake Superior which I caught just at sunrise. A beautiful sight. The trail continued on mostly staying up on the ridge before finally bringing me down to the county road 6 trailhead. I crossed the road and the trail went through a big wetland section before climbing up to Section 13. This is an area with large rock cliffs that climbers frequently climb, but no one was there today. The trail continued up and down but mostly staying in the wetlands. There was one place where the trail was built up over a beaver dam. The trail eventually came to a large bridge over the Baptism River and then I reached the fork to Finland. No one was in the parking lot so I started walking and hitching the 1.3 miles to the Finland CoOp. About 200 yards down the road a couple of ladies who had been out hiking stopped and picked me up and took me to the store. After thanking them for the ride, I went in and found the charging cable I needed. I did end up having to walk the whole way back. Only 3 trucks passed me in that distance but no rides. I ate lunch on some picnic tables at the trailhead and then back on the trail to Sonju Lake. This part of the trail had some beautiful colors. There were several ups and downs and a good portion of the time was in wetland areas where I had to keep dodging mud holes. I made it to North Sonju about 6:00, got water, set up the tent, and began cooking dinner. Another hiker joined me at about 6:30 and we talked as he set up his tarp and sleeping gear. We were chased to our shelters about 8:00 by some rain, but the threat of ran appears to have passed. I’m going to hit the sack and hope for another dry day tomorrow.
Day 6 – Thursday 9/27/18
Start: North Sonju Lake Campsite
End: Sugarloaf Pond Campsite
Trail Miles: 16.7 Miles
The rain stopped in the night and it was clear when I woke up. I got around and got on the trail by 6:45. The trail climbed up and down until it came to Baptism River. It followed the river for about 1/2 mile before turning off into the woods again. The trail came to county road 7 and followed the main entrance road into Crosby-Manitou State Park. The SHT then followed the Middle Trail down to the River Trail and followed the Manitou river downstream to a bridge. Across the river the trail climbed upwards gaining about 300 feet and then following the ridge line around Horseshoe Ridge. It was raining and the fall colors appeared to glow from the glistening leaves. The trail finally before dropped down toward the Caribou River and crossed on a bridge above a deep gorge. The river had cut a deep gorge in the rock over time and there were several great views form atop the rocks. The trail followed the river upstream a little ways and then cut back into the woods. The ups and downs continued for a while and then the trail leveled off for the last 3 miles or so to Sugarloaf Pond Campsite. It had stopped raining for about 2 hours, but started up again as I entered the campsite. I pitched the tent jumped inside and ended up boiling water for Dirty Rice in the vestibule once again. The rain continued off and on through the evening and I got in my sleeping bag early to get rested up for a 19 mile day tomorrow.
Day 7 – Friday 9/28/18
Start: Sugarloaf Pond Campsite
End: Springdale Creek Campsite
Trail Miles:19.2 Miles
The rain only lasted a little while into the night and it was a clear morning. I packed up and left camp early knowing I had a 19 mile day ahead of me. I passed Alfred Pond and took a picture of it with the moon still in the sky. The trail stayed relatively level this morning and I made good time to Cross Creek Falls. The falls were great and the trail followed Cross Creek and eventually Cross River for about 2 miles. After the bridge over Cross River the trail cut across hills and wetlands to the Temperance River. The river here started out wide and shallow but funneled down into a narrow canyon with several waterfalls. I stopped and ate lunch on a bench overlooking one of the falls. Back in the trail, I stopped and refilled water knowing that Carlton Peak was going to be a good climb. I arrived at the top just as a storm front moved through bringing strong winds and cooler temperatures. I tried to get a panarama of the view from the top when my phone died. After Carlton’s Peak the trail started climbing down leading to the Britton Peak trailhead. I passed the spur up Britton Peak since my camera was now dead. The trail wandered through the woods crossing several bike trails and Skiing trails. The Springdale Creek Campsite sits on a nice bench overlooking the creek and the valley beyond. With the cold wind picking up, I pitched the tent and cooked dinner then climbed inside the tent for the night to escape the wind. Only one more day left of this adventure and the weather should be cool, but clear. I look forward to seeing Oberg Mountain tomorrow.
Day 8 – Saturday 9/29/18
Start: Springdale Creek Campsite
End: Solbakken Resort
Trail Miles: 11.3 Miles
After I went to sleep last night another (rather noisy) hiker showed up, set up his tent, and shined his headlamp all around. He didn’t sleep long though because he was up about 5:00 banging around and shining his light again. He left camp at 5:45 in the dark and I started to get around once he left. The weather was great this morning. It got close to freezing with “Frost in the usual places” as forecasted. I was on the trail before 7:00 and after a quick walk past Leveaux Pond, I reached the spur up Leveaux Mountain. This loop trail had several great overlooks with views to Carlton Peak and out into the Lake. After returning to the main trail I crossed the Onion River on a bridge before reaching the Oberg Mountain parking lot. Since it was Saturday and the weather was great the parking lot was full when I got there. I hiked the short distance to the spur and up to the top of Oberg mountain with a parade of people. When they stopped to admire the view at the first overlook I took the opportunity to jump ahead and had most of the rest of the views to myself. Back at the bottom of the loop, the trail continued through the forest crossing several wetlands and a bridge over Rollins Creek. The trail then climbed steeply up Moose Mountain and I struggled to reach the top. To make matters worse a couple of trail runners had to run past me on the hill while carrying on a conversation. Show offs. Once on Moose Mountain the trail followed the ridge line to the spur to the Lutsen Upper Gondola Chalet. I made a left and headed down the hill to finish off the 3 miles of trail left to Lutsen. The trail dropped into some wetlands again then began to climb back up mystery mountain. The overlook over Lutsen was overgrown and there was no view left. Down the hill again across the Poplar River and I was soon walking into Lutsen Mountain Resort. I had skipped lunch in anticipation of a burger and a beer at Lutsen so I got some clean clothes and wet wipes and cleaned up in the men’s room and then went after that burger and beer. I had a room reserved at Solbakken Resort for the night and was surprised to find I had a full suite with a view of Lake Superior. After a shower and a quick walk down to the Lake, I headed to dinner at the Cascade Lodge. Great Food there too. Back at the hotel I took a quick dip in the hot tub and retired to my room. Another long day tomorrow driving back to Oklahoma.
Day 9 – Sunday 9/30/18
Start: Solbakken Resort
End: Home – Broken Arrow, OK
Knowing I had a long drive ahead of me, I was up early and headed towards Duluth. There was an abandoned train tunnel under Ely Mountain that I thought I would see on my last trip up here last year. I arrived at the trailhead before 8 and walked the quick 1/2 mile to the tunnel. It had a curve in it so you could not see through it. I walked through the tunnel, snapped a few pictures, and was back on the road by 8:30. My next stop was the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. As I approached Des Moines it began a drizzling rain. I was able to get my selfie in front of the Capitol in the rain and was back on the road towards home. After a couple of gas and food stops I arrived back home about 9:40. Well now I need to get ready to go to work Monday morning and back to the real world.
For additional pictures see my post at Adventure Hoppers on facebook and Thanks for visiting AdventureHoppers.com