Thursday, July 19, 2018

Day 5: Normanna Road to Big Bend Camp

June 6, 2018

Today was the first of four nights camping. But it was raining in the morning -- not in the forecast -- so we decided to wait it out before starting. Why start out and get soaked?

We got on the trail at 11 a.m. The day's hike was O.K. There were a fair number of mosquitoes, but luckily we had bug nets. There was still a lot of mud on the trail, but a lot of the time you could walk around the worst spots. 

One of the best parts of the day was walking alongside a HUGE beaver dam and seeing the resulting lake. Oh, and hearing grouse drumming. I wish we could see them, but hearing them is nice, too. We also hear two specific bird calls a lot. I wish I knew what they were!

We met one section hiker today: Leah, a lovely young lady who had just graduated from St. Olaf and wanted to do some hiking before heading back home to Connecticut. 

Our campsite tonight was great (Big Bend). Ed set up the tent and I set up my hammock. Water was just a few paces away in the river. The mosquitoes were still out, though, so we had to wear our bug nets for dinner.

Ed found two ticks on his legs while hiking, then found one on my butt during our evening tick-check. YUCK! He tried to pretend it was just a mosquito so I wouldn't freak out, but I could tell by his voice what it was. (And yes, I freaked out.)

At least he saw it.

One bad thing happened when I went to get into my hammock. I have a new underquilt that is the same color as the hammock. As it was dusk, I couldn't see well and sat in the quilt, not the hammock, to get in. I promptly crashed to the ground and hit my tailbone on a tree root. OUCH! I think I bruised my tailbone pretty badly.

To make matters worse, it got down to the low 40s so I froze in my hammock, despite the underquilt. I guess I should have had a blanket and warmer clothes. Oh well, live and learn. But I only got about two hours of sleep last night. :(


Miles: =17
Miles-to-Date: 85.5

Friday, July 13, 2018

Day 4: Hartley Nature Center to Normanna Road

June 5, 2018

Today was an up-and-down day. Not the terrain, but how we felt about the trail. We started off from the Hartley Nature Center on some city streets, and then dipped into the woods. This was pleasant, and there was one very nice overlook.

But then the trail piggybacked on the North Shore Trail, a multiuse path. This wasn't fun. The trail is wide and relatively flat, but the grass was shaggy and there were TONS of spots with water and mud. Sometimes you could hop around it, but most of the time you could not. So our shoes got filled with water and mud. And every time they dried out, we'd reach spots where they got soaked again. :(

Yet there were some fun parts to the day. We saw a pair of Mallards swimming around in a puddle and a funny fish sign by a creek. We saw more wildflowers. Sometimes there were awesome reflections in the puddles.

And there were no bugs. At least until the last 15 minutes or so. That's when some mosquitoes arrived. We've been waiting for them to come out in full force and be horrendous, but so far we've been lucky. Knock on wood.

Tomorrow we leave our nice motel and will be hiking five days and camping four nights. Rain is forecast for three of the four days. Wish us luck!


Miles: 16.9
Miles-to-Date: 68.5

Day 3: Kingsbury Creek to Hartley Nature Center

June 4, 2018

Yessss! An awesome day. The sun finally came out on Day 3 of this adventure. Not only did we have sun, but the temps were perfect -- low 70s for the high -- and there was a breeze. The breeze cooled us off, plus plugged away at drying all of the mud.

The Superior Hiking Trail boasts a gazillion waterfalls, and we saw so many today. I have to research more about where all of this water is coming from, but one sign said this particular creek was part of the Lake Superior watershed. All I know is we crossed loads of creeks, and many were flowing fiercely and there were lots of waterfalls.

Early in the day we climbed up high above the city and stayed up there for the most part, enjoying glorious views of Duluth, Lake Superior and its tributaries. In the afternoon we descended into Duluth and had a lovely walk past its famous aerial lift bridge and along a boardwalk rimming the lake. 

Around 5 p.m. Brian, the Strib photographer, and Ed and I enjoyed an ice cream cone lakeside. There's nothing like ice cream after a long day's hike! But we weren't finished.

We had another 5 miles or so until the end. It was a lovely hike through various parks and around the University of Minnesota-Duluth, but it was a long day. And these last 5 miles featured a TON of uphill.

Oh, one fun thing. When we were dropping one car this morning at the Hartley Nature Center, our end point for the day, we saw a deer nibbling on the vegetation as we drove in. It didn't seem shy at all about being so close to people or cars. At the end of the day, as we hiked into Hartley, the deer was still there, only greeting us on the back end. :)


Miles: 18.9
Miles-to-Date: 51.6

Day 2: Jay Cooke State Park/Grand Portage to Kingsbury Creek

June 3, 2018

Well, piffle. I thought we were going to have a warm day, if gray, and no rain. Instead, it rained until shortly before we started. This meant the trails stayed super water-logged and muddy. Not only that, but on this, Day 2, the big climbs and descents started. So we slipped and slid all day long.

Still, there was a lot that was enjoyable. We saw a lot of beautiful wildflowers once again. There were a lot of quaint creek-crossings on boardwalks, although some of the "creeks" seemed like raging rivers and featured waterfalls. Since it was a Sunday, we ran into several trail runners and others on outings.

The highlight today was climbing to the top of Ely's Peak. The views were pretty cool -- almost 360 degrees -- even though it was gray and cloudy out. The winds kicked up about the time we arrived, though (15-20 mph), so it was rather cold.

I have to remember to eat more while I'm hiking. Normally I'm pretty good at gauging what I need, but I must be expending more energy on both the mountains and the slip-sliding on the mud. I keep having little mini crashes where I can barely move, and all it takes is eating a few nibbles of food and I'm good to go again.

As the day was winding down, the sun suddenly popped out. We caught a few awesome glimpses of downtown Duluth and Lake Superior's St. Louis Bay, I believe. I can't wait to see the views tomorrow, with all of the sunshine.


Miles: 16.4
Miles-to-Date: 32.7

Day 1: Southern Terminus to Jay Cooke State Park/Grand Portage

June 2, 2018

Wow, what a crazy first day on the trail! The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) starts in the south in the middle of the woods on the border with Wisconsin. Since the parking area is 2 miles away, you have to hike in to the terminus, then hike back out and continue on. 

Ed (Stubs) and I were set to start hiking around 9 or 9:30 -- a bit late, as we were driving up from Eau Claire this morning. The forecast was for highs around 45 and rain starting around noon. Not the greatest. Well, it began POURING shortly before we were to start. Since this is a project with the Star Tribune, Brian Peterson (photographer/videographer) is going to take pix and video every day. He was waiting for us at the trailhead, and when we got there we all sat in our cars, waiting for the deluge to stop.

It finally slowed a little and Brian shot some video and then we began. The 3.8-mile out-and-back wasn't that bad. The rain slowed and we saw some beautiful trillium along the trail. We were able to lunch at a campsite, so we had a place to set our packs off the soggy ground.

But the rest of the day was tough. The rain never stopped. It just kept changing from a downpour to a drizzle. We were either walking through puddles or through grass that soaked our feet worse than puddles, actually. Although I was dressed in layers, several rain garments, gloves, etc., you eventually just get waterlogged. Worse, you don't want to drink or eat because 1) it's a hassle to dig out from under your poncho, backpack cover, etc. to get at things and 2) you get colder and wetter when you stop. But if you don't eat and drink enough, you lose energy.

There was also the risk of hypothermia. Not so much for me; I was dressed well. But Stubs just had on shorts and a not-so-great raincoat. I did manage to get a few photos, and in the afternoon we saw lovely yellow lady's slippers, but we are REALLY looking forward to tomorrow, when it should be about 20 degrees warmer and DRY.


Miles: 16.3
Miles-to-Date: 16.3

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Superior Hiking Trail: Another Adventure Begins

June 2, 2018

Today I'm starting a thru-hike of the 315-mile Superior Hiking Trail, which runs from just south of Duluth, Minn., up along the North Shore of Lake Superior nearly to Canada. I've long heard this is a beautiful, rugged trail and was thrilled when the Minneapolis Star Tribune asked me to hike it and then write a series of articles about my experience.

Because the series will start in July, I'll be blogging daily this month but keeping my posts unpublished until the series starts. I don't want to give anything away! But here's what I can reveal: I'm starting today. I'm hoping to average 15-20 miles per day. I will stay in motels half the time and camp the other half. Those of you who know me know camping isn't really my thing, but I'm going to give it a go. Wish me luck!

I'm also indebted to UW Health's Dr. Baer and physical therapist Brian Bradley. Dr. Baer surgically reattached my left hamstring in February, and Brian has been helping me regain strength so I can hike again.

Until July ...!


Friday, December 8, 2017

Day 48 / 15: Holt to Yellow River Trailhead

Dec. 8, 2017

This was one of my more difficult hiking days. The weather was gray, rainy and 40 degrees all day long. 

I began in the town of Holt and headed south on a 3.5-mile road route toward the Yellow River Water Management Area. It was drizzling most of the time, but nothing too bad. The wind was at my back -- yay!

Nancy said trail volunteers were supposed to have trimmed back the trail in the Yellow River area yesterday, but since there was some rain yesterday she wasn't sure they got there. First, I missed the turn (it wasn't well marked) and walked about a quarter-mile out of the way. Then, when I got in, it was clear the volunteers hadn't made it.

The trail was pretty rough, and full of prickly plants that tore at my billowing poncho. Then a steady, heavy drizzle began to fall. I was soon soaked and cold. The rain stopped after maybe an hour. At that point I had to ford a creek. I had planned to take off my boots and shoes and wade across in sandals, but my boots and socks were so water-logged, it didn't matter. So I plunged through.

When I got out, I had so much water in my boots I had to stop. I actually poured water out of my boots and then wrung out my socks. When I put them back on, my feet got tremendously chilled. I also had only thin, cotton gloves to wear. Not smart of me, especially since I have Raynaud's Syndrome. I tried to wrap my gloved hands in plastic bags to help protect them, but they still got soaked.

By the time I stopped for lunch, I was pretty miserable. I got out my hand warmers, which helped my hands. But my feet were frozen. So when I started hiking again, I was half-jogging on the trail. That helped; my feet warmed up.

After 11-ish miles the trail spit me out onto a connecting road route of 6.5 miles. The first portion was in a neighborhood. Nancy appeared, bearing a steaming cup of hazelnut coffee for me. WOW! She is so awesome. That put a spring in my step. Then THREE people stopped their cars to see if I needed a ride into town. Restores your faith in humanity.

My final 2.1 miles were along a highway under construction -- which was great, because I got to walk on the new portion cordoned off from traffic. 

When I reached Nancy, I was chilled once again and so glad to be done. That wonderful woman handed me a contained of hot soup for my dinner tonight! She is honestly so awesome.