Friday, November 30, 2007

Snow, snow, snow!

Tomorrow is December 1. In some trained sense of right and wrong, as of tomorrow I will begin to feel like I should be skiing. If it's November, skiing is a rare privilege. We were living in Ely in 1991 with the big Halloween blizzard, and those 38" of snow kept the ground covered until spring. But that was freaky. In December, skiing feels like a right, not a privilege. I am a Minnesotan, and I deserve to ski in December.

As of today (November still), there is just a coating of snow, maybe an inch on the ground here by the lakeshore on Park Point. But tomorrow is December and I want to ski. Fortunately, the weather gurus are thinking along the same lines. Forecasts call for up to a foot of snow in the area.

Wow. Wouldn't it be nice. We've had a lot of years now when my birthright of December 1 skiing has been rudely denied by the forces of evil. So much so that I've grown used to the injustice. So a good blast tomorrow will somehow set the world, at least my world, right again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Amazing Lester Park trail

Just when I thought that the City of Duluth had rolled up the carpet and closed shop, their work crews pulled out a miracle.

The short loop up and down Amity Creek in Lester Park had always been incredibly scenic, with the mightiest white pines in town, a terrific waterfall, one and sometimes two footbridges crossing it. When my firstborn child was just a few days old I walked with him in the sling around the loop and, sort of like a North Woods christening, laid him out on the sling on a needle-covered boulder and stepped back just enough to take a picture.

But the trail was falling into the river. Wooden benches alongside the trail had tried in vain to stop solifluction, that insidious creep of soil downslope. Washouts from above broke out of inadequate culverts and made for impossible sidelong leaps.

When I was last there, in May or June, yellow caution tape was up and I felt sure that city attorneys were closing it off for good.

But, poodle in tow (or rather, in the tow of the poodle), I revisited the loop today, anxious about what I might find, prepared to bushwack into the forest.

And who would have guessed that the city (or someone!) had rescued the trail?! Brand new decking replaced washed out culverts. More impressively, the old wooden seating/retaining walls had been fully replaced with, get this, heavy metal, state park style footbridges on massive cement footings.

It's always hard to keep trails in river valleys. Erosion will win, over time. But this effort by the City of Duluth to retain access to this beautiful river gorge should be applauded regionwide.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

North Shore trails I wish were there

Sure, the North Shore has a lot of hiking trails. Just for kicks today I came up with a list of 50 good trails, and that only included my favorite sections of the Superior Hiking Trail.

But what about the trails that aren't there yet?

Pigeon Point is a 2-3 mile long peninsula that makes up the most easterly part of the state of Minnesota. It has Michigan on its south side and Ontario on its north side. It is rugged and wild and, as far as I can tell, inaccessible by land.

There is a nice new trail right across the bay on the Ontario side. It starts at the Ontario travel information centre just past the border crossing, skirts an interesting bay, then climbs up Finger Point to a great overlook with, of all things, a huge wooden cut-out of Lake Superior. But Pigeon Point has no trail.

I zoomed in with Google Earth: nothing like a cabin or trail or road. I check at the Duluth Public Library's great set of bound USGS topos. The USGS had to stretch out the quad for an extra mile or so to include the tip of the point, but there was only one sign of human habitation there, a little black square indicating a single building on a beach at "the narrows."

Now that would be a cool trail, connected up with Grand Portage State Park.

I'll be seeing Rick Novitsky of Grand Portage State Park tomorrow...maybe I'll bend his ear a bit.

More trails I wish were there? I'll keep thinking about it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Let the wild rumpus begin

Strong northwest winds are blowing across Lake Superior today. They're cold enough that they're going to create lake-effect snow on the South Shore. Ironwood, Michigan is under a winter storm warning already.

So, fellow skiers...are you ready to rock and roll? Ready for five months of anticipation, of reading long-term forecasts, of planning your weekend around snowfall totals? Do you have on your short list of bookmarks?

I won't be headed for the UP this weekend; my skis aren't even out of the attic yet. But we are fully past the turn of the seasons from summer to winter. The leaves are off the trees, the ground is hardening up. It's time to start planning for snow.