Monday, June 16, 2008

One down, seven or more to go

I've laid down the challenge to Hans and Noah: Hike the "Hiking Club" trails in all the North Shore state parks, from Jay Cooke to Grand Portage. This summer. 

With some grumping and a bit of grinning, we've finished one already. Two days back, on Saturday June 14th, we hiked the Silver Creek Trail at Jay Cooke State Park. First though, we stopped at the visitor center and picked up the official Hiking Club fanny packs and club handbook. 

The Hiking Club is actually a pretty cool gimmick. Each of the state's state parks has one trail designated as the Hiking Club trail. Most are in the 1.5-3.o mile range. They may not be the most popular trails, but they generally are very nice hikes. Many are loop trails. You follow "Hiking Club Trail" signs from the trailhead through any intersections. Somewhere along the trail, a sign is posted with the "password." The password is typically some rock or bird or flower or fish that is symbolic of the park or the trail. 

When you finish the hike, you write the password in your handbook, along with the miles. Then you start to add up the miles. At 25 miles, you bring your handbook in to a park staff person, they check your passwords and miles, and if all is in order you get a 25-mile patch and sticker. The stickers and patches go all the way up to 200 miles. 

The Silver Creek Trail is a ski trail in the winter. That's an immediate red flag for me. Ski trails tend to be wide, grassy and muddy. And sure enough, this one was all that, in spades. And some early mosquitoes were buzzing. 

Muddy: so much for Hans' new white sneakers. 
Buggy: Not awful, but who needed it?

A family group that left on the trail soon before us came sloshing back at us, the 3-4 year olds pointing back down the trail and saying "Don't go that way!"

In retrospect, this is definitely not one of Jay Cooke's best trails, at least not in spring and summer. There are very few views, and the trail bed is consistently wide and often wet. The trail does take you right by an amazing "grove" of yellow ladyslippers. 

And unfortunately, as the first hike of the great challenge, it set a poor precedent. Maybe tomorrow we'll do the Shovel Point trail at Tettegouche.

Oh, and by the way, Noah said he'd find a way to post the passwords on line so others don't have to suffer like he did. I forbade it, but kids are smarter about this than I am!

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