We hiked to the top of Mount Josephine today, up at Grand Portage. It's a very steep climb on a poorly maintained trail, so the challenge of getting there almost overwhelmed Sally and me. Ten hours later now and I'm still woozy from the muggy heat.
The trail had been recommended in the Falcon Press "Hiking Minnesota" book as well as numerous fliers and the Grand Portage Lodge visitor guide. So I was surprised by how hard it was to find the trailhead. Also, the trail itself really hadn't been maintained this year or, it seems, for years before. Where trees had fallen across the trail, the path had simply been worn around. Plus it seemed like no single map or trail guide had accurate distance measurements. The sign above? It was actually about .75 miles to the summit.
The trail uses long switchbacks to climb to a saddle, then crashes up the rocky outcrops to the summit. The actual peak of this trail was an ancient stone foundation, probably a firetower, with no real view. But a few steps off the trail, the view was gorgeous. Straight out across Wauswoganing Bay to Pigeon Point, the Susie Islands, even a hazy blur of Isle Royale. I felt as if I could throw a rock off the summit all the way to Lake Superior. There are a number of peaks equally high (around 1300 feet above sea level) along the North Shore, but none that are this close. In fact, I did a little work on Google Earth and figured it was a 700 feet rise from the lake over only 1300 feet distance. No, I couldn't have thrown a rock that far, but compared to Carlton Peak or Oberg Mountain, this was right there ON the shore. A well-built paper airplane could have made it easily.
It was a tough hike and I really would hesitate to recommend it over Carlton or Oberg because of the overall difficulty, but if you find yourself in Grand Portage, maybe for Rendezvous Days in August, check it out! The total trail is 1.2 miles to the summit, for 2.4 miles total, taking 1.5-2 hours.