Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Tettegouche in winter
Tettegouche State Park is one of the North Shore's great wilderness destinations. It's a huge park, reaching from the steep cliffs of Shovel Point and Palisade Head back past the rustic cabins at Tettegouche camp all the way to the outskirts of Silver Bay and Finland.
On the North Shore in winter, those back hills of Tettegouche get covered in snow, including some massive lake-effect snow dumps. If you like to snowshoe or cross country ski, there are some amazing trails and destinations. If, however, your idea of winter fun is a quick jaunt from the heat of your car, maybe some heated restrooms instead of frozen outhouses, the Tettegouche shoreline calls.
Right on the shore of Lake Superior, the snow is always less deep than inland. Plus, people are walking and snowshoeing around packing the trail.
Right out of the free parking lot (no state park permit required), it's just 100 yards to the first overlook, and a wide, safe path leads down steps with sturdy railings. Everytime I've been there in winter, this trail is packed down. I don't think the park shovels it, but there are enough people using it that it stays accessible.
I remember one winter, 20 years ago now, when I was living up in Ely and came down to the shore for a weekend. After rolling down Highway 1, this was our first stop. With the icy cliffs and the steaming open water and the distant views, it was a dramatic contrast with the quiet boreal forest from which we'd come.
Follow the trail to the right, toward the Baptism River, and you get great views all along, out on little projecting decks. In winter, you can see through the trees to the park's famous sea arch.
The mouth of the Baptism feels quiet and remote.
In the summer, this is a favorite place for swimming, as the warm river water pools up before breaking through to the lake. As the sign might say, "People have drowned here," but not as far as I know in the winter. Still, just in case, there is a life ring:
From the mouth of the river, head upstream to the park road and back to your car. Or stop in at the visitor center and talk with Gary, Phil or Jim at the desk. They are always good for a story or three about what's going on in the park.
Enjoy winter...go to Tettegouche!