My memories of hiking in Europe include gravity-defying gondola rides, permanently gray skies, and picnics in wildflower meadows featuring beef tongue.
Who knew I'd find almost all of those things right here on the North Shore?
I did the famous "gondola hike" at Lutsen Mountains yesterday. You take the mountain tram from the very Scandinavian village area of Lutsen up to the top of Moose Mountain, then hike on the SHT about four miles back down to your car. Europeans love gondolas, both the airborne mountain kind and the skinny canal boats in Venice.
At the top of the gondola ride is a fantastic view of Lake Superior not so far away but seemingly a mile down. There's also the Summit Chalet. No beef tongue on the menu, but it's an impressive selection given that the clients had to ride the tram to get there. The employees at the Chalet are likely to be real eastern Europeans, on the North Shore with summer work visas.
There are interpretive signs on the deck.
Read closely and you'll find some of the tortured English and bad punctuation that makes travel in Europe entertaining for native English speakers. Here's the text, closer up:
And those heavy gray cloudy skies? Very European!
From the Chalet, the hiking trail takes off along the side of Moose Mountain. It starts with a deck overlooking the steep north side of Moose Mountain. Windy? Rainy? Gray? Takes me right back to hiking the Odenwald in Germany.
The SHT spur has an ambitious trail route, skirting around the base of the cliffs rather than the safe and easy ridgetop route.
It's just a little like the Via Ferrata in the Alps, where they use fixed cables and ladders to get hiker/climbers through really technical terrain. Here they use a cedar branch nailed to another cedar tree. But grooving through, under and around the big rocks is still pretty cool.
Of course, at the end of the hike, back in the Scandinavian village, you can order a beer at Papa Charlies and celebrate conquering the trails.
Lutsen. Named after the town in Germany where the Protestant Swedes beat back the German Catholics in 1632, halfway through the 30 Years War. No beef tongue, but for the North Shore it's the most Euro destination of them all.