Thursday, August 6, 2009

In my father's footsteps

My father and I hiked from the Caribou Trail to Lutsen on the Superior Hiking Trail on Sunday. Dick has hiked nearly every section of the SHT, so I've asked him about his favorites as I plan what hikes to include in Hiking the North Shore. This was one of his recommendations.

It's a great hike and I'm sure it will be in the book. There's no grind up to the ridgeline like on many other sections; the trail starts high, at about 1300', and ends just a bit lower.

Dick also was quite clear about which direction to hike: east to west. Well alright then. Dick is sort of the Ur-Hiker. He marched us kids along on expeditions down sketchy trails along the Manitou River, seven miles with only a few lemon drops to keep us going.

Back in the 1970s he took my sister and I to the top of Eagle Mountain the easy way, then hiked us out to Brule Lake along the rough wilderness trail. He's crossed all of Britain, part of New Zealand, and half of Italy by trail. From his father he inherited a tendency to snap off branches over the trail, a trait learned back when wilderness trails weren't maintained like they are today.

The trail follows a high ridge overlooking the Poplar River. Above is Dick's picture of me at our lunch break stop.

Dick is 78. He hikes with a walking stick now, straight down at his side like the third leg of a stool. It was a perfect pace for me as I stopped to take notes and snap pictures.

My favorite parts of the route were near the beginning: the view of Caribou Lake from White Sky Rock, this cool section where the trail winds around talus and cedar and climbs a whole log with steps cut in, and scenic wild Lake Agnes. Here's the view of Agnes from the trail register at Hunters Overlook:

Past Lake Agnes, the trail follows the maple-rich ridgeline over the Poplar River, which winds very scenically down below. The trail drops down into the valley and goes through spruce, fir and birch for a mile or so before coming out on the banks of the Poplar. Then you go past two SHT campsites and up and over one last hump before the last descent into Lutsen Mountains chalet area.

Dick plugged along for the whole hike. We talked about the SHT and hiking and Minnesota land conservation issues.

My father showed me how to hike way back when. Our adventures on buggy endless mystery trails set an early standard for me, how to plug away on a backcountry trail and make it through to the end. I learned stoicism and resolve.

Though he showed me how to hike, I learned to love to hike all my own.

As I drag my own sons through the woods down buggy endless mystery trails, that's the best I can hope for. Get them out there, get through the woods alive. Hans now enjoys the challenge of hiking; Noah probably hates to hike. Later they may come to enjoy hiking and seek it out.

1 comment:

Andy said...

I share those hopes of yours. 2 out of my 3 kids love hiking and camping. The third only likes it, once he’s been dragged along for a bit. I also enjoy those faves. The log staircase is great, and [nerd warning] very LOTRish. Awesome.