Thursday, September 24, 2009

Oh, LeVeaux

If the North Shore does in fact have "mountains," LeVeaux Mountain is a classic. It rises almost 1000 feet above Lake Superior in the rugged terrain near Lutsen. The Superior Hiking Trail has a great three-mile loop that scampers to the top and takes in great views both inland and out on the vast blue of Lake Superior.

LeVeaux is a classic North Shore "sawtooth" mountain. It rises gradually from the shore, but drops off steeply on the back. Put six or eight of these mountains in a row and you get a pattern like the teeth along the edge of a saw.

I hiked the trail yesterday with a friend, doing research for next year's book, Hiking the North Shore. Here I am, all geeked out at the Onion River bridge, taking notes:

The hike to LeVeaux gets all sorts of great North Shore natural history examples. The trail starts with almost a mile of spruce, birch and fir forest. Then the trail starts to climb and the forest changes to sugar maple. The view from the top yesterday shows this same pattern. The dark green band in the middle is the spruces, while the light green with the oranges and reds are maples, etc. on the ridges.

The trail climbs right up the steep edge of the sawtooth and runs along the ridgeline. This hike is best described as a double lollipop trail, with a one-mile stick and a loop connected to a shorter stick and a shorter loop. The second, shorter lollipop leads to a great view of Lake Superior and Carlton Peak. You do have to figure out what to do at this unmarked intersection:

Either way works fine because it's a quarter-mile loop back onto itself, but it would be nice to have a sign here explaining the options.

I love the view from this last loop:

You can see forever down the shore toward Silver Bay. Taconite Harbor is obvious on the lakeshore, and Carlton Peak is the big dark lump on the right.

LeVeaux is right next to Oberg Mountain, and the same parking lot serves the trails to both landmarks. There are always far fewer people on LeVeaux than on Oberg. The trail is a bit longer and definitely more challenging physically. If you're up the North Shore this fall color season, do yourself a favor and hike LeVeaux.

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