Sunday, August 22, 2010

Carlton Peak: A Slade family wild goose chase

It's a Slade family tradition to go off on wild goose chase hikes. It probably started with my grandfather, Norman Slade. To vaguely remember an old trail and get lost along the way. To change plans halfway in and hike with two preteens an extra six miles. Especially on a hot summer day with a gaggle of cousins in tow.

So when we took off for the summit of Carlton Peak last week, off some unmarked gravel road, on to unmarked trails, it was like Christmas Eve: I felt the weight of family tradition guiding my hand.

I needed a photo from the summit for our forthcoming book, Hiking the North Shore. Last time I was there, the summit was fogged in. No good pictures, so I had to go back. Oh, the hard work of book publishing!

My sister and her family were up the North Shore, plus another niece, so this would be a real Slade family hike. Who needs the well-marked and well-maintained Superior Hiking Trail? We were headed off the grid, where even **I** had never completely gone before.

I will not go into details here, but there is a way to climb Carlton Peak directly from its base, without the one- or three-mile approach hike on the SHT. The route involves gravel roads and a very dramatic rock quarry.

This would not be a complete wild goose chase. I did my research ahead of time, with a Google Earth print-out, a GPS unit, and notes from my last hike on the official route. Plus I brought enough water for everyone and some real food, not the traditional lemon drops.

We made it up the quarry roads and up against the very dramatic wall of one of the quarries, tucked in beneath what hikers know as the Ted Tofte overlook. If you look carefully in the lower right of the picture above, you can pick out my two sons and the poodle. From here, it took a little investigation to find the last chunk of road/trail to connect up with the SHT.

We made the summit, had our ample lunch, and I even got what I think will be the photo for Hiking the North Shore:

The North Shore. A hot day. Cousins. No marked trail. A father long on ambition. Though it had the old familiar feelings, there was not a single wild goose to be chased.

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