A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. On Sunday, I knew just enough about the North Shore that I made all the wrong moves.
This weekend was probably one of the busiest weekends on the North Shore of the entire year. Tourists flock to the shore for the fall colors and for events like the Crossing Borders studio tour. Crowds of hikers head for the fall color favorites like Oberg Mountain or the Lutsen gondola.
What about the Slade-Rauschenfels family? Could we join the crowd and enjoy those greatest hits? Naw, I'm the expert. Couldn't I find the best fall color destination EVER?
I steered us to remote George H. Crosby Manitou State Park. Heck, the DNR said the colors were near peak there. And I knew of a trail that was off the beaten path, where the poodle could run wild.
The Humpback Trail makes up the first part of the park's Hiking Club Trail. I knew it had some nice inland valley views, but I couldn't recall if it had any sugar maples along the way. It did. A few. With most of their leaves washed off in this week's heavy rains.
I had also conveniently forgotten how difficult the trail was. The last time I hiked it was Election Day 2008. It was the same trail, although it looked like no one had brushed the trail since that election. So much for campaign promises.
Plus, it was a lot rougher experienced through the eyes and ankles of my family. The rocks were bigger and the path was steeper. One son did his very best to not swear at me.
We made it back to the parking lot in one piece and refilled our water bottles at the park's hand pump.
The day was still young. After the first disaster, I tried to deliver a pleasant walk through a maple forest. Without the crowds, right? On the busiest day of the year. Hey, I know this area.
We headed for the Superior Hiking Trail as it leads east from the Cramer Road outside Schroeder. The Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail (which I helped write and edit) said it was some of the best sugar maple forest in the area. It's the section known in the Guide as "Cook County Road 1 to Temperance River State Park." I was hoping we could walk in to Tower Overlook to enjoy the "beautiful view of Lake Superior."
Flatter trail? Yup.
Pretty maples? Sure thing. The forest was on fire with maple trees in their full fall glory.
Totally mucky underfoot? You bet ya. Who woulda thunk it?
We made it about a quarter mile before the muck turned us around. Sally and I had our hiking boots on and could plow through. Our growing boys, however, didn't want to ruin their new school sneakers. We turned around and drove straight to Culvers in Two Harbors.
At least I knew where to find Cheddar Burgers and Concrete Mix-ins.