Friday, December 23, 2011

"Not even eaten at all."

This bit of news from the Duluth News Tribune on February 10, 1898 sure was a relief to read. We're headed up to Ely over the holidays and would have hated to come across Mr. Cameron's remains.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The sun came back!

We made it through the longest night of the year. Last night, the sun (sol) stood still (stice) Thanks to dozens of bonfires and some drum circles along the shores of Lake Superior during the night, the sun did finally return this morning, right on schedule. 

The sun rose basically in the east, of course, but it rose 23.5 degrees south of east, the furthest that way it gets all year. Watching the sun rise over the cloudy horizon this morning from Park Point, it came up over Wisconsin. 

In the summer, from our view in Duluth, the sun rises right up out of the long end of Lake Superior.

Okay, that's the solstice, the first day of winter. It can start snowing now. Anyone got a drum circle for that?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Desperate times, 2011 edition

The winter of 2011-2012 is off to a slow start. Nature has not provided much snow to the North Shore area. I've chronicled desperate times before in this blog, from back in 2008, when we weren't skiing until late December and I biked on the beach and ran screaming down ski trails. I'm grumpy now, wanting to get out on real snow on a real trail.

The Duluth Denfeld Hunters Nordic Ski team has been skiing on snow for two weeks now. Thanks to the generosity of Spirit Mountain, the Denfeld team has been able to practice and race on the man-made snow of the slopes. 

It was a bizarre scene this week at Spirit when Denfeld hosted their annual ski race. Drizzle all day had turned into a heavy layer of fog perched right at the top of the hill in Duluth. Driving into Spirit there was just a dusting of snow in the woods. Then you walk out toward the racecourse and suddenly there's two feet of snow on the ground. There were more cross country skiers than downhill skiers, and those skinny skis stuck out in a ski world more about wide skis and wider snowboards.

The course started right by the chalet and went uphill. Skiers disappeared into the fog and dark. Less than a minute later, they zoomed out of the fog straight down the ski run, snowplowing or step-turning to make the big curve around the chalet. 

Although it was desperate measures for these desperate times, the foggy hilly race was  a lot of fun. The Denfeld boys took second place, behind the mighty East High School. It was actual real skiing at a North Shore ski area. Despite all that, I'm still grumpy. Maybe next time they'll let me on the course.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

North Shore Christmas tree traditions

We're not all that into Christmas here. But I kinda thought we had a tradition going. For six or seven years now, the whole Slade/Rauschenfels family has gone up the North Shore a ways to get our Christmas tree. We go to Herb Sellin's tree farm, 2.5 miles up from the Highway 61 Expressway on Homestead Road. 

This last weekend, on a lovely Saturday afternoon, Sally and I headed out...without the boys. The older son was at a ski meet, and the younger son was feeling sick. So, in an early glimpse of future empty-nesting, it was just the two of us tracking along on one of our few holiday traditions. It was fun but a little...empty.

Herb's trees scatter across a large field, but we knew right where to head. It's tradition. Every year I suggest getting a white pine, and every year we head to the patch back and to the right...where the balsam firs are. For the last few years, I've handed the cutting over to our older son, who's done an admirable job with the Sven Saw. Now that job fell back to me. 
The tree sits in its stand on our back deck for a few hours...

Then gets brought inside and decorated. Tradition says we listen to Willowgreen's Winter album.

My own North Shore Christmas tree tradition goes back much further than this. From the family cabin in Little Marais, it's a quarter-mile hike through the birch woods to the old pioneer field at Granny's Beach. Over the decades, spruce trees have grown in to slowly cover the old field. Because they had grown in the open, the trees were fuller and greener than any conifer we'd find in among the birches. Still, the best of these trees was as spindly and awkward as the last tree left on any commercial tree lot. 

Family tradition also dictated that any tree that gets taken has to free up another tree to grow. That's an early lesson in sustainable forestry, I guess, but it also ensured that every tree was at least a little lopsided. 

I remember back before we found Herb's lot when I brought both boys out to the field to find a tree. The younger one was in the backpack, the older holding my hand and walking alongside. Coming back through the birch woods with our scraggly spruce tree, the older one got tired and I ended up carrying him in one arm, dragging the tree with my other arm, and still carried the younger one on my back. 

Herb's trees are full and rounded and nearly perfect. I'm good with that; I like how our trees fill up the room. 

What I'm not good with, quite yet, is losing my boys. Sports and sick bugs be darned, I've got a tradition to fulfill.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Downhill Duluth?

Duluth is a city on a hill...a sometimes very steep hill. What would it be like to strap on downhill skis and swoosh down to Lake Superior? This video was shot in British Columbia, but about half the scenes could totally be in Duluth's Central Hillside neighborhood. I loved the barking dog and the old guy with the bike trailer.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Great Duluth skiing ahead...just need some snow

Blue blob over MN means cooler temps.

There is a great season of cross country skiing ahead for Duluth. Despite major budget challenges, the city is receiving twice as much money as last year from the state for ski trail grooming. The Duluth XC Ski Club has taken over management at the Spirit Mountain Nordic Center. 

White space over MN means average temps.
The long range forecast still calls for below-average temperatures and average precipitation, which add up to more snow.  

Now we just need some snow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A North Shore Black Friday

Canadians rushing down Highway 61 to Duluth on our Thanksgiving because their Thanksgiving was last month.

Lines snaking past the kitschy keychains and into the Rubbermaid aisle at Joynes' Ben Franklin. 

And a black-and-white poodle getting all the love on a day known just for the black.

Today was Black Friday, and the North Shore nearly missed it. No doorbusters at the Lake Superior Trading Post in Grand Marais. No controversial midnight openings at Waters Edge in Tofte. Just 20% off all clothing and footwear at Grand Marais' landmark five and dime, Joynes.

All the super good deals must have been in Duluth and places south. Literally two of every three cars driving south on Highway 61 on Thursday had Ontario plates. Their drivers had an obvious sense of purpose, driving straight and fast. Their only stop might be at a gas station for remarkably cheap-sounding $3.29/gallon gas.

Grand Marais' two big retail shops, Joynes and the Trading Post, were both shoulder-to-shoulder busy. The cashier at one said it was just like Fishermens Picnic, the busiest day of the summer. 

In the middle of all this, I picked up some extra-large wool socks and a colorful new leash for Daphne, the parti poodle. On this Black day, the black-and-white poodle pulled in the fans who had exhausted the two superstores:

"What did you mix for THAT dog?"
"Is that a Holstein dog?"
"What's his name?" (everyone assumes she's a he, especially when her pink collar is hidden in unbrushed curls.

A great day for Grand Marais.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Same point, different poodle

I've been trying out the new dog. 

Longtime readers of this blog will remember a certain canine star, the late great Chloe. Chloe left us way too soon last winter. She was a GREAT hiker, bringing the need for speed and a craving for the chase to our woodland excursions. Check out a long, long list of "Poodle Posts" here.

They say every boy needs a dog. Well, just about every hiker does too. Especially when, like me, the hiker has to hike alone. So I've been trying out the new dog. 

Daphne is a "parti" poodle, part black and part white...and all poodle. She was born just two days after Chloe met her fate last February, and she joined our family last spring. She's lovely.

The other day, I took Daphne out to the end of Duluth's Park Point, where Minnesota Avenue meets a gate and a dirt road continues past the Sky Harbor airport and into the pines.

Chloe was a sprinter, running out far ahead to stake her place. Daphne is a laggard, staying back to sample the smells and tastes. 

Chloe would bark out into the world, longing for a response from another barking dog. Daphne is all about the smells, sniffing every conspicuous log for her news of the world. 

On this walk, she stays close by, not quite as sure of her place in the world. This dog is domestic, a lap dog, out for a stroll with her people, not a high-octane wilderness adventure.

Then it's a return walk along the beach back to the parking lot. This dog stays close behind me...nice! Chloe's joy and downfall was her desire to explore and chase. Much to my relief, Daphne shows no inclination to run up the dunes out of sight.

I walked here with Chloe many times, in winter and in summer.

Now it's the new dog. Daphne Delilah Slade, you're testing out okay. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Vote YES for Duluth trails, libraries

If you live in Duluth, you will have the chance to vote on a referendum supporting increased funding for Duluth city parks. Here are three really good reasons you should vote YES:

1. Those ice-flow areas on the Lester Park ski trails that need trail repair.
2. Those sketchy bathrooms at Indian Point campground
3. All the lost hikers at Hartley Park.

If the referendum passes, Duluth trail users and park lovers will see marked improvement in trail maintenance, park facilities, and wayfinding signage. Funding will be restored to the levels last seen in 2003, before government cutbacks began eviscerating parks and programming.

Here are three more good reasons Duluth outdoor enthusiasts should vote YES:

1. 977.49 Si94t  
2. 364.1523 F323w
3. 778.93 B565m

Those are the Dewey call numbers for three essential North Shore books, available at the Duluth Public Library:  
  • Howard Sivertson's Tales of the Old North Shore 
  • Gail Feichtinger's Will to Murder 
  • Craig Blacklock's Minnesota's North Shore
The Duluth parks referendum, in addition to funding our parks, will also help fund our libraries. If the parks referendum doesn't pass, the city will have to close Duluth's two branch libraries. 

Duluth parks and libraries make this city on Lake Superior truly a great place to live. Vote YES to return both resources to their glory.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Check out the new wayside at Split Rock

If you've driven on the North Shore this summer, you surely experienced the traffic back ups for construction in the Split Rock area. MnDOT completed a two-year-long project straightening out Highway 61 just west of the Lighthouse. The new highway is gorgeous, wide and fast.

The new highway alignment runs about 200 yards away from one of the North Shore's most distinct wayside rests, a classic pull-off with a great view of Split Rock Lighthouse and the open waters of Lake Superior. For the traveler dedicated to enjoying Lake Superior, this is a great change. 

Follow the spanking new blue "Wayside Rest" signs off of Highway 61, and you'll loop away from the new highway and back over to the old highway. 

Not only is the old wayside rest still there, it has been substantially improved. I love the variety of rocks found in the pillars...North Shore gabbro and diabase, granite from somewhere, even a southern Minnesota limestone.

Now, instead of having highway traffic speed by just feet away from you as you try to take in the view, scenic viewers have the overlook all to themselves. A foot trail leads away from the overlook toward the lighthouse; next time I'll find out where that goes,

MnDOT may iron the curves out of Highway 61 until it's an arrow-straight line from Duluth to Grand Portage, but as long as they leave these quiet and scenic waysides, I'm okay with it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's see-through season: Hike the ski trails of Duluth

Nearly bare tree on Superior Hiking Trail, Duluth, Fall 2011
It's see-through season. Say it three times fast and it's a tongue twister. Say it three times slowly, like you mean it, and then head for your nearest hiking trail...or even better, your nearest ski trail.

Every year brings a window of opportunity for unique hiking. The lovely leaves and their fall colors have fallen off the trees. The ground is dry. The ski trails have been mowed, their tall summer grasses trimmed to lawn-like height. 
Mount Trudee as seen from a Tettegouche hiking trail, Fall 2009
You can literally see through the forest. Distant ridgelines you never knew were there are as clear as the logs underfoot. Lovely views of Lake Superior open up where before it was just leaves.

Piedmont ski trails and a poodle, Fall 2010
If you're in Duluth, now's your chance to head for the city's vast system of cross-country ski trails, without your skis.

At the Magney ski trail, walk in from the parking lot and hike the Bardon Peak loop.  

At the Piedmont ski trail, the far eastern side of the trail is the driest and the best hiking.  

At the Chester Park trail, walk the whole 3.2 kilometer loop.

At Hartley Park, you can combine the Superior Hiking Trail with the Inner or Outer ski trail. 

Finally, at sprawling Lester Park, you can explore miles of ski trail; just don't get lost. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lutsen gondola: Why hike when you can stroll?

Looking for a great, amazingly scenic North Shore experience? Want to stroll and enjoy the view rather than hike and clamber? Head for Lutsen Mountains. The gondola ride to the top of Moose Mountain is like an express train to Beautyland.

There is a great 4.2 mile hike from the top of the gondola back down on the Superior Hiking Trail. The maples of Mystery Mountain are amazing. The Via Ferrata-like scamper below the Moose Mountain ridge is remarkable..and difficult. That hike is Hike #35 in Hiking the North Shore, and it definitely lives up to the book's subtitles as one of "50 fabulous hikes." 

It's the peak of fall colors. It's gorgeous up top of the mountain. Why watch every step and grab every handhold deep in the dark forest  when you could be sauntering about enjoying the views?
It turns out that while the Superior Hiking Trail scampers around for a half mile below the ridge, a wide, flat ski run follows the very top of the ridge. And while only a few people were taking the Superior Hiking Trail challenge, fully half of the folks up on the mountain this weekend were strolling up that ski run...a lovely wooded way.

The ski run is basically a wide road that connects the top of three Moose Mountain chairlifts back down to the Summit Chalet. On the maps, it's called the Ridgeline Trail. With a blanket of fallen leaves on the ground and great views opening up down the ski runs, strolling there was like walking through a fine art gallery. 

Fall colors are quickly fading in the Lutsen area, especially with the recent wind. Come back next year and have a lovely stroll on top of the world.

If you go:

The gondola, or "mountain tram", runs from the base of the Lutsen Mountains ski area, up the Ski Hill Road from Highway 61 in Lutsen. A round-trip ticket costs about $12/ person. Dogs and young kids ride free.

On top of the gondola, you'll find the Summit Chalet, where you can enjoy food and beverages.

Check out the Lutsen hiking trail map to get oriented.

Friday, September 30, 2011

North Shore colors: Remember the Superior National Forest

Oberg Lake and the Superior National Forest from the Oberg Mountain Trail, September 2009
This weekend will be one of the busiest and most beautiful of the year on the North Shore, as the autumn color show is at its peak and the weather forecast is fine. While thousands will head for the state parks, those in the know will head for the Superior National Forest...whether they know it or not.

Most of the Superior Hiking Trail east of Tofte is in the Superior National Forest. Favorite fall color hikes like Oberg and Leveaux mountains are in the National Forest, and so is most of the Lutsen gondola hike. 

The Superior National Forest promotes great automobile tours for fall colors, including this guide for the North Shore. They have four different drives to recommend, including the Moose Drive up toward the Cramer Road and the Maple Leaf Drive that loops behind Carlton Peak through the heartbreakingly beautiful maples of Heartbreak Ridge. 

The forest also maintains a whimsical fall color conditions report . In the latest edition, they let Winnie the Pooh suggest:

Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, 
listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.

If you can't make it up the shore and are stuck at your computer, tap into the National Forest's  Flickr photostream of current fall colors.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Get ready for fall colors

Fall color tapestry below Sawmill Dome, September 2010
The best time for hiking the North Shore is here. Clear your calendars for some adventurous treks through lovely forests with the best Lake Superior views of the year.

Bean Lake in a bowl of fall colors/
Be sure to head for one of the great ridgeline overlooks. On one side, Lake Superior glimmers in a deep dark blue. On the other side, a tapestry of color spreads out beneath you. Some of my favorite fall color overlooks are on Oberg Mountain, Leveaux Mountain, and Sawmill Dome.  

The birch trees are already changing at North Shore state parks. Head seven miles in from Finland on Lake County Road 7 to explore George H. Crosby-Manitou State Park and the Yellow Birch Trail, which should be lovely this next week. Smoke from the Pagami Creek fire may be blowing that way, so be ready to shift plans east or west depending on the wind conditions.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources predicts an excellent fall color season. Drought in the Ely area has triggered early colors in the region’s birch trees. Check on the latest fall colors with a report from the DNR.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Big lake, bigger bird: Park Point Pelican

I was pretty excited last night when I heard my son say, "There's a HUGE bird on the beach." First, that's about five more words than I typically get out of him. And second because he was noticing something natural and not something digital. And to my amazement, he kept talking. "It's a swan or something."

Of course I had to see for myself, so I headed out for the door with my camera. I didn't even have to leave the kitchen before I saw it for myself, this mass of white floating as if it were styrofoam over the lake. I've only seen this big bird in Duluth 2 or 3 times before, but I knew right away it was a pelican. The White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos.  

But I continued down to the beach. Pelicans are here in Duluth only as a "casual straggler." Funny that out in the lake behind it was another straggler, the Dutch-flagged saltie Kwintebank.

This morning I caught another glimpse of the pelican, still out the kitchen window. I headed out again, this time with the dog, and managed to get closer to the bird as it swam along the beach. Zooming in, I managed not so shoddy a picture.

We kept on walking down the beach, dog and I. When I turned around, the big bird was nowhere to be seen on the lake. Within a minute or two, I realized why: it was up on the beach. So dog and I carefully made our way high up on the beach near the dunes and walked respectfully past the bird. The pelican was quiet and moved just slowly, keeping one eye on me and the poodle at all times.

The pelican, up close, is more beautiful and more big than I ever imagined. Every twist and turn of the neck is gorgeous to watch, and the long beak. When I got back home, I read in my bird guide that pelican's wing span can be up to 9 1/2 feet...WOW. Back in our living room, I showed my son how that wing span would reach from one side of the room to the other. 

Thanks, pelican, for visiting Lake Superior and giving us all a little thrill.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sig's shack

I had the rare opportunity last week to visit Sigurd Olson's writing shack. Much to my surprise, it was not at the famed Listening Point, but right in town in Ely. My brother George and his partner had met Listening Point Foundation's executive director, Alanne Dore, and she invited them to see the shack. I tagged along, and was really glad I did.

The shack looks like Sig had just left. I was stunned to see that the last thing he ever typed was still in the typewriter: 

A New Adventure is coming up
and I'm sure it will be
a good one.

Perhaps subconsciously aware of his own passing, Sig typed those words, then went out in the woods on his snowshoes and died. The snowshoes rest in the corner of the shack.

Sigurd Olson is best known for his work in the Boundary Waters and for wilderness preservation worldwide. He would come to the North Shore area primarily to fish the headwaters of the streams for brook trout.  He did write a lovely poem about Lake Superior; when I find a copy I'll link to it here. There is talk now and then about naming Minnesota Highway One, the winding wild road connecting Ely and the North Shore, to Sigurd Olson Highway.
An entire desktop in the shack was covered with rocks, some of which could have been from a North Shore beach but others coming from much further away. Probably a lifetime of memories right there, captured like a Zen garden.

As a writer, naturalist, educator and fan of wilderness myself, I was deeply moved by the experience. The writing shack is so resonant with the spirit of the man. The future of it is unclear, as it sits on private property. If you're inspired by the work and words of Sigurd Olson, consider supporting the Listening Point Foundation.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Best Duluth hikes by bus

Getting to a great North Shore hike can mean as much driving as hiking. It's a pretty good haul up the Onion River Road or all the way to Grand Portage for your outdoor experience. 

Not so for hikers in Duluth. Just walk to the corner, hop on the Duluth Transit Authority bus, then ring the dinger for your trailhead bus stop.

From downtown Duluth, you can catch the #3 bus going west toward Proctor. 30 minutes and a few quarters for the bus fare later, and you're at the corner of Highland Street and Skyline Drive. It's a rugged nine mile hike on the Superior Hiking Trail along scenic Peace Ridge and past Enger Tower back to downtown.

Or hop on the #13 bus headed up Woodland and ride all the way to Hartley Nature Center, about a 25 minute trip. Then hike back to downtown via Hartley, UMD's Bagley Nature Area, Chester Creek and the Lakewalk, 4.5 miles all on the Superior Hiking Trail.

One more trip from downtown Duluth: you can take the #15 bus from downtown all the way to the Park Point Recreation Area. From there, you can either hike past the airport into the pine forest and the Superior Entry, or you can walk the gorgeous sand beach all the way back to Canal Park.

For more information on any of these hikes, check out my book:
Hiking the North Shore: 50 Fabulous Day Hikes in Minnesota's Spectacular Lake Superior Region (There & Back Guides)

Monday, August 22, 2011

The State Fair is on; special secret season for the North Shore

The Great Minnesota Get-Together is starting up this week. If you want S'Mores without the hassle of 1) camping, 2) campfires and 3) stick whittling, you could go to the Fair and patronize the "Real S'Mores" shack. They might even put it on a stick for you. 

But if you want another authentic Minnesota experience, head for the North Shore instead. As soon as the Fair starts, the summer crowds on the North Shore drop right off.'s the special secret season!

As of today, there are open campsites you can still reserve at every North Shore state park from Gooseberry to Judge Magney. Come mid-week you can have your choice of any park. Things will pick up over Labor Day weekend; get up here and enjoy the special secret late summer season.

If you come to the North Shore in the next week or so and you still need a taste of the Big Fair, you can check out the Midway, livestock judging and even greasy food at the Lake County Fair, August 25-28.  

If you really want the Giant Slide, head for Spirit Mountain's Timber Twister or Lutsen's Alpine Slide.

Come up for some gorgeous late summer weather and to experience the trails and towns of the North Shore without the summer crowds. It's special!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Down the river, to the beach

Heavy rains pummeled the western Lake Superior area earlier this month. Up to six inches of rain fell in a band just south of Superior, Wisconsin...the headwaters of the Nemadji River. The rising river tore at the clay banks and carried everything it grabbed down to Lake Superior. It created not only a plume of red clay into the lake but a veritable parade of tree trunks, some more alive than others.

While the new horizontal forest is thickest down toward the end of Minnesota Point, there was still a lot of big wood on our own beach. My crafty neighbor quickly built an entire teepee frame out of the 8-10 foot logs. The 20-foot to 30-foot trees were just too big for him, and the fresh ones with their branches sanded clean by the current just too awkward.

A few days later, these skeleton trees began washing up on the Park Point beach. They must have followed the Nemadji current out through the Superior Entry and to the open lake.  These massive logs speak to the power of water and wind and waves.

I'm always nervous when things start washing up on the Lake Superior shore. Two years ago I was half-expecting to find a kayaker's remains along our beach. This last rain storm, its downpour channeled into our streams, carried another victim to Lake Superior, Jefferson Bowen, a Duluth 13-year-old, who drowned on Amity Creek and whose body was found up the shore from the mouth of the Lester River a few days later.

But almost all the time, the Lake brings cool, good things. Like massive driftwood. Agate chips. Foreign beer cans. And, so his family can rest, the body of a adventurous kid.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On the road with Sam Cook

Chris Evavold being photographed by Sam Cook at Divide Lake
Every two or three years, the phone rings and a familiar voice with just a hint of Kansas in it says, "Hi, Andrew, Sam Cook." Just like the sound of a bell got Pavlov's dogs to salivate, that voice makes me start to stuff my day pack. We're going on an adventure.

Sam wanted to do an article about North Shore hiking and our new book, Hiking the North Shore: 50 fabulous day hikes in Minnesota's spectacular Lake Superior region. "Where would you like to go, Andrew?," Sam asked. What a great question to get!

Sam was looking for something different. The day would be hot, so it would be good to be near a lake. He'd done a lot on the Superior Hiking Trail. He wanted to bring his lab, Lucy. Fortunately, I had the perfect hikes for him. And the perfect hiking companion.

Eighteen Lake and Divide Lake are both in the Superior National Forest, just east of Isabella off Highway One. They both have hiking trails around the shore, 2.7 miles at Eighteen Lake and 2.1 at Divide Lake. In the National Forest, dogs can run free off leash. And Divide Lake is a trout lake, which was perfect for my old friend Chris Evavold. 
Pipsissewa in bloom along Divide Lake trail
Chris, Sam and I met in Duluth and headed up Highway 61 to Illgen City. I drove Sam's minivan so he could ask me questions and jot down notes in his classic narrow reporter's notebook. I was ready: "What's so great about hiking here?" "Why did you want to write this book?"

At Illgen City I checked my watch. The "Lake Superior region" in the subtitle of my book roughly means anywhere you can reach within one half hour of driving from Highway 61. It was 32 minutes up Highway One to Divide Lake. Phew!

Hiking (or skiing, or snowshoeing, which I've done with him for other articles) with Sam is a moving chat fest in the woods. Much of the conversation is off the record and only distantly related to the story at hand. But every few moments, Sam would either dash ahead to get photos of Chris and me, or lag behind to write in his notebook.

The hikes were scenic and a lot of fun. Divide Lake is more for anglers and naturalists, with interesting botany and (supposedly) trout in the lake. Eighteen Lake is great for hiking, with lovely pine forests and dramatic views up and down the wild lake.
After the hike around Eighteen Lake, Sam got "head shots" of Chris and me. We were into the heat of the day, so before we headed back to Duluth we went for a refreshing swim in the cool lake waters. Just what the reporter ordered.

Here's the article. There's some good related content, too. See you out there!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Duluth beyond Lake Superior

Park Point message says it all: "I LOVE DULUTH."
Newspaper readers in Minneapolis, Kansas City and even Miami recently got a great tour of our fair city, Duluth.

Star-Tribune reporter Curt Brown did a great job catching the charming back corners of the Zenith City. Maybe you'll find some pointers too!

Duluth beyond Lake Superior: Turn your back on the big water for a while - Travel Wires -

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

White, waxy and weird wildflowers of the North

I had a great day of hiking this week up in the Isabella area. It's a 25-minute drive from Highway 61 through Finland along Highway 1 to Isabella, and we were still in the Lake Superior watershed, but it felt like arriving in another world. 

The forest changes from what you'd call "North Woods" to "Boreal." The main thing that was different was the wildflowers. In fact, I turned to an old book on my bookshelf, Plants of Quetico and the Ontario Shield, by Quetico park naturalist Shane Walshe.  

These flowers from the North were white, weird and waxy.

Along the Divide Lake trail (Hike 28 in my book Hiking the North Shore), we found clumps of Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora). Waxy and white, this flower has lives on decaying soil matter and needs no chlorophyll, thus it is white and not green at all. According to Plants of Quetico, "parboiled, boiled and roasted, this species tastes like asparagus."

Near the trailhead, I found clumps of baneberries. Yes, those white waxy "dolls eyes" are the berry of the baneberry plant (Actaea pachypoda). While you might confuse them with yogurt-covered raisins, they are quite poisonous to humans. Grouse and white-footed mice will eat them and, I presume, spread the seeds in ways I'd rather not visualize.

The last waxy weird wildflower we saw was the pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata). Shane Walsh wrote, "The leaves make a pleasant nibble." According to Wikipedia, the name means "it breaks into small pieces."

It was a lovely day up in the boreal north just inland from Lake Superior. But it's nice to be back where the plants are green and the berries are blue.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A gonzo take on Lake Superior

Did you know that Lake Superior is about a million feet deep? That the shipping lanes run so close to shore they could run over an inflatable raft? Watch Jim Richardson's Gonzo take on Lake Superior and the North Shore. The sounds of splashing water alone make this worth repeated viewing.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Get back into the wild at Tettegouche's High Falls

The State Parks are back! Take this weekend to reacquaint yourself with the deep pockets of scenery and nature in the North Shore parks. 

To the High Falls
High Falls - Baptism River
High Falls of the Baptism, May 2011, from Flickr
Recent rains have lifted North Shore streams out of their summer slumber. With the shutdown over and the park gates open again, head deep into Tettegouche State Park for the short walk to the High Falls of the Baptism River.   

At approximately 70 feet tall, this the highest waterfall completely in Minnesota...the High Falls of the Pigeon River at Grand Portage are taller, but are shared with Ontario.

Reaching the falls
Enter Tettegouche State Park off Highway 61 at mile marker 85.6. Pick up your vehicle permit at the park office, then continue 1.5 miles on the park road to the trail center parking lot past the campground.

Signs lead all the way to the High Falls. You'll follow the big main trail up and out of the parking lot for about 500 yards, then turn right on the Superior Hiking Trail. It's another 500 yards or so on the Superior Hiking Trail to the falls, which should be raging pretty good after the rains. Spur trails lead off to viewing platforms and to the fun suspension bridge over the river. 

If this doesn't satisfy your want of waterfalls, you can continue downstream on trails either side of the river to scenic Two-Step Falls. 

Picnic and swim at the mouth
After your hike, return down the park road, cross the old bridge over the Baptism and park on the right side. It's a short stroll down to the gravel beach at the mouth of the Baptism River, where you'll find excellent swimming (on the river side if the lake is too rough or too cold). This is a perfect spot to enjoy your rustic picnic lunch in a classic North Shore setting.