Sunday, June 24, 2012

Beachcombing after the flood

The great flood of June 2012 is still receding, and we are just now grasping the full scale of its impact. While most of the attention is rightfully on the washed out roads and thousands of moldy wet basements, the trails enjoyed by North Shore hikers, bikers and nature enthusiasts have also suffered greatly. More details to come in a future post.

Five days now after the rains, the first big chunks of debris have arrived on the Park Point beach here in Duluth. It's a tragic treasure hunt, sorting through all this stuff that was, until very recently, someone's backyard tree, someone's dockside ornament, even someone's dock or home. 

I walked the beach from the "Tot Lot" at 12th St. to the Aerial Lift Bridge this afternoon and found mostly sticks and logs, but also some funky personal items. A kids sandal. Two different empty bottles of UV Vodka. A foam toilet brush. The most bizarre was a stuffed cat with a straw hat tied into a willow bedframe. 

Perhaps most telling were the lily roots. Looking like sea anemones at low tide, these freaky plants had obviously been scoured out of the mucky quiet river bottoms where lily pads thrive. The tuberous lily roots then spent the last five days sending out sprouts out looking for light to grow and new muck in which to grow. They weren't finding any on the beach

It was an amazing storm. Even along the shores of Lake Superior, the clean up will take some time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Be more safe, have more fun: North Shore guide services

Looking for a great new North Shore experience? Why not go out with a certified professional and try some exciting new sport on the cliffs or waves of this mighty country?

Here's my list of guides and organizations that can help you have an unforgettable (and safe) adventure:

Sea kayaking
Positive Energy Outdoors
Sawtooth Adventures
North Shore Expeditions
UMD Recreational Sports and Outdoor Program

Rock climbing
UMD Recreational Sports and Outdoor Program
Positive Energy Outdoors
Minnesota DNR I Can Climb!

Surfing, Stand Up Paddleboarding
Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply
UMD Recreational Sports and Outdoor Program

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Free nature program this weekend at Iona's Beach!

(Normally I write my own blog posts, but this press release was just way too exciting)

Discover the North Shore's Exceptional Places

Sugarloaf: The North Shore Stewardship Association, in partnership with the MN Department of Natural Resources - Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA) program, is pleased to offer a series of discovery walks at three North Shore SNAs - Iona's Beach SNA, Hovland Woods SNA and Minnesota Point SNA. Each of these sites were preserved for their natural features and rare resources of exceptional scientific and educational value.  Sugarloaf naturalist, Margie Menzies, is leading a nature walk at each of these sites during June.  All walks are free. Participants should wear appropriate shoes for walking unpaved trails.

Explore Iona's Beach SNA
On Saturday, June 9, at 1 pm, Margie will be leading a guided walk at the scenic Iona's Beach SNA. Iona's Beach SNA lies on a narrow strip of Lake Superior's North Shore between Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock Lighthouse State Parks. It is named after Iona Lind, former owner of Twin Points Resort.  The beach starts at a northern shore cliff of pink rhyolite and felsite bedrock, and stretches over 300 yards nearly straight south to a cliff and headland of dark gray basalt. Margie will spend time describing the unique geology of this beautiful pink beach and explore the surrounding woodland with you. Meet in the Twin Points water access parking lot located at mile 42 on Hwy 61, between Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and Gooseberry Falls State Park. Visit for more information. FREE.

But wait, there's more!
Two more SNA tours are on the schedule:
Hovland Woods SNA, Saturday, June 16, at 10 am 
Minnesota Point SNA, Sunday, June 24, at 10 am

Friday, June 1, 2012

Sea kayak the Tettegouche shoreline

This morning I was out in a small boat on big Lake Superior. It had been way too long since I took a sea kayak down to the rocky North Shore and paddled along those cliffs and beaches. 

At Tettegouche State Park, I drove in just past the visitor center to a small parking lot by the Baptism River. From there, I carried my boat about 150 yards down to the mouth of the Baptism (Funny, last time I did that 20 years ago it was a whole lot easier).

Once I squeezed myself through the hatch and into the boat, I floated with the Baptism current out into the open lake. What an amazing treat to round the bend and see the cliffs rise up before me. Palisade Head loomed in the distance, big even from a mile away. 

It's a good thing it was such a calm and warm day. I wasn't wearing a wetsuit, I have no bilge pump, and I am not able to do the Eskimo roll. And I was alone. My only safety back-up was to stay close to shore and watch for beaches I could quickly swim to and get out of the water.

Along the short stretch of shoreline within the state park, there were three larger beaches and four or five more tiny little coves reachable only by water. The rocky points range from dark, smooth black basalt to funky, angular red rhyolite. Here and there, the swells found small hollows to thump inside. Two modern dwellings loom high over the shoreline, and then there is one intact fish camp right on the water's edge.  

It was a short paddle west along the shore to Palisade Head, where I tucked into one of the sea caves. How cool that was, to be covered by rock and cradled by water. 

Gosh, I've got to do this more often!