I had four days of just me and the poodle and the wild woods of Ely, Minnesota. I don't think she'd like a solo canoe ride. The steam bath was not going to work. We had to go to the Secret-Blackstone trail.
Daphne is the second standard poodle hiking partner I've had, and at 20 months old she's still learning the joys and triumphs of good trail hiking. Secret-Blackstone is a small trail system east of Ely. Since it's a Superior National Forest trail, dogs can run off leash. Hiking with any dog on a leash is a hassle, but with a strong, agile poodle with psychotic tendencies on the leash, it's nearly impossible.
The Secret-Blackstone trail winds around three lakes strung in the hilly country between Moose Lake and Snowbank Lake, two popular BWCA entry points off the Fernberg Road. The trail is well-maintained and well-marked. If you're out for an easy hike, just stick to the two-mile loop around Blackstone Lake. But the dog had shown she could stick to the trail and not attract bears or wolves. We were ready for more hiking, so we headed past Blackstone Lake to the cliffs of Ennis Lake.
Here I am at a highpoint over a pond near Ennis Lake. Longtime Superior Hiking Trail supporters might just notice that my t-shirt reads, "I'd rather be hiking the Superior Hiking Trail." But on this day, that would be a lie. This is a great little set of loop trails and I was delighted to be there.
After sniffing up a LOT of bushes and waiting patiently behind me on the narrow trail, Daphne was pretty happy to be on this trail, too.
If you go
Download the map and driving directions from the Superior National Forest. There really isn't a better map out there. The trailhead is very near the canoe launch for Moose Lake, and you'll find restrooms at the canoe launch.
The hike just around Blackstone Lake is very scenic and is pretty easy going, through some lovely red pines and past two backcountry campsites where you can sit by the lake. It's just under two miles and most hikers can complete it in about an hour.
Past Blackstone Lake, the trail gets much rougher and narrower. It's just over a three mile hike on the long loop to Ennis Lake and back, but it will take at least two hours to complete the hike, plus you'll want to hang out on top of the Ennis Lake cliffs.