Okay, there are a few things you should know about me:
- I really like the idea of Duluth's urban wilderness, of wolves and moose walking our streets and wild places, of vast open forests just beyond city limits. That's what inspired me to move here back in the 1980s, and has kept me here.
- I like to set modest, attainable goals for myself. I dream way too big, but easily focus on the small.
A lot of folks take off every year to thru-hike the Superior Hiking Trail. Even more folks try to thru-hike far longer trails, like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. My modest and attainable goal for this summer is to hike all the way from Duluth to Two Harbors on the Superior Hiking Trail, as my little way to celebrate the long-awaited completion of the Trail.
I started this weekend with my first leg, 6.5 miles from my house in Duluth to Hartley Nature Center. The first mile or so of my journey was along the Downtown Lakewalk. No, that is not me in the picture below. Yes I was hiking alone, but I was in a much better mood than this guy.
While this is the Superior Hiking Trail, it is not anything like the rest of the Superior Hiking Trail. The only similarity was the signage along the way. Here's the sign pointing the route of the "Trail" up Duluth's 14th Avenue East:
The trail starts to get wooded and rugged (like the rest of the Superior Hiking Trail) when it crosses Fourth Street and enters Chester Park. While I could have stopped in at Burrito Union for sustenance, I plugged on. For almost a mile, the trail climbs up the west side of the creek, under towering white pines, past dramatic little waterfalls, and away from city noises.
Climbing out of the Chester Creek valley, there's another half-mile or so on city sidewalks before the Superior Hiking Trail enters UMD's Bagley Nature Area. There I enjoyed the sturdy metal deck on top of the old downhill ski run. I could see all the way back to Park Point, where my hike had begun an hour and a half earlier.
The most natural and remote part of the hike was through Hartley Nature Center. Not coincidentally, this was the first stretch of trail I'd been on that day that had been built specifically to be the Superior Hiking Trail. Everything else had been existing trails that had been connected simply by putting up the signs.
The trail popped out of the woods at Hartley Pond and finished up down at the Hartley Nature Center building. From there it was a short walk up to Woodland Avenue and the Duluth Transit Authority bus stop. 75 cents and a 30-minute ride on the Route 13 bus brought me back downtown and a short stroll back over the Lift Bridge and home again.
The whole experience, including the bus shuttle back home, took three and a half hours. It's not the most scenic stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail and it might just be the busiest stretch. It was a great way to shake out my hiking legs and get ready for the many miles ahead on my modest, attainable goal.