Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hike to Two Harbors, Leg 5: Lismore Rd to Normanna Rd.

I really wanted to like this hike. Back on my trek to Two Harbors after four weeks off, it should have been good to get off in the woods and put some miles on with the good old Superior Hiking Trail. 6.9 miles in the far outskirts of Duluth could be a decent hiking experience.

I did not like this hike. Chances are, you won't either. Unless you're a committed thru-hiker or a local neighbor looking for a hike, don't bother with this newly-open section of the Superior Hiking Trail.

Normally I look for something positive about every outdoor experience I have. While it might not have been the perfect hike for me, surely there is someone for whom that hike would be absolutely ideal.

The most interesting part of the snowmobile trail.
This section is 6.9 miles long. However, less than two miles of that is actual hiking trail. The rest is either snowmobile trail, ATV trail, or glorified roadwalking. Most of the snowmobile trail is rough walking, with ankle-turning ruts buried under thick grass. The ATV trails were actually a little easier, but I felt totally disoriented as the trails wove past junctions. The ATV trails were, strangely, freshly mowed, as if the trail maintenance crew had just rode past on their John Deere lawnmowers.

There was an occasional view, mostly where the snowmobile trail crossed one of the marshy river areas, like Amity Creek or French River.

I believe the problem is that this trail was trying to be too much. A sign toward the end showed the uses for which the North Shore State Trail is managed. Snowmobiles are obvious. Cross-country skiing? Hard to imagine. Hiking? Well, physically that's possible, but not all that enjoyable. 

My father wants to hike this section. It's the last SHT section he needs to hike. If I can't talk him out of it, at least I'll wait until fall to take him there. There were a few scattered sugar maple and basswood stands, so MAYBE there will be some decent fall colors.

Yes this trail gets you from Point A to Point B. But neither the destination or the journey are worth the buggy boring hassle.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Get picking: it's blueberry time

I have lost touch with reality. As reports came in of wild blueberries all over the Gunflint Trail and the North Shore, I stayed home waiting for news from somewhere else...the South Shore. This weekend, we went to Blue Vista Farm in Bayfield and picked about two gallons of big, beautiful blueberries. No bug bites. No scratches from the hike in. No sore back from bending down or sitting on lichen-covered rocks.

Commercial pick-your-own berry farms are about quantity over quality. Domestic berries don't have the exquisite taste of wild berries. But you can fill your flat in less than an hour of picking.

Every farm product, from spinach to sweet corn, is late this year. South Shore berry farms are typically ready about two weeks before berry farms in the Duluth and North Shore area. So local Minnesota berries are just getting ready. For a week or two here in mid-August, there are commercial berries anywhere you go.

Where to pick
In Wisconsin
We're big fans of Blue Vista Farms in Bayfield. They have both organic and nonorganic berries, in a lovely old farmstead up in the hills over that great harbor town. Here's a link to all of Bayfield's orchards and berry farms.

In Minnesota
The biggest pick-your-own blueberry farm in the Duluth/North Shore area is Blackbirds and Blueberries, just east of Cloquet. Like many berry farms, they use Facebook to get the word out about picking times. It's always a good time out there as people from all over the region fill the fields and collect their buckets of blue joy. I've blogged about Blackbirds and Blueberries here.

A little off the beaten path but definitely more "North Shore" is Sherry's Berries, in Alden Township inland from Lake Superior between Duluth and Two Harbors. Sherry's is small and personal, with certified organic berries. Call ahead to reserve a picking time and to get directions. Read my blog entry from last year about Sherry's.

Whether it's on a rocky outcrop of the Superior Hiking Trail or a plush farm field in Wisconsin, picking blueberries connects you, body and soul, with wonderful wild places of the Lake Superior region.