Monday, September 30, 2013

Twin Lakes Trail: A blast from the past

I've been stuck in Duluth this last week or so, wishing I could be out hiking in the fall colors. I hear the colors are near peak. I thought I'd repost a blog entry about one of the best fall color hikes on the shore. Enjoy! Andrew

One of the best hikes on the North Shore is the Twin Lakes Trail, also known as the Bean and Bear Lakes hike. Most people hike to Bean Lake on the Superior Hiking Trail, off of Penn Boulevard. The Twin Lakes Trail has its own trailhead, right in town in Silver Bay. I think this access is more wild and more interesting.

The hike is 6.8 miles long and involves some pretty good climbing, so it's not suited for young children. Pack a lunch, too. Not only will you need the calories, but there are three really great lunch spots to sit and enjoy the meal with a view.

You'll find the Twin Lakes Trail trailhead 0.3 miles up from the Highway 61 Silver Bay stoplights up Outer Drive. The parking lot is also for the visitor information center run by the Bay Area Historical Society. From the corner of the parking lot, the trail follows a wide gravel ATV trail for about 0.3 miles. Then the hiking trail cuts to the right off the ATV trail.

Silver Bay was the center of the damage from the April ice storm. This trail had been hit hard, by falling trees and broken branches. But the trail crews had cleared nearly the entire loop. THANK YOU TRAIL CREWS!!

It's a lollipop loop, so you'll hike up 1.8 miles on the "stick" of the lollipop. That gets you to the crux move. Left or right?

I enjoyed going left and hiking clockwise around the 3.1 mile main loop.

Some highlights, in hiking order:

1) The view from the top of Elam's Knob, as the town of Silver Bay gets swallowed by the hills and forest and lake:

2) The dramatic cliffs and far-below views of Bean Lake:

3) The full view of Bear (close) and Bean (far) lakes:

It's a great hike anytime of year. At least half of the hike is in maple woods, so it's gorgeous in the fall. The spring wildflowers were nice this week.

Get out and go wild!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Dry Lake day hike: Easier in Ely

Dry Lake sits a few miles north of Ely, just off the Echo Trail. A Superior National Forest trail circles the lake. The Dry Lake Trail shares the same parking lot and some of the same trail as the popular Bass Lake Trail, a six-plus mile circumnavigation of Bass Lake. In comparison, the three-mile Dry Lake Trail packs more scenery per mile and yet has fewer hikers.

In the last year, the Superior National Forest has significantly improved the signage for the Dry Lake and Bass Lake trails, with accurate new maps at virtually every trail junction. The trail itself is fairly well maintained, with bridges over the creeks. There does always seem to be at least one tree down across the trail when I'm there, though.

The hike starts with a short approach to the loop. Watch for signage as the trail turns off a wide snowmobile trail onto a more rugged hiking trail, then climbs to the top of a high bluff. I always hike this trail clockwise, taking the left fork at what is now Junction 2. No particular reason for that, just habit.

The trail soon reaches Little Dry Lake. The most rugged part of the hike is along the north shore of Little Dry Lake, where the glaciers left a big rugged pile of cobblestone. A thick crop of poison ivy grows alongside the trail.

One of the scenic highlight is the high rocky bluff above the west shore of Dry Lake. There is no development on Dry Lake, just wild open public land, so stop for a nice long break at the bluff, marked on the maps as a scenic spot.

Another scenic highlight is Dry Falls. This is where the water from Dry Lake empties into Bass Lake.

From Dry Falls, it's a dramatic one-mile hike back to the parking area on the Echo Trail, along a pine-studded ridgeline with great views above and small patches of wintergreen below.

If you're in Ely and looking for an moderate half-day hike, you can't go wrong with the Dry Lake Trail.