Saturday, October 5, 2013

Hiking to Two Harbors, Leg 6: Normanna Rd. to Sucker River

A welcome sign at the Normanna trailhead
I played hooky this week and got back on the Superior Hiking Trail. I wanted to make some progress on my big "summer" goal of hiking all the way to Two Harbors. Five day hikes in, I had made it to Normanna Road, on the northeast outskirts of Duluth.

After hiking on everything from city sidewalks to snowmobile trails, after hiking through everything from farmfields to graveyards, after hiking with everything from baby strollers to ATV's, I was thrilled to be on a real hiking trail. This section of the SHT is nine miles long. On this hike from Duluth to Two Harbors, this was the first pure and simple hike, just foot travel, no wide snowmobile trails or paved walkways.

Me in some maple woods
Just a few hundred yards in, I had to literally stop and tighten my boot laces. On a classic SHT layout, the trail winds up and over woodland ridges, over boulders, down steep streambanks, and more. For the first time in a long run of hiking trail, I actually had to hike.I loved it.

The SHT here is nearly all on state or county forest land. Some of the highlights along the trail section are beaver ponds and the open beaver meadows, a classic North Shore ridgeline maple forest, just starting to turn yellow and orange, and the scenic gurgles of the Sucker River.


video

Even the older logged areas, cut over two or three years ago, had some beautiful fall flowers.

Asters blooming in October in a logged area

Nine miles is a decently long hike, and I was starting to feel the wear in my joints toward the end. I had driven to the ending trailhead on Fox Farm Road and ridden my bike nearly ten miles along dirt and paved road to the starting trailhead, so I had already pushed my middle-aged body more than I would at a typical day at the office.

So just when I felt I was in my little hiking nirvana...

The SHT goes straight through that brush pile

A bit tired, a bit elated from actually hiking in actual woods, I was thrown off my game in the last mile, as the trail entered an active logging area. I'd heard the rumble of engines and the hum of saws for a good half hour. Then the SHT ran right into an opening that, based on the smell of sawdust and equipments, had probably been cut in the last 48 hours. The only sign of the SHT was the occasional strip of pink flagging on the small trees left standing.

From the A-frame bridge over Sucker River.
I made it through the logging area by dumb luck and persistence. The final crossing of the Sucker River was lovely, and I was proud and pleased to complete my bike-hike circuit.

Apparently, the next section of the SHT has even more logging activity. I'm letting my feet heal, dusting off my GPS, and planning another day in the woods next week.