I posted notice of this ‘guided hike’ along a rugged, arguably the best, section of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) several months ago. I hope some of you had the opportunity to do the hike on August 13th- it did not disappoint!
The Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA) promoted this 11.1 mi. ‘guided hike,’ as a ‘rugged section,’ and indeed it was. I’d been through here before -most recently a few years ago, as part of an extended backpacking trip with my dog, Kolby. Check the SHTA website regarding future ‘guided’ hikes.
The SHTA sponsors about a dozen Saturday ‘guided’ day-hikes throughout the year. In the winter they’re done on snowshoes. There is usually a hike leader, often a local naturalist to explain the surroundings, and a sweep following at the end, making sure no one is left behind on the trail. My wife and I drove up early on the Saturday morning and joined a sizable crew (maybe 30 people) to do this hike.
We hit the trail about 10:30 a.m., beginning with a good climb up from Hwy. 1, just N of Tettegouche State Park (about an hour north of Duluth on Hwy. 61) and began hiking south. I’m sure the climb got everyone’s heart pumping, and put many on notice that this was not going to be an easy adventure.
After the uphill climb, the trail leveled, then began to slowly descend as we neared the Baptism River. There was a spur trail that dropped down below the falls, offering a nice overall view.
I have fished the Baptism River below the High Falls, right down to where it enters Lake Superior, many times for well over 25 years. Many of those years I was accompanied by my trusty Black Lab, Jazz, who preceeded Kolby.
We crossed the River on a suspension bridge built in 1991. The bridge uses a single-cable suspension system and a nearby sign suggests ‘one person at a time.’
We continued along the SHT through Tettegouche SP, walking through maple and birch woodlands, and we even found a few old white pine. Soon we came to a dog-leg in the trail known as ‘The Drainpipe.’ If you are hiking south, you climb up the ‘Drainpipe.’ Not overly difficult, it does however tend to slow the group of 20-70 year old hikers, and the group got more spread out along the trail, which was nice.
Hiking through the forest we encountered some muddy low-land trails, then we’d begin to climb again. These steady upward climbs, followed by declines to river and stream valleys, are a regular feature of the SHT… ups and downs all day long, everyday!
After enjoying the ridgeline views, we again start the decline to the next valley bottom, which was often wet and muddy on this particular weekend. Some muddy sections were only ten feet long, others were hundreds of feet long, and some were only 3 feet wide while others were ten or more feet wide. There was standing water covering rocks and tree roots in several places, making the hiking slow going. And messy!
Ah, what’s a little mud? Soon we’ll be climbing again -it’s the SHT! You no sooner hit the bottom, and you begin the next climb to the top! Day-in and day-out!
When I was backpacking with Kolby, we climbed down this spur trail to camp at Bear Lake for a night. It was wet and buggy, I’ll never forget it! Next day we hiked on.
After leaving Bean Lake we began another descent, heading in a southerly direction on some long, lazy switchbacks with a mostly downward slope. There were some ‘rugged’ areas, that again tended to spread the group out on the trail a bit.
We came upon a junction in the trail, along with some other hikers, and couldn’t tell which way to go. We checked both directions, and eventually continued on the correct trail. We met other hikers further along and they were uncertain about the trail as well.
We encountered lots of mud on the trail along this section,and it was slow going. It was too muddy to carry my camera taking pictures. We eventually started climbing again and the trail dried out. Along this section we met hikers from our group coming back from up ahead saying it wasn’t the right trail. People were getting tired and wanted the hike to end. They were worried.
We were on the right trail. I pointed out where we were on the map, and we could see the setting sun off to the west, just like on the map. We continued and finally arrived at the trailhead. We retrieved our vehicles and everyone went their various ways home. It was a good hike and a good workout. Trail conditions were tough, but that just made it a more memorable event!
My wife and I went to Northern Lights restaurant in Beaver Bay. I had an ice-cold Castle Danger, Cream Ale before dinner -what a treat after a long day on the trail. We both enjoyed a great dinner and got home about midnight.
Postscript – As a member of SHT, I contacted the Trail Maintenance, Volunteer Coordinator, Jo S., offering to paint additional Blazes along the last section that gave folks problems. A couple of weeks ago a friend, Rick B., and I went up and added the bright blue blazes to about 2 miles of trail, especially at junction points. No more confused folks along that section! Then we hiked up and around Oberg Mountain, had dinner at Northern Lights and drove home. We’d planned to do some camping/hiking for a few days, but were chased away by heavy rainstorms. My wife and I are planning a fall color weekend trip in a couple of weeks up along the SHT. I’ll post some pictures!