Mike and Mikey hiking the North Shore of L. Superior, Pt.1

My 12 year old grandson Mikey joined me to hike and camp along the North Shore of Lake Superior recently. The temps got down into the 40’s a couple of nights, and we had a very heavy thunderstorm one night, with lots of loud thunder and lightening. Mikey pretty much slept right through the storm. There was some sporadic rain mixed with partly sunny/cloudy days over the five day trip. The tent worked well, and we didn’t get wet in the heavy thunderstorm, and rain-gear was adequate. One of Mikey’s first lessons was that rain-gear usually won’t keep you dry (if you’re hiking/working), but it will keep you warm. Like most good lessons, that one has to be experienced in order to learn it! 😉 Needless to say, we had great hikes every day, and overall it was an excellent trip!

Mikey’s two take-aways from the trip were that the weather can change very fast several times a day near the big lake -Superior, aka Gitchi Gami. And then, no sooner than getting to the top of a big climb, you go down again, then after reaching a stream or valley, you go back up again… maybe six or ten times a day… up and down continually… 200′-600′ at a time… and it adds up; that’s the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). The nice thing is that there’s no real altitude to deal with -just the constant ups and downs.

Lake Superior is at about 600′ elevation, and most hikes along the SHT will alternate between 700′ and 1600′ -which can be nice if you’re a low-lander from the midwest. But you don’t get the more scenic views associated with climbing/hiking at a more challenging 8,000′ – 12,000′ and higher elevations out west, or in the Canadian Rockies, and elsewhere.

On this trip we drove up Hwy 61 out of Duluth about 140 miles to C.R. Magney State Park. We used this as our base camp. In the Park, we hiked up the Brule River a few miles, viewing the Upper Falls and the Devil’s Kettle, then some other short hikes in the park -about 7 mi. total. We also hiked several sections of the SHT, on the way north, including Section 13 -north off Co. Rd. 6, and Sawmill Dome -south off Co. Rd. 6. (At Hwy. 61 Mileage Post 65.3, Co. Rd. 6 is a left turn if you are driving N on 61.) Parking is available at the Trailhead on Co. Rd. 6, and round-trip mileage to both sites is about 6.2 mi.

We visited Grand Portage up near the Canadian border, and a cultural history museum (with a nice book store covering cultural history of the Ojibwe/Chippewa people), jointly operated by the U.S. Department of Interior and the Grand Portage Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa. Lake Superior has been home to the Ojibwe people for over 500 years. French fur traders were in the area in the early 1700’s, and the British moved in around 1760. By 1783 the British Northwest Company had established Fort Charlotte.  American Indian Tribes, like states, are sovereign governments under the Constitution of the United States. Additional information at: http://grandportage.com/heritage.php .


Grand Portage Cultural Heritage Museum

Grand Portage Cultural Heritage Museum


Lastly we visited the Pigeon River north of Grand Portage, and hiked up to the High Falls. The French voyagers portaged the High Falls in order to access the River above, along with other inland waterways. The portage trails were established earlier by the Ojibwa people. The High Falls of the Pigeon River is the tallest falls in Minnesota, at 120.’ The Pigeon River also serves as the border between the United States and Canada in this area.

Radio time. I had planned to bring along my Yaesu 817ND on this trip, with a new 10m-40m longwire antenna I recently built. I built it and a related dipole, with help from Don Clay, kc0tj and Howard Silverwater, 4x1zz -based on what I refer to as a ‘not-so-random’ longwire plan by Chris at: http://offgridham.com/2016/12/portable-antenna-hf/.

Howard and I tried it out last month -with Howard as licensed operator, and it worked well, making contacts in Long Island, NY and Alabama. However my Technical license limits my ability to operate/work many hf frequencies. I decided to bring the radio along and just try it on 6m at Section 13 and Sawmill Dome, but had no luck over a limited time, using the antenna supplied with the 817. Mikey and I decided to keep moving, so I packed up the radio and we headed out on the trail again.

A couple of days ago I received the MFJ-4103 switching power supply I’d ordered for the 817, from Universal Radio. I plan to operate on 6m and 10m SSB from the shack with conventional power until I get my General license in a few months. It will also give me time to learn to operate the 817 radio -it’s a step up from my ht, that’s for sure. I also got the Alpha-Delta DX-EE 40-10m dipole antenna to install in my attic this fall, so that should keep me busy operating over the winter months and beyond.

Tomorrow morning we set up for Field Day-17, the biggest Ham Radio day of the year- starting at noon Sat. the 24th and running 24 hrs through noon on Sun. the 25th. Lots of opportunity to get on the air, and see different modes in operation. I’m especially interested in seeing some digital modes like PSK-31.  I’ll be visiting two local clubs to see what’s going on -should be interesting. I’ll likely write up a post with some photos here.

Back to the trail. I’ve got a few pictures of this last trip to share, and I’m confident Mikey will enjoy them as well as the narrative -I hope you do as well. We started the trip with a visit to Section 13, along the SHT. Then we visited Sawmill Dome.


SHT signage


Trail heading up to Section 13 Overlook

Trail heading up to Section 13 Overlook, north off of Co. Rd. 6 on SHT

Mikey on Section 13 Overlook

Mikey on Section 13 Overlook


SHT signage


Trail to Sawmill Dome, SHT south of Co. Rd. 6



Hiking up to Sawmill Dome

Hiking up to Sawmill Dome, south off of Co. Rd. 6 on SHT



Keep your eyes on the trail


Sawmill Dome

Sawmill Dome


Sawmill Dome Overlook

Sawmill Dome Overlook


Unsuccessful  making radio contacts at Section 13 and Sawmill Dome, we returned to the Trailhead and headed north to Judge C.R. Magney State Park – about 15 mi north of Grand Marais, MN.



The Brule River flows toward Lake Superior


The Brule River downstream


We found our campsite, unloaded the car and got camp set up in short order. Time for some dinner and a look around before darkness fell. Tomorrow will be a big day to explore the Brule River upstream. Rain is forecast, but we’re prepared.


Mikey got the tent set up

Mikey got the tent set up and a fire started -it’s nice to have a helper along!


We’d been hiking and it was a bit chilly, so we had a good appetite.Time to eat! No dehydrated meals on this trip. We were car camping and brought everything but the kitchen sink! But we did try to keep it simple, we’re guys after all! Mikey had milk, I had beer… and a cigar for desert!


A simple dinner after hiking.

A simple dinner after hiking.


A good thunderstorm came through during the night, and decided to just sit over us for a few hours -lots of thunder and lightening and a real downpour. Everything held together and we stayed dry. Next morning we headed upstream to check the river.

I’d come through here a few years ago on a backpacking trip, and after a few long days on the trail, I remember climbing down these stairs and then back up again with 50# on my back -funny how you remember those things. It was much easier this time carrying only a 15 # daypack. Btw, there are three sections of stairs, like in the picture below, to get up or down the hillside.


Stairs down to the High Falls

Mikey on the stairs down to the High Falls, Brule River, MN


High Falls of Brule River, MN

High Falls of the Brule River, C.R. Magney, S.P., MN


High Falls of the Brule River, MN

High Falls of the Brule River, MN


Brule River further upstream

Brule River further upstream.



Devil's Kettle Falls, Brule River, MN

Devil’s Kettle Falls, Brule River, MN


Devil's Kettle Falls,

Devil’s Kettle Falls, Brule River, MN


Devil's Kettle

Devil’s Kettle, Brule River, photo credit MN Dept. of Natural Resources


The Brule River splits at the Devil’s Kettle waterfall. Half the water goes over the falls and continues on it’s way downstream, while the other half goes into a deep hole and disappears. It’s been a mystery for years – where does the water go? Now a researcher at the Department of Natural Resources thinks he’s solved the mystery. In fact the water reappears pretty quickly downstream. Read about the researchers explanation of the missing water at: http://www.startribune.com/scientists-think-they-ve-solved-the-mystery-of-devil-s-kettle-falls/414996694/.

After hiking the river and exploring the falls and Devil’s Kettle we decided to go out for lunch at a nearby establishment -the Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant which is located about a quarter mile from the Park on Hwy 61.


Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant

Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant


Naniboujou Lodge

Naniboujou Lodge and Restaurant, about ten miles N of Grand Marais


Naniboujou is the Cree Indian name for the god of the outdoors. The walls and ceiling are painted in Cree designsThe restaurant and lodge was established in the 1920’s and has a story associated with it. The food is excellent. More information is available at: http://www.naniboujou.com.

The mouth of the Brule River is just down the beach from the Naniboujou, so naturally we had to walk down the beach… collecting small rocks along the way.


Mouth of the Brule River

Mouth of the Brule River, as it enters Lake Superior


We then visited Grand Marais, and explored the marina and a nearby art studio. It was very windy and chilly outside, so we quickly found the warm studio.


The breakwater at Grand Marais Harbor

Waves against the breakwater at Grand Marais Harbor


We headed back to camp and the wind sheltered forest, built a fire and talked about all our hikes over the past few days. And I had lots of backpacking stories to tell Mikey around the fire before it got dark. Our sleeping bags were warm and we slept well.

Next morning we drove north to Grand Portage to visit the cultural history museum and I showed Mikey where to catch the ship that takes you out to Isle Royale -I’d spent a week backpacking there a few years back. Maybe Mikey and his brothers will hike out there some day? We continued north another dozen miles and hiked up the Pigeon River to see the High Falls (120′).


High Falls of the Pigeon River, MN

High Falls of the Pigeon River, MN

Pigeon River below the High Falls

Pigeon River below the High Falls, before it enters Lake Superior


We had one more day and night on this trip. The plan for the last day was to hike from the parking lot/Trailhead at Kimble Creek, northeasterly along the SHT to Kadunce River, then take a spur trail about a quarter mile south toward Lake Superior, then return the way we came – about 4.5 mi. roundtrip. The Kadunce River flows in a deep, narrow gorge. We also visited a couple of campsites along the SHT -both were vacant.


Mikey on the trail!

Mikey on the trail!




Campsite marker

Campsite marker -West Fork of the Kadunce River


Campsite latrine

Campsite latrine up the trail!


Campsite latrine -au natural

Campsite latrine -au natural


A backpacking campsite along the SHT. This one looks like the pit may be full… time to dig a new hole! This is a job often done by SHT volunteers. A dedicated crew! There are nearly 100 campsites along the SHT.


Kadunce River (1)

Kadunce River (1)


Kadunce River (2)

Kadunce River (2)


Kadunce River


Kadunce spur

Kadunce spur trail


Kadunce River (3)

Kadunce River (3)


Well, that’s about it for our first trip out this year. We’ve already done a second four day trip that was fantastic. I’ll get it posted sometime soon. It’s the busy season… time to hike! We start out easy and keep it fun. Later it gets hard, it’s work, but it’s still fun! 😉


73 de Mike, KEØGZT


About Mike Hohmann

I did lots of camping/hiking as a kid in the Scouts, and I still strive to 'be prepared.' After high school, I got bored with more school and enlisted in the Army Corps. of Engineers, doing two tours in Vietnam. Post military, I completed BS and MBA degrees and spent several decades with Corporate America, working mostly in the areas of conventional and renewable energy. I also spent over a decade as a self-employed small business consultant in marketing and finance. As a young family man with a wife and two kids, we spent many vacations camping and hiking in northern Minnesota. I spent additional long weekends fishing the rivers and camping/hiking along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I retired early and hit the trails hard-- in the lower-48, Alaska, and western Canada. These days I backpack, car-camp and day-hike, go snowshoeing, and try to get the grand-kids out to teach them the ways of the trail. Other interests include American Revolutionary War and Civil War history, 19th and 20th century firearms, Native American history; business and macroeconomics. I'm a recently-licensed amateur (Ham) radio operator, and I look forward to many radio-related adventures in coming months. Life is good! Member, Superior Hiking Trail Association; Member, Appalachian Mountain Club; Member, REI; Member, ARRL- Amateur Radio Relay League, the National Assoc. for Amateur Radio; Twin Cities Metro Skywarn Spotter; Twin City FM Club; Richfield Amateur Radio Club; QRP ARCI, Low-Power Amateur Radio Club International; Honorary Member, Toronto QRP Society; Life Member, National Rifle Association
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Mike and Mikey hiking the North Shore of L. Superior, Pt.1

  1. Chris Warren says:

    Great article and as always the photos are stunning. Keep us updated on your ham radio activities.

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      Thanks, Chris. My hiking posts are coming out slowly because of all the hiking -an unusual situation for me. I’ll have another post on hiking with Mikey in the near future, and I’ll be out hiking the Presidential Range on the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire as well. Likewise my radio work has been slow, but there is progress. I really need to upgrade the license to General, in order to get on the air more, and that will happen this fall, as I get some antennas up. I really enjoy your radio blog, Chris, at https://www.offgridham.com. I’ll continue to document my radio progress, or lack thereof, and hopefully it will help other new Hams stay in the game. Everyone is busy, and that can indeed make it hard. Field Day went well today! Thanks for stopping by Chris.

  2. Jonathan says:

    Great write up and pics, Mike!

  3. judy hohmann says:

    Great photos and travel commentary….wish we were there (except for bugs)!

  4. minnow24 says:

    Great photos, I was up there last year hiking the SHT from Otter Lake Rd. to Lutsen. Hope to get back to the North Shore soon.

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      Yes, the SHT is a great resource. Over 300 mi. of great trails, no reservations or permits needed. Almost 100 camping spots along the trail, make it fun and easy. Glad you liked the photos!

Comments are closed.