Our fourth trip on the Superior Hiking Trail was an easier one. Lisa and I had relearned how to hike without destroying ourselves. We had also learned to pace ourselves over the first couple of miles so we wouldn’t have to limp along, exhausted, for the last few. We were feeling so good about our successes; we even decided to take the dogs with us again. This trip would be a very short and flat section that they could handle without trouble. It was the first section of the SHT.
The week before I had run across an article describing how, several years ago, the SHT had been lengthened to include sections south of the city of Two Harbors all the way to the Wisconsin Border. Our eventual goal is to hike the entirety of the thing. We figured we had better go get the first section done before they decide to add more! This goal is going to take several years. If they add more later, then we can at least say we’ve completed the whole trail….. as it was in 2019. The decision to complete any additional length can be made later if needed.
It was the last weekend in October. The first snow on the trail had already fallen and melted. There had been very little precipitation in the past week. The trail should be dry, and the hiking should be easy. As is becoming normal, we loaded up our gear before the sun came up and headed north.
The first section of the SHT has no trailhead at the beginning. Unless a person is thru hiking from Wisconsin, they would have to park at the nearest parking area, hike to the start of the trail and return on the same path. It’s a mere 1.8 miles from the parking area to the start. This is what we chose to do.
Very different from the more northerly sections that we had previously completed, the southern most part of the trail, at least the very start, is relatively flat and free of the rocky portions that we had encountered in the north. Mostly, it is comprised of compacted soil which made for easy travel.
On the hike out from the car to the true start, we walked in amazement at the scenery before us, and the dogs, strangely, were behaving themselves very well on their leashes. Perhaps they too were remembering the last time we took them along, and learning to pace themselves as well?
The sun was low in the sky as is normal for this time of year. It shined in the backdrop through the leafless, but dense, birch trees and pines for the duration of our visit. The temperature would not reach 40F this day and the crisp air made for excellent hiking weather. I couldn’t help but wonder if the ground-cover plants knew that winter was coming. They would be smothered by snow for the next several months. I wondered if they knew the snow a couple of weeks ago was just a precursor to what was soon to happen. I wondered if they were even concerned about it. Maybe the coming season was a welcome rest to them. A chance to relax before having to fight for sunlight and water again next summer. Perhaps, I suppose. Or they are just plants. I don’t have those answers.
Lisa and I sang silly songs and made poor quality jokes between frequent stops to admire the small streams that would cross our path from time to time. After only an hour, we had reached the start of the SHT. We didn’t expect to reach it that quickly and spent a few minutes trying to figure out if this was really it. We thought the starting place would be something more than what it was. Looking back, I’m grateful that it was just a simple sign in the woods. No banners or ribbons, no starting line, just a sign and a fallen, rotting log that we used as a bench to sit on for a few minutes to enjoy our trail sandwiches before heading back to the car. The dogs were not interested in eating except for the treats we brought for each of them and a sip of water.
We saw no one on the trail that morning. I know the rules about keeping dogs on leashes. I broke the rules. On the way back to the car, I let the dogs off their leash and let them run and enjoy themselves. Lisa and I were both concerned that they would run off after a squirrel or something worse, but we had seen no wildlife on the way out, and our fears were never realized. After a few short bursts of running ahead and beside and behind and around us, they calmed down and followed us nicely along the path. I was happy for them that they had the chance to run around for a few minutes. I cannot imagine being amid nature’s beauty and not having the ability to explore a little.
Upon returning to the car, the dogs were eager to jump in and rest their tired legs. Another section of the journey complete, we headed home.
More to come…..
Please share your trail stories with us! We love to read about your experiences!