Everything but the bike……

Hiking on the SHT through Enger Park.

It’s that busy time of summer. We enjoy the bounty of local foods. Susan has started calling August and September harvest season. We participate in a CSA (community Supported Agriculture) and get a weekly share. Susan does some gardening in our small urban yard. The past 7 or 8 years we freeze and can our way through these months. Putting away fresh, mostly local organic foods. Last weekend was blueberry picking weekend.

We make a day trip out of it. We drive a couple hours east along Lake Superior to the Bayfield Peninsula in Wisconsin to Highland Valley Farms. It’s a beautiful berry farm carved out of the North Woods nestled in a small valley. With 10,000 blueberry bushes you can pick till your hearts content. We also make a stop in Washburn at the Coco Bakery and Cafe for lunch. They offer both Gluten Free and Vegan options. A rare place both Susan and I can have multiple menu choices. Once home we freeze berries, I make GF/Vegan Blueberry pie, Blueberry jam, Blueberry lemonade, Blueberry pancakes, a second Blueberry pie…..it’s Blueberry heaven for a week or two. We picked about 35 lbs of berries. I normally make freezer jam. The past five years Susan has been learning how to can. So we took our jam making to a new level and canned the Blueberry jam. That way there isn’t jars of jam taking up freezer space.

Blueberry jam in the basement pantry ready for winter.

All this to say is when the harvest is happening it takes priority. Cuts down on the bike rides. I used to go out for rides anyway. That left Susan with more than her share of the work. Now that I’ve learned how much I enjoy having this kind of stuff around during the winter months I’ve been putting in the work to help make it happen.

Friday I had to do a medical transport back to Duluth from Fargo, North Dakota for my job. That was an 11 hour day. I made the most of the drive. I’ve only made that drive a couple of times. It’s 250 miles straight west to Fargo. There are no freeways. The first 210 miles is all two lane roads through the North Woods. Much of it is National and State Forest lands, and Native American Reservations. It is also scenic lakes country. I only took a couple of pictures. Th highlight for me was crossing the Mighty Mississippi River. Although it hasn’t quite reached it’s “mighty” status here in Northern Minnesota. In fact, if you weren’t paying attention you wouldn’t even notice it.

The “Mighty” Mississippi River not far downstream from it’s Headwaters.

I saw this drive as somewhat epic. Not only did I start this drive East of the Mississippi, cross the river and end up West of the great river, I also drove through 210 miles of the North woods of the Upper Midwest.

Driving through a couple hundred miles of North woods.

The last 40 miles opened up onto the Great Plains of this massive continent.

Reaching the Great Plains.

And eventually I arrived in Fargo. That’s right, the Fargo made famous by the Coen Brothers. You betcha!

Arriving in Fargo after crossing the Red River of the North. A river that flows North.

I was fascinated at having this opportunity to drive across the state of Minnesota. Perhaps I’ve spent so many years traveling at the speed of a bicycle, that moving at 60-70 mph for five hours is a novelty to me.  Of course, the whole time my mind was wondering what it would be like to bicycle the same route.

Ahwww, back to Duluth and the biggest of the Great Lakes.

Ever since I started to get back in to cycling more than a decade ago, my rides had become a priority. I sacrificed time with Susan to put on miles. We fell into a routine of me riding my bikes and she would spend time gardening and working on her interest in Fiber Arts. We’ve come full circle and are now making an effort to spend more time together. That usually involves hiking more than anything else. Yesterday was Saturday. We got out to enjoy some of the hiking trails and parks right in our own backyard. The Superior Hiking Trail now traverses the city of Duluth, mostly along the ridgeline above the city. It’s a 300 mile footpath that stretches from the Border with Wisconsin to the south, through Duluth and then heads to the Canadian Border following the ridges of Lake Superior. It’s one of the major reasons we moved to Duluth from the Twin Cities back in 2001.  The trail is now more 50% longer than when we moved here.

Today we parked west of Enger Park and did an out-and-back section that included Enger Park. It’s a gem of a city park situated on a high point above the city. It has an observation tower and elaborate gardens. Here’s some highlights from the day:

The gardens at Enger Park:

The Japanese Gardens at Enger Park:


The mission for today. Run a few errands and then finally get out for a bike ride……



Sunday hike in the woods.

A densely wooded forest we had all to ourselves.

While I tend to go biking when going solo, which is most of the time, Susan and I go hiking when we do something together. We’ve been trying to get out together more often this year. Yesterday turned out to be a hiking day. It started out to be just about perfect weather. Much cooler than the day before. The temp being about 20 degrees colder. The forecast was calling for a 15% chance of rain. We figured that meant a 85% chance of no rain. The reality turned out to be the exact opposite. Luckily we’ve lived here long enough to know you can’t trust the weather forecast. We packed along some rain gear and warmer clothes.

Our chosen destination was a newer stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail. The most southern section currently built. Most of it is inside a State Park. It covers a rugged, densely wooded corner of the park that is not used. Prior to this section of trail being put in a few years ago, there was no development in this corner of the park. We did an out-and-back hike lasting just over three hours.  We did not see another human the entire time. We did see some large black bear prints in a muddy section of the trail. No pictures because I had my camera buried in my day pack because of the rain. And yes, that 15% chance of rain turned into a 30 minute thunderstorm.

Sometimes I forget how much I enjoy the forest during a rain storm. It smells so nice. All the dripping water and wetness makes everything seem to lush and green. I mentioned to Susan I would rather be out in 58F degrees and rainy then 85F degrees and buggy. She agreed. It was a good day to be out in the forest.

Holiday hike, no bike.

Temperance River along Lake Superior’s North Shore.

Monday, yesterday, was Memorial Day Holiday here in the States. Susan and I decided to break out of our usual weekend routines and do something together. Hiking is one thing we’ve always done together. Heck, our first date 19 years ago was a hike. Since 2011 we’ve been members of the Minnesota State Parks Hiking Club Program. It’s an informal club. The challenge is to visit every state park in the state with hiking trails and walk a trail that has been designated a Hiking Club Trail. The trails range in distance anywhere from one mile to seven miles. Not to demanding. Since 2011 we’ve only done 16 out of 65 state parks, as of yesterday. We’re off to a slow start. We were concerned the challenge would be too easy with the shortness of the hikes. We’re finding the logistics of visiting every park is harder than we realized. We have to be very deliberate in our planning to get out. But we’ve also learned the challenge is taking us to small out of the way parks we would have never visited if it weren’t for the challenge. There are some real gems in the State Park system. Yesterday we decided to visit two nearby parks that we’ve been to dozens of times but have never hiked the Hiking Club Trail in each park. To keep you honest and show you have actually hiked each Hiking Club Trail, a password on a sign post is placed somewhere along the trail. You have to find that sign and record the password.

An added incentive to get out and hike in State Parks is the 125th Anniversary of the Minnesota State Parks system being celebrated this year. They’ve made a 125 mile challenge for this year. Hike, bike, or paddle 125 miles in state parks this year and earn a 125th Year Anniversary Certificate. We decided we could use the extra incentive to motivate us to accelerate our Hiking Club challenge.

Temperance State Park

We started our day by heading up the North Shore of Lake Superior. Our goal was to complete Hiking Club Hikes in two State Parks, Temperance River State Park and George Crosby H. Manitou State Park. Temperance River drops dramatically through a narrow gorge carved in 1.1 billion year old lava flows before reaching Lake Superior. The Hiking Club trail follows the river upstream for a mile and then returns. It’s short, extremely scenic trail easily accessible to day hikers and tourists. Considering it was a Holiday Weekend it wasn’t terribly busy. Here’s the highlight pictures:

George H.Crosby Manitou State Park

After we finished this hike we ventured inland on some gravel National Forest Service Roads through the scenic Northwoods to George H.Crosby Manitou State Park. This a unique park in the State Park System. The land was donated to the State with the condition it was to be left wild and undeveloped. There is no Park office, no facilities other than vault toilets, no running water. Just a gravel entrance road, a small parking lot, and a picnic area. There is a system of trails and rustic backpacking sites. Back in the 90’s when Susan and I were living in the Twin Cities and learning to backpack, we camped at this park. The trails are rugged and can be a bit challenging. The Hiking Club Trail follows the exact 4.2 mile loop we did as a backpack overnight loop back in 1999. It may sound short, but it is rock and root filled with constant elevation change. Lots of small ups and downs. It is much more difficult than the mileage would indicate. It could be the most challenging 4 miles of all the Hiking Club trails. We were pleasantly tired after finishing up this trail. One highlight, among many, is the gorgeous Falls on the Manitou River reached only by a rugged footpath. No flip flop wearing tourists at this waterfall. Here’s the highlights:

The weather was fantastic. One day only, it was in the mid-70’s, dry with moderate winds. The bugs were surprisingly low. However, we each got a couple of black fly bites. Back to work Tuesday today was a completely different picture. Highs in the mid-40’s, blustery, and rainy. I love it when holiday weather combined with a nice get away work out so great.

A hiking shuttle by bike.

A bicycle is a great way to shuttle ourselves when we go hiking.

Yesterday was our Annual Spring maintenance hike on the Superior Hiking Trail. This is our 15th year maintaining this section of the trail. We’re responsible for walking the section once in the Spring and once in the Fall. We report any maintenance issues and do any maintenance we feel comfortable doing. Mostly we do trail clearing. Winter snows bring down trees and branches. Heavy snow and ice weighs down smaller trees blocking or encroaching into the foot path. We carry saws, loppers, and a Gerber axe to clear the debris.

This section is along the North Shore of Lake Superior, 90 miles up the shore from our home in Duluth. It’s near Schroeder, Minnesota. We drive up and take one of my bikes along. I drop Susan and our gear off at the trail head where we will start our hike. Then I drive to the trail head we plan to finish at. I leave the car, take my bike and ride back to where I left Susan. It involves some gravel county roads. I hide the bike in the woods while we hike. Afterwards, once we have finished the hike, we then retrieve the bike. Works very slick. We’ve done this roughly thirty different times over the 15 years of maintaining this section.

The trail crosses the Cross River on a bridge where the river narrows as it runs through a gorge. It roars through this spot. You have to yell to have a conversation here.

The Superior Hiking Trail is is a 310-mile footpath that largely follows the rocky ridgeline above Lake Superior. It is spectacularly beautiful. It crosses many rivers and waterfalls and has panoramic views of Lake Superior all along it’s length. The highlight of our section is the walk along Cross River.

Lunch break at a campsite along the Cross River.

We had a cold May 14th for our trail project. It took all day for the temperature to claw it’s way to 40F/4C degrees. It was blustery with occasional snow flurries and sleet. I pride myself in always being able to dress appropriately for any weather condition. I somehow missed it for this hike. I was barely dressed warm enough while moving. When stopped I got cold quickly  with no extra clothing to layer. Very rare for me not to be prepared. I carried twice as much water as I needed. Another miscalculation. Somehow I wasn’t realistic about the conditions that were present. My mind must have been on warmer weather.

Ice along the Cross River. Every year this spot has ice well into May. It’s in a narrow gorge on a wall that gets no direct sun light.
Too big for our axe.

There was an unusually large amount of debris on the ground along the Cross River this year. I figure it was caused by a mixture of heavy snow combined with high winds. We found at least a dozen 5 foot sections of evergreen tree tops that had been snapped off. I’ve never seen that before. And of course many fallen trees like the one above. There were two at this spot. I had already removed the smaller one with my axe before taking this picture. This one would have taken a hour or more to cut out with our axe. We decided to write it up and let a chainsaw crew take care of this one. This is on Superior National Forest land. You have to be certified by the National Forest Service to use a chainsaw here.

It took us 7 hours to walk this 6.5 mile section of trail. So we did a fair amount of work. We look forward to volunteer work. It gets harder each year as we grow older. But it’s always a nice day when working in the north woods.

The other tree we didn’t attempt to remove ourselves. Except for the small amount of green starting to appear, the cold wind and snow flurries reminded us more of November than mid-May.
The bridge over Fredenberg Creek is aging. It’s deck is starting to warp.