Miles 575 – 730
Duluth to Grand Marais, MN
Sorry, folks – couldn’t avoid the cheesy title! And I don’t need any lectures about Dylan’s formative years actually being spent in Hibbing, not Duluth – I didn’t erect the signs, kids! But it’s true that I am revisiting this route along the North Shore of Lake Superior… I was here in 1996, on my pre-frosh orientation trip, when we went rock climbing at Tetteguche State Park.
I’m getting ahead of myself, though. After a lovely lunch at Fitger’s Brewhouse, I headed north on 61, amid heavy wind and driving drizzle. Not really that big of an inspiration to get out and enjoy the sites on the lakefront, I must say. I grabbed a campsite when I found a park that wasn’t full (it’s Labor Day weekend, after all), between Illgen and Finland, on Hwy 1. Ekbeck campground in Finland State Forest is small and cozy, with minimal facilities – and it’s right on the bank of the Baptism River. After setting up my tent in drizzle, I went for a short hike to Illgen
Falls, and along the shore of the Baptism a little ways. The Falls were
pretty, though I would have to say the river itself is even prettier. I’ll let photos do the talking for me, though, and you can decide.
The next morning finally dawned sunny, and I took a short hike up the Superior Hiking Trail, from the town of Finland to Egge Lake. I needed another excuse to practice with my fully-loaded backpack before I head out to Isle Royale on Monday, and it turned out to be a lovely choice. While the like itself, and the forest leading up to it, were great on this fall-like day, the most exciting part for me was along the edge of the trail. I think one of the coolest aspects of the northern forests is all the lichen and club mosses, so my eye was already on the ground when strange and colorful mushrooms began appearing! Unfortunately, I may have lost my camera (long story), so I can’t share them all with you right now. Hopefully that will soon be remedied, and I can arrange an awesome fungus display one of these days.
The Superior Hiking Trail itself is 277 miles and leads through some really beautiful terrain, with ample dayhiking or backpacking opportunities. It would provide a pretty great vacation destination in itself, as was apparent from all of the Labor Day traffic along the roads and trails. I met a hiker at the start of my day who was in the process of mapping the trail and posting it on the Backpacker website, so if you’re interested in trip planning, check that out – and check back regularly, as it is clearly a work in progress.
After that I drove out of Finland, winding in and out of the Superior National Forest and along some beautiful small lakes. I saw a trumpeter swan, whose primary distinction was being my first interesting “wildlife” of the trip (unless you count those deer…). The scenery was gorgeous, and I was almost disappointed to get back out onto 61 and head north towards Grand Marais with all the weekend traffic. After a quick re-supply in town, I grabbed a mini pizza from Sven and Ole’s (of course) and am now heading up the road towards Grand Portage…
It’ll be a while before you hear from me again, but I’m hoping to have some great tales to tell when that day comes!