Sunday, September 25, 2016

10 Different Routes Challenge

I guess I have a chronic disease that causes me to get bored of a "normal" life.  So I seem to seek always something crazy to spice my life up.  But on the same side I don't want to give up the "normal" life either.  Anyway here's my latest thing, the 10 different routes challenge:

Without really verifying that it's possible, I pledged to commute by bicycle to work and back using 10 significantly different routes.  The ultimate goal is to do this within a week.  You are welcome to join me in this ridiculous challenge.  Feel free to leave a message below how it's going for you or tweet using #10diffRoutes .

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Superior Hiking Trail

I spent eight days hiking the northern most 120 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail.  My car was parked at the Lake County Road trailhead as I was initially planning to hike a longer distance (see Hey wasn't that supposed to be a thru-hike?).  I took Harriet's shuttle up to the Otter Lake Road trailhead.  She gave the scenic route and took me to top of Palisade Head and a tour through Grand Marais on the way there.

Palisade Head

Of course I had to climb the 270 degree overlook before heading south on the SHT.  The views from the overlook are amazing and it's a worthy terminus.  Of course at that time it's my first overlook from which I did see the vast expanses of the trees.  It might have been more boring if you'd hiked already from Duluth up to here.

End of the Superior Trail

Canada-US Border

Highest Elevation

The first day already shared with me the highest point of the SHT hiking trail as well as blisters on the heels of both feet.  I shared the Jackson Creek Pond campsite with two other ladies that were planning to do a thru-hike as well at a slower pace.

The next morning I was a bit rushed in breaking the camp as it started to rain and water pooled up at the camp site.  The second night I spend at Hazel campsite which I didn't share until late at night.  I didn't see Mike until later during the third day of hiking when he provided me with moleskin and medical tape for proper taping of the blisters.  I only had duck tape and a few band aids.

Devils Kettle

Woods Creek

Board Walk

The next day I went to Grand Marais to get tape and moleskin for the rest of the trip.  While I was in town I met Mike again and hiked with him to the South Bally Creek Pond campsite for my fourth night out on the trail.

BTW, Mike already has some long thru-hikes under his belt and has some crazy ones planned for the future.  His adventures can be followed at his Improbable But Possible blog.

Sundling Creek Dam

Caution Trucks (but there was nothing but trees and this little path)

The trail passed many amazing and sometimes huge beaver dams, some of which the path goes across, as seen on the photo of the Sundling Creek. The Brule River, Cascade River, Temperance River and many smaller rivers have awesome gorges, waterfalls and rapids.

After slipping and falling off a 3 to 4 foot high half broken bridge I ended up with a healthy dose of gephyrophobia of two planks wide or fewer bridges and boardwalk of which there were plenty.  Luckily besides some bruises I wasn't hurt and nothing was damaged.

I also saw three trees falling during my hike and heard that a bear took the food from a camp site near which I stayed two days earlier.

Rest Time

Lookout Mountain

Becoming wet is just part of such a long trip. So I started the practice to take a longer lunch break where I'd dry out the tent, sleeping bag and anything else that could benefit from the sun.

Hunters Rock

Lake Agnes

Poplar River

On Saturday I meet a large portion of the runners that were doing the 100, 50, or 26 miles.  That was quite the change of the solitude that I enjoyed earlier but wasn't so bad that I couldn't get miles in for that day.

During the same week I was on the trail, the freshman groups of Northwestern University had their outing.  It did cause me to have to find other campsites on several occasion, since their group of 10 pretty much takes over the whole campsite. I.e. I had to skip the nice campsite at Lake Agnes.  A swim in that lake would have been nice.  But I did get to swim in Lake Superior, that was great and definitely a highlight of my trip.

SHT Race Signage

Gondola to Moose Mountain

I ordered some Leukotape from Amazon with one-day shipping and had it sent to my Lutsen resupply point.  The tape I had from Grand Marais wasn't very wide and this one is much nicer to tape the blisters.  Unfortunately logistics caused the shipment to be delayed a day so I was waiting all afternoon for the UPS truck in Lutsen.  To make up some lost time I took the gondola out of Lutsen.  The spur trail connecting the upper gondola station to the SHT was quite scenic.

SHT, the Rugged Trail

Moose Mountain Spur Trail

As mentioned in the Hey wasn't that supposed to be a thru-hike? post I started to decide not to attempt the thru-hike but finish at my car.  But then the unfortunate situation where I couldn't find my scissors to cut the moleskin and tape up my feet for the 8th day prompted me to terminate the hike.

As mentioned I've seen a lot that can be seen at the trail and I think I was ready to finish the trip anyway.  So on the 8th day I hiked to the trail head from Sugarloaf Pond campsite and hitched a ride back to my car in Two Harbors.

Temperance River

Superior Lake


  • Day 1: 9.5 miles from Otter Lake Road trailhead to Jackson Creek Pond campsite via 270 Degree Overlook
  • Day 2: 13.2 miles from Jackson Creek Pond campsite to Hazel campsite
  • Day 3: 23.4 miles from Hazel campsite to Durfee Creek campsite
  • Day 4: 16.6 miles from Durfee Creek campsite to South Bally Creek Pond campsite (additional 3.5 miles were hitchhiked into Grand Marais)
  • Day 5: 20.3 miles from South Bally Creek Pond campsite to West Lake Agnes campsite
  • Day 6: 14 miles from West Lake Agnes campsite to West Leveaux Pond campsite (additional 1 mile via gondola)
  • Day 7: 21.7 miles West Leveaux Pond campsite to Sugar Loaf Pond campsite
  • Day 8: 1.3 miles and hitchhiked 47 miles back to the car


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hey, wasn't that supposed to be a thru-hike?

Hey, wasn't that supposed to be a thru-hike?

Yes, this was always supposed to be my first thru-hike.  Having hiked some of the Appalachian Trail and followed some YouTube channel of someone's thru-hike I was dreaming of the same.  Of course I knew I wouldn't be able to thru-hike the AT.  For that I'm to much bound to my current life.  No way I could leave my family for the better part of the year.  And who knows in what condition I'll be once the kids have graduated and don't require my support.

When I came across the Superior Hiking Trail I realized that there are shorter thru-hike options.  And this one being somewhat close and short would be the excellent opportunity.  I warmed up my wife to the idea of being away for three weeks to do the hike over about a year, having September 2016 in mind from the start.

So why stopping so early?

The hike was though from the beginning.  On the first day I got blisters on both of my heels which was something new to me.  In the past I never got blisters from hiking and thus I wasn't prepared for them.  With the help of a fellow hiker I got some mole skin and proper tape for the second day.  With that my mood improved greatly and I did see a way to continue the hike.  On the third day I bought mole skin, tape, and a multi-tool with scissors in town for the remainder of the hike.  But to get there I had to resort back to using duck-tape, whose edge this time rubbed another wound into each heel.

None the less, with proper taping of the heels I was able to continue hiking, after working through the initial pain every morning and after most stops. 

So the blisters caused you to stop early?

Kind of but not really.  My car was parked by the trailhead north of Two Harbors (Lake Co. Rd. 101) because I didn't know how to resupply without going into town.  So I was pondering how I would continue my hike after I reached the car.  I had several options but finally settled to asking the Betty's Pies if I could drop my backpack there in the morning while I'd drive my car to the north Duluth trailhead (Martin Road) and bicycle 4 hours back to Betty's to pickup the backpack, stash the bike at the trailhead and start hiking back to the car.

Some other things I noticed are that I'd skip most vistas and water fall views that the trail doesn't directly cross.  Not just because they'd add miles and would get me out of the rhythm of moving but because I'd already seen it.  The vistas are either of green  tree covered hills or, more rarely, the big ocean.  I've just gotten an overdose of these things and there wasn't anything new and different to the sights.

I started not seeing a value to continue after reaching my car.  It would be the same thing just adding more miles.  I also missed my family, shower and bed.  The latter two could probably have been meet with a zero day and a bunch of $$$ (it's not a cheap area).

By the seventh day of hiking I made up my mind that I'd most likely call quits at Two Harbors and call it my through hike.  The Superior Hiking Trail has a thru-hike identity anyway, where the southern terminus could be the Wisconsin border, Jay Cooke State Park, or Martin Rd. So why not Two Harbors?

Yes, yes, yes but you never hiked to Two Harbors!

That's right.  The morning of the eights day I noticed a tragedy, I couldn't find the baggie with my batteries, finger nail clippers, pocket knife, and multi-tool with scissors.  Everything that I could use to cut the moleskin properly was gone.  That zip-lock bag probably was left at one of the two stops of the day before.  Either when I dried out everything or when I filtered water.  I suspect the latter stop.

Without the ability to properly tape my heels and being more than a day worth of hiking from any store I needed hitch a ride back to civilization. The most reasonable place was my car but that removed the remaining goal/need to hike back to the car.

So why figure out the logistics (aka pay for the shuttle back to the Sugarloaf Road trailhead) just to hike 5 days though the same trees.  I just couldn't find a reason to encourage me besides being able to brag that I walked more miles.

So did you enjoy the hike at all?

Yes, of course I did.  I think I've hiked the best parts of the trail.  I've seen several awesome river gorges with rapids and water falls, awesome views of several lookouts, huge beaver dams, all kinds of trail conditions, meet interesting fellow hikers, encountered six North Western College camper groups, and seen the spectacle of the SHT race.  Best of all I swam in Lake Superior.

I've also shown myself that I can hike long days even with blisters and wet feet.  And rain doesn't have to cause misery.

Will you try to thru-hike the SHT again?

Probably not.  I also don't see the thrill of through hiking the AT anymore.  Maybe the reason is that even as a kid I really only wanted to hike above the tree line in the Alps.  There is just not much variety walking in the trees and so on a long haul it gets easily boring.

The SHT does offer some nice sights and I could see myself visiting the area again for day hikes or an overnight hike.  Something where you can enjoy that waterfall or view and also see the end of it.

As for any other thru-hike, I dunno.  Does the Colorado Trail go mainly over mountains?  Maybe that one is more interesting over a longer distance.  And maybe my family could go along.  Who knows.  Never say never.


Any regrets now that you found the baggy with the scissors in your pack?

No, not at all.  I'm quite happy of how much I achieved and that I'm back with my family.  It's kind of crazy that the bag was at the bottom of the water bladder pocket in the backpack afterall.  With the bladder being filled fully I didn't noticed that at all at the campsite.