I'm taking a break from food here to post some pictures from the Superior Hiking Trail, where the pups and I spent the last few days walking and camping. It's one of my favorite places anywhere, though trail life lost a little charm on Wednesday, when we were soaked to the bones by rain all day long. I'm already starting to miss it though, sitting here in my dry apartment with a cup of tea :)
The SHT is a trail system running from Duluth, Minnesota, along the north shore of Lake Superior, to the Canadian border near Grand Portage. We did a middle section, between Baptism River and Caribou River. Northern Minnesota, especially near the big lake, is a beautiful place. The trail climbs to mountain tops with expansive views of Lake Superior, winds inland to tranquil and isolated lakes, crossing clear streams and dense forest along the way. I did a little trail work here with MCC a few summers ago, and it was my first time back.
I'll let the photos do the talking from here, with a little explanation along the way. The top photo is from Lilly's Island on Sonju Lake. It's barely an island - a few big rocks with some pine trees, but a peaceful and charming place, connected to the mainland by a narrow boardwalk.
This is a popular rock climbing area called Section 13, dramatic cliffs rising above the Sawmill Creek and Baptism River valleys. We stopped here for lunch and a rest - here's Maya, who loved to run up to cliff edges along the trail and peak over. Both dogs were on leashes on the trail - not always my favorite way to hike, but a good idea here.
Our section of the trial is said to be prime moose habitat. We didn't see any - just tracks - but here's Otter doing her moose impression in Egge Lake. This is black bear country too, so we kept our beans and rice and dog biscuits tied up between the trees every night.
I can't talk about the SHT without talking about berries. Great stretches of trail are essentially berry buffets - raspberries were in abundance, along with my favorite berry, the thimbleberry. Ripe thimbleberries make me very happy, partly because this is the only area where I've found them.
Speaking of berries, trail food doesn't get much better than this - a peanut butter and berry bagel sandwich, sort of a proto-PB&J, with raspberries and thimbleberries.
We heard more wildlife than we saw - grouse, loons, woodpeckers, and lots of other birds. But I was so proud of myself when I spotted this little dude. Toads have been one of my favorite animals since I was a little kid, and this is the coolest toad camoflage I've ever seen up close. He looks exactly like this rock, and much like the surrounding forest floor. I snapped a quick picture and snuck away. Didn't want to make him feel bad since I noticed him there.
Here's a giant rock along the trail, known as a glacial erratic. It's around 20 feet high, sitting alone in the forest like it got lost along the way to a mountain.
One more lake before I go - this is Wolf Lake, home to the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. You know how it is - photos never quite capture these places, but the view from the cliffs over this lake was just gorgeous.
One more pic of the dogs, for the road. This was late on our last day, and we were all pretty soaked at this point. We stopped here to rest and check the map, in a grove of towering old cedars, along a little stream. Cedar groves were the only relatively dry places in the woods at this point. After this the choice was camping another night with wet everything, or hitchhiking out on forest service and county roads. We took the hitchhiking option, which turned into a mostly walking and getting even wetter option, though we got a little help on the way from a delivery truck driver - you can't beat random acts of kindness.