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Sixteen Years on the Superior Hiking Trail: Silver Bay to Split Rock State Park

Paul Lundgren Saturday EssayThe fall colors in 2009 received mixed reviews. I thought they were outstanding.

“I’m sorry, but the colors were TERRIBLE this year,” one Perfect Duluth Day reader wrote at the time. “Very disappointed.” Another agreed. “They’ve been very dim up the shore.” One advised that it was important to “get off the shore 5 miles inland” to see the colors at their best.

It’s human nature, I suppose, to consider all things in relation to whatever else might be possible. Just this past week I was at Bent Paddle’s busy tap room and my wife quickly ordered two Harness IPAs, knowing it’s a beer I love. While that was happening, I was a few feet away looking at the beer options on the board and elated to see Barrel-aged Double Shot Double Black Ale was available. When a Harness landed in front of me I wanted to take that beer I generally love and pour it directly into a urinal to make a clear path for the Double Black—the only acceptable beer in the world at that moment.

So when I say the fall colors were excellent in 2009 and show a few pictures, it’s with the understanding that maybe they were the 974th-best fall colors of all time.

My 2009 hike was brief, covering just 15 miles, and came late in the season, starting Oct. 10. There were traces of snow in shady areas …

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… but it was warm enough to run into snakes on the trail.

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I hiked in from Silver Bay on the Twin Lakes Trail, took in the sights at Bean Lake, then set up camp at the Penn Creek Campsite. It was a leisurely five-mile stroll of an evening.

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The next day began with the discovery of a charming piece of art on the footbridge over Penn Creek as I made my way out of camp and along the edge Silver Bay.

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Clearings along the trail at Silver Bay offer nice views of the city before returning hikers to the wilderness.

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Other signs of civilization on the way out of Silver Bay include mining operations, ATV trails, railroad tracks and powerlines. If your band is releasing a live album soon, I’d like to offer my photo of this railroad sign as the cover art.

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The skies were getting pretty grey as I passed by Beaver River, and I began to think about quitting this trip while I was ahead.

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Although I had only put in 15 miles, the hike was tagged onto the backend of a stay at a friend’s cabin, so I’d been away for while. The Cove Point Spur Trail exiting the SHT into Beaver Bay was too inviting to pass up.

That, of course, led me to the Green Door Lounge, where I sipped suds while waiting for my ride home, sitting underneath the framed tribute to Beaver Bay’s famous sexual armor designed to eradicate masturbation. (Click the link to read all about it.)

The Silver Bay to Split Rock stretch of my hike fell over three somewhat lazy seasons of my 16-year SHT adventure. The first 15 miles of it in 2009 was actually my longest trip of the three years. In 2010, for example, I hiked zero miles.

It was Sept. 23, 2011, when I resumed my trek, hiking back through Cove Point Spur and along the ridge above the busy Beaver Pond.

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I spent at least an hour after setting up my tent just sitting there watching a beaver swim back and forth on his appointed rounds.

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Temperatures can swing 30 or 40 degrees from night to day, so on many of my SHT hikes I’d start out with a union suit as my underlayer, then have to stop and peel it off after about an hour.

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The Split Rock State Park section of the SHT features many steep slopes where there’s almost a feeling one could walk out over the tops of towering trees.

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My arrival at the lighthouse marked the end of the methodical era of my SHT adventure. At that point I had hiked straight southwest 180 miles from Canada to Split Rock, and also completed 40 miles of trail through the Duluth area. Everything else would be filled in randomly over the next five years, with no more backcountry camping.

No more heavy backpack and boots; nothing but sneakers and a tiny daypack from here.

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“Sixteen Years on the Superior Hiking Trail” Index
Part one: Introduction
Part two: Preparations
Part three: Swamp River to Cascade River
Part four: Cascade River to Temperance River
Part five: Nonchalance
Part six: Temperance River to West Branch Bar in Finland
Part seven: Duluth Sections
Part eight: Finland to Silver Bay
Part nine: Silver Bay to Split Rock State Park
Part ten: Two Harbors Vicinity
Part eleven: Leaves, Needles, Mud
Part twelve: Loss and Lost
Part thirteen: The Double Finish
 

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