28 July 2010

Mt. Oberg to Cascade River

The Superior Hiking Trail meanders up the North Shore of Lake Superior, paralleling Highway 61 but inland over the peaks and valleys that comprise what is known as the Sawtooth Range because the schizophrenic elevation. You are constantly walking either uphill or downhill, with a few ridges thrown in for good measure.

We started Monday morning at the Mt. Oberg parking lot, where we ran into a few day hikers out for a nice walk on the mountain loop. Not us. We were headed 25 miles north to Cascade River. The other hikers warned us that the bugs were pretty bad, but knowing Minnesota we were prepared with Off Deep Woods.

Here we are still clean and fresh.

The first half of the hike took us to the Lutsen ski area and the Poplar River. Another spot rife with day hikers, most not knowing where they were going. Some with only half a bottle of water between them. It was a hot, humid, sticky day so water was key.

We ate lunch on the Poplar, after traversing a quick 7 miles in 3 1/2 hours, and also pumped water out of the river to supply the second half of the hike. I have contracted giardia before only using iodine to purify our water so I insist that Turner bring the water filter.

The trail to Lake Agnes, our destination for the night, had a couple nice views like this.

But often the hiking was through this.

However, the trail was constantly cutting through raspberry groves. I say groves because the bushes were almost chest high and dripping with ripe berries. We didn't stop to pick much because of the heat and the bugs, but they were nice snacks every now and then if you reached out a hand while you were hiking.

We also saw plenty of fungi, like this one.

And lots of wolf poop (to my dismay), some moose tracks, and red squirrels galore just to taunt Bella.

Luckily, Bella found enough spots for a quick cool down and drink because she wasn't getting any of our hard-earned filtered water.

I probably will never camp on Lake Agnes again. After finding a "renegade" campsite, meaning the regulation sites were already taken, we went down to the lake to pump more water, swim, and have dinner. This "lake," though large, was little more than a beaver pond. It was shallow and filled with organic matter giving the water a very muddy look. We did little more than rinse off the bug spray.

This is the lake at 6:30 in the morning on the second day.

The weather forecast for Tuesday called for thunderstorms, hail, and high winds. This is why we were up and hiking by 6:30am. We wanted to make it to Cascade River, and the shuttle back to our car, before the bad weather hit. Storms on the North Shore can be vicious. The area just west, in the Boundary Waters, suffered a severe blowdown in 1999, damaging 400,00 acres of forest. The trail to Lookout Mountain worked its way through quite a bit of blowdown.

I kept thinking that the bases of the ripped-up trees, now horizontal to the ground, would make excellent hiding places for the wolves. The darkening sky and silent wind lent our journey a somewhat ominous tone.

But after hiking 11 miles in 5 hours we made it to the Cascade River by lunchtime. The hike was kind of a march, since we stopped infrequently and just walked on through the heat and brambles.

Luckily, the waters of the Cascade were cool and refreshing. We hopped in, despite some onlookers, and washed off the days' grime.

After freshening up and eating the rest of our food, we sat on the shore of Lake Superior to wait for the shuttle. The lake and sky melded into one horizon of stormy grey. We could tell that the weather could turn at any minute, but it didn't thankfully.

We waited about an hour for the shuttle-that-never-came.

It was supposed to arrive at 1:17 at the Cascade wayside. Well, by 1:45 it had not come, so we asked a couple of tourists for a ride back up Highway 61 to our car. (We found out later after calling the shuttle organization that it only drives the route Friday-Sunday. And there we were on Tuesday, waiting for Godot.)

The kind folks dropped us off at the base of Onion River Road, which meant that we had to walk 2 miles, uphill, in steadily warmer and more humid weather. And this just after getting clean and fresh in the river.

I was not a happy camper. Points like this get termed "death marches." All I could think about were Gatorade, Snickers, a cheeseburger, and a shower.

In the end, I got all those things and the memories of a lovely hike.

1 comment:

  1. Loved reading this--it was a like a suspense story, but I know the main characters. :)
    You guys (and Bella) are serious hikers!