Monday, July 16, 2012

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park AND Superior Hiking Trail: July 15, 2012

It is only proper that I, as a citizen of the North Shore of Minnesota, should visit Split Rock Lighthouse State Park at least once during my time here.  Although the lighthouse is a symbol of the North Shore.  After the big storm of 1905, the lighthouse was built to help guide ships over the rocky area by Lake Superior.  There are huge ore deposits along the lakeshore - there are so many that the magnetism actually interferes with compass use.  Therefore, lighthouses on the North Shore are both beautiful and functional.

Confession time:  I have actually never been to the lighthouse itself (for SHAME Elly!!) but I have done the Hiking Club trail several times.  Therefore, I knew in advance that there was a long stretch of paved path on the 5.8 mile Hiking Club Trail, the path went down by the lake (for Thunderdog to drink and cool off in), and there was a straight-from-hell flight of stairs at the end.  Sunday was another hot day, but it wasn't nearly as hot as our St. Croix State Park trip.  We decided to go for it.

Thunderdog saves a stick from the water, lighthouse in the background on the left, Ellingson Island on the right

Almost immediately we knew that it would be a good hike.  Even though it was warm, the cool breeze from the lake helped to cool us off.  The blazing sun of St. Croix was hidden behind a persistent haze.  Thunderdog did drink her fair share of water on the trail, but never got to the "What the hell are you putting me through???" point.  It was great.

The Hiking Club trail first takes hikers to the fantastic natural harbor created by the point upon which the lighthouse stands and Ellingson Island.  Ellingson Island is attached to the mainland by a seasonal isthmus, and it is possible to go out there and explore.  Joe and I have done that in the past, but we skipped it this time.  Odds are it would have been impossible anyway - there are several months out of the year in which the island is off-limits so that the nesting birds can do their thing without being bothered by exploring humans and dogs.  Thunderdog had plenty of fun playing in the water, rescuing sticks.

Strolling strolling strolling

Once done with the scenic bay, the Hiking Club Trail meets up with the Gitchi-Gami trail and heads down the shore.  It was a pleasant walk: not too hot, enough trees to shade the path a bit, we moved along at a good clip.  My only gripe about the trail is that it is not always easy for dogwalkers and bikers to share the trail.  As you can see from the picture above, Thunderdog has this habit of walking on the opposite side of the road as whoever has the end of her leash.  I wonder if it's a teenage dog thing? Whatever the reason, we wind up reining her in quickly when bikers come by.  It's hard being so uncool that your teenage dog won't walk next to you.

Hooray, water!

At the far end of the trail we found a little path that took us to the lakeshore.  Thunderdog splashed around a bit next to some old pilings by the mouth of the Split Rock River.  After she'd had enough to drink, we continued on our way.  We passed some beautiful wildflowers that I had not seen yet that year - I named them Blazing Daisies.  Here is a picture of one in the shadow of Joe's head.

Playing tonight: Flowerhead Joe and the Blazing Daisies

I probably spent too much time talking about the evil flight of stairs at the end of the trail.  I remember coming across them last year: no warning in my guidebook, nothing on the map, 114 steep wooden steps right at the end of a 5.8 mile trail.  Be warned, my readers!  The toughest part of the trail comes at the end.  It was much easier for me to climb up them than it was last year, but we were all winded at the top.  Well, some less than others.  Thunderdog didn't mind the climb, and was particularly smug about it at times.

Hurry up, slowpokes.  I'm just sitting here waiting for you.

Back at the bay, we discovered that some rockstackers had been at work.  Oh, you all know that I love rock stacks.  Remember how happy I was when I saw them at Temperance...and how mad I was when I realized they were fake?  Well, these rockstacks were the proper sort: impromptu, amateur cairns that would soon either get knocked, blown, or washed over by waves.  A fine counterpoint to the Split Rock Lighthouse, which has survived wind and rain for over 100 years and is still guiding ships (and attracting tourists).

I should also mention that several miles of the Hiking Club Trail are also a Superior Hiking Trail spur.  I am not sure of the exact distance - sometimes the SHT maps aren't the greatest, especially when it comes to spurs - but I'm going to guess 3 miles total.

A wonderful hike on a beautiful day.  After our 6 mile hike (we took a quick .1 mile spur to Corundum Point to check out the ruins - not very exciting), we both felt like we could have kept going.  It was one of those hikes that leaves you feeling invigorated instead of exhausted.  Perfect!

Total miles hiked today: 6 (3 on the SHT, 5.8 on the Hiking Club Trail)
Total miles hiked (in 2012): 79.9

Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Thunderdog - 0; Elly - 0
Total ticks (in 2012): 46

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