Sunday, July 29, 2012

Split Rock Lighthouse State Park AND Superior Hiking Trail: July 24, 2012

Well!  Thunderdog and I had such a fine time at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park with Joe a few weeks ago that we decided to go back on Tuesday.  We didn't want to do the Hiking Club Trail again - there were more things to see!  So when I stopped at the Ranger Station, I spoke with the staffer on duty (who I actually know from work!) and we worked out an interesting 4.1 mile hike that would give a good overview of everything Split Rock has to offer.  Except, of course, for the Lighthouse.  One of these days I'll get there.

Gitchi-Gami trail again!  We hardly had time to miss it.

We started out on a familiar path: the Gitchi-Gami state trail.  It was a beautiful day (of course): not too hot, a little breeze coming off the lake, blue skies.  We moved along at a pretty good clip.  We then turned north on a spur, that required us to run across Highway 61.

When we got to the other side of the highway, we saw a very scary looking sign.  I wish to all of the gods that I'd gotten a picture of it.  It was along the lines of


Apparently, there was a bridge ahead that had been washed out (probably in the flood last month).  Well, Thunderdog and I are particularly hardy folk, so we decided to go for it.  I looked at the map, and deduced that even if we had to turn back 1/10 of a mile from the end of the trail, we'd be okay.  So we kept going and soon hooked up with the Superior Hiking Trail.

Superior Hiking Trail sign, with the signature lean

The trail was a bit overgrown - clearly, most hikers had decided to heed the stern warning.  Other than being kind of grassy, it was in good shape.  No standing water, no groundhogs, nothing to keep us from having a good time.  Thunderdog really appeared to be enjoying herself.  And then, suddenly, we came upon the washed-out bridge.  Danger!  Horror!  Mayhem!


Right.  So, it really was washed out.  There were pieces of bridge a good 20 feet away from where it used to be attached to the banks of the creek.  But the creek was so low that it was stagnant in parts, and we were able to cross it without even getting our feet wet.  Of course, even though Thunderdog WOULD have been able to cross without getting her paws wet, she splashed around and enjoyed making a mess of herself.

Kind of overgrown trail through the woods

The difference between the park-maintained trails and the SHT-maintained trails is pretty staggering.  The park trails are about six feet across and mowed.  The SHT trails are about 16 inches across and just a worn footpath.  Some places are kind of treacherous - clinging to the edges of cliffs, or vertical trails up hills of big and wobbly rocks.  The more I hike, the more I realize that I like the SHT style trails much better.  For example, a six foot wide mowed trail would not have worked in a place like this:

Thunderdog on the hillside

I find that nothing makes me feel on top of the world like BEING on top of the world.  Standing on a small, well-worn trail that looks out miles over the land and sea, breathing in the hot piney air spiked with wildflower dust, listening to cicadas and birds and the rustle of needles and leaves.  There's nothing like it.  

They should have sent a poet!

We eventually came to the intersection in which we could have either stayed on the SHT (and hopped onto the Split Rock Loop, which we'd done already) or headed back down to the State Park.  It was getting a bit late, so we said farewell to the ridge and headed back to the highway.  Once we were back on the Gichi-Gami trail, though, we found something almost as sweet as a long view over Lake Superior.

Delicacies on the trailside - raspberry bushes galore

Oh man, there were so many raspberries.  I wasn't sure if it was okay to pick them (you can't pick wildflowers in State Parks), but after grazing on them as we walked I decided that it was really better for the park if I just picked one cups-worth of them total (and put them in a bag) rather than try to eat weight in them as I walked along.  :-)  The only container I had (other than my hand or stomach) was one of Thunderdog's poo bags.  That worked pretty well, except that the raspberries got all smushed together in the bag.  No worries.  I had plans for them that required smushing anyway.

Thunderdog at the fireplace

Our path took us up Day Hill to the mysterious fireplace up top.  Nobody knows who built the fireplace.  Most likely it was built within the last 100 years or so by some eccentric or scouting troop, but I prefer to believe that it was built centuries ago.  Isn't it romantic to imagine a group of people building the fireplace to create a lighthouse so that those in boats on the lake wouldn't crash into the shore?  Thunderdog didn't care about any fireplace theory, she was about ready to go home.

Split Rock Lighthouse from Day Hill

All in all, we hiked a wonderful 4.1 miles.  It took quite a long time because I spent a long time gazing out over Lake Superior and picking berries.  That little taste of the Superior Hiking Trail did me good, though - next week I will definitely be looking for an SHT mid-week trip.  Joe and I are still plugging along on the State Parks, those will continue to be our weekend hikes - until we run out of parks, of course.

Fresh raspberries, smushed and ready for eating...

...with my favorite kind of ice cream: natural vanilla bean.  Yum.

Total miles hiked today: 4.1
Total miles hiked (in 2012): 92.8

Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Thunderdog - n/a; Elly - 0
Total ticks (in 2012): 48


  1. What a great hike. Again, jealous jealous jealous.

    I love that fireplace, for two reasons. It's a neat and unexpected find on the top of a gorgeous hill. And, that is where Mark proposed! I'm sure you know that story. Actually, the picture of "Split Rock Light House from Day Hill" is exactly where Mark proposed. It was a little snowier on December 29, 2008! Makes me smile.

    And I thought there was a story behind that fireplace. Per the DNR website: "Another remnant from this period is a finely crafted, freestanding stone fireplace atop Day Hill. According to local legend it was the start of a house built around 1900 by Frank Day, a businessman from Duluth, for himself and his sweetheart, but abandoned when she did not reciprocate his love" I love that idea.

    Anyway, looks like a great mid-week get away!

    1. I'd forgotten that he proposed there in the winter! I can't wait to do some snowshoeing this year...last year was so dry that we didn't get a chance to do much.

      Hey, we're debating whether or not to do Crosby-Manitou next weekend. If you don't hear from us by game time on the 10th, send out a posse. We probably got lost in the wilderness.