Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bean and Bear Lakes Loop; Superior Hiking Trail: August 21, 2012

Alright.  Several things are becoming apparent.

1.  The nights are getting cooler (temps dropping into the low 40's...great sleeping weather).
2.  The leaves are starting to change.
3.  The sun is now setting before 8:00pm.

All of this means that it's inevitable: autumn is coming.  My Tuesday afternoon/evening hikes are going to have to come to an end soon...or, I'll need to use a miner's headlamp.  It pains me to think about the fleeting summer.  Better get to some of those Superior Hiking Trail Big Hikes that I've been plotting.  One such Big Hike was the 6.4 mile loop north of Silver Bay - the Bean and Bear Lakes Loop.  It is one of the most highly visited sections of the Superior Hiking Trail, and for good reasons: it's beautiful and it's easy to get to.  I'd been "saving" the Bean and Bear Lakes Loop hike for a special occasion.  Tuesday was that day.

Superior Hiking Trail: Great Scenery and Tilting Signs R Us

We started the hike at 4pm on the dot.  That gave us 4 hours before sunset.  Thunderdog and I can move along pretty quickly over rough terrain - 2 to 2.5 miles an hour or so.  I'd heard that the Bean and Bear Lakes Loop was pretty rocky with lots of up and down, so I figured we'd be able to get around and out by 7:30, 8:00pm.  The temperature was about 75 degrees and, although the sun was blazing in a nearly cloudless sky, there was a very nice cool breeze.

My view for the majority of the hike: Thunderdog's Butt

Sure, there were great vistas, amazing to behold!  Breathtaking long views for miles and miles.  But 95% of the time - the time in which we were NOT standing on a lookout - my view looked like the above picture: Thunderdog's rear end, climbing up the hill in front of me.  I know it's impossible, but it felt like the trail was about 80% uphill.  I felt like the kid who walked to school uphill both ways (barefoot, in the snow, carrying the lunch pail for my 12 siblings).  But you all remember what I've said about going up, right?  There's usually something worth seeing at the top.

Thunderdog and Bean Lake

I wish so, so, so much that I had a better camera.  The sun was extremely bright and it was reflecting off the water - every picture I had of Bean Lake was blown out.  I look at the picture above and think " looks so flat."  It does not capture the depth of the hills and the blue of the water with tiny whitecaps in the cool breeze.  It was simply breathtaking.

Around this time - between the first and second lakes - I started to wonder if we were in over our heads.  It had taken us just over an hour to get to the Bean Lake overlook, and that was about 1/4 of the way through.  Within a few hundred feet of the trailhead we ran into a couple who were on their way out.  "Where are you headed?" the fellow asked.  I said that we were going to do the loop.  "The whole thing?  Six and a half miles?  You're starting late."  "Well..." I said, "we've got four hours before sunset.  I think we'll be alright."  We continued on our way but I couldn't shake the feeling that, within the next few days, that couple would be interviewed by the media regarding our disappearance.

Thunderdog and Bear Lake

The light was much nicer for Bear Lake.  I took about 30 pictures...I won't entertain you with all of them, just this one.  This was a banner moment in Thunderdog's life.  She actually stood still for a while and enjoyed the scenery.  Ordinarily she would be whining about not moving.  I will always treasure this moment.


We signed the trail register - with the blog address, hello anyone who got here from that - and then continued on our merry way.

One note: there are two sharp right turns on this trail.  The loop leaves the Superior Hiking Trail right at the top of Bear Lake, and heads back towards town on a Silver Bay town trail.  This was not well marked.  The second sharp turn was similarly not well marked.  If, like me, you're a moron and forget your map, you might be in trouble.  Don't be like me.  Bring a map.

Speaking of signs, I saw a sign that I had not seen before on the Superior Hiking Trail.  Take a look at the signpost below.

Brown sign, brown sign, what do you see?

At the very top of the sign is a map with "New York to North Dakota" written above it.  That sign is for the North Country National Scenic Trail, which is currently under construction.  When it is completed, it will be the longest continuous hiking trail in North America: over 4,500 miles.  FOUR AND A HALF THOUSAND MILES, people.  It's longer than the other National Scenic Trails - the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, and almost twice as long as the granddaddy of them all, the Appalachian Trail.  Its route through Minnesota has been a point of discussion.  There appears to be two routes through Minnesota: cut across from the Brainerd Lakes directly to Duluth, or go up north to the Border Route Trail, the Kekekabic Trail, and then the Superior Hiking Trail.  Obviously, the second route would add many miles to the trip.  But, in my humble opinion, it would be a shame to hike through northern Minnesota and miss the Superior Hiking Trail.  May as well just hop a Greyhound from Moorhead to Duluth.

Maybe next summer, huh?  :-)

We got back to the car at 7:45, right in the middle of the timeframe I had envisioned.  We were both exhausted - I am STILL exhausted, a day later - but proud of ourselves.  What a great hike.  I want to return once the leaves are at peak.  The sun was a definite pain for time, I'll head out in the morning.  If I'm really brave (or crazy) I'd head out before dawn to see if I could catch the sunrise over Bean Lake.

Man, I love Minnesota.

Boomdeyada, boomdeyada, boomdeyada, boomdeyada.

Total miles hiked today: 6.4
Total miles hiked (in 2012): 110.7

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


  1. That's a great hike! Mark and Winter and I did it, but also went poorly prepared. It was a hot day and we only brought 2 liters of water for the three of us. We stopped at a gas station after we were done and bought 3 liters of water, one for each of us!

    It's an amazingly beautiful hike!

  2. Hey, just stumbled onto your blog. We love the SHT and just returned from a nice hike out to Bean Lake! It was great this time of year. Looks like you get out more that we do ... nice Blog

    here is a link to mine

    1. Thanks! I love the SHT - now that I'm no longer in Two Harbors, I won't be able to just pop over to the trail on a Tuesday afternoon! I will have to live vicariously through your blog, and make longer trips every now and then.

      And, your dog is awesome!