Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Judge C.R. Magney State Park AND Superior Hiking Trail: September 1, 2012

Alright!  Let's kick off the flurry-o-park posts with one of the few remaining North Shore parks on our list: Judge C.R. Magney State Park, about 15 miles northeast of Grand Marais.  At the head of the Hiking Club trail there was a plaque about Clarence R. Magney: he was the Mayor of Duluth and then a justice on Minnesota's Supreme Court.  He was also a lifelong advocate for parks and waysides on the North Shore.  After his death in the 1950's, Brule River State Park was renamed in his honor.  At the top of the plaque was this quotation:

"Our State Parks are Everyman's Country Estate."

I think I like this guy.

Where to go?  What to do?

Well, this Country Estate comes complete with a 2.5 mile Hiking Club Trail which features one of the great mysteries of Minnesota Waterfalls: Devil's Kettle.  Joe and I hopped out of the car and went to investigate.  We were not alone: it was Labor Day weekend in Minnesota.  The place was packed.  No silent wilderness at this park!

The first part of the hike was rather uneventful.  There were some ups and downs on the dirt path through the forest.  The real excitement came when we stumbled upon a flight of stairs leading down into the valley below.  We paused at the top of the stairs to let a small group of people come up.  One of them was an older woman, clutching the railing in one hand and a very small dog in the other.

"Don't do it!" she rasped, a bewildered look in her eyes.  "Don't do it!  It's not worth it!"  She struggled the last few steps, walked by me, and I assume that she got back to the trailhead okay.  Perhaps we should have heeded her warning.  Instead, we started down the stairs.

Abandon hope all ye who enter!

Down, down, down.  At one point, we passed a couple of kids.  "One hundred twelve, one hundred thirteen, one hundred fourteen..." they chanted in unison as they passed us going up.  One hundred fourteen? We'd already come down a long way.  Were there really one hundred and fourteen more stairs to go???

The grand total for the wooden flight of stairs was one hundred and eighty-eight steps.  We knew that we would eventually have to go back up...but we tried to push that to the backs of our minds.  Once to the bottom of the trail, we climbed UP twenty-two more stairs to reach the first waterfall.

Upper Falls, at the bottom of the stairs

We had heard about the famous waterfalls of Judge C.R. Magney State Park.  The first one we encountered was Upper Falls.  It was pretty impressive.  There were plenty of people milling about (couldn't help but get a few in this picture) and joined them in relaxing for a bit.  Joe enjoyed the waterfalls' refreshing cooling mist.


We weren't done yet.  We wanted to see Devil's Kettle, which is probably the most famous of North Shore waterfalls.  However, in order to get there we had to go UP fifty-seven steps to the Devil's Kettle overlook.

Devil's Kettle: one of the great mysteries of our time

The Brule River splits in two above the falls.  Half of the river falls 50 feet into the valley below, and continues on its merry way to Lake Superior.  The other half of the river falls about ten feet into a giant pothole.  And then...nobody knows.  It is assumed that it enters a subterranean cavern and eventually finds its way to the big lake.  Scientists have tried to figure it out by throwing colored ping-pong balls into the kettle, but they never come out.  What's in there??  Wonka's chocolate factory?  A black hole?  The hellmouth?  Nobody knows.

We weren't able to get close to Devil's Kettle at all.  The overlook is about 1/4 mile away, and on the other side of the river.  Probably a good thing.  We don't want people throwing stuff into there for fun...and we don't want innocent tourists getting to close to what might well be a portal to hell.

Speaking of hell...

Joe considers ending it all

We had to go back up all of those stairs.  In addition to the 188 wooden stairs, the 22 stairs to Upper Falls (on the trail, we couldn't avoid them) and the 27 steps up to the overlook, we also counted 21 incidental steps along the trail.  So in the course of 2.5 miles we went up and down 288 steps.  That's...that's a lot.  Joe  and I stopped a few times on the big staircase back up and pondered our fates.  He considered whether it would be easier to just stay in the valley forever, like an exhibit.  I wondered if the bewildered old woman had been a confident lass in her mid-20's when she first descended the stairs earlier that day.  I was glad that Thunderdog had stayed behind at Doggie Camp for the weekend.

We did survive, but boy were we glad to be back to the car.  Devil's Kettle was neat and we definitely wanted to get this 2.5 miles done, but we were pooped.  Another thing to note: nowhere in my guidebooks or on any of the park signs did it say that there were so many steps.  Joe and I are not wimps.  We hike all the time, and WE had trouble with it.  I wonder if the old woman (and others who do not have gams of steel)  would have chosen a different path had they known.

Anyway, glad we did it, now it is done.  Whew!

Total miles hiked today: (this park) 2.5 hard earned miles
Total miles hiked (in 2012): 113.2

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

1 comment:

  1. I am REALLY surprised that there are no signs saying how many stairs there are. YIKES! Sounds like it was worth it to you, but others should be able to make an informed decision before they start.