Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Superior Hiking Trail: Fox Farm Road westward: July 1st, 2013

While Joe and I were in Colorado, the Superior Hiking Trail celebrated a huge milestone: the closing of the final 20-mile gap between the Duluth section and the main part of the trail.  I helped to build a bit of the trail last year, and kind of wish I'd been there to celebrate the Grand Connection on June 1st - National Trails Day.  The Superior Hiking Trail is now 296 miles long from Jay Cooke State Park to just a few miles south of the Canadian border.  

The reason I'm writing about this now is because today we went out for a hike on one of the new sections of the trail.  Up until this summer, the Superior Hiking Trail "started" at Fox Farm Road, and headed northeast towards Canada.  Thunderdog and I went to the Fox Farm Road trailhead with the intent to go northeast...but decided to see what the new, southwest trail was like.  

Nice new sign, no leaning (yet)

This part of the trail is not in my handy Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail, Sixth Edition,  (I need to upgrade to the Seventh Edition - now available!) but it IS on the little map that I received with my membership renewal this year.  I could see that the trail crossed the North Shore State Trail twice: the first time was about 100 feet from the Fox Farm Road trailhead, the next about two miles down.  So, if I followed the trail towards the Sucker River trailhead, I could then hop onto the snowmobile trail and loop around back to the car.

Trail through the woods, and a happy pup

I didn't mind the prospect of looping around on a non-SHT trail.  The North Shore State Trail is an alternative hiking trail that I've never really taken advantage of: in the winter it's buzzing with snowmobiles, but in the summer it's just a really wide trail.  Someday it might be fun to snowmobile up here, but for now I'll just use my legs.  :-)

The new SHT wove through the deciduous forest.  Everything was so green!  The air was so fragrant!  The breeze was so cool...and the woods were so full of bugs.  Oh my lord.  It is now full-on mosquito season, Thunderdog and I were constantly pestered by these horrid little creatures.  We passed a few mosquito breeding grounds on the trail, and I quietly cursed their existence.

Mosquito Nursery, where baby mosquitoes are taught to torture

At about the one-mile-in mark, we came across something that I did not expect to see: an interpretive sign.  Huh.  I looked around.  No other signs of humanity in the forest, except for the narrow winding path and a few blue blazes on the some trees.  And a big sign.  I'm not sure how I felt about it.  I LIKE being in the wilderness - even if, intellectually, I know that I'm just a few miles from my car and civilization.  I also like education, of course, but it was kind of jarring to see this just hanging out in the woods.

Let's take a break from all this wilderness and learn something!  At least it's relevant and interesting.

A week or so ago, a SHT hiker reported both a moose and bear sighting on this part of the trail.  Although I would love to see a moose - I still haven't seen one up here - I knew that it was much more likely to see a bear.  Not gonna lie, the thought of it both excites and frightens me.  But I'm leaning more towards excited.  I don't lead a terribly daredevilish life, but I do enjoy the excitement and adventure that comes with striking out into the woods a few times a week.  Just me and Thunderdog, and whatever may come.  Usually we just do battle against ticks.  Someday we may see something larger.  Like, uh, this thing???

Mystery pelt

Yeah, I have no idea what that thing is.  It's about a foot long and it was fresh.  I could smell it from the ground.  I thought about investigating but didn't want to knock it down (obviously, some other hiker put it up there for some reason) and I didn't want Thunderdog to get ahold of it.  I looked closely but I honestly couldn't tell what it was.  Was it some small animal's body?  Some big animal's foot?  The smell convinced me that it was not just the fur collar off of somebody's trendy jean jacket.  Anyway, in that moment, I stood small and wimpy under the dismembered foot of some large creature who could probably eat me (because he was angry about losing a foot?...) and felt that feeling of excitement and fear.  I felt absolutely tiny in the woods.
It was great.

This is why I come out here.  To feel put in my place as just a tiny, delicate little thing in the big, amazing woods.

Big woods, winding trail

Total miles hiked today: Not exact, but I am going to guess 4 miles.
Total miles hiked in 2013: 55.1
Total Superior Hiking Trail miles hiked in 2013: 12.9
Total ticks today: 3 so far...we just got back a few hours ago.
Total ticks in 2013: 52

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