Saturday, August 8, 2020

Superior Hiking Trail Zoo to Magney

Previous Section 

Another perfect Duluth day for taking on another section of the Superior Hiking Trail. We saw two leaves with color on the ground, so let’s call it early Fall. This was a challenging 4.6 miles. That distance is according to the markers and online maps, but the Fitbit registered 7.9. We went to Menards and the Co-op, but we didn’t walk 3 miles while there. It could have been that the altitude changes aren’t registered on those maps. They were quite extensive. 

This thru hiker has more pictures, but a lot less detail about the hike sections than I do. 

But this was one of the most feature rich hikes I’ve ever done.  There is too much to list and too many for pictures. There were plenty of streams and interesting bridges. There were a few ditch crossings, so be water aware in the Spring or whenever floods might occur. Also, rock formations, a variety of trees, thimble berries, building foundations, cascading falls coming down streams and more. It was a photographer’s paradise. Missing, as is often on the SHT, were vistas. The nearby highway sounds and occasional dirt road did not detract from all of this. The proximity to civilization means the trail is well maintained, and apparently the people who go there care about it because I did not see garbage. 

There is even camping on Spirit Mt. We did not check it out.

We started by the Zoo. Take Grand Ave to Waseca St. and go to the end of it. Pay close attention to the signs and tree markers because you will be crossing every type of trail there is over and over. We probably added a half mile from all the times we circled back. The worst one was when we took a short gravel road around a ski lift. I saw a bridge and thought that was the trail. The bike tire marks on it gave us a clue it

was not the foot trail. Although you cross other trails, you never share the foot path with other means of travel. We saw a few runners, but this is pretty challenging so I suspect few come here. 

For Magney-Snively parking see the previous section.

At about the middle, you pass through a large open area at the bottom of one of the two ski lifts on this route. There is a chalet restaurant and bar. It’s an option of parking and keeping your hike shorter. I don’t think they are open in the summer. If you are going from there toward Magney-Snively, there are steady uphills and plenty of level and the ravines for streams are small. Going from the chalet to the zoo, you go north for a mile, and it’s a workout. At the end of that mile, you go up 300 meters of steps built with 4x4s. We were going the other direction, but it still is hard on the knees. 

There is a spur trail that goes across the top/north side of Spirit Mt. downhill skiing and then down the west side. It passes through an area with a lot of cross country ski trails. There was a sign that said this was used by the ski teams for training, so I had the sense that it was very hilly. Either way you go, you are on a mountain, you can't avoid it.

If all of this is sounding like too much, the Kingsbury Woods area, off the Waseca St trailhead is something you should do anyway. 

The trail is wider and less rocky there and there’s plenty to see. If it doesn’t give you some inspiration for more hiking, then you are a lost cause. 

The next stretch ends by passing under the interstate and we’ll go from wilderness that is near roads to hiking within a city proper.

This picture looks a little funny because I was standing above her a bit. This bridge is at the north end of the Kingsbury Creek section, and it's very much "out". You have to go down closer to the trailhead at Waseca St. to cross the creek. That's what the sign says anyway. The creek is full of boulders and the water was low in later summer.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Tony and Ahsley

This has been a long time coming. I’m a little late with it. It’s time to promote Tony Jones from “other theologians I’ve written about” to the “few who actually get it right”. He sealed his status in a recent podcast with Ashley Peters. Even if Tony had not made some upgrades to his theology over the years, just the way he conducts this conversation put him in the “doing it right” crowd.

My index of Progressive Christians

Okay, I kid a little about being “right”. Tony’s fine, he’s always been fine. There are probably parts of him I did not recognize back when I first started following him. If I had started recently, I’d probably be searching back, trying to figure where this guy is coming from. It can be hard to tell what he believes or if he believes at times. No question though, a love of nature and the values that are needed for humans to express that love come through loud and clear.

The Reverend Hunter Podcast. I couldn't index to the specific episode, so look for about the 10th one, "Ashley Peters: Conservation is my religion"

Ashley Peters is no stiff either. It’s interesting to hear her philosophy that is rooted in the many ways people relate to nature, hunting as well as just watching. From her responses to Tony, apparently she didn’t go through some of the years of doubt or difficult nights of sorting out beliefs that some of us have. This provides a fresh perspective. She uses Alaska as a jumping off point for seeing the “bigger” picture. I paraphrase here, removing the feedback and extra words of a conversation;

“When you live in Alaska, you see the large everything, “you understand the scale of things and feel so insignificant. You recognize your place in the universe

You get that sense on the prairie and the woods, if you’ve been there, you understand the scale of things. You feel so insignificant. You very quickly recognize your place as a human being on Earth and you suddenly recognize that this stuff is huge. You don’t have control over any of it. You have to focus on what you do have control over and hope for the best for the rest of it.

When I go into work each day, the thing I had control over, what the outdoors has taught me is that you focus on what you do have control over. You focus on the things in front of you.  I plan for what can go wrong, but it’s still the question of what I have control over and doing as much as I can to prepare and to be in that moment, but to recognize what I don’t have control over. I can worry all day long, and I still do, but you can only do so much as a human.

To relate that to a spiritual aspect, as a Christian growing up, it was “give it up to God”. That was the common narrative. That’s not dissimilar to what I do with the outdoors, but not giving it up to one deity. I’m going outdoors and laying it down, however you want to put it, it’s that same offloading of my worries and recognizing I don’t have control over ‘these’ things but I have control over these few things and that’s what I’m going to choose to focus on.”

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Racism in my lifetime

When I was born, 1948 was the distant past to me, even though it was just barely over a decade earlier. The problems in the South seemed solved to me and the world seemed to be getting better. 1968 was the "Summer of Love" after all. It took a long time for me to realize that me and others like me were ignoring all the hate going on.

That era must seem like an even more distant past to those starting to understand the news now, so I can see why they want to blame Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump for the problems we face today. But looking back, what I see is; enough of the people who have the power and the money will find and support people in doing horrible things to good people so they can keep their power. That power might be young or old and comes in all colors. In America, it's mostly white now because that color divide has been the one that has worked to maintain the power structure.

Here is a brief highlight of the timeline of how we got here. I believe, if you spend about 10 hours or so looking up these names and events, you'll have a good understanding of what's happening in the streets.

1948, Strom Thurmond ran for President. He was openly racist. This was normal. He was a senator for 48 years.

1964, Civil Rights Act signed, so people had to shift from being openly racist to doing it without getting caught.
Reagan continued this with his “welfare queen” stories.
Democrats were losing power, so they compromised and “reformed” welfare and got tough on crime.
9/11 made it all a lot easier. Grants were made from Homeland Security and local police forces were militarized.
School shootings and general fear led to more police in schools. They didn’t have much to do, so they treated children like criminals.
What was once called “white flight” is now just normal. It’s hard to find a diverse zip code anywhere. Seeing a snuff film on the nightly news is just unusual enough so you can believe it won’t happen to your kid, but normal enough that we have become numb to it and make excuses for the murderers and for own lack of action.
We almost came together when Obama won his second term. Check out this Frontline:
Frontline: America’s Great Divide. It shows how the Tea Party and then Breitbart handed the Republican Party to Trump. The establishment Republicans were ready to compromise. They knew they were losing the millennial vote. Pick it up around the middle, after the Trayvon Martin killing, then Romney lost the election (1 hr, 4 min). Then Trump comes along, and Nunberg teaches him to repeat “build that wall”. There’s a transcript too, if you don’t have 4 hours.
Here's a quote:
And even people like Sean Hannity went on the air and said, “We need to rethink our position on immigration. I was wrong to take such a hard line on immigration.”
60 million people voted for the guy who said Mexico was full of bad hombres. Reasonable conversation about immigration reform became no only difficult but impossible. Policies of keeping people from certain countries out of America were floated and struck down by Justices. The problem of how to handle the children of people crossing our borders illegally was solved by just putting them in cages and building more cages and keeping them in those cages for longer than any had done President ever. 

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Superior Hiking Trail Magney/Snively

Previous section

Well, the “shelter in place” orders have given me plenty of time to do things like take an afternoon hike.  It was a beautiful June day in Duluth, with a good breeze to keep the bugs down, perfect for this section of the Superior Hiking Trail. We again did the two car system and although this is near a busy area with factories and trains, there are no roads crossing this 4 or 5 mile stretch. Well, there is one, but it is normally closed from November to May, and this year, it has stayed closed. I think they were planning to do some work on it, but that has been delayed.

So, getting there is the first challenge. You can see this wilderness area from the interstate or from the less travelled, but scenic, highway 23. If you look back to the last section, we ended at Becks Rd. Becks continues south from Midway Rd, which is an exit off the interstate. We’ll start there, but first, getting that car to the ending trailhead. It’s in the middle of Magney/Snively State Park. This park has hiking, XC skiing and one parking lot and not much else. To get to it, follow the signs to Spirit Mountain Ski Area and then keep going. You’ll pass some really nice houses, then the road gets kind of rough, then there is a really cool bridge, then you’re there.

Alright, back to Beck’s road. For a half mile or so, you get a paved path. This is to get you over the train tracks safely. Watch for signs and start heading uphill. Get used to the rock climbing. It smoothes out and there is a path to the left. If you want to see an old railroad tunnel, take it, then a right when it forks. It’s a 5 minute diversion that’s worth it. Back on the main trail, more rock climbing. There were signs this year, but don’t count on them. There are many spur trails if you want to go up Ely’s peak. If you don’t like one of them, turn around and there will be another. Otherwise, watch for the blue markers on trees and on the rocks to stay on the main trail.

When you pass all of those spur trails up the peak, the vista will open up. To the south, St. Louis River, factories, forest, bridges, Lake Superior off in the distance. To the north; a ridge that is about as high as Ely’s peak. There is a way to do this as a loop, so you’ll pass that on your left. After that, you’ll see a lot less people for a while.
Map on the trail

The forest gets fairly dense, but not brushy. It’s a good single lane trail. There are several scenic overlooks but the signs can be small. There are only a few times that the trail opens up for a view. This is pretty typical of the Superior Hiking Trail. The forest is maple, ash, aspen, occasional birch, a wide variety flowers and berries. The best is when you are on the elevated parts and you go out to a vista and realize you up where the birds are soaring.

When you’re in to Magney/Snively there will be even more crossing trails, some for cross country skiing, some for horses. We took a couple wrong turns. So even though you are close to civilization, keep your navigation skills sharp. You could easily end up down a ravine where no one goes. As you near the trailhead, it will begin to look like a Disney theme park. The trail is wide and clean, the signs are nice, the hills have steps built in and the bridges are decent. The forest canopy gets a lot higher and fewer trees are growing underneath. It’s kind of magical.

You can’t see the parking lot from the trail, but that sign is solid and should be maintained as long as we have some form of government that is still functioning.
Magney/Snively trailhead w/sign: "There is no such thing as the poop fairy. Pick up after your dog."

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

You're Right

You’re right. Of course you are right. Everyone wants to be right. If you are doing something or saying something that you know is wrong that’s antisocial personality disorder.  You are only wrong for as long as it takes to correct yourself, then everything is right again. You are right, but you are not always right. If you think you are always right, then you would be arrogant and obnoxious. Being right includes admitting that you might be wrong. Right?

If you want to check if you’re right, surround yourself with people who are willing to tell you when you are wrong. This is what you do when you seek an education. They could be wrong too but you can’t both be right if you disagree. Knowing what’s true is a different conversation. If everyone around you is agreeing with you and telling you that you are right, you might be surrounded by people with antisocial personality disorder or at least people who want something from you. It’s good to have friends who support you no matter what but real friends will let you know if you are wrong when it matters.


Just a few quick notes on this topic. I might refine it later.

Knowing what is true turns out to be kind of complicated. You can avoid all the philosophy and just remember the last time you stubbed your toe or hit your head. It doesn’t get much more real than that.

Otherwise you have to start with definitions, and they won’t answer “why” and they will leave us with more questions. That’s the human experience. First, truth is that which comports with reality. Great start huh? Reality is that which we can demonstrate is true. That’s circular. I did warn you. Truth is demonstrated by collecting empirical evidence. That is done using our senses, and extending our senses with instruments, and extrapolating from those results with reason and logic. All of this can fail at any point along the way.

We can’t be certain about anything. Not even what I just said. We still say things like “settled science” or “that’s a fact”, but technically, we are always speaking of probabilities. A “proof” is something you do in mathematics. You define rules about numbers and prove that equations will always have certain results. You can’t do that with people, or history, or psychology, or pretty much any animal behavior.

However, not being able to prove anything is different than not being able to know anything with a high probability of being accurate. People didn’t know about the shape of the earth at one time, and they were way off on the shape of the universe. But their being wrong then says very little about how accurate we think we are now. Truth may always be elusive, but we know how much evidence we have, how well we have checked it, and how consistently our experiments have verified it.

We use evidence and reason naturally every time we take a step or hear something new. We may not use formulas or check every fact, but there is nothing we can use to reason away reason. As soon as you try to explain whatever else might replace it, you are using reason to do it. The best we have to extend our knowledge and our experiences, is each other. Together, we’ve done some pretty amazing things.

All models are wrong, some are useful - George Box

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Listener

I’ve been exploring the mytho-poetic a little more lately, something I’ve been doing on and off for many years now. I found some old recordings I had of a story told in a lodge by a fire, back in 2010. Now it’s on the internet for everyone. If you’ve never heard anything like this, or even if you have, a good place to start is part 2 of 4 at 38 minutes or so. In the story, the hero, well, let’s call him the main character, has just killed a few people.

This raises a few questions. That’s the whole point of telling stories around fires, to raise questions, but this one needed to be addressed. Death in a sacred story is not like death in our real lives. There is one story teller in this recording, but there are a few people, men, on the stage (the bench as it is sometimes called), and they all chime in. I know all of them and have spent some very special times with each one of them, but I’ll leave all those stories until the Q & A session, which is anytime on this media. Tom Gambell talks about Ghandi, Martin Shaw talks about being pulled by different characters in the story. You could back up 5 minutes or so and hear Malidoma Somé talk about his initiation rituals in his tribe in Burkina Faso, . You get a nice overview of what this is about in a just a few minutes.

Then you can go back to part 1, or go back to 20 minutes before my mark above to get more of that, or whatever you want. If you don’t want to listen to the guys chatting, there are indices on each of the four YouTubes and you can just hear the story. Won’t take long. There was no video of the conference, but someone added images. They are quite beautiful. You’ll see the room in some of the pictures. It’s a big room with just a few mics, but the sound was edited and most of it is clear, especially the story telling parts.

Stories like this are not usually on the internet. There aren’t many like it left and in 2010 we were not planning on making this something publicly available. We didn’t do it to sell some albums or get people to join our merry band. It’s kind of intimate. This isn’t entertainment, although there's nothing wrong with being entertained by it. My voice is in there and if I knew you’d be listening to it now, I might have said something different. But, times change, words sometimes need to be heard first one way, then another.

These stories are the stories that we need now. I’d go so far as to say when they were heard long ago, they weren’t completely understood. Maybe they aren’t understood much better now. But they need to be grappled with, talked about, told to the younger ones and see if they can do something with them. Love of these stories is love of the earth and love for each other and for people who are not yet born.

Malidoma says, you don’t know where you are going to end up when you go through an initiation story, but once you decide to go, keep going. As his elders told him, “You go backwards, you die, you go forward you die, so, what the hell, go forward and die”. There are at least two meanings of “die” here. We’re all going to die someday, so you might as well keep growing and learning as much as you can. The other meaning is initiation, the transition from child to adult, from the safety of the village to the unknown risks outside out of it. A part of you may need to die so you can survive that transition.

The other thing to know, this was the year of the Minnesota Men’s Conference when Robert Bly, the guy who started it, stepped aside. This is the story that was being told while he stood in the back of the room. On one of the nights, he said goodbye, we sang a few songs, and he went off to be part of some other stories.