Friday, November 6, 2020

Superior Hiking Trail Skyline to Silos Restauran

Skyline to Silos Restaurant 

Previous Section (a bit out of order, coming soon)

On a record warm day in November for Duluth, we set out to conquer “the hill”. If you have so much as driven through Duluth on the highway, you can’t miss that it sits on a hill. The lake is at 600 ft above sea level and the top of the hill that holds iconic images like Enger Tower is over 1,300 feet. So, forgive us if we decided to start at a higher elevation for this 5 mile stretch. We also skipped a few miles from Highway 35 and Grand Ave, but we’ll circle back to that. 

If you know anything about the last decade or so of Duluth history, you know that they have been working on these woods that are too steep to build on, improving them with hiking and biking and other sporting activities. They are a major attraction. If you look on the Duluth trail map you will see a variety of trails. It can be hard to pick out the Superior Hiking Trail. But, while walking from Haines Road down to the Bayfront, we never made one wrong turn. The signage was great, and the design of the area keeps everyone happy. You can see the mountain bike trails, and every now and then a biker flashes by, but you only cross the trails a couple times. There is some cliff climbing in here somewhere too, but we never noticed it.

We did notice the ups and downs. We started at 1,040 ft and peaked at Enger Park at 1,150. Throughout the hike we gained 900 ft and lost 1,500. A couple short sections were city parks with paved or gravel trails or boardwalks, but most of it was just dirt and on a bad day could be mud, so don’t be fooled by the fact you are in a city. There are a couple creek crossings and the larger ones have well built bridges. Only in extreme conditions would these be a problem.

As soon as you step off of Haines Rd, the city sounds will fade and you won’t believe you are surrounded by 80,000 people. On the other end, just before we reached W Michigan St, we were very much reminded of where we were when we spotted a homeless encampment. We didn’t see anyone, but that doesn’t mean you should not be vigilante. More on that later.

Haines Rd is N 40th Ave from Highway 35. Just climb straight up, past the big switchback and you can’t miss the parking lot, the signs, and the trail. If you’re going back toward Spirit Mt. the sign over the tunnel tells you that you are on the trail. You’ll immediately notice the variety of trees and that the area is obviously managed, but still quite wild. After a mile or two you will start to get vistas of the city and the lake and the harbor and the noise is not quite as filtered out. 

Lincoln Park

You’ll come down a bit and then level off and pick up W 10th St., a quiet neighborhood with a great view. There is some street parking that you could use to access the trail but you would probably be better off going up to N 24th and Piedmont Ave. if this is where you want to start your hike. There is official parking there with an official SHT sign. Piedmont is also called highway 53 but you can’t park on that. If you come up that way, get off and find the residential part of Piedmont. If you are hiking through, take the big bridge over 53. 

It’s a little brushy through here, just south of the Enger Park Golf Course, but then it breaks into Enger Park with a tranquil Japanese garden, and of course, Enger Tower. Stay on the high side of the park unless you want to go over and see the view from the Tower. It’s all downhill from here. You might not notice when you get into Central Park. It is much smaller than its New York namesake. West 3rd St. goes through that, but there is no parking. On the edge of that park, you will use a short section of N 14th Ave W with a possibility of on street parking. Pick up the trail again and you will be along a steep cliff above W Michigan.

I have driven by this spot on W Michigan St. many times and noticed people on the sidewalk with camping equipment, but not the expensive long range hiking variety. More like the ‘carry your home on your back’ variety. What I never noticed is the little SHT sign at the intersection of Glen Pl Dr. You are within view of some housing and W Michigan is very busy but you are also under the cover of woods. Safety is an issue here. My hope was that anyone there would not want to create a reason for anyone to bother them, so they would be motivated to not bother us. But there could be people there who weren’t that good at making decisions like that too.

When you get to W Michigan St. the trail is a city paved walkway for the next few miles. The pedestrian bridge over 35 is the trail. Use the handicap ramp going down and either stay on it and cross back under the highway then up to Bob Dylan Way and downtown Duluth, or stay near the railroad tracks and visit Bentleyville or Bayfront Park. Keep walking right along the lake and past the William A Irvin freight ship to get to the Duluth Lakewalk. Officially, the route is past Amazing Grace Café and along the Lake City Parking Lot. Follow the walk to the Duluth Rose Garden to get to the next section. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Superior Hiking Trail into Duluth City Limits

If you are following in blog order, this section is out of order. Use the links.
Previous Section

After the strenuous section from Magney-Snively to the Zoo, we decided to set our sights a little lower and do a 2.3 mile long section from the Zoo to the bottom of “the hill”. If you drive into Duluth, you will know what they are referring to as “the hill”. On the highway, you pass Spirit Mountain and get a spectacular vista of Lake Superior then descend that mountain and see the industry that built up along the port. If you keep driving into downtown, you’ll see how they put that highway underneath street level and integrated the city into the lake shore. But let’s get back to hiking.

We got off the highway at Central Ave just before that tight turn at the bottom of the hill. Find the trail-head at Greene St and N 63rd Ave W by snaking around in the residential neighborhood north of the businesses and staying close to the highway but on the Duluth city side of it. The trail goes

underneath the highway back to the Zoo, or go past the spooky looking house to go north up the hill then eventually east. Look for the cement barrier to find a section that leads back to the paved trail if you want to technically cover every inch of the SHT. Otherwise, use the paved trail to go under the highway and look for the trail veering north almost immediately. But don't back under the highway or you're just back to the trail-head again.

We drove back to the Zoo to start our day hike, see the previous section for the Waseca St trailhead. 

By starting at the Zoo, we climbed most of the altitude for this day in about 20 minutes then had a nice slope down from there to the highway. As you go, you’ll see more and more city and less and less nature. But they are still great views. The fauna is mostly aspen and mostly young growth, nothing like the well preserved section of Kingsbury creek. You are closer to population and likely to see more runners too, although on this beautiful day on a weekend, we saw no one until the very end.

Because of the bridge that is out at the north end of Kingsbury creek, be sure to stay to the east side. There are two bridges at the start of the trail. The first one, right off the trail-head, will say that the SHT is on the west side. Your choice to follow that or not. You’ll have one more that crosses back over the creek. The trail looks a bit like a forest road on the east side at times, but just use the creek to navigate and you can’t go wrong.

You will transition from the meandering St Louis River areas that have changed little in thousands of years to the busy port towns of Duluth and Superior over the course of this section.

There are very few spurs or intersecting trails here and unless you are fogged in, you’ll always know where you are even if you forgot your compass.

Last best section of Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth


SHT Last best section in Duluth

We had some friends who wanted to join us this time, so we skipped over the sections in the middle of Duluth and picked the eastern end of town for some of the best places to visit. If you’re going in order, this is a great way to finish Duluth. Also, you’ll be going up over 1,000 feet, and back down 300 feet, most of the down coming after the peak in Bagley Nature Center. You’ll get a great view of the University of MN Duluth from there. You’ll also pass near Chester Bowl ski hill (very small compared to the earlier Spirit Mt.). Also, Hartley Nature Center, so, quite the tour. We cheated and drove over to Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve to observe some birds, but you’ll hike through that if you are going to the next section.

We also cheated and started at the top, so we could go mostly downhill. Parking is ample at Hartley Nature Center. The trail goes south out of there, along the road you came in on, or go past the Nature Center building to the northwest and it will wind back to the south toward Lake Superior. This is one of the best sections on the entire SHT for Lake Superior views.

The trail is rocky and there are cliffs. At one of the lookout points we saw a memorial plaque, but I

couldn’t find any information on it. I know people have jumped into Chester creek when the water is high and that has not ended well for them.

A couple of turns to watch out for; Linking Chester Bowl and Bagley Nature Area, you’ll do some road walking along the north edge of the UMD  campus. There’s a bike trail into campus at Bagley and we just crossed the road and went into that, then realized we were wrong. From Chester Bowl going north, it’s W Kent Rd then north on N 19th Ave, but the signage got us through that just fine. There are 2 inch stickers on the backs of existing road signs.

Trails are on both sides of Chester Creek and plenty of bridges so don’t worry if you get on the side that is not officially designated as SHT. There is another road hike between the parking lot for the Rose Garden and Lower Chester Creek at E 4th St. That one is along N 14th Ave for about 7 blocks. Grab something at Burrito Union or the nearby Co-op or Chester Creek café or many other options in the area.

The Duluth Lake Walk is designated SHT from Bayfront Festival Park to the Rose Garden and Leif Erikson Park, but this so easy to hike, I’m not going to cover it. Duluth is famous for Canal Park, the Lift Bridge, the old fashioned train stations and many other sites along this section, and I could never do them justice on this blog.

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."