SHT – George Crosby Manitou State Park to County Road 6

Hikers: Betsy, Rob, Todd
Total Distance: 18 miles
Days: 4 days, 3 nights
Dates: 
August 30 – September 2, 2019 (Labor Day Weekend!)
Photos: 
Betsy’s, Rob’s

Friday, August 30th
Left late in the day, and after a dinner at Tobie’s in Hinkley, made it to George Crosby Manitou State Park around 10pm, with views of the northern lights while driving inland toward the park. It was a New Moon, so it was incredibly dark and easy to see the aurora! The hike in the dark was a bit creepy, and luckily we made it to Aspen Knob camp to find that we wouldn’t be disturbing other campers at such a late hour. The hike ended up being 0.6 miles when I had told everyone it would be 0.4 miles. They were starting to doubt my navigation skills I think – oops! Next time I should check the route from where we’d actually be parking the car. We were pretty much set up by 11pm – Rob & Todd with their ITSU (impossible to set up) tent and me with my little 2 person Marmot. We got a small fire going to stay warm while Rob ran off into the woods to take some photos of the sky. A few sips of whiskey and wine were had by the fire. The temps were a bit colder than we expected; the car said 42 degrees as we pulled into the park, and I was cold during the night — not sure how far the temps actually dropped, but we survived.

Aspen Knob Camp

Wildlife seen:
– Bunny running for it’s life, in front of my car headlights, for a really long time.
– Mouse sneaking around behind us as we sat by the fire.

Saturday, August 31st
Oatmeal and coffee for breakfast for all. Rob made the walk back to the car in the morning to drop some gear that he didn’t think he’d need, and also to pick up an extra fuel canister for us. We were on the trail by 10:50am, and stopped for water and snack break at the Baptism River bridge near Blesener Creek Camp. While there, a big group of ATVs came riding across the bridge and stopped for a break as well.

Took a quick photo of the Blesener Camp for future reference before moving on. There was only really one good tent pad there.

Our next planned stop was to be one of the Sonju Lake campsites for lunch, but there were people in both of them that we didn’t want to disturb, and there also happened to be an awesome little island called Lilly’s Island that was a much better lunch spot than the campsites would have been. According to the trail guide, the island was named after a dog that loved the trail 🙂 So we spent a little time there relaxing, ate lunch, and signed the trail register.

View from Lilly’s Island
Trail register @ Lilly’s Island
Rob, Todd, and I at Lilly’s Island for our lunch stop. Photo from Rob’s camera.

I think because we got going so late in the morning, the rest of the hike started to eventually feel pretty long and we kept hoping to hit our final destination for the night, but it just never seemed to come. Along the way we saw the beginnings of Autumn, some cool fungi, and the old trapper’s cabin, which was very dilapidated. Eventually we made it to the Egge Lake campsites, the North site already had a large group of 10-15 college students so we moved on to the South Egge Lake campsite where there were only 7 people who had set up camp, but they were all very nice and welcoming, and helped us find some space for our two tents. We met Michelle, a woman who owns her own business, Backpack the Trails, where she guides folks on backpacking trips in various locations including the SHT, and we also met her 78 year old friend Mary, who I was pleased to see knitting socks when we arrived at camp, and who also had some great advice on making homemade backpacking food. The South Egge Lake site had a Bear Cable set up for hanging food – something I hadn’t seen on any other campsites during all my times on the trail – it was super handy and nice to not have to go searching for a good bear hang branch.

This weekend was forecast to have clear views of the northern lights, and so after some hangout time around the fire, Rob set up his camera at a clear spot looking north on the lake. He got some great photos, and you should definitely go check them out. Be sure to watch the time lapse!

Northern Lights view from South Egge Lake campsite. Photo by Rob Engberg.

Wildlife seen:
– Red squirrel by camp and various places along the trail.
– Loon @ Lily’s Island

Sunday, September 1st
On Sunday, we were up earlier and managed a 9:30 am departure. I forgot to take photos of the camp all set up with everyone’s tents, but I took a photo of each of the tent pads before we continued on the trail. I think the guidebook said 4 tent pads were available, but we managed 6 tents with everyone in the group, and though Todd and Rob were on a bit of a slope, and I was nearly blocking the entrance to camp, I think everyone felt okay with how it turned out. Though, with the busy sites, we thought we should maybe try to get to our next site, Section 13 a bit earlier, as it’s known for being a nice site high up on the cliffs, and popular.

On our way we passed a sign for an old bear den, but we could see no signs of the bear den, and it wasn’t mentioned in the guidebook from what I could tell. Most of the hike that day was relatively flat, through very green forests showing hints of Autumn. But we also passed over a boardwalk in a bog area with a beaver dam that was pretty neat.

Lunch was at Leskinen Camp, a very large group site, right off of the trail. Keeping with the busy trail theme of the weekend, there was a large group of college students at this site as well. I attempted the first use of my Bandito, and although I was hopeful that a natural, deet-free mosquito repellent would actually maybe work, the Bandito was no match for our state bird of Minnesota. To be honest, the bugs weren’t really that bad this weekend, but there were a few of them. And even while holding the Bandito (with a new battery and fresh scent pack) right up close to the buggers, they continued to try and penetrate my clothing and make a meal out of me.

Continuing on, we eventually came to this huge glacial erratic!

Todd in front of the glacial erratic, for scale.

And since we’re on the subject of rocks, and we had a geologist in our group, I learned about BIFs (Banded Iron Formations) when we came across one on the trail.

BIF (Banded Iron Formation)

We were all anticipating (dreading?) the steep, rocky hike up to Section 13. And it was steep and rocky. We debated getting water from a small, trickle of a creek 0.5 mile north of the campsite, but ultimately decided we would hike (what the guidebook said was) 0.5 miles south of the campsite for water after dropping our gear and setting up our tents, to avoid carrying more weight on the climb up. We arrived at the site, surprised to find that we were the first ones there at around 4pm, so we swiftly set up our tents to claim our spots, and even made a bit of use of the hammocks we dragged with us.

Rob and I eventually went on a water quest, and stumbled upon some great overlooks and an “unofficial” Section 13 campsite shortly after heading South from the the official campsite. However, we did find that the 0.5 mile water source was not really a thing. We walked about 0.9 mi to get to a water source that wasn’t even really that great, but it did the job. To our future selves and anyone hiking to Section 13 — get water when you can if you’re debating it like we did! The 0.5 mi water source on either side of the site is not reliable.

Overlook South of Section 13 Camp.

After getting back from our water errand, we came back to find our camp full, and the unofficial camp occupied by several campers as well. We were all relieved that we made it early enough to nab some spots. Our site was shared with 3 thru-hikers, all hiking their own hike, and another local backpacker from Duluth just out on the trail for a while. The conversations around the fire were somewhat entertaining, as the local backpacker told us about his snake nightmares and repeatedly asked how much money people paid for shuttles on the SHT, as he plotted his own business ventures into the field, while at the same time planning his defense against his would be competitors that are already well established in the North Shore shuttle business.

Around 9pm, our entire group from official camp walked down the trail to the overlook just South of us to try and see the northern lights. The stars were amazing directly above us, but some large clouds were rolling in over the horizon, preventing us from seeing a good glow of the Aurora, and they eventually affected our view of the stars as well. Our camp buddies enjoyed and were impressed by Rob’s knowledge of all things night sky related during the hour or so that we stayed out there.

Overnight weather was weird; muggy but cool, so I didn’t want to stay in my sleeping bag, but I didn’t want to be out of it either. There were craaaazy winds in the night, maybe around 3 or 4 am, but it was silent and calm when everyone got up in the morning.

Monday, September 2nd
Everyone was up and out of their tents around 7:30/8am. We weren’t in a rush, because instead of making a reservation with the Superior Hiking Trail Shuttle, which runs on a specific schedule, we made one with Cadillac Cab out of Silver Bay, which allowed us to be more flexible with our leaving time.

Group selfie from the Section 13 cliffs just before finishing our hike.

We ended the trip with a food, beer, and pie at the Rustic Inn, and then made our way back to the cities! I’m super pleased with this trip! It wasn’t as rigorous as usual, and didn’t have nearly as many overlooks and views of Lake Superior as many of my previous trips, but it had its own beauty and it was nice to have some relatively flat hiking for once 🙂

Wildlife seen:
– 2 Grouse, one on the trail (see video)

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