Hike Date: June 25-26, 2016
Trail: Superior Hiking Trail
Trip Plan: Hike long on Sunday with my friend Dave Schuneman
Day 1 – Two hours out north, two back from Lismore Road Trailhead
Day 2 – Hike from Normanna Road north to ??
- Total Miles: 45.8
- Total Time: 13:56
- Time at Camp: 0
Day 1 – Saturday, June 25, 2016
Saturday’s hike was a spur of the moment foray into the woods. The weather for the weekend, again, was looking really stormy and I decided since I had this big hike planned with my friend Dave Schuneman on Sunday, it would be the best decision to sit tight on Friday night and sleep in my own bed. Saturday came around, I was twiddling my thumbs and decided to take Diamond out to the Lismore Road Trailhead with the intention of doing two hours out and back northbound. This section is particularly crappy, with most of the trail from Lismore to Normanna Road north being on the North Shore State Trail. I was curious how that weedy bog was shaping up into summer, so we hit it.
The forecast was calling for thunderstorms, but it appeared to be holding out and was actually sunny when we started. Sunny and hot. We walked Lismore Road itself until it crossed Jean Duluth Road, and we got onto a rare section of singletrack trail. That was a mere blip, and in the blink of an eye, at the swat of a fly, we were onto the State Trail. I brought just a water bottle with the Sawyer filter screwed on and a few snacks, figuring that we’d be walking the whole time and I wouldn’t burn too much up. Also, I tried the trekking poles for once. I wanted to make sure they’d be a wise thing to carry for the next day.
The bugs were definitely on Diamond, but the thick brush actually provided a little relief from the buzzing insects. The mosquitoes seemed to be the worst. They didn’t seem to be able to penetrate her coat, but they were crawling into her eyes and she looked infested at times! Meanwhile, I was wearing a tshirt and basketball shorts, really regretting my choice of not using bug spray.
It was definitely hot out, and I was worried Diamond would get dehydrated, but we were chuggin’ along and made a stop at the creek near the Lone Creek Campsite. It was still sunny and no indication of storms. We stopped at the creek for a bit and then kept on walking. Not long after, at 2 hours on the dot, we turned around.
We got back to that creek in no time, and I had sweat through my shirt. Diamond had a very long tongue, and the water was surely a nice reprieve. The clouds rolled in not too long after, and with it were the mosquitoes. I don’t know if it was a drop in the pressure with an incoming storm, the lack of sunlight, time of day or what, but the mosquitoes started bugging me BAD. I couldn’t use the trekking poles because I needed a spare hand to swat my triceps. Why they were going for the triceps, I do not know!
I was praying for rain at this point. Please rain out the bugs, I was shouting to the sky! Diamond was being pestered, but I didn’t care about her anymore, I was miserable! I’d slap my calf every now and again and it looked like I’d cut my hand with all the squished mosquitoes only briefly full of my precious blood. I started running. It was really terrible, and I decided I was wearing long sleeves and long pants the next day for sure.
We got back to Lismore Road with lightening on the horizon. The sky turned really dark and we could hear the thunder rumbling in towards us. We kept running once we got to Lismore so we wouldn’t get caught in a lightening storm, and got back to the car with time to spare on the two hours back.
On the ride home, I picked two ticks off of my bumpy leg. Meanwhile, I didn’t even have to look at Diamond to get the ticks. I’d simply lay my hand on her, anywhere was fine, and touch a tick. I pulled almost 10 off of her before the car ride was over, and then at least 20 more from the two of us once we got home and showered. That is the NSST for ‘ya! A tick infested, swampy mess. I prefer single track…
Day 2 – Sunday, June 26, 2016
Dave and I initially decided that we’d hit the trail at 4:30am. By 9pm on Saturday, we both decided that 6am was more reasonable. I left at 6 to pick him up, running late. I brought the trekking poles again, as well as long sleeves, long pants, and bug spray. I almost brought the headnet as well, but decided that was overkill. My legs were feeling great after a nice sleep in my own bed, and I was ready to rock.
Dave hopped in the car and I had to chuckle at his running shorts given my extreme bug experience the previous day. I warned him, but also said I had bug spray. We got out to the trailhead at Normanna Road at about 6:30am or so and set right off.
Dave was hiking strong right out of the gate, and it was pretty quick into some really tall and really wet weeds overgrowing the trail. We hiked mile after mile of these soaking plants. I was happy to have long pants on, and Diamond was nice and cool under the 4-foot canopy.
We hit Sucker River in no time at all and stopped for a snack and refill. I tried my water bottle with Sawyer screwed on top again, and coaxed Diamond into the river to drink. We set off and were really trucking. We ran the easier sections and hiked any uphills or really technical parts. The trekking poles were working nicely, and Diamond and I were pretty unfazed by the 12-miler the day before. It was nice to have someone else to hike with just for the conversation. Hiking alone doesn’t mean you don’t have conversations, but they’re much more one-sided. Diamond doesn’t care much for discussion, neither do trees. Conversations with myself are too predicable. Chatting away with Dave made the time just fly by.
Next thing we know, we’re at Fox Farm Road for a quick stop. Another section down and we stopped again at Rossini Road. I sat down to eat a few snacks, but we didn’t dwell on the beautiful day and were never stopped for very long. We stopped again at a creek to refill, and Dave was using a similar method to filter water, but he had a Life Straw that he simply submerged into the big Gatorade bottle. Dave was getting chewed up big time every time we stopped, but I knew the feeling! My bites were still itching, and I was just happy that I wasn’t adding more to my inflamed skin.
Time started slowing down a bit on the way to the Lake County Demonstration Forest. We were running pretty good, as this section was really nice, flat and non-technical, and in a picturesque forest. I started feeling a little rundown at this point, perhaps 6 hours and 20 miles on the day. Passing the spur trail at the Lake County Demonstration Forest parking lot, we saw an older guy running his dog who told us it was pure mud and wet up ahead. Up to this point, the trail was in great shape. Overgrown in many places, but not too muddy given the storms not 18 hours before. But sure enough, the trail started getting muddy. Dave called his wife Sonja and actually got phone reception. He asked her to pick us up at the Reeves Road/County Road 2 trailhead just north of Two Harbors. That would put us over 30 miles for the day easy. The next trailhead past that would have meant nearly 40, but we were both pretty beat and ready to be done on a Sunday afternoon.
The mud was getting to us, and things were sloppy in more ways than that. Dave tripped a few times, I was becoming entangled in Diamond and getting tired of carrying the dumb sticks. I started thinking of food and drinks. Mostly drinks. Luckily, the day was windy enough where the heat wasn’t a major factor in the meat of the day. The forecast was for 80s, however, and truth be told, it was uncomfortable. Given the end of June, it could be much, much worse. Diamond was doing good on the heat and still pulling on the waist leash.
That last section, 11 hard miles, took forever. We were both getting tired, but still cruising along pretty well. For better or worse, we weren’t running much in the muddy conditions. It was kind of funny how the last little section of trail just happened to be by far the muddiest! It was a sight for sore eyes to get to Reeves Road, and we knew it was a small jaunt to the car. We saw Sonja in the distance, and that was even better! It would have been a bummer to get done with a grueling hike just to sit and wait and swat mosquitoes! The muddy dog Diamond lumbered in the car, spreading mud and dirt everywhere. I precariously sat on the seat and couldn’t help but pick several ticks out of Diamond’s crusty fur. She was out, my eyes felt heavy as well, but it was fun to be in the car after an awesome trip.
I picked another 20 ticks off of Diamond and even I had a tick or two in my long sleeves. I submitted to my craving of root beer, white Gatorade, and stopped to get fruit brats from the meat market on the way back. Those were really good, and it was great to get a long weekend of hiking in the books but still able to sleep at home and get some other life things done with. However, only perfect practice makes perfect! If you want to be good at backpacking, you have to backpack.