Hiking Dude Blog
2021 - Jul Jun Mar Jan
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After we completed our Shore-2-Summit Loop, we took a day to give the Superior Hiking Trail a little TLC.
Last year, we participated in the Blue Blaze Blitz to repaint all the blue blazes along the entire 310 mile trail. This summer, the SHT Association asked me if I'd be able to touch up a section that was in need, so I said, 'Ya, sure, you betcha!'
I picked up a bag full of supplies from the front porch of my SHTA contact in Duluth which included a scraper, paint, brush, stencil, clean-up rags, and a map of the area to blaze. This time, we were assigned a 3.5 mile section just north of Duluth city limits. We would hike 7 miles since we would need to blaze in both directions.
We were blessed with the third practically perfect day in a row to be out hiking. Great temperature, no bugs, no humidity, no weather, and trees in their colorful progression towards winter.
As you can see, the trail here is wide open and obvious. That's because this section runs on the C.J. Ramstad/North Shore Snowmobile Trail which is flat, wide, and brush-free. Blazes are not really needed along here, but many hikers like to see them occasionally just for reassurance.
The vast majority of blazes we made were just touching up existing paint. We counted out 100 paces and would typically find a tree in the area that was easy to see and had an old, faded blaze. On the few occasions where there was no existing blaze, a scraper was used to remove lichen and dirt for a new blaze about 6 feet up a tree. Occasionally, I broke down brush that was growing in front of a blaze to make it more visible.
When the snowmobile trail portion was complete, we still had 3/4 mile to do where the SHT ran beside a road. The trail was obvious and there were very few trees, so we just touched up a couple carsonite posts we could find and one or two trees.
Unfortunately, the trail was so obvious that we walked right past the unmarked spot where the SHT abruptly leaves the roadside at someone's driveway while an obvious trail continues along the road. I had to come back with mineral spirits and wipe off a blaze I overenthusiastically made past the turn-off.
To help make the turn more obvious, we put a SHT sticker with a blue arrow on the only small tree around and added a sticker to a wooden sign in the driveway. We got the opportunity to see if the stickers helped immediately.
A female thru-hiker came walking down the trail just after I got the extraneous blaze wiped off so I stopped to see what she would do. She walked right past the driveway and kept going on the obvious path just as we had done. So, I asked if she was hiking the SHT and pointed out that it left the roadway here when she said she was. Whew, catastrophe averted, but I expect it is a very commonly missed turn.
Speaking of thru-hikers... Besides the one at the driveway, we ran into three others, plus a solo man on a section hike, and a couple that looked like they were on a long trek (but they did not stop to chat). These two young ladies visited with us for a few minutes which was the highlight of the day! They looked way too fresh and energetic to have been on the trail since the Canadian border nearly 3 weeks ago.
It is amazing to me how many people are hiking the entire SHT this year. These two each received a Hiking Dude sticker for their water bottles.
All the thru-hikers we met were female, and two of them were solo hiking the trail.
You can see a track of our walk HERE - it is the tiny bit down by Duluth.
Please consider volunteering to help maintain the trails in your community. And, tomorrow (Sept. 26) is Natl Public Lands Day and there might be a volunteer event near you to join.
This will be our home for a week, starting tomorrow as we head out on a yo-yo hike of the Kekekabic Trail.
The Kek is about 40 miles long and we hope to hike from one end to the other and back to the start - that's 80 miles total. We're probably a bit late for top fall colors, but we should see some.
The Kek volunteer group has lent me a saw to carry and take care of any brush I have time to tackle. I don't expect much since trail crews were just out last month, but we'll see.
You can follow our progress on this Kek Trek page. (there's nothing there until we start)
I completed a yoyo hike of the Kekekabic Trail in Northern Minnesota with my wife this week. We took 5 days 2 hours and 20 minutes to hike from the western terminus by Ely, MN to the eastern terminus on the Gunflint Trail road and back to the start.
It was a great adventure in the solitude of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, walking rather than the usual paddling.
Read all about the trail on my Kekekabic Trail page, or just read my hike report with pictures.
As a bonus, Kelly got recognized for the first recorded Fastest Known Time for a supported Female on the trail - see her FKT page!
Here's your chance to hike lots of miles, make a good impact, and rock some cool gear.
I spent this crazy 2020 as a Granite Gear Grounds Keeper after learning about it from my good friend Wandering Pine. In this role, I was asked to hike some long trails, pick up trash, and track what I collected. In return, a bunch of awesome companies (logos and links below) provided me with their products to use on trail. What a deal!
Now, you can apply for 2021 and join the ranks of Grounds Keepers! But, don't wait too long because your app needs to be turned in before Nov. 25, and they'll want a short video of you, too.
Well, my planned long trail hiking got squashed by the pandemic, but I did get out on three backpacking trips. I hiked the Solitude Loop around the Cloud Peak Wilderness in Wyoming, YoYoed the Kekekabic Trail in North Minnesota, and hiked Minnesota's Shore-2-Summit loop.
The miles I didn't get to hike out in the wild, I more than made up for on 5 to 6 mile morning hikes on local trails. I've hiked about the same miles as an Ice Age Trail thru-hike (1100 miles).
I also collected (and weighed) 503 pounds of trash this year, mostly on local morning hikes around town - and I still have 6 weeks left! So much, I had to help push the truck full of it away. :-)
I did hunt for trash in the Cloud Peak Wilderness, Kekekabic Trail, and Superior Hiking Trail, but it was wonderful to purposefully search for trash and not find very much out on the wild trails. I mostly picked up lost items and old junk, like a forgotten bear line, some rusted nails, a horse bridle, and tin cans.
Only a few wrappers and real trash, so from my view folks are doing a great job on the trail with packing out trash. In towns and along roads, its a different story. I expect some of it is blown out of garbage trucks every week, but aluminum cans, bottles, convenience store wrappers, and fastfood debris just keeps showing up week after week.
Plastic gloves and face masks were common, but expected. A surprise for me were the dozens of disposable vaping pens I found. Once I decided to start collecting them this is how many I wound up with. Instead of just cigarette butts of paper and filter, we now have metal, plastic, electronics, wiring, and a battery being discarded. I would be very interested in getting these things to include a cash return fee, like cans and bottles in some states.
I tracked my hikes here: Spotwalla and you can zoom in on any of the spots to see more.
So, what did Hiking Dude accomplish in 2020?
- Earned my Hike 100 NCT patch by hiking over 100 miles on the North Country trail. You can Join the 2021 Challenge.
- Hiked over 1,000 miles on my almost-daily morning local hikes. Most days, I hiked 5 to 6 miles.
- Hiked 62 miles, circling the Cloud Peak Wilderness on the Solitude Loop trail in Wyoming.
- Yo-yoed the Kekekabic Trail in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for an 81-mile trip.
- Picked up and disposed of or recycled over 600 pounds of trash and litter on my hikes.
This map shows the hundreds of miles I covered just around town on daily walks.
As a participant in the 2020 Groundskeepers program put on my Granite Gear, I got to try out some new gear while I was out on the trails. There were 30 of us in the program and we removed around 7,000 pounds of trash in total. If you love the outdoors and would like to do a bit more in 2022, keep an eye on TheGroundsKeepers.org for your chance to apply in the fall.
I hope you got out into the wilds during this past year, and are preparing for an adventurous 2021.
PS: I'm working on my 3rd book, but since it isn't finished, I can't really claim it as an accomplishment. :-) I really think it will be a fun, useful read for all my hiking friends and you can be sure I'll be mentioning it more when the publication date gets closer.
The past couple years, I've had a hiking buddy on my big trips but I had no idea he was so popular! I thought he was just another old guy like me that liked to walk.
He didn't talk much but was always prepared for bad weather. Here's some of our favorite hikes from our recent adventures, starting with the one above which is Bernie and Me contemplating life on the Kekekabic Trail.
Summit of Eagle Mountain in Minnesota
On the Pacific Northwest Trail
Climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania
On the France/Spain border in the Pyrenees
I've said it before, and I'll say it again - 'March Snow is about as useful as a screen door on a submarine.'
March Snow covers everything with a beautiful blanket of fresh white, covering the mud, trash, and dog poop that has emerged during a few nice, warm, sunny days. We are immediately transported back a couple months to bundling up for a brisk winter hike, enjoying the snow-covered branches, muffled quiet, fresh animal tracks, and easy-to-find deer bedded down under bare trees. We envision more days of skiing, icefishing, and snowshoeing.
But, we all know the truth about March Snow - it is a mirage, an illusion, a trick of nature. It will be gone by the weekend, leaving behind squishy trails and mud puddles, once again exposing the decay and debris of dying winter, and raising our naive hopes for the early arrival of true Spring. And, then, it will happen again, and again, and yet again.
We know better. We've seen it before, many times. Even though we try to forget it, we have recollection of the 26 inches of snow we received in April, only 3 short years ago. We know that, even though southern friends may share pictures of flowers and green forests, we still must wait. As this current blanket of snow retreats, we all know there will be more.
So, even though March Snow is as useful as a glass hammer, wooden frying pan, or chocolate teapot, and we know it will disappear quickly without providing days of winter fun like its November cousin, we still anticipate its forecast. Maybe this snow will be The Big One that we remember for years, or maybe this snow will miss us completely and the crocuses will be blooming soon.
Whatever comes, we can find either enjoyment or misery in the short disruption it brings to the onward push towards summer - just keep your boots and shovel handy for a few more weeks.
With most snow from Monday's storm off the trail, I got another morning hike in while testing out my cool KÜHL pants and pull-over. I've had the pull-over for a year and KÜHL sent me a pair of Renegade Cargo zip-off pants to destroy and review. For details of how they're holding up for the first two months, see my KÜHL pants review page. In a nutshell, they're sturdy, comfortable, and working as advertised. I've put on 150 miles and they're doing great.
From a March blizzard to extreme wildfire danger in 5 days - things change fast in March in Minnesota! If you're going for an early spring, or late winter, outing this weekend, please be extra vigilant with any campfire, stove, or other flame you use. Sun, wind, low humidity, and dead vegetation from winter create a prime mix for fire out there. The trails may be muddy, but the woods are dry.
Saturday is officially the first day of Spring, or the Vernal Equinox, which means the good ol' Sun is back in our court for the next six months - thanks for keeping it moving, Australia! The farther from the equator you are the bigger impact this whole summer/winter thing has on your world. When I hiked the Florida Trail in January, daylight was 90 minutes longer there than in Minnesota. But, by the end of June, Minnesota will have 2 hours more daylight than Florida!
Right now, all around the world, we're all just about even with 12 hours of daylight - so enjoy your day, wherever you are.
I enjoy making my own backpacking gear. I've sewn a couple packs, a shelter, a hat, and a couple quilts. I've also made a food cozy, water pre-filter, water bottle holders, and many other little things that just make long distance hiking more efficient and light.
My quilt (shown above) has served me well since I made it for my Arizona Trail thru-hike in 2012. I'm usually plenty warm in it, but there have been a few nights over the years when I would have appreciated a bit more loft to keep me warm. Since I'm lazy, I don't want to carry a thicker quilt all the time when it's not needed.
Thanks to Get Out Gear, I now have a 1 pound down puffy blanket that I can take with me only when needed for just that extra oomph of insulation. It's very similar to a down puffy jacket in weight and material, and I'm looking forward to trying it out in the Wyoming mountains this summer where I expect to have some below freezing nights.
You can check out my Blanket Review for details, or use hikingdude10 code to get one yourself, & save 10%, & get free shipping by clicking this:
I've been offering a survey for local hikers to complete after doing multi-day hikes in Minnesota. Some folks asked about making it available for other long trails, so . . . .
The Hiker Survey is available! I'll gather stats for each trail toward the end of the year to share with you.
(Click for larger image)
I finished my new pack just in time for my first hiking adventure of the year which starts tomorrow! I'll be wandering around the mountains of Wyoming for a couple weeks, doing some hiking and fishing. It certainly isn't like my usual thru-hike or loop with an easy to describe plan, but I'll try...
I'll first drive to the Bighorn Mountains just west of Buffalo, WY with my brother. It should take about 11 hours, but we gain one to timezone change, so we might have time to hike in in the evening. Otherwise, we'll camp with the rifraf and hike in to Sherd Lake bright and early.
The plan is to fish this handful of lakes around 9,000 feet on Thursday and Friday, then hike out on Saturday. We'll only hike a few miles each day and get used to the elevation.
Here's the area map. We'll be on trail #046, and maybe #091.
(Click for larger image)
Saturday requires a long drive to Pinedale, WY west of the Wind River Range. After a night in a hotel, we'll ride into the mountains on horses with a half dozen other guys to the Cook Lakes area. It's around 13 miles on horse, so I'm hoping that isn't worse than hiking in. After fishing the area on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the outfitter will return and take everyone back out on horses - except me.
In stead of riding out, I'll head south on the Continental Divide Trail for 40 miles then cut east another 10 miles to Dickinson trailhead. I'm counting on three friends to be waiting for me there on Saturday with my food for the next week. On Sunday, we'll hike back into the mountains I just came out of for 5 days of exploring, with some long days and high passes to get over. We'll exit out the Big Sandy trailhead on Friday to a waiting shuttle for a ride around the south end of the mountain range to Lander. Then, back up to Dickinson to pick up the vehicle left there.
All in all, I should get in about 120 miles of hiking, plus 13 miles of horseback, all of it above 9,000 feet and up to 12,000 feet on a couple passes. My fingers are crossed that all the connections work out, the weather remains calm, and no fires start - all of those could mess it up.
Here's my wandering route through the Wind River Range - Click Here
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Feb 13, 2020 - Jason Berklund
Getting to the northern terminus is expensive (in my mind). If you can schedule correctly, Arrowhead Transit is cheapest to Grand Marais, but then Harriet Quarles is the only shuttle I know of. You might find a good ol' boy in Grand Marais willing to drive you the 35 miles to the end for a few $$$.
It's a 3 hour drive from Duluth - that's 6 hours and 300 miles round-trip. Maybe your friend would like to drive up the north shore for a day.
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