Distance: 235 miles (378 km)
Time: 8.5 days (Oct.23-31)
Start: Fox Farm Road
Finish: Otter Lake Road
Daily Average: 27.6 miles (44.5 km)
- Sunrises & sunsets: One of the advantages of hiking the SHT in late October was that most of the leaves had already fallen. As a result, I was often afforded sublime early morning and late afternoon vistas through the trees overlooking Lake Superior.
- Waterfalls: Despite relatively low water levels after a dry summer, the multitude of waterfalls along the SHT were a scenic highlight. Standouts included Gooseberry, Split Rock, Caribou and my favourite, Cascade Falls, which was actually just one of a series of impressive falls along the Cascade River.
- Wildlife: Moose, eagles, grouse and deer. Although I heard them at night and spotted a considerable amount of scat, I was not fortunate enough to see any wolves. The most memorable encounter was a nocturnal visit of the bull moose-kind not more than 30 yards away from my campsite.
- Regular trailheads (generally every 6-12 miles) means that quite a few roads need to be crossed during the SHT. This is a real boon for day hikers as the trail can be easily accessed. For thru-hikers, it means that you never quite have that ‘”out in the wilderness” feel that you enjoy on many other long distance trails in the United States.
- Beaver: The prevalence of beaver dams throughout much of the hike, means that most of the water along the SHT needs to be treated.
- Routing: Despite its name, the SHT spends very little time by the lake itself. Indeed, there is just one short stretch north of Grand Marais where the trail is actually routed along the lake shore.
Notes & Musings:
- Flip Flop: The northern terminus of the SHT is on Otter Lake Rd. According to locals there is very little in the way of traffic in this area. Finishing at this point potentially translated to an additional 16 miles of road walking just to get back to Hwy 61, where it may or may not have been possible to hitch a ride south along the lake. In lieu of this fact, I decided to accept a ride from trail angels Mike and Mickey from Grand Marais to the Otter Lake Rd trailhead. From the northern terminus, I subsequently walked the final section southbound back to Grand Marais. In hiking parlance this is known as a “flip flop”, not ideal, but in this particular case the most practical option available to me at the time.
- Minnesotan Hospitality: As a result of the flip flop, I ran into a very cool group of four people out for a day hike (Steve, Jenny, Stefan and Mary). After chatting for a short time, they were kind enough to invite me to their lakeside “cabin” for what promised to be a huge meal, washed down with multiple microbrews. After about three milliseconds of contemplation I decided to accept their offer, on the proviso that I needed to finish a couple more sections (worked out to about 13 miles) before coming to dinner. The next 3.5 hours I hiked like the wind (it never ceases to amaze me what a motivating factors food and beer can be) and arrived at my destination just before 7 pm. It turned out the “cabin” was something akin to the Corleone residence on Lake Tahoe in “The Godfather 2”. Definitely a step up from my poncho tarp! A great night was had by one and all, and the following day the guys even joined me for part of the final section back to Grand Marais.