Lucy, a yellow Lab, and I spent four hours hiking along the Superior Hiking Trail near Silver Bay on Sunday. I had some time on my hands and just wanted to get in the woods. We drove to Tettegouche State Park and started hiking west from the trail center, toward Mount Trudee and Palisade Creek.
As the photo above indicates, it was not a day for expansive overlooks and green woodland panoramas. More than an inch of rain had fallen overnight, I learned from the National Weather Service, and an east wind blowing off Lake Superior created a dense fog up in the hinterland. I had hiked this segment of trail several times before, so I knew what was out there beyond Mount Trudee. But I had to imagine it on Sunday. In clear weather, the rocky outcrop offers views of rolling woods several miles inland.
In addition to the fog, the trees along my way were still wet with the overnight rain. When the wind would blow, that moisture would fall from the trees onto Lucy and me. The temperature was about 60, though, so the day didn’t seem cold.
The trail was damp to wet to running rivulets to standing puddles shoe-top deep. At first, I tried to keep my shoes somewhat dry, but I finally gave up on that and committed to being wet.
I met one backpacker along the trail who was hiking from Minnesota Highway 1 to Silver Bay and planned to camp one night along the way. We commented on the dampness.
“This wasn’t what I was hoping for,” he said. “Oh, well. I’ll just have to come up again sometime.”
Here’s what my shoes looked like after three hours on the trail:
Despite the general dreariness of the day, it was still good to be moving through the woods. I tried to figure out what it is that makes moving through the woods on a trail so good. Wet or not, the woods are easy on the eyes. Big white pines. Cool looking roots, Columbine blooming. Scrub oak leaves. Thimbleberry in flower. Gnarly tree trunks. Little pools fringed with bracken fern. All of these come in varying shades of green, and on a drippy day, you can almost imagine being in a temperate rain forest.
When I’m on the Superior Hiking Trail, I often think about Tom Peterson, who laid out the route of much of the trail in the mid-1980s. He did a wonderful job, weaving us through stands of big cedars, along the edges of rocky outcrops, along tiny creeks. That must have been something, figuring out where to put the trail through that kind of country. I always appreciate his work.
Finally, there is simply the joy of the walking itself, just moving along this 18-inch path through so much green at three miles per hour. The moving itself is good, choosing your footfalls, feeling your muscles working, growing gradually more weary as the natural scenery flows past. You ascend. You lose elevation. You climb boulder steps. You stride out when the way is flat and easy.
While your feet remain on the path, your mind is free to wander wherever it will, and it usually does. It must be good for thinking, this movement, with its increased blood circulation and extra oxygen flowing through the capillaries of your cranium. Ideas come. Plans form. Possibilities emerge. Or maybe it is simply the absence of all the niggling little thoughts that we’re compelled to deal with back in the unreal world.
Whatever, it’s pretty pleasant out there, larking along with an old yellow dog.