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Superior Trail Day 1 – Chilly! | Average Hiker

Average Hiker and Harriet Quarrels on the Superior Trail.

September 27, 2022
Miles: 9.6

Yesterday was spent prowling the town of Grand Marais, tying up a few last-minute items, and tasting all the delicacies the town had to offer. This morning included a stop at the local diner, followed by a quick detour by “World’s Best Doughnuts,” which was good but doesn’t hold a candle to “RISE” doughnuts in Wilton, CT.

Harriet Quarrels finally arrived to pick me up around 9:30 with another hiker in tow – a retired attorney from Arkansas named David. David was out for a week-long section starting at the northern terminus of the Superior Trail.

Harriet offered an entertaining dialogue as we made our way up to the trail’s northern terminus. She had scripted a well-rehearsed and entertaining speech, and I sat back to listen as we made our way to the trail. I don’t do well in the back of any vehicle, but a large cargo van on dirt roads is probably one of the worst vehicles for car sickness, so I laid my head back, shut my eyes, and partially listened as I concentrated on not getting sick.

We went past Otter Lake Road Trailhead (TH), where Harriet dropped us off so we could hike the mile up the trail to the actual terminus. On the way, I passed Liz from Treeline Review and recognized her from her website. She was pretty excited about the recognition and ran back to catch me so we could take a selfie. Treeline is a pretty new business for her. She was planning to average 20+ miles out of the gate, so I knew I would not see her again.

Arriving at the terminus, I met another hiker headed south also. His name was Mike, and he had been hiking south for about two weeks. I would see him a couple more times along the trail. His mother and brother had hiked in with him, and I could tell they were proud of him as they commented on this hiking. It is always nice when our families are excited about our crazy hobbies.

Mike’s backpack was resting against the tree under the terminus sign, and I looked up on a rock to see him shooting pictures with a real DSLR camera. I joined him and pulled out my camera phone, feeling a little “picture phony.” We took obligatory pictures of each other and admired the views for a few minutes.

The dense forest stretched as far as I could see, broken up only by a silver sliver of water in the distance. As I looked around, I noticed that although the woods were especially dense, they were not dark and gloomy as anticipated. Instead, they were shades of greens and browns interspersed with constantly moving shadows and brilliant beams of sunlight. The forest was beautiful and welcoming. I smiled as I picked up my pace and settled into a rhythm.

Average Hiker at the northern terminus of the Superior Trail.
View from the northern terminus of the Superior Trail.

Passing Otter Lake Trailhead, I ran into Mike’s family again. They were excited to have seen a large Bear print in the mud up ahead and told me exactly where to find it. Try as I might, I could not find it, but I did locate some large Moose scat and prints.

The hiking was moderate and easy, and before long, I caught up with another hiker (Charlotte) that said she was hiking down to the “traditional southern terminus” or Martin Trailhead. This is where you can get off the trail if you don’t want to hike through Duluth. I had contemplated doing this, but the Duluth section is beautiful, and I recommend hiking all the way to the southern terminus if you have the time.

Charlotte ended up commenting on the Superior Trail FB page, saying she had left the trail due to the cold a few days after starting her hike. It did end up being a fairly cold hike with some big dips in the temperatures and even some snow.

Since we had started hiking late, I stopped at Jackson Creek campsite. I paused at the turnoff, listening to the voices of other hikers at the site, and gazed down the trail through the thick woods. I was going to continue, but someone saw me and shouted, “hi.” Not wanting to appear rude, I walked up to the group sitting around the fire ring and said hello.

The hikers consisted of Mike, who I had met earlier, three girls out on their first backpacking trip, and two men that said they were going to the next campsite. The last comment made up my mind to stay at this site.

There were not many good camping spots, so I set up in the only clear one with no roots right next to the campfire sitting area. Charlotte arrived a little later and set up near me, between a large mass of roots. It really was the only flat spot left, but she was small, so she fit. David arrived about an hour after me but did not see any decent spots, so he moved on to the next campsite.

I chatted with the other hikers while cooking dinner but immediately climbed into my tent to burrow down under my quilt. It was getting cold fast, and I knew I would probably not get much sleep located this close to the fire. Before going into the tent, I asked the others if they could keep the fire low since it was windy, and I did not want a stray ember burning a hole in my tent. They all said sure, but I still laid in my tent for a couple of hours, listening to the crackle and pop of a potential $500 going down the drain.

It was probably 2 – 3 hours before the conversation ended, and the fire burnt down. That night reinforced some of the reasons I prefer not to stay in designated campsites.

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