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Superior Trail Day 4 – Sandhill Crane | Average Hiker

South Bully Pond on the Superior Trail

September 30, 2022

I didn’t rush out today since I only had 13-14 miles to the next campsite. Other than being woken up briefly by something large thrashing around in the trees above me on the hill, I had slept soundly. The soft gurgling creek was like white noise and drowned out almost all of the other night’s sounds – howls, yips, screeches, chirps, footsteps, etc.

The trail followed Devil Track river before cutting over to the Pincushion Mountain Overlook, accessed by a Spur Trail. It was early, and I was clearly a little sleepy because I missed it and took another spur trail that took me to a large unimpressive rock, which I climbed to see – nothing.

A little voice whispered I had made a mistake, but I was too overwhelmed by the “road-like” trail to pay attention to it. It was not until I reached the parking area at the bottom of Pincushion, and took out my map to show some day hikers how to get to the overlook that I realized I was a bonehead. I had been looking forward to the Pincushion Overlook but not enough to backtrack a couple of miles up the mountain to see it. The thru-hiker in me stated, “No, we go forward unless there is food involved!”

Grand Marais, MN from Pincushion Mountain Parking lot.
Trail past Pincushion Mountain

The parking lot was full of people, and I could see a nice pit toilet through the masses. I headed straight for it and got in line to wait. A couple from Minnesota heard my accent when I asked someone a question and asked if I had heard about Hurricane Ian. I said no, and they filled me in while I waited my turn.

Views of Grand Marais from the parking lot were stellar, and I watched a large ship sail into the small protected Bay. Other than massive barge ships, I think this was the only time I saw boats on the water. Lake Superior is like a small ocean. The water is rough and unforgiving. I asked locals if they boated much, and almost everyone said no. The lake was beautiful from a distance, but it was not very inviting as you got closer to the cold, rough waves.

I hiked down from Pincushion, crossed over Route, and combing out of a steep little climb up from the road, I stopped for a snack. The views were nice from the ridge above the lake, and I settled onto a warm sunny rock to enjoy my Hostess Fruit Pie, chips, and beef jerky. My diet has definitely deteriorated this trip because I want easy food to resupply and carry. I try to make up for it in town with lots of salads and veggies, but there were not many town stops this trip. In my defense, the chips were usually dried fruit or vegetable chips, and I also ate a lot of nuts and dried fruit.

I continued climbing higher and was rewarded with more nice views before dropping down and heading for my South Bully Creek Campsite, my home for the night.

I came to North Bully Creek Pond Campsite first, but campsites were limited, and there was a large bag of “stuff” that looked like it had been there for a while. This, coupled with the dark, gloomy site, helped me make a quick decision. I don’t stay where gear or anything larger than a napkin has been left, especially if it has a permanent look. This often means someone has been spending time there regularly, which is usually not a good sign.

I moved on down past Bally Creek Pond to South Bally Creek Campsite. The campsite was much further off the trail but was larger and more open and light. It definitely felt more inviting and less creepy. I quickly found a nice spot and then walked down to the pond.

The light and pond created some of my favorite photos of the trip. With a clear sky and still water, I had nice reflections, and as the sun dropped below the trees and clouds moved in, everything had a golden glow. It really was lovely.

As I sat perched on a rock at the edge of the water, a large Sandhill Crane coasted in and settled about 40 yards from me in the edge of the water. I watched it as it began to feed, moving quietly on long spindly legs. I had thought Sandhill Cranes only lived down south, and watching him as I was reminded of home was a nice ending to the day.

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