Michael and I are hiking the Superior Hiking Trail, a 306-mile trail along Lake Superior in Minnesota.
Superior Hiking Trail Day 15
Two Harbors to Fox Farm Pond – 25.6 mi – 10 hours, 10 minutes
Michael and I are on the final stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail! Woohoo!
Our goal is to stay at the last Superior Hiking Trail campsite – there are no SHT campsites through the Duluth area – tomorrow night, which means we need to cover 42.5 miles over the next two days. Because of where the campsites are placed – there is no dispersed camping – we planned to do 25.6 miles today and 16.9 miles tomorrow.
25.6 miles was an aggressive goal, but it was either that or only 18.2 miles. The weather looked perfect and the terrain seemed to be pretty flat, so we believed we could do it. Plus, tomorrow’s forecast is calling for rain, so we saved the shorter miles for the icky weather day.
Neither of us wanted to repeat the 6.3-mile road walk from yesterday, so we called Jeff from Cadillac Cabs last night to see if he could give us a ride to the trailhead. He said he could pick us up at 9:30 am. It was a little bit later than we wanted to start, especially since we had big miles planned, but it still worked. As a bonus, we got to sleep in a little bit. Our bodies appreciated the extra rest!
We woke up, showered, packed, ate breakfast in the lobby, and then got picked up by Jeff.
We started from the Reeves Road trailhead right at 10:00 am.
Most of the day was spent hiking through trees – a typical day on the Superior Hiking Trail. As we figured, the weather was great and the trail was flat. There wasn’t even a lot of rocks or nasty roots! We were able to hike quickly with ease.
The first 22 miles weren’t very scenic. We didn’t get any views from ridges or glimpses of Lake Superior. We did hike by some swamps and this mushroom was really cool.
We stopped at a couple different campsites for breaks – one to use the benches to sit and filter water and another to use the latrine. During both stops we met thru-hikers. The couple at the first stop had a few days left of their adventure and the guy at the second stop was just starting his. We wished them all luck. We have only met a few other thru-hikers, so it was fun to meet and talk to more!
By mid-afternoon we knew we were going to be able to reach our goal campsite for the night, since we were averaging 2.5 miles/hour. To get to Fox Farm Pond by sunset we just had to stay focused and move quickly. It was a race against time!
The last few miles of the trail were rolling hills alternating between thick forests and young, open forests. The sun was starting to set, the temperature was cool, and everything looked so pretty. The scenery was a good distraction. I was starting to get tired.
We got to camp shortly after 8:00 pm and about 15 minutes after sunset. It was getting dark fast!
It was completely dark by the time we set up our tent. Then it was headlamp dinner time – a tortilla wrapped around instant mashed potatoes. It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but it was actually quite satisfying.
And now it’s bedtime. I’m excited that I hit my first 25-mile day on the trail! I can tell that my body is getting stronger. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to do 25 miles as easily 10 days ago. It’s a great feeling!
Superior Hiking Trail Day 16
Fox Farm Pond to Bald Eagle – 16.9 miles – 7 hours, 45 minutes
Michael and I woke up to rain at 4:00 am. We knew it would come, but hoped that it wouldn’t. We fell back asleep until about 7:30 am. Once we decided that the drops falling on the tent were from the trees above us, we started to pack up.
We were happy it wasn’t actively raining, but it stills sucks to pack up a soaking wet tent.
Since we only had 16.9 miles to hike we took our time in the morning. We had one more Mountain House breakfast skillet, so we cooked that up to make breakfast burritos and heated up water for coffee. It was nice to have a leisurely morning!
We left the campsite at about 9:30 am with our rain pants and jackets on. We figured the trail would be pretty wet and that it would rain most of the day.
First view of the day? This swamp.
An hour into the hike Michael and I had enough of our rain jackets. It was so humid! We ditched them and kept moving.
Sucker River was the first stop of the day. We needed to filter water.
The trail was similar to how it ended last night – rolling hills through thick and young forests.
I was starting to get way too hot and decided to ditch the rain pants. I was drenched in sweat and it felt so freeing to walk in shorts and a t-shirt.
As my dad always says, “it’s not so much the heat, it’s the gosh darn humidity.”
It’s so true!
On top of the 90% humidity there were also tons of mosquitoes. It’s hard to keep the Deet on when you can’t stop sweating!
At about 1:00 pm the sun came out. We were both pretty shocked, but glad that we could lay out the tent and sleeping quilts to dry.
We were so excited to have a dry tent and crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t have to set it up in the rain.
The majority of the last 8 miles were spent on snowmobiles trails. We got our feet soaked by a flooded beaver pond, walked through cobwebs and overgrown grass, and got attacked by mosquitoes. Not the most fun hiking conditions. Fortunately, the trail was mostly flat and went by fast.
We got to our campsite, Bald Eagle, the last southbound campsite on the Superior Hiking Trail, at 5:15 pm. This was the earliest we’ve ever gotten to camp.
Bonus, it wasn’t raining yet!
We got everything set up and started making dinner. Another night of mashed potato burritos. I’m a fan.
We crawled into the tent early and waited for the storm to come.
Michael was watching the radar closely. Reading the warnings – 90 mph winds! Golf ball hail! Mobile homes will be destroyed! – made me very nervous. I distracted myself by reading The Pursuit of Endurance by Jennifer Pharr Davis (highly recommend) and crossed my fingers that hail wouldn’t ruin our tent and the winds wouldn’t knock down a nearby tree.
The first thunderstorm cell went through. There was a lot of rain and lightning, but wasn’t too terrible. The next one went through about 45 minutes later and was much worse. There was blinding lightning, booming thunder, and howling winds, also rain and hail. It was pretty scary laying in the tent. Fortunately, it passed without any damage to us or the tent. Whew.
Quite the experience for our last night in a tent!
Superior Hiking Trail Day 17
Bald Eagle to Haines SHTA Trailhead – 20.8 miles – 10 hours
We woke up shortly after 7:00 am. After the night of storms neither of us slept well. It was hard to get moving, especially when we knew everything was soaked.
Eventually we stirred up enough motivation to get moving. We shook out the tent and let it sit in the sun for a few minutes before folding it up. Since we didn’t have anymore camping we weren’t super concerned about it fully drying.
We hit the trail by 8:45 am. We spent about a mile on the trail and then switched over to our last stretch of snowmobile trails. We were so excited to be done with these.
After 3 miles of snowmobile trails and a short road walk we were at Martin Road.
Most thru-hikers that we’ve met on the trail started/ended here and skipped the Duluth section. Had we known this going into the hike we probably would’ve stopped at Martin Road too, but we committed to hiking the whole thing and both of us are too stubborn to cut it short.
With that said, we made it to the final map!
It was back on a trail for the Superior Hiking Trail. We walked along rolling hills through the trees and the occasional neighborhood. We walked through the Hartley Nature Center, where we could stop to use the bathroom and fill up our water bottles.
It was nice to be on trails again and we got a nice view of Lake Superior.
From here we walked through parts of the University of Minnesota and Duluth and then down to the Rose Garden. It was steep downhills on sidewalks that were a little rough on my feet and shins.
Afterwards we walked right along Lake Superior on the Duluth Lakewalk. It was sunny day and beautiful views, but since it was the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend it was pretty crowded. Everyone was out enjoying their last summer weekend and we were walking by smelling like sweat and garbage. It was uncomfortable, but also very pretty.
Then we decided to go into Fitger’s Brewhouse for a beer and burger break. It was a good idea. If we have to hike through a city we might as well make the most of it!
We finished up the lake walk, which meant we got to start walking on trails again. Unfortunately, the trail on initial ascent up to Enger Park was pretty gross. There was broken glass everywhere, empty bottles, discarded clothes, and an old tent. It wasn’t a nice area to walk through.
Once we were further up and away from that area we took a break.
This was my lowest point of the trail. Michael and I were so disappointed that we spent the last day hiking on snowmobile trails, then on pavement through a city where finding blazes was like a scavenger hunt, and then a sketchy area. Morale was low. I was upset with myself for not loving the experience and for having a bad attitude.
After the break we continued to hike and the trail opened up to a beautiful park, Enger Park. It was exactly what we needed. Finally a beautiful, open space in nature! It even had bathrooms and a water fountain with cold water.
We walked out of the park with refreshed attitudes.
The trail continued to a big climb up Piedmont Knob, where there was a beautiful view of Duluth. I’m so glad we got to end our day on a positive note.
From the viewpoint we headed down to the Haines Trailhead and decided to call it a day.
We got an Uber to the hotel. Then showered, did laundry, ordered Pizza Luce (oh, how I’ve missed Pizza Luce!), and called it a night.
Superior Hiking Trail Day 18
Haines SHTA Trailhead to Grand Portage Trailhead – 20 miles – 8 hours, 40 minutes
The second-to-last day on the trail and neither of us wanted to get out of bed. It didn’t help when we realized a storm would be rolling through mid-morning. Is it not possible to have nice weather two days in a row?!
We got ready and ate breakfast in the hotel lobby. The best part about the no-camping-in-Duluth thing is that we could “slack pack” today, meaning we didn’t have to pack our sleeping quilts, sleeping bags, electronics, etc. We essentially just brought our rain gear, toiletries, food for the day, and water. My pack is already pretty light, but today it probably weighed about 5 pounds. So nice.
We contacted an Uber to pick us up from the hotel and bring us to the trailhead. As we got in the driver ask, “You know it’s supposed to storm soon, right?”
Yes, we knew. We didn’t need the reminder. We also couldn’t wait to start hiking until noon.
We hit the trail at 8:50 am. It was raining within 20 minutes. Luckily the storm broke up a bit and we only got rain for about 40 minutes.
At about noon we were walking through the Spirit Mountain area. We were feeling pretty beat by the humidity and came across the chalet. We joked about getting a beer. Then decided to go in a get one. Might as well make the most of the experience!
It was a nice break.
From there it turned out to be a pretty good day! The scenery was beautiful and the trail was well maintained. There were a lot of up and downs, but it actually felt like a nice challenge after hiking a few flat days. It was so much better than yesterday!
We finished the day at the Grand Portage Trailhead. My phone had very unreliable signal. Fortunately Michael had enough to get an Uber. We crossed our fingers that the Uber would arrive before his phone died, since he only had 5% battery life left. It did!
Then we when back to the hotel and immediately got into our leftover Pizza Luce. So delicious.
Now we’ll rest up and get ready for our last day on the Superior Hiking Trail!
Superior Hiking Trail Day 19
Grand Portage Trailhead to Minnesota/Wisconsin Border – 16.3 mi (including 1.9-mi spur trail) – 6 hours, 30 minutes
Last day on the Superior Hiking Trail! What a crazy feeling.
We wanted to get an earlier start, so that we could finish by early afternoon. I told my parents to meet us at the trailhead for the southern terminus around 2:00 pm. We woke up at 6:30 am, got ready, ate breakfast, and got an Uber to the trailhead.
Michael and I started hiking at 8:15 am. The trail started out with a walk along the St. Louis River.
There were a couple of steep uphills and downhills and before we knew it we were at the Jay Cooke State Park Visitor’s Center. It was cool to see a sign saying that we hiked 298.2 miles and only had 7.8 miles to go!
We made it there in good time, so we took a nice long break ate a lot of snacks.
Side note: The best part about a hike like this is that you can pretty much eat all the snacks you want. The worst part is that you get so sick of eating the same snacks over and over again. Variety is the spice of life!
Afterwards we walked along the swinging bridge and admired the beautiful river.
We continued to hike on various trails through Jay Cooke State Park. The trails were nice and wide; it was refreshing to hike side-by-side and chat through this section.
After a couple more uphills and downhills we were at the final trailhead of the trail. Woohoo! It was just 1.9 miles to the southern terminus of the Superior Hiking Trail.
And then… we were there! We were at the end of the trail!!
We celebrated with a hug and kiss, then took our finisher pictures.
The southern terminus itself is a little disappointing with a trail register and a simple sign on a tree, but… whatcha going to do.
After we took as many pictures as we could we hiked the 1.9 miles back to the trailhead. It was perfect timing, because my parents had just pulled up a few minutes prior.
There were hugs, clean clothes, sandals, and more pictures. Shortly afterwards there were burgers and beers.
I’m so excited to have finished this trail and to have completed this goal! It’s even better that I was able to do it alongside Michael (and that we still get along and love each other).
I’ll do an overall recap post soon!
SUPERIOR HIKING TRAIL MILEAGE TOTALS
Part 5 miles: 97.7 Superior Hiking Trail miles + 1.9 additional miles = 99.6 total miles
Total miles: 304.4 Superior Hiking Trail miles + 16.2 additional miles = 320.6 total miles