Hiking Club Trail #1
Date: September 3, 2017
Location: Grand Portage, MN
Length: 1 Mile (Hiking Club Trail) + 3 Extra miles on the Middle Falls Trail
Difficulty: Easy with accessible boardwalks and paved paths - Middle Falls Trail: Very Rugged
Cumulative Hiking Club Miles: 1 of 197
So technically I hiked this park before I joined the MN Hiking Club but, I did hike the trail - almost everyone who visits this park has (I was lucky enough to accidentally catch the password sign in a photograph). It follows paved paths and boardwalks to the main attraction of the Park, High Falls - the largest waterfall (at 120') located partially in Minnesota (the other half is in Canada - this park is way up there people).
So this trip kinda happened on a whim.
My friend and I (and Penny the dog) left that morning from my home just North of the Twin Cities on a quest to head up to the North Shore and do some hiking around Tettegouche - with no concrete plans in place. On the way up we decide to stop at Betty's Pies for breakfast (because who doesn't eat pie for breakfast when they can), made a pit stop in Silver Bay to see the Black Onyx Beach on the shore of Lake Superior, then up to Tettegouche State Park. At this point I had decided that since we were going to be so far North already it would be a crime to not drive a little further up to Grand Marais for Sven and Ole's pizza (it gets mixed reviews but I like it and I have good memories of the place so I eat there when I am in the vicinity) when we were done hiking.
So at 4pm as we are waiting for the pizza I get this great idea... I've never been any farther North than Grand Marais, I wonder how far away Grand Portage is - it's supposed to have a cool waterfall... Consult Google - decide it is a great idea and go!
So now I am eating my chicken wild rice pizza while trying to drive as we head up to Grand Portage all while trying to beat some weather that is supposed to be rolling in. I lived on Lake Superior for many years in college and I am well aware of how fast the weather can turn due to the size of that lake (and come later in this day I should have been a lot smarter about it).
We are up there by 5 - storm isn't supposed to hit until 7 so we are good... We do the hiking club trail see the waterfall, take some pictures, start heading back to the car and see another trail that heads off into the woods - Well, when will we ever be back up here? (we are 5+ hours away from home) We better go check it out.
This is where I learned some valuable lessons about hiking:
1. Always bring a map of the Park
2. Never try to out run the weather especially if you don't have all of your essentials in your pack
3. Always have your essentials in your day pack
4. Alway make sure someone knows where you are and what your plans are
5. Know when to turn around (this is like admitting failure to me - very hard)
The trail to Middle Falls isn't well marked and doesn't seem to be well traveled - it is really rugged, lots of roots, mud, climbing etc.
We walked for awhile - still ahead of the weather - saw a mile marker that said something that seemed easy so we decided to go for it (the mile marker wasn't correct) after going said distance we were no where near anything (come to find out the trail is 3.5 miles one way) it was getting pretty dark under the thick tree canopy so we finally decided to turn back. Then the rain started.
It is now pouring rain this trail was muddy before the rain - it is making an already treacherous trail even harder. My dog is a shelter dog and isn't fond of water so she is also getting anxious and we are now trying to move as fast as we can to get out of the woods before this gets any worse... cue the lightning...
Now soaking wet and cold - no one has rain gear or extra clothes in their pack or a headlamp or flashlight and it is dark. I fall - on a pretty sketchy section of trail - hurt my shoulder but we need to keep moving, so no time to think about that yet. 2 more miles in that weather - I was starting to think they would have to send a search party for us which would span 2 countries since we are basically on the border...
Finally get back to the car - we are the only ones left in the park and we have no towels. Onto the 5.5 hour drive home...
Looking back now it is a great story but to be honest that was the most scared I have ever been out in the wilderness and it was because I knew I was not prepared.
Someday I WILL get back up there and conquer the trail that almost beat me!!! (Hopefully in better weather!)