It was about 45ºF on Sunday, with the foreseeable future being rainy and near freezing, so I decided to make the most of it. I loaded Pup in the car and we took scenic Skyline Pkwy all the way to the Magney-Snively trailhead.
The temperature was a little chilly, but good for a vigorous hike and the clouds for the night’s rain were just starting to roll in, threatening to blot out the setting sun. We started our hike at about 3:30-ish. If you’re unfamiliar with latitude 46.8ºN, you should know that the sun sets around 4:30pm in November. That comes into play later.
November is pretty wet and gross around here so the trail was muddy in some places, but for the most part it was just right – not too dry, hard and dusty, and just soft enough to give a little cushion to your steps without being downright squishy. Even the fungi seemed to be pretty happy with the level of moisture in the soil, trees and air.
Hiking in the summer or early fall when there are still plenty of leaves on the trees is always stunning, beautiful, and all other synonyms for gorgeous, but there is something you don’t see when the foliage is dense. Without the maple, birch and aspen leaves to block the view, the magnificent St. Louis River and Superior Municipal Forest are visible through the bare tree trunks. With the sunset giving everything a pinky-orange glow, it was a sight to behold. By the time I reached any overlooks, though, the clouds had rolled in and turned the sky gray, and the forest sinister. I felt a little like Gretel finding her way through an enchanted forest.
Rye was a bit nervous on this hike and kept looking behind us, then running up ahead of me, looking this way and that, very alert. It had become a bit eerie and we could hear the gunshots of hunters far off in the distance. We were still within the city limits so I was confident we’d be safe from stray bullets, but still I talked to my dog a bit more than usual, and in a slightly louder voice than normal, just in case.
After about a mile and a half we reached Bardon’s Peak. Even with menacing clouds above (and perhaps because of them) it was a great view.
I wanted to go on but I knew it would be past dark already by the time we got back to the car so we turned around. With Rye’s enthusiasm for getting home and my desire to not get stuck in the woods at night (wolves and bears are not unheard of here, even in city limits), I neglected my cardinal hiking rule: Take Deliberate Steps. I rolled both my ankles simultaneously and had to take a little break.Thank God I had found a walking stick along the way or I’d have rolled down the hill.
Darkness crept in and the signature blue blazes of the Superior Hiking Trail were beginning to blend in with the tree trunks they were painted on. I was glad for my pup’s nose, sniffing out the way back to the car. That nose of his is incredible! We made it back at 5pm, a little sore, a little cold, but feeling great.