A Weekend of Hiking and Snowshoeing

Husband and I have started an annual tradition of heading up the shore for a weekend getaway in the winter. With no holidays (for which we get off of work) to look forward to until the end of May, we decided to make our own. This year we extended the weekend to four days and spent 3 of them hiking and showshoeing some amazing sections of the Superior Hiking Trail.

Day 1 Snowy but warm. We hiked up Britton and Carlton Peaks. Snow shoes would have been the appropriate footwear here but we thought the trail would be packed down enough. Mostly it was, but the day was warm and the snow started being a little loosey-goosey. Husband sank up to his knees countless times but fortunately I was able to stay atop the snow for most of it. 🙂

Britton Peak from the trailhead is a short 1/3 mile, but steep. At one point there were stairs, but they had been packed in with snow so it was more like a slide. We made it to the top, slowly and very carefully. We were rewarded.

Even my dog loves a good scenic vista.
Even my dog loves a good scenic vista. Jutting out from the shoreline in the upper right quadrant is Taconite Harbor, 9 miles away as the crow flies.
A view of Carlton Peak from atop Britton Peak
A view of Carlton Peak from atop Britton Peak

Standing on top of Britton Peak we could see Carlton Peak, 1 mile away given a straight line, and just barely visible on the horizon, Lake Superior about a mile and a half farther. All the falling snow limited visibility, but it was still beautiful. After taking it all in, we headed back down and decided to hike toward Carlton Peak. It looked a lot farther away than it was (about 2 miles on the trail) and we reached the summit in 2 hours.

Day 2 Big, fluffy, light flakes and a little colder than yesterday. We drove a little farther north and hiked the Oberg Mountain loop. This time we used snowshoes since they would have come in quite handy the previous day, but it turns out that this is a more popular part of the trail and was well packed the whole way. We didn’t need the snowshoes but we used them anyway. It was a good workout!

Snow sitting on a tree
Snow sitting on a tree

My father-in-law had given me a set of tiny lenses that attach to my phone so I can take crazy-cool photos. A macro lens is in the set so I tried it out on the fluffy flakes perched on the branches of a pine tree.

The first vista you come to on the Oberg Loop (if you go the way around that we did) is a view of Leveaux Mountain to the southwest. The Superior Hiking Trail takes you to it, and there’s a loop around the top just like with Oberg, but we didn’t get that far. What with all the stopping for photos and the awkward snowshoeing it took us about 3 hours to do just the Oberg loop. We settled for pretty pictures of Leveaux.

The view of Leveaux Mountain, part of the Sawtooth Mountain range in northeastern Minnesota, visible from the top of Oberg Mountain
The view of Leveaux Mountain, part of the Sawtooth Mountain range in northeastern Minnesota, visible from the top of Oberg Mountain

I think this was my favorite day of hiking because of the falling snow. Sure, it made it hard to see the amazing landscape beyond a mile, but it was light and airy, the kind of snow that doesn’t leave you soaking wet but makes everything silent and magical. To stop and listen to the quietness is one of the most restorative things I can possibly think of. And I got to do that on top of a mountain (a mountain for the Midwest, anyway). Stunning.

Thick, fluffy snow made this trail so quiet it felt like we were the only snowshoeers in the world.
Thick, fluffy snow made this trail so quiet it felt like we were the only snowshoeers in the world.

Ever the trouble-maker, Husband decided to have a little fun and shake a snow-covered tree while pup was next to him.

It looks like someone sifted some powdered sugar over both of them. The dog didn't even notice.
It looks like someone sifted some powdered sugar over both of them. The dog didn’t even notice.

Nearly finished with the Oberg Mountain Loop, we were rewarded with this stunning view of the valley below and Oberg Lake.

Oberg Lake, covered with ice and snow, lies in the valley below with the Sawtooth Mountains in the distance
Oberg Lake, covered with ice and snow, lies in the valley below with the Sawtooth Mountains in the distance

How can you beat a view like that? I can’t wait to do this loop in the summer and fall. We finished the day, had some dinner and hopped in the outdoor hottub at Bluefin Bay resort. It was -3ºF but that didn’t stop us!

Day 3: Nothing. Sat inside, enjoyed the warmth of the fire and watched some movies. Total relaxation.

Relaxing by the fire
Relaxing by the fire

Day 4: Temperance River State Park. We hiked here last year and it was so beautiful we decided to do it again on our way home. It was snowing again but this time it was the thick, wet, heavy kind of snow. We knew from experience that all the stairs would be ice slides and a bit dangerous to go up. We tried anyway. It didn’t work out so well (I don’t know why we didn’t plan ahead and bring ice cleats) so we went the “back” way that was a little longer, but skipped the steps. It was also less traveled and so we sank in the snow many times. Quite a bit of fun anyway!

Temperance River
Temperance River
Frozen cascade over Temperance River
Frozen cascade over Temperance River

When we got back to the car, Husband started it up, went into the trunk to get a towel with which to dry off the dog, and shut the door. Locked. Car running, doors locked, nearest city is 2 hours away and we’re all cold and soaked. Thank God for AAA! They sent someone to unlock our door and somehow it only took 20 minutes. Since Pup was all wet and we had stopped moving, I was concerned about him getting too cold so we walked to the State Park’s office and hung out in the pit toilet to try and dry off and warm up a bit. Husband had given me his hoodie to use as a towel since we had forgotten to bring one, and I got a bit… creative with it 😀

Staying warm after a wet day in the snow
Staying warm after a wet day in the snow

Everyone stayed warm and happy and the day ended on a good note. It’s always a fun adventure on the north shore of Lake Superior.

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