After parking at the trailhead, we made it about 200 yards of walking on a marsh-like snowmobile trail, which the SHT borrows for the next three miles, before Josiah asked, “Can we skip this section?” Having observed that the trail’s acronym could perhaps buy a vowel to describe this segment, I readily agreed.
We drove on down to the next obvious road crossed by the trail, which seemed promising atop higher ground, and we made even less progress, due to a large, barking dog. Weighing the potential risk vs the small reward, I decided to cut bait again. Upon closer inspection, we confirmed the beast was unleashed (a mere 100 feet from the trail).
We opted to begin at the next road crossing: Prindle Road.
We felt pretty good about the decision. Parking here shaved off about 2.5 miles of snowmobile trail hiking. Fine by us. A different day, drier perhaps and with more greenery and wildflowers, might make the skipped section more enjoyable, but we were happy to come across the trail split about a half-mile after heading out for the third time.
By parking on Prindle Road, we shortened the hike from seven miles to a bit under five. Maybe even 4.5.
The trail has it’s charming moments, but much of it is relatively forgettable, passing through recent clearcuts that have filled in with young aspens.
I didn’t think the flies were bad at all, but Joey complained about them quite a bit. As the self-appointed arbiter of such things, I’m declaring today, May 16th, the official start of black fly season. They’ll be much worse in about a week, but shouldn’t be too bad for our two remaining trail sections that remain high atop the city.
We enjoyed lunch at the Bald Eagle campsite, the very first of 93 official SHT campsites between here and Canada.
There is one more campsite about a mile or so up the trail, White Pine, but I prefer Bald Eagle because of the wide open spaces and view. We spooked up a pair of mallards at this pond when we arrived. It’s quiet and remote. Without a wind, however, bugs will be bad back here in a couple weeks. We sprayed our feet and pant-legs for ticks, also tucking them into socks, and thankfully collected none.
We had our bikes chained to a tree where the trail hits Lismore Road. The vibe is different in these parts. Lots of NO TRESPASSING signs, no parking here, etc. In fact, while searching for the trail prior to locking up our bikes, I turned around at a driveway that had several homemade signs with guns painted on them, saying, “I don’t call 911.” I wonder what the UPS guy thinks when he drives up, hoping he doesn’t spark some sort of Waco-like standoff. We were fine minding our own business, though. It was nice having the bikes waiting for us. I reckon it was a short a 25-minute ride back to the car via Lismore, Jean Duluth, and Prindle roads. Far preferable to turning around and walking the wetlands.
I enjoyed accomplishing this section, crossing it off the list, very much. I was proud of Joey for making the best of sub-optimal conditions too. This sort of experience will make the grand stuff in the miles ahead of us feel that much more spectacular. If one were to wait a week or so they’d discover more wildflowers on the forest floor. Then again, there’ll be a lot more bugs waiting for them too. Tradeoffs.
It was a splendid way to spend a Saturday morning. One nice thing about this project of hiking the entire trail is we are generally hiking the sections in the order that they come, which alleviates needless decision-making. If we weren’t attempting to hike the whole thing, however, I wouldn’t feel bad about skipping this portion. A trail runner might also consider banging this one out in the fall after a freeze, in drier conditions.
Last night I purchased Joey some new shoes and also bought a bear-resistant canister for storing food (I’m terrible at hanging food properly, so this is an easy button) on future overnights. Today’s experience also convinced me I should buy Joey a headnet for mosquitoes and flies. Otherwise I might face a mutiny back in the woods when the bugs get going for real. As you might know, I’ve been obsessed with paying off the house. In my previous post I mentioned paying off our primary mortgage, and we’ve since knocked our new HELOC down inside of $10k (it can go up and down, as it’s used elastically). It felt great to invest cash in other things besides feeding my obsession. These small items will come from funds that formerly went toward our house payment, and if I can relax a bit, we can pretty much allow the HELOC to move sideways a while at 2.5% interest. This is what I’m hoping for, at any rate. I’ve kind of felt like Vincent Van Gogh these days. He cut off his own ear in an attempt to get the ringing to stop (a raging case of tinnitus apparently). No joke.