Mental health excursion on the SHT: Spirit Mountain to the zoo.

We’ve been trucking along pretty well over here at Team Gilmore for about two months now, but a spiritual heaviness oppresses the land as our great cities burn. We are not immune. Violence has even cropped up in Duluth, and this sent me down the rabbit hole of Facebook and various news feeds for much of the night yesterday, fearing the worst for our community, and yeah, I’ll admit it, our livelihood. Sleep was hard to come by, and arguments were rampant in the household as the weight of stress increasingly bore down on us.

And so, this morning we took a mental health excursion along the Superior Hiking Trail from Spirit Mountain to the zoo. The last thing this world needs is a mediocre account of a simple family hike. Well, perhaps second to last, just after Khloe Kardashian’s opinions on just about anything. I’m in my forties, and the world has never been under as much stress and pain in my half-lifetime as we are all experiencing right now. It’s critical for us to get out of the house and move our bodies outside in creation, staying active, soaking up the manifold beauties bursting forth every day of spring, while maintaining some degree of gratitude, love for each other, togetherness, awareness that the creator of all things holds this world together, and a whole host of intangibles essential for maintaining and growing a healthy mental and spiritual outlook.

Joey started out with his new head net, even though bugs were virtually non-existent. Whatever works, man…

My kin aren’t stoked for serious mileage like I am, so we went with this easy two-mile stretch of the trail. Virtually any family could easily knock this one out, and the nearby mountain bike trail facilitates a simple way to provide your clan with a one-way trip while the driver bikes back to the car on a super fun, beginner-level trail.

Joey is a big downhill skier. Naturally, he enjoyed showing mother and sister around his playground as the trail initially climbs alongside a black diamond run. It’s a fair bit of climbing, but it’s gradual enough. 

The view at the top might cause you to burst into song: The hills are alive with the sound of music…. My crew elected to skip the short 50 foot overlook trail, however. True story! In their defense, there was a human standing out there. Whatever keeps the peeps happy. That, and some fruit snacks, got us up the initial climb just fine.

There are plenty of spots to dink around in the river with your kids. Slow down and enjoy yourselves, and the climb will be fine. 

Our daughter was just about to freak out during this last, crazy-steep ascent:

“Are we almost done with this!?” The head net came off up here too…

You reach the top, right where I took the above photo, and the forest immediately changes from birch and poplars to an amazing maple, climax forest:

I failed to get any good photos on this trip, but it really is a place for hobbits and fairies. 

There were several changeovers in forest makeup, making for consistently interesting variety.

The freeway gets close, but only for a little while. Here’s the exit for Cody Street, which is named after Buffalo Bill Cody, who apparently had ties to Proctor. His sister lived here or something. 


I love this post-apocalyptic old railroad bridge located just outside the zoo, near the end of the walk:


The family was eager for a rest, so I made the short, couple-mile bike ride back to the car by myself.

This cedar forest was dandy.
A 15-minute rollicking ride brings you back exactly where you started. The bike trail intersects the hiking trail here, and the car is parked below. The bike trails are excellent for riding with kids. I rode this one several times when my son was just getting comfortable with the sport some years back. Now he leaves me in the dust, by the way…

And that’s about it. Nothing crazy. About four miles round trip, but it does a body/mind/soul good. Totally realistic for reluctant family members in your tribe.

Are you doing anything to stay sane these days? It’s so so important. Be well, friend.

7 thoughts on “Mental health excursion on the SHT: Spirit Mountain to the zoo.

  1. Eddie, I’m so glad that you did not point out my favorite spot along this section of the DT. I’m sure it would lose its charm if too many folks know about it. I’m not saying what is so you can guess. There is already enough people leaving the trail to check it out. Its not all that well known but a little story a fried told me might help you ID the place if you saw it.

    A couple of friends parked along the Spirit Mountain maintenance road. There was another car there, they saw this guy come out of the woods in a swimming suite and thats it. He toweled off got in his car took off. They both looked at each other and wondered what he was up to so they took a little hike and found exactly where he had spent some quality time on a very hot Duluth day. The space reminds me of being in the BWCA. With some luck it won’t get all worn out from visitors.

    Next time you go through the area I’m sure you will find it.

    1. Cool beans. You might consider walking the opposite direction for a the gradual climb from the zoo, but no biggie dealie either way. Cheers and hope all is well.

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