Back on the SHT bandwagon: Normanna Road to Fox Farm Road

“I’m walking that trail up to Canada with or without you, boy.”

The weather report showed that Friday was going to be a stellar day, so I sprung the idea on my boy the night before while he was hunched over his phone, tired and unmotivated. Bad timing. Thankfully, it all worked out. I knew it would when the following morning he expressed some agitation when I complained about some remarkable foot pain after the prior day’s run. That anxiety over my possible inability was super encouraging. It gets old being the only one pushing for a goal inside of an alleged partnership.

It had been more weeks than I’d prefer to count since we last made any headway on our goal to hike the entire Superior Hiking Trail in chunks. The easy stuff in town is done, so most progress now will require overnight backpacking. This suits me just fine! Frankly, I’d be keen to head out one night each week from now on. Joey, however, had largely lost interest. It was, and probably still mostly is, my goal rather than “ours.” This weekend’s journey shifted the percentage of buy-in from 99% me (thinking optimistically) to about 76% Dad and 24% Josiah. That’s a nice improvement. Shifting from easy day trips to overnight committments is a major shift in mindset, so I’m quite pleased with the results.

The idea being conceived so last minute, there was minimal planning. Then again, a single night spent sleeping on the ground shouldn’t require much forethought. Food. Clothes. Shelter. Pretty basic.

This journey began 15 or so miles outside of town, but it felt surprisingly remote.

You traverse numerous areas that have been logged between 5 and 17 years ago. This stretch about 4+ miles from the trailhead was exceptional. A gorgeous stand of oak trees was left uncut, and they appear to be thriving with unfettered access to the sun.

This was both Josiah’s and Stanley’s first backpacking trip. The dog stayed nervous throughout the long, windy night. The human, thankfully, was more relaxed and enjoyed himself.

Our campsite along the Sucker River was quite nice.

This stretch of the Superior Hiking Trail, between Duluth and Two Harbors, isn’t nearly as crowded as the more popular areas up the North Shore. For example, a friend recently hiked the Oberg Mountain loop and described the sea of leaf peepers as being like, “The Exodus.” After hearing that, I felt content to simply continue along from where we left off. It’s refreshing to eliminate the decisions. Simply get out and enjoy the trail… And enjoy it, we did. It was lovely, and mostly unpeopled. We had no trouble securing a private campsite, although I was pretty nervous about this since I wouldn’t typically camp on a weekend.

To keep the culinary side as simple as possible, we ate a hearty lunch before heading out, packed sandwiches for supper, instant oatmeal packets for breakfast, and Clif Bars to fill in the gaps. The bear canister was pretty bulky for such light use, but I love the simplicity of setting the food on the ground and walking away.

The dog sat up the entire night. It’s amazing how many noises a windy forest with leaves all over the ground will produce. Then he barked at the only hiker who walked past our campsite while we were ate breakfast. It’s hard to imagine bringing Stanley along for some of the busier portions of trail ahead, but Joey loved his company so much that I reckon we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

I was so thankful to have a second vehicle, the 20 year old farm van with 290,000 miles on it, so we could make the trip. Mom collected us nine miles further up the trail the next day. Joey isn’t interested in doing this kind of mileage in one go, so overnights are the future. It’s nearly time to move on from this old Dodge, however, so let me know if you might be interested in a $286 van. I’d rather not list it at that price. Her usefulness is worth far more to me. She has served us well, and seems to come through for us whenever called upon.

The gusty winds that drove the temps down into the thirties, causing my son to quietly suffer (I had a winter hat and other options available for him!!!), also blew off some shingles from our home that same night. Coming home from a solid trip with the boy helped me have decent perspective. The roof is failing structurally, those old white pine boards having been logged from perhaps those same hilltops 110 years ago. Nothing lasts forever. They have served us, and the three prior stewards of this home, well. Soon we’ll invest in something that might last into the next century. Rather than despair over a large outlay of funds like that, perhaps $10-$12k, I think it’s helpful to zoom out and see that such an investment could help keep us safe and warm for the rest of our lives, and also for the next occupants for decades beyond. The per year cost comes in pretty low at $100 – $120/year when stretched out over one hundred years. Still not easy, obviously, but what in life is?

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