And now Jack is hooked.
by Jack Stone
As summer draws to an end, I look back at the things I haven’t done. What I haven’t done is much hiking. I talk to people every day about the best places to hike and every day as they leave, I am envious because I am not going along.
I also have been spending a lot of the summer looking for new hikes in the area. Most of the Cook County hikes are well-mapped and well-traveled and I have done most all of them, so I have been researching across the Canadian border.
Last week I was talking to the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority and they told me about a whole new trail going from the Little Trout Bay Conservation Area, across the ridge above Lake Superior and ending at the parking lot on Big Trout Bay. This trail is a joint project with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. It stretches about 5½ miles (9KM). I decided this would be a great opportunity to get out and do a hike and scout this new trail system
I packed up not really knowing what to expect. The trail is listed as strenuous but what is strenuous to one person may not be strenuous to another. I made sure I had good boots and lots of water and something to eat. At the last minute I went back to my office and got trekking poles, which for me was a really smart move.
Patch, my English Setter, is getting older but then so am I, so we are quite the pair. He was excited to head across the border.
Speaking of the border, obviously bring your passport. For the first time in many, many crossings with my dog(s), they asked for a rabies certificate, so be sure to bring that if you are travelling with a furry friend.
As I got to the James Duncan Nature Trail, there was a big sign with a map and rules of the road. No fires, no camping, be careful and all of that. The first hundred yards or so was on planks over a wet area. I thought about the difference between Canada and the US. I hear more and more about these sorts of walkways being removed on our sided of the border in order to keep the “wilderness” feel. I look at the planking as a way to protect the environment from all the mud and more depressions to collect even more water. But more of that for another day.
Once I got past the planking, I started my ascent. It was strenuous, but not overly so. As I moved further up, I was reminded of hikes like Devil’s Kettle and Woods Creek, but a little more steepness and a little more taxing. As I got to the first overlook, there was a bench where I could sit and look out over the forest and the area that is Neebing, Ontario. I do think the bench is older than I am.
The hike from there was spectacular. With every turn, I marveled at the beauty and the solitude. Just Patch and myself. Finally, I came to the first overlook. Pictures do not do justice to the view across Little Trout Bay and in the distance, you can see Isle Royale. It was a great place to stop and get some water.
It was then that I realized my first mistake. I had water for both of us but by then, Patch was a little dry. He drank about a half a liter in no time flat. I don’t know what I expected. If you are hiking a ridge you probably are not going to see a lot of water around. It was during this break that I ran into the only other people I saw on this hike, a young couple from Thunder Bay with backpacks and gear. Not sure where they were going, but we had a nice chat and then I was off to the next overlook. It was about this time that I came to realize, as I tell people all the time in the shop, if you are a religious person you don’t have to go to church for months. It is just that beautiful.
Another overlook and another break. Patch finished off his water and I sat there contemplating what to do from there. I had water but it certainly was not going to last if he had anything to do with it. I continued on a short way and decided it was time to turn around. I may have gone about 2½ miles. But I can always come back—it is not that far for those of us in Grand Marais.
Heading back was harder than what I expected, and this is where I was glad that I had my poles. The hills I hiked up were quite interesting going down. Since the trail has not been used that expensively, I needed to be careful on the moss-covered rocks—they could get slippery. The poles really came in handy and I will take them again next time.
The trip home was uneventful and Patch seemed happy to be able to crawl into the corner and sleep the rest of the day away. He got his workout. Not bad for a 12 year old dog. We won’t talk about the other old creature.