Temperance River State Park

Superior Hiking Trail: Temperance River to Carlton Peak

Growing up in Minnesota is a treasure. With over 10,000 lakes, numerous state parks and hundreds of miles of hiking trails, there are plenty of places to refuel, find beauty and get outdoors. One of my favorite places to get outside in Minnesota is the North Shore of Lake Superior.  Home to the 310 mile long Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) and one of the launching off points for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), the North Shore is blessed with hundreds of miles of hiking trails cutting through pristine boreal forests, untouched lakes, rugged shoreline and places so remote you won’t see a soul. I have been fortunate to have visited the North Shore ever since I was a small child and it is among these very trails that I fell in love with hiking and being outdoors.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the North Shore with my two kids and parents who were visiting from Arizona. Going “up north” as we Minnesotans love to call it, is a rite of passage for my family and the tradition began as soon as I could walk. My dad used to carry me on his back along the many hiking trails up north and one of our all time favorites for years has been the seven mile hike to Eagle Mountain, Minnesota’s highest point. We actually did that last summer for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary and brought along three generations of hikers – my dad, me and the grandchildren. It was wonderful!

This time I desperately wanted to find something new to do and after an unsuccessful stop at the Ranger Station in Tofte, I realized that I knew more than the young ranger did about the hiking in this part of the state. I had done them all many times. It wasn’t until I purchased a local hiking guide called Hiking the North Shore: 50 fabulous day hikes in Minnesota’s spectacular Lake Superior region by Andrew Slade, that I discovered a few new ones I didn’t know about before. With only two full days, we had to pick and choose which hikes to do, and the first day we decided to revisit the Temperance River State Park and hike 6 miles roundtrip from the Temperance River gorge trail to the top of Carlton Peak. I was elated to have a new hike to do.

The Temperance River State Park is one of many state parks along the North Shore of Minnesota and is located near Tofte off of Highway 61 (near mile market 80.3). The park encompasses over 5,000 acres of rugged beauty with 6 miles of hiking trails as well as a spur trail to the Superior Hiking Trail. The park is most renown for its namesake, the mighty Temperance River which is the longest river on the North Shore stretching over 38 miles to its terminus in Lake Superior. What makes this park and hiking there so magical is its winding systems of dramatic gorges, waterfalls and potholes, all carved out over millions of years ago by the incredible force of the water. If you hike downstream, you can see where the Temperance River dumps into the mouth of Lake Superior and if you head upstream, you will be spellbound by its incredible gorges, some dropping hundreds of feet below.

Map of Superior Hiking Trail. Photo credit: Superior Hiking Trail.org

The most common hike in the park is the 2.6 mile loop that curves around both sides of the river and takes between 1-2 hours. It is relatively easy however be mindful if you are bringing young children as there are no fences near the steep edges along the gorge. While the view is very impressive, it is a long dangerous way down! There are a few fascinating placards along the way telling visitors about the history of how the gorges were created over 12,000 years ago at the end of the Great Ice Age. You can also view the remains of an ancient lava flow and where a roaring waterfall used to exist.

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Sea Kayaking in Lake Superior

Sea Kayaking on the edge of Lake Superior to Houghton Point

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had a rare weekend away in Bayfield, Wisconsin , a beautiful little town located in northeastern Wisconsin along the shores of Lake Superior and home to the pristine Apostle Islands. We chose Bayfield because we wanted to explore the Apostle Islands National Park, a collection of 21 islands and 12 miles of windswept beaches, cliffs and sea caves offering visitors the opportunity to hike, paddle, sail or cruise this stunning area. I had always heard about this amazing place but had never been there despite the fact it is only a four hour drive away from Minneapolis.

One of the main things we wanted to do was go sea kayaking and explore the sandstone sea caves along the shores of Lake Superior. We had seen them from above while hiking at Meyer’s Beach and knew that it would be something that cannot be missed. We were able to reserve an 8 am paddle on Sunday morning with Lost Creek Adventures launching out of Cornucopia near Meyer’s Beach.

Photo credit: National Parks Services www.nps.gov

Photo credit: National Parks Services

It had rained and stormed the entire day on Saturday so we were concerned that our kayak adventure on Sunday morning would be canceled. However, when we rose at 6 am the sky was clear, the birds were singing and the sun was glorious. It was going to be a spectacular day!

We ate a quick breakfast and drove about twenty minutes to the other side of the Peninsula where we would be launching off that morning. As soon as we turned the corner  around the tip of the Peninsula, we realized that the weather on this side was completely different. I was stunned to see that only twenty minutes away from Bayfield, the weather in Cornucopia was cloudy, exceptionally windy and cool. It was the unprotected edge of the shoreline and the winds were fierce. To our dismay, there was no way we would be able to safely go sea kayaking there because the waves were over four feet high making the situation extremely dangerous. We would have to go to Plan B.

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Kitschy Grand Marais

Only a hop, skip and a jump from the Canadian border lies kitschy, whimsical Grand Marais, a small, historical town in northeastern Minnesota along a double harbor on Lake Superior. Over the years the town has been used for many things yet recently has become a destination in itself with shopping, art, a few fancy restaurants and hotels and of course, as the jumping off point to the Boundary Waters Wilderness and Canoe area (a remote 1,090,000 acre/4400 km2 wilderness area within the Superior National Forest of northeastern Minnesota).

One of many kitchy shops that can be easily found in Grand Marais.

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Hiking around Cascade River Falls

Author’s note: I’m back to my series on our long weekend at the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota. To read recent posts in this series, click here.

One of the most popular State Parks along Lake Superior’s North Shore is Cascade River State Park. Located about 10 miles southwest of Grand Marais, Minnesota this park offers spectacular waterfall views and rushing rapids of root beer-colored Cascade River.  There are over 18 miles of trails within the park and it also meets up with the 286-mile long Superior Hiking Trail.  There is a wide variety of flora and fauna to be discovered but what I enjoyed most was the sounds and sights of the roaring river and multiple waterfalls.

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Second attempt at Carlton Peak

Author’s note:  This is the second post on our hike up Carlton Peak in Northeastern Minnesota. In case you haven’t heard, the most devasting, damaging floods in history have recently struck this part of Minnesota.  Over 100 million dollars of damage is estimated.  Roads are closed, homes and universities are flooded.  Even the zoo was impacted with a dozen animals drown and the dramatic rescue of a seal and a polar bear who escaped the escalating flood waters.  Let’s keep our thoughts and prayers in mind for the people impacted by this devastation.  To read full updated article, click here

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A touch of nature along Lake Superior’s North Shore

Our first morning along Lake Superior’s North Shore wasn’t looking too promising.  Dark clouds had rolled in over the lake and we could hear the low rumble of distant thunder all the way across to Wisconsin. I sat out on the oversized verandah, sipping my morning juce (mi gasolina, as it was nicknamed during my recent trip to Guatemala) and listening to the dramatic, haunting call of the loons.

If you have never heard a loon before, then you probably don’t know what their song is like.  One you hear it, you will never forget.  It is perhaps one of the most beautiful, melodic sounds I’ve ever heard. To prove it, see for yourself.   Click below, close your eyes and listen.  It is a cry you will never forget. A beautiful mourning wail…

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A Night on the North Shore

We arrived on the North Shore of Lake Superior mid-afternoon on a Thursday. The weather was perfect and amazingly cool compared to Minneapolis, just a few hours south. We made a few stops along the way to Gooseberry Falls and also pulled over to take a shot of the most photographed site in Minnesota, the Split Rock Lighthouse.

The air was fresh and pure. The brilliant blue waters of Lake Superior glistened in the sun. I could hardly wait to get to our destination, a log cabin along the shores of the lake, and spend a weekend relaxing, hiking and doing what I love best: Enjoying nature and being together with family. There couldn’t be a more ideal place for it than here.

The Split Rock Lighthouse.

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