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LENGTH 5.5 miles
DIFFICULTY Easy to moderate
DATE April 23, 2016
MAIN FEATURES Historic Savanna Portage passageway
Today’s hike took us up to McGregor MN, Savanna Portage State Park!
We grabbed the pup and headed up North to hit Hiking Club trail #20! As we got closer to the park, we were struck at how quickly the forest changed. It moved from Birch and hardwoods to towering ridges of straight Pines, rolling hills, and clear lakes. It reminded me a bit of Bear Head Lake State Park up near Ely. Today’s adventure took us to the Anderson Road Trail/Shumway Lake/Continental Divide Trail/Old Schoolhouse Trail for a 5 mile loop.
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect after a long winter at 65 degrees and sunny! Spring was peeking through and the forest floor was full of white and purple wildflowers in bloom and the warm fragrance from the sun on the pine needles brought me back to the California forest.
Along wth its unique beauty, visitors to the park also get to enjoy crossing the continental divide. Much to my delight, we discovered that there are 5 major water divides in North America (I must have been sleeping that day in school). The Continental Divide marks the great division of water: water to the west flows into the Mississippi River; water to the east runs into Lake Superior which empties into the Atlantic, making this a key passageway for fur traders, explorers, Dakota and Ojibwe people. We learned about the especially difficult nature of this historic portage in the visitor center and tried our best to imagine a time where it took days, weeks and months to get where you needed to go. The rich history of the land coupled with the beauty of the park made this one of our favorite Hiking Club trails so far.
We saw very few people but surprised both a beaver and muskrat on the trail by Lake Shumway and were entertained by watching their round figures gallop away. We were also flown over by 8 bald eagles and a circle of vultures. But the highlight of our wildlife encounters was a suspected wolf sighting. To clarify, we didn’t see a wolf. We saw poop. But we saw some very large, strange looking dog poop that was full of white hair and maybe bones? (we didn’t look at it that closely). The pup started acting skittish and stayed close to me just before we found the evidence. It was fun to imagine this mythical forest creature since we are backpacking in Isle Royale later this summer…invisible ghosts we hoped to never meet.
We didn’t explore the big campground area, but they do have over 60 sites, a handful of backpacking sites and a few canoe-in sites. Most of the backpacking sites are about 1-2 miles away from the main trail. The campsite by the continental divide interpretive walk had a nice shelter and the trail junctions were well marked like at Mille Lacs Kathio State Park. This is a place I would love to return to when we have a whole weekend!