I mean really….there was literally no good reason to wait, except my own fear and common sense.

And it was fun to have a dream.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4a86.jpgWelcome to Part 3 of the adventure!  If you missed the first 310 miles, start here.  Feel free to hit subscribe or check back for updates on new content regarding things I learned along the way, including gear and foot care.  The itinerary can be found at the bottom of this post.

I’m grateful for all of the human connection and personal growth that has come out of this ‘little walk’.  The SHT may not be a several month long journey on the PCT, AT, IAT, CDT, or [insert long trail name here], but this is my mountain, and I climbed it!  I haven’t had a blister in over 500 miles and still can’t believe it actually happened!

If you’re new to my story, I originally intended on thru hiking the entire Superior Hiking Trail in one trip lasting about 3 weeks, but when the journey was all said and done, I finished it in 23 trail days, about a year after we started.

If you’ve made it this far in this series or you’ve been along from the start….well, God Bless you!  Seriously.  Thanks for sticking around for the long haul.

IMG_9375This is the part of the story where I tell you the whole reason I decided to hike this trail in the first place.

I was freaked out about getting older and wanted to do something challenging for myself that would make me feel strong.

First, I wanted to do it when I retired, or maybe when I turned 50, then a couple of weeks later, I decided I couldn’t wait that long and wanted to do it when I turned 47…  

mid·life cri·sis
noun
  1. an emotional crisis of identity and self-confidence that can occur in early middle age, typically 45–64 years old.  The phenomenon is described as a psychological crisis brought about by events that highlight a person’s growing age, inevitable mortality, and possibly shortcomings of accomplishments in life. This may produce feelings of depression, remorse, and anxiety, or the desire to achieve youthfulness or make drastic changes to their current lifestyle.

I don’t like the term “Mid-life crisis”, I never have.  I always picture this frantic mental state where people go and do impulsive and irrational things…but, if I’m honest about it, when it really comes down to it, my ‘mid-life reaction’ was probably the biggest driver of this adventure.  So, I’m thankful for it.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_1f8a

During the summer of my 45th year, I started thinking about the Superior Hiking Trail during my bike commute to and from work.   I thought about it during that 2 hour ride, at least 3 times a week, for a few months.  I imagined the possibility of doing something so ridiculous…what it would feel like, how I would prepare my family and job to live without me for 3 weeks, and what it would feel like to do something REALLY BIG that was just for myself.    I guarded this idea, and eventually came to a point where I wanted someone to either tell me I was crazy and talk me out of it, or just tell me to do it.   I consulted a couple of close friends, and they encouraged me to do it sooner than later.   But it was John (skydiver dude), who tipped the scales.   I wanted to talk to him since he had thru hiked the trail and many sections over the years.  I told him I wanted to hike it when I was 47, the age my Dad was when he died.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about turning that age, so I wanted to get in front of it and do something that really made me feel alive that year…you know, just in case…aka the midlife crisis thing.   John dosed me with some perspective and said “geez, what are you waiting for?  Do it now!”.   I laughed a little to myself and realized he was right, and that it was kind of ironic to plan something so far out if I was worried about life being too short.  So, instead of making a big deal out of it and waiting for this ‘looming age of 47’ to pass over me with my fingers crossed,  and with my family’s support, I set out to hike the whole trail at age 46!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4492.jpgI mean really….there was literally no good reason to wait, except my own fear and common sense.

And it was fun to have a dream.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4e95.jpgComing off the trail after 6 days into our thru hike was hard.  Really hard.  As I mentioned in part 1, I felt like my dream died.  I didn’t realize until months later how much pressure I was putting on myself looking at the trail as a 310 mile whole.  After a winter of recovering, our youngest son and I decided to head up to Duluth for a quick trip over spring break.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_59b5.jpgThe thing I love most about Duluth is the the contrast of a gritty industrial cityscape with some of the most beautiful natural scenery of the North….all of it snug tight to the Lake Superior Shoreline…the Sea.  

I could go on and on about Lake Superior, but her power and volatility is one of the things that makes her most beautiful…one moment, she’s a sheet of glass;  the next, she’s creating squalls that swallow ships whole and sending ice sheets shooting into the shoreline! 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_59f9.jpgI promised our son that there would not be any hiking on this trip, so without telling him where we were going, I stopped at Jay Cooke State Park on the drive up.  I told him this was technically NOT a hike, just a short stop off the highway.  So we popped in for a bit, quickly crossed the swinging bridge and set our feet on the Superior Hiking Trail.   It’s funny just how doing this simple act, 6 months after our thru hike attempt, triggered both a feeling of joy and anxiousness.   “I still have 210 miles”, I thought to myself, with a little dread.

three months later, I would cross that same bridge with with 110 miles in my pocket and only 100 miles to go. 

unadjustednonraw_thumb_5a04.jpgEven though I promised this trip would not result in hiking, my son indulged me later in the day with a quick drive up to Martin Road, where I planned to re-start my thru-hike once the snow melted.   Seeing the beginning and end of that section of trail (the Blue Map) was the first step in wrapping my brain around what I hoped to accomplish next.  The Spring of 2019 was snowy, muddy and long.  The trails in the Duluth section were closed until mid-May…and ultimately the Blue Map got bumped to June.

I sat down to write in my hiking journal after that Spring trip.  Even though I had already logged about 100 miles of hiking on other trails since Jan 1st,  (mostly in snowshoes) the doubts were in full swing after being off this trail for 6 months… this was my ‘mountain’.

Y0L8kbF+QkG9GZlrNA5DNA_thumb_6f9d.jpgAs the plan to finish the trail in long sections unfolded over the year, the significance of events made me feel like it was all happening as it was meant to be.  For instance, my sister and I hit the 100 mile mark and ended our original trek on Dad’s birthday.  And even though, I started the trail when I was 46, I reached the Southern Terminus at the ripe old age of 47, one year and one day after leaving the trail with my sister.

the age I originally set out to hike it.

…the age Dad was when he died. 

I’m so glad I didn’t wait!  I reached the end, alive, with a full heart, and with so much to be thankful for!  It was like crossing an invisible threshold and it felt good.

I felt light.

fullsizeoutput_3532What’s next?

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked “what’s next?”  I’ve been home for 5 weeks as I write this, and I don’t have any solid “next” plans.  I keep waiting for the post-adventure blues to kick in, or that feeling of missing the trail, or wishing I had a new adventure to plan out.  But that hasn’t happened.

I still feel light, as though I have wings…

So, without further ado, here’s the full adjusted trail log with links to all of the reports!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_616d2018 – 2019 Superior Hiking Trail Log:

Day 1 Shakedown- Lake Agnes

Day 2 Shakedown – Lake Agnes to Cascade River (we decided not to re-do our shakedown miles our thru hike, because we were feeling like toast and – who cares?)

Day 3 – Northern Terminus to N Carlson Pond

Day 4- N Carlson Pond to Judge Magney

Day 5- Judge Magney to Woods Creek

Day 6- Woods Creek to South Bally Creek

Day 7- South Bally Creek to Grand Marais to Mystery Mountain

Day 8- Mystery Mountain to Temperance River

Going Home

Days 9-11   The Purple Map:  Tettegouche to Two Harbors

Days 12-14  The Brown Map:  Duluth to Two Harbors

Days 15-17  The Blue Map:  Wild Valley Road to Martin Road

Day 18- Temperance to Fredenberg Creek

Day 19 – Fredenberg Creek to West Caribou

Day 20- West Caribou to Sonju Trailhead

Day 21- Sonju Trailhead to Leskinen Creek

Day 22 Leskinen Creek to East Kennedy Creek

Day 23  East Kennedy to Cty Rd 1 to Southern Terminus

Thanks again for following along on this journey.  It’s not the end, and I look forward to sharing more about what I learned along the way and future adventures!

img_8996.jpgI do have a pile of Go Pro Footage that I hope to compile into something soon. We found the missing Purple Map footage a couple of weeks ago!   Along with a few trail shenanigans, these videos are full of campsite and latrine reviews, trash clean up, noting hammock friendly sites, and lots of huffing and puffing up those superior hills!  Please be patient with me if you are interested in Wandering Pine videos, I find editing a bit difficult and need more practice.  If you would like to be notified when new content is available, you can subscribe to this blog by hitting the button on the right and by subscribing to the Wandering Pine YouTube channel.

If you have questions about gear, trip planning, or anything else about the trip, shoot them to me here in the comments.   I love talking about this stuff!

I hope that reading this encourages and inspires you to dream, no matter how big or small…even if you have to re adjust and figure it out as you go.  Do it, it’s worth it!

What are you waiting for?

Happy Trails,

~WP

 

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4 thoughts on “Superior Hiking Trail |Part 3: My Hike

  1. Congratulations on finishing your hike!! My daughter and I are section hiking the trail and have a pact to finish by the time she graduates high school. We are 155 miles in and she’s in 8th grade. There are some TOUGH sections on this trail. We are lucky to have it. What a beautiful way to pay tribute to your Dad and Yourself. Congratulations again!!

    1. Wow! What an amazing way to share an adventure with your daughter! You’ll have that experience to remember for the rest of your lives. I appreciate your kind words, they made my morning. Thank you and I’m anxious to follow your adventure as well!

  2. I love this! “Why wait?” so true. So happy and thrilled for you. You totally crushed it, truly lived “hike your own hike”! Congrats and whats next?!? 🙂

  3. Hi Jen… a piece of advice from an ‘old guy’ -when in doubt about when/where to hike, etc…. just do it! Most of my old hiking buddies have retired from hiking. Several of us hiked together for a decade, but we were all retired from our jobs when we started… we all met on a 1 week group hike sponsored by SHT back in ’09. There have been heart attacks, strokes, replaced knees, yada, yada! and that’s just with this one group! I have other hiking friends that date back much longer, and we continue hiking on a less-demanding schedule, whenever we can get something together. And when I can’t find someone with the time/interest… I’ll just head out solo, and now my grandsons are old enough to get out backpacking/dayhiking w/ grampa -which is very cool!

    Like you, I love to hike. When I feel the need, I check w/ friends, but I won’t hesitate to head out alone even today, if that’s what it takes. The SHT is always good, but my favorite places are the Sierras, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and New Mexico. I solo hiked for 6 weeks w/ my favorite black lab back in ’02 up in Alberta, Yukon and BC -and I was several years older than you are… even back then. I figure if I don’t do it now, when will I do it? And always remember, yes -it does get harder as you get older… so again, just do it! Sorry for the rant/tirade, but I just want to emphasize… if you like it -just get out and do it! That way, you’ll have nothing to regret! 😉 Some might say it’s easier for a guy to get out solo, but I won’t go there… I will say it’s always easier to get a small group together than a larger one! Enjoy it while you can!

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