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We’re back from our last family camping trip of the year and the camper has been a great way to spend time together, extend the season and have some of the comforts of home. Our dog eats tents, so it’s also been nice to have a way to bring her along!
Temperance River State Park
LENGTH 10 miles (1.9 mile Hiking Club Trail)
DIFFICULTY paved, flat trails near the river then increasingly difficult including rock scrambles
DATE VISITED October 15-17, 2021
MAIN FEATURES Temperance River is a State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior, located on the ancestral lands of the Ojibwe people. The 5,059 acre park features 22 miles of hiking trails with varying levels of difficulty and plentiful views of Lake Superior and steep river gorge. The Temperance River flows and swirls so powerfully that there is no sandbar before it empties into Lake Superior, thus giving it its name. Swimming is not recommended.
Temperance River State Park was established in 1937 and offers many scenic cliffs, overlooks and geology that is unique to the North Shore of Lake Superior. The Superior Hiking Trail also runs through the park, so in addition to wildlife and spectacular views, you are likely to run into backpackers hiking this volunteer-run 310 mile gem. You can read more about the Superior Hiking Trail here.
Know before you go:
The colors are poppin, and so are the rifles. Friendly reminder to wear your bright colors during small and large game hunting season (blaze orange preferred). The season starts sooner than you might think and I have heard shots on the trail for a few weeks now. The Superior Hiking trail and other select trails have upcoming closures due to hunting, so be sure to check conditions before you head out. Here’s a list of dates from the MN DNR, and a video showing why I’m more intentional about this now, aka how my Superior Hiking Trail thru hike went out with a bang (8:10).
I’ve got a special spot in my heart for this park. If I had to pick a favorite Minnesota State Park, this would be it, but a close tie with Tettegouche. My first time visiting Temperance was hiking through it on my very first long hike. It was part of the route of the Ultimate Hike – a CureSearch Childrens Cancer Research Fundraiser. We hiked 26.5 miles from Schroeder to Lutsen in August of 2016. I remember starting in the dark at the Cramer Road Trailhead on Superior Hiking Trail and hearing the Temperance River roaring just after sunrise. About an hour or so later, we were climbing up Carlton Peak for a top of the world view and pressed on northward to climb the rocky, rooty sawtooths that make up the trail to Lutsen.
A couple of years later, my sister and I hiked 20 miles across those same Sawtooths (no switchbacks, just up and down) and found respite at Temperance. We ended our 310 mile thru hike at 100 miles due to injury and Temperance was a safe place to regroup and plan our trip back home.
Temperance is a place of beauty and rest. I camped here with trail mom once and just sat on the shore for a whole morning, staring out at the great sea – lake…Superior.
One evening, on this trip, I went down to the lake with our youngest son to look at the moon over the dark lake. He said that Lake Superior makes him feel uneasy…like it could kill you. It certainly could, and that is one of the things that I find so alluring about it.
Temperance River State Park has two campgrounds, an upper and lower section with 60 campsites total. Campers can enjoy backpacking/cart in sites, electric and standard tent pads. Both campgrounds offer sites with views of the lake and quick access to the shore. Also worth noting, if you are new to pulling a camper or just don’t want to mess with backing up- the park offers 3 pull thru sites (one non electric). We snagged site 19e and it was super convenient!
Also noteworthy, the upper campground has a brand new building next to the visitor center including bathrooms, showers and large outdoor sinks for dishwashing. They still have several pit toilets sprinkled around the park if you want to rough it, but flushing toilets and a warm shower are pretty tough to beat, especially as the weather starts to turn colder.
Despite being a full campground and prime leaf peeping season, the grounds were quiet, relaxing and had plenty of tree cover and space to allow for some privacy.
Let’s make it a 10 miler
On our last camping trip of the year, I was most looking forward to unplugging from the screens and enjoying this beautiful place with my family .
I woke up with the sun and ran down to Lady Superior with my coffee and watercolor supplies while my family slept. I was down at the shore for a couple of hours, when my husband found me and sat with me for a while before breakfast. We love this lake and dream of how we can live closer to it someday.
Back at camp, everyone just wanted a day of rest, naps and enjoying our little slice of camp. One of the sweetest things about camper camping with my husband is that he knows how to make a cozy camp. He enjoys putting up the outdoor lights, rug, all of the camp chairs, table, firing up the grill – and just chilling out. He always makes camp friends and talks to people passing by. He would make an amazing campground host!
I, on the other hand, can only rest for so long and then I get antsy at the thought of THE LAKE, canyons of rushing water, and….MILES and miles of trail to explore! All of that is just a short walk from our campsite….right over THERE! After an unsuccessful attempt at getting them to go with me, we settled on some family time later in the day, and I packed a lunch, my 10 essentials and my watercolors for an adventure on my own.
I entered the West side of the park through the Gitchi Gami Bike trail – the same section that the Goat, Tinklebelle and I started our Teal Map Section Hike. I hiked up the South side of the river to a lovely spot near a waterfall for lunch. I had an amusing time trying to sketch and paint the rocks and crashing river running through them. So much beautiful chaos!
After about 4 miles of leisurely hiking and painting, I texted my husband and told him I wanted to hike the 6 mile out and back to Carlton Peak.
I remember this trail. With its long stretches through birch and aspen, and its spots where you might need to climb with your hands…
It was 2pm and I set a goal to reach the 3 miles to the top by 3:30. 30 minute miles or 2mph is pretty typical for me on the SHT and I felt like I needed the challenge. I wanted to do something to push and test myself after such a long recovery after my MCL sprain on our end to end Isle Royale hike in May. So, off I went!
The Carlton Peak trail has about a mile or so of flat trail near the river, then gradually becomes hillier until hit the steep, rocky climb to the top. The last 1/4 mile is the most challenging and is where I have seen rock climbers in the past. Highly recommend trekking poles, taking your time, and soaking in those lake Superior Views on your way up.
Besides amazing views of Lake Superior and the Superior National Forest at the top, I encountered a delightful couple with red wine in wine glasses, and cheese and crackers! They said they were enjoying “the top of the world” and I thought it was brilliant. I left them alone and found a spot a little lower down to take in the view of the golden leafed hillsides, dotted with the contrast of black green pines.
As the couple was packing up, I moved to their spot (mostly so my paints wouldn’t roll down the mountain). They kindly offered to take a picture of me, and left. I sat up there trying to capture and remember the beauty of it all and realized at 4:15, I’d better hustle back down it I was going to be home by dinner! Made it by 5:30 on the dot!
I had a lot of time to think and get some mental clarity that day. Guess heading off on my own was part of the plan after all. Daydreaming of new adventures, reflecting on what’s important, and a lot of time to think about the art I am making again. I have a fine art degree and have enjoyed creating and exhibiting my work both locally and nationally…but it’s been like 15 years…and I struggle sometimes with feeling like these fresh new watercolors are made too quickly or are somehow not finished enough..but they bring me so much joy…and then this thought popped into my head, so I wrote it down so I could read it later.
The goal is not a finished piece of artwork – I may never have one. It’s all about expression, capturing beauty, and being able to preserve what I was seeing, thinking and feeling at the time it was created.
That is where the art is.-me
We spent the evening down at the lake and back in the cozy camper playing many rounds of UNO. My heart is full and my body physically feels this hike settling in. Its strangely comforting and familiar to have a trail – tired body, sore from hard work and using it to the fullest. No complaining here, I am grateful.
It feels like summer is really coming to an end. We’ve had a long, warm Fall and there is a list of garden chores left to do before the freeze this weekend. This warm weather is tempting me to try to squeeze in one more trip before the snow flies, but I know I will enjoy the slowing and rest that comes with the Minnesota Winter.
Up next: I have a few things up my sleeve that I can’t wait to share here when they are ready. Im teaching two backpacking courses at the end of the month at St Paul College, painting every day and hope to freshen up the website a bit now that Winter is on its way.
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Gear Used on This Trip
Goal Zero Torch 250 Flashlight, Kuhl Klash Pants, Wright Socks – Cool mesh tab, Zensah Compression Sleeves, Altra Timps , Altra Gaiters, Leki Micro Vario Trekking Poles , OR Active Ice Sun Gloves, REI Rain Jacket, InReach Mini, Granite Gear Hip Wing, Kula Cloth, Purple Rain Adventure Skirt, Daniel Smith Extra Fine Watercolors, Moleskine Watercolor Notebook, Isabey Travel Paintbrush
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