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This trip report will cover our overnight trip to the historic remote cabins at Tettegouche State Park, a glimpse at the northern lights, some new backpacking gear I’m testing out and absolutely zero bigfoot sightings
This is the time of year when we get a little itchy and want to get a Winter camping trip in. I have a fair amount of Winter camping experience, and have also previously compared it to eating kale. I eat kale because it’s good for me…and it’s kind of good, but there are other things I would honestly rather eat. I winter camp because it is good for me, it stretches my skills, and I always come away from the experience feeling hearty and like I really accomplished something. You can read more about those early Winter camping trips here and here.
My friends and I were all geared up for a mid-February camping trip up on Minnesota’s North Shore – which means it could be 40 degrees or -40 degrees… Oh Minnesota! The weather looked good, we were prepared to sleep in the snow and then AAAAAHHHHHHH (angels singing), a highly coveted remote cabin opened up, last minute at Tettegouche State Park! I’ve wanted to stay in these century old remote cabins since I first heard of them, but they fill up quick.
I have learned that the trip you did not plan, is sometimes better than the one you did…and if you can hold on loosely, you’ll be happier in the end (cue up that 38 Special song and see Pictured Rocks Post)
LENGTH 1.7 mile hike to camp, surrounded by miles of hiking trails and access to the Superior Hiking Trail.
DIFFICULTY easy to moderate
DATE VISITED February 11-12, 2023
MAIN FEATURES Tettegouche State Park is a 9,346 acre park located on Lake Superior’s North Shore, has 4 waterfalls, access to 6 inland lakes, rock climbing and beach access to “the big lake”. The park has 23 miles of hiking/snowshoeing trails, 15.5 miles of groomed classic ski trails and 12 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Drive-in, Cart-in, electric, backpacking and cabin camping options (including showers!) are available year round. The modern visitor center is accessible 24 hours a day and includes a small interpretive center, gas fireplace, gift shop, heated bathrooms, a vending machine and indoor seating if you want to warm up or dry off in the regions quickly changing weather conditions. Source: Wikipedia Must see hikes: Shovel Point, High Falls, Palisade Head
This park is located on the traditional and present day homeland of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ and Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ people. Read more about the unique geology, wildlife and history of this park here.
Cabin notes – know before you go
Tettegouche Camp is located in the interior of the park and can only be accessed by foot or bike. It is a 3.5-mile trek from the main park trailhead, or a shorter-but-steeper 1.7-mile hike from the Lax Lake Road access. Mountain bikes are allowed only on the Lax Lake Road access. You must carry in your gear; carts are not provided. More info from the park page can be found here
The 4 cabins in the rustic camp have the following amenities: woodstove and firewood; a small kitchenette with two-burner cooktop, mini refrigerator, pots, pans, plates, and utensils; a picnic table and fire ring with grill; a screened porch; and use of a canoe with paddles and life vests. There are no bathrooms or running water in the cabins, but there is a separate bathroom building that is heated year round and includes showers Water must be pumped by hand and hauled in. Cabin B includes two full sized bunk beds and two futons (sleeps 6) and has direct access to the lake.
Motorized vehicles are not allowed and access is available via groomed ski/multi-use trail in the winter. Be prepared for the steep hill up and down to camp, pack light and consider bringing a sled or wagon if you have a lot of stuff to carry. Cell phone reception was surprisingly good and I received a facetime call from our oldest son while I was standing on the frozen lake. No dogs allowed.
Bigfoot, Auroras and Wolves…oh my!
The Lax Lake/Tettegouche area has a legend/folklore tradition of having Bigfoot encounters. We didn’t see any when we were there, but we did see BIG canine prints that we assumed were wolves near the cabin and the town of Finland is known for having a healthy wolf population. That being said, I did find myself wondering about the Bigfoot stories as I fell asleep and wondered what it was that people had seen that made them believe in this mythological creature.
After dinner, we headed out to the lake to spy the night sky. Prank loves to watch the aurora forecast and kept us up to speed on the likelihood of seeing them. We brought our beds and foam seats out onto the frozen lake and sat out there for about an hour. We took a little break to head inside and thaw out our toes by the wood stove and then back out to see pinkish skies with white columns. The clouds dimmed them a little, but we felt the magic and rare beauty of the cosmic display overhead, making it a memorable experience.
We returned to the cabin, where I warmed myself by the woodstove, and painted a memory of the skies in the dark by fire light. Painting in the dark by the fire is something I have done before, and although the end result might not be the most detailed, the experience of limiting sight and engaging your senses in another way is worth trying if you haven’t done it. Highly recommend.
Here comes the sun
I woke before the sun, and was glad it hadn’t risen yet. I got dressed quick and hurried outside to watch it rise over the frozen lake to usher in the new day. My new sleeping pad performed so well. I was really happy with the comfort level and that it didn’t need additional foam or insulation underneath it to keep me toasty warm. I lay there on the frozen lake with my coffee and quilt and just let the warmth of the sun wash over me. If I am solar powered, this sunrise fully charged my batteries.
One more hike!
We packed up, cleaned the cabin and hauled back up and down the big hill back to the car. Feeling pretty good about ourselves and recharged, we stopped for one more hike up to Palisade Head – a must see on the North Shore! Typically, cars drive up the hill to the overlook, but in the winter, it is closed, creating a great opportunity to load on my heavy pack and get a few more training miles on my back before the big trip. You can read more about previous trips to Palisade Head here and here.
Here are a few gear faves from this trip, five of them are new and got a little testing before my trip to the Grand Canyon. The Wandering Pine Gear Page is still under construction at the time of writing this but feel free to check out my growing collection of packing lists for a closer look at the gear I depend on everything from day hikes to bikepacking and backpacking.
- 10 essentials– what I bring on every hike
- *New* Thermarest Neo Air XTherm NXT Max Sleeping Pad
- *New* Nitecore UL headlamp
- *New* BOT HD Titanium Bottle Pot
- *New* Oboz Sapphire Hiking Boots
- *Newish* Kuhl Free Flex Roll up Pant -Kuhl sent me these pants recently and I am trying them out. I’ll be testing these further and will keep you posted. Thanks for the pants, Kuhl!
- InReach Mini
- Kula Cloth
- Field Watercolor Kit
As much as I love kale and winter camping, I was so glad to have a weekend to soak in the beauty of the North Shore in one of my favorite parks. I am constantly reminded that I can do hard things, but it’s also a gift to rest and receive – this was one of those trips.
As I mentioned here and in my 2022 Year in Review Post– I’m backpacking the Grand Canyon in a few weeks, taking another shot at the Kekekabic Trail and hoping to host a few more Art Hikes and workshops this year. Winter is a great time of year to rest, recalibrate and dream of future adventures.
I’m also planning on doing some more custom painting on my new undyed Granite Gear Crown 3 60 backpack. Granite Gear was kind enough to send me a pack to embellish with my artwork – I’ve had so much fun creating this “Artpack” and sharing which supplies and techniques I have used with other artists that are painting their undyed packs as well. Stay tuned for my next post, covering the materials I used to embellish this special pack in case you want to customize your own gear!
What are you looking forward to in 2023? Thinking of a new adventure or goal? I’d love to hear about it.
Drop me a note in the comments or say a little hello on the Wandering Pine FB & IG.
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