Grace shouts “Blue Sign!” every hundred yards or so. I get a nice shot of adrenaline when she hollers this from six inches behind my head. We’re on our way along the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) above Silver Bay and I need the prodding to go uphill with her thirty pounds on my back.
My guidebook says the trip to Bean and Bear Lakes is a treat with fantastic cliff top views. Three years before, I carried a lighter version of this same girl and convinced my wife and son to join the expedition. I needed to see these alpine lakes. My daughter drooled down my spine and my son asked, “How far? How far now? And now?” They were as powerful as a Himalayan blizzard. We retreated before reaching the summit.
But now, we’re smarter. Shelley and I have three more years of motivational tricks for kids. This’ll be a five mile round-trip, but my son Sam is a trooper. I’ve got the child carrier to help Grace along. She’s in that gray area where she can walk part way and I’m her Sherpa for the rest. My snorting and gasping for air will scare off any predators.
We wind our way through stands of evergreen, then broad areas of hardwoods filtering verdant light. We cross footbridges, climb staircases of rock past ledges, and take in views of Lake Superior. The unique blue signs mark the SHT and we walk along the stony shoulder of the drainage that flows from our goal lakes.
Suddenly, there are blue jays shadowing us along the trail. Now, “Blue Jay!” rings in my ears, too. My son asks for some candy. “At the top, buddy,” I say, between breaths. Finally, we step out onto a tongue of rock overhanging the slate green surface of Bean Lake. You know it’s a good cliff when you get the willies and hold on tight to your children. We all sit, munch on goldfish and grapes, and gaze at the massive ridges of stone that surround the lake. My three year quest for this view is complete.
Or so I thought. I scout up the trail and it gets even better. The wide stretch of exposed rock and ledge on the south side of the lake feels like the Appalachians. I jog back down and coax everybody a little farther. A nice lady takes what will be our family Christmas card picture. After that, we see two critters splashing in the lake. Maybe otters? Our perch is so high that we can’t tell what they are. Note to self: Pack binoculars, dummy.
We’ll have to save Bear Lake for another day when the kids are even bigger. Shelley hands out the lollipops and we’re all smiles. Another epic North Shore day is in the books. On the way downhill, we use varsity-level child distraction to keep the train moving. Shelley asks Sam some questions about Star Wars and he never stops talking. Meanwhile, Grace hums the scary Darth Vader music over my shoulder. My legs are shaky, so it’s a pretty good theme song.
Directions: Turn off Highway 61 into Silver Bay. Follow this road (County Route 5; also called Forest Road 11) through town to the west for about 2.5 miles. Park in the large paved parking lot on the right with the Superior Hiking Trail sign. See a Superior Hiking Trail Map at http://www.shta.org/Trail/TrailMaps/s067.php