The Fun Dome (#36): El Diablo

Even running errands is nice. Mt. Josephine.

Even running errands is nice. Mt. Josephine.

Visit the Border Patrol station. Run five miles. Steal a shower. Go to a party. It was a busy Friday.

Pincushion with changing colors in the rain.

Pincushion with changing colors in the rain.

I had to do an interview to get a Global Entry status. It’s a deal that makes it easier to go through Customs when you come back into the US. I would’ve had to wait months to get it done in Chicago. I checked the waiting list for an interview in Grand Portage. I was the only interview all day. Leo and I drove the whole 150 miles from Duluth to Grand Portage. Up over Mount Josephine and right up to the last u-turn before Canada. It’s nice to live in a part of the world where even running errands is beautiful. This drive today was a nice long review of the entire shore. After completing the day’s run, I wouldn’t be back up past Lutsen any time soon.

North from Pincushion Mountain.

North from Pincushion Mountain.

For some reason, I skipped a little five mile section in Grand Marais. We were going to rectify that from Pincushion to County Road 58. We met Ken Nelson at the takeout and he drove us up to the overlook at Pincushion. Then it started to rain. And hard. I don’t mind rain, but boy is it hard to start out that way. Immediately wet. We waved goodbye and headed down the Pincushion ski trails. We followed the trail around and saw the sign for Pincushion Mountain and headed up. The vibrant greens of summer have faded to a pale ghost of the past season. The yellows and reds are starting to emerge.

Northeast from Pincushion Mountain toward Five Mile Rock. Hiding from the angry wet ladies.

Northeast from Pincushion Mountain toward Five Mile Rock. Hiding from the angry wet ladies.

Leo and I got to the impressive long ledge rock at the summit. There were about a dozen bedraggled, wet women up there who were lost. I admitted that I thought the trail continued off the summit. But then I saw that the blazes painted on the rock were white. This usually means the trail is a spur. Blue blazes mark the main Superior Hiking Trail. (My dad always told me blue blazes are smart since blue happens so rarely in nature.) I told them this and said they probably needed to head back to find the main trail. I said the toll was that they had to take a picture of me and the dog. Leo and I ran back toward the main trail and I wished them luck. I got kind of a crabby “see you, wouldn’t want to be you” send off. This from the only guy who gave them a path forward. When they had no rain gear, clearly no maps. And they were headed the same spot I was headed. The kind of people you sometimes read about in the paper later. I hope they made it safe. I guess the good Lord watches out for fools and children.

Leo bridges the Devil Track.

Leo bridges the Devil Track.

Leo and I headed back and found the main trail coincident with the ski trail. I ran back up the trail to tell them to take a right when they hit the ski trail again. You’re welcome.

Often, I think of animals as infallible. The primal wolf bounding through the snow. The deer gracefully arcing through the woods with it’s tail in the air. My dog loping down the ledge rock trail…until he slips and biffs it. Hard. He went down on his flanks and slid about five yards on the wet rock. I thought I saw embarrassment. But it was probably more like this: “Run. Run. Ow. Run. Run. Run.”

The Brule was cool. The Kadunce was impressive, as was the Cascade. But none of those gorges can hold a candle to the Devil Track. I can’t fully convey how impressive that gorge was. The deep reddish-brown of the riverbed. I dearly love the red that colors these rivers. (And permanently stains my socks.) As we climbed up out of the gorge on the east side, we found ourselves on the top of the cliffs. At least 100 feet, maybe 150 feet tall. I almost lost the dog over the edge twice. It was the first time I had the willies looking down at one of these rivers. And the giant red folds of land continued off to the lake in the distance. The trees growing vertically almost parallel to the nearly vertical cliffs. So tilted in every direction you couldn’t find level. Vertigo inducing. It wasn’t that far from the trailhead, if you’re so inclined. Good job, Devil Track.

Devil Track.

Devil Track.

Freaky steep and deep.

Freaky steep and deep.

Don't jump, Leo.

Don’t jump, Leo.

I poached a shower at Magney State Park. The skies opened up with a real gully-washer, lightning included. Leo patiently waited in the Dodge while I headed into the building of the Grand Marais Art Colony. I finally got to meet Shawn Perich who runs the Northern Wilds publication. This was a party to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication. He started out with Amber Pratt and now they have four other folks working for them and the large format newspaper is everywhere along the shore. They’ve come a long way and I got to meet everybody on the magazine’s masthead. They’ve been publishing my scribbling for a long time now so I’m grateful. Plus there was free beer and cake. So, of course, I drove all day to get there.

Ten years!

Ten years!

I got all soft and let Leo sleep on a blanket in the back seat on the way home in the rain and the dark. I thought about all the hidden gems along the shore that I’ve found this summer. Views I never would’ve seen, if not for me running this trail. There’s so much beauty here along the North Shore. So much beauty, so few people. My gratitude is hard to express. So much beauty, even in the rain.

Today’s Data: North Shore Shmo: Leg 22

My goal fundraising number that we beat was arbitrary. So if you’re still looking for a charity to give to, please consider the Wounded Warrior Project via my trail run: North Shore Shmo!

T-Shirt of the Day:

This was last year’s Grandma’s T-shirt. I had a good year of skiing and a good spin-up of running before the race. I only missed my 3:36 PR by four minutes and ran a 3:40. My PR was in 2002. So, eleven years later, I was a little older of a dude. Age graded 3:40 is a 3:25. So I guess I kicked my own ass after all.

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