I have a map with me, but I don’t look at it. The trail is pretty well marked. Other than the broad strokes, I try not to learn too much about each leg. I like to come around a corner and get amazed by something I didn’t expect.
The first one was a giant boulder all by itself in the trees now empty of leaves. At least this far up the shore they’re gone on the hardwoods.
Then we crossed a really long boardwalk across Sawmill Bog where we made a Canada goose a little upset. He honked at us and flew away. We started to catch a glimpse of something called Section 13. Supposedly a rock climbing haven. I could see why, even from a mile away.
As we got closer, I could tell the trail would go to the top of the big cliffs. I took dozens of photos. Often, you can only see north or only south. From here, you could see in all directions. I always wish I could take more of it in somehow while I’m there. I end up taking photos which always do a poor job of stealing the spot’s soul.
There are two summits in Section 13 (I don’t know what township it is). They’re both worth the time if you’re ever on County Rd 6 near Finland with sturdy shoes on. It was a pleasant surprise how awesome the place was.
We crossed that road and headed up toward Sawmill Dome. Another place I’ve seen from the truck, but now I know what it’s called. We saw a spur trail to something called Picnic Rock. I was getting tired about two and a half hours in, but I taking the spur is usually a good idea. So, we crunched through the leaves on the narrow trail. We followed it under the major cliffs on the north side of the peak through boulders and nooks and crannies of rock. And then the trail hit a dead end of stone under an overhang. We lost the trail. We just started bushwhacking, thinking we’d find the trail again or whatever this Picnic Rock was. Never found it.
But I caught a glimpse of a neon green hat through the rocks. I walked up and said hello to Peter and Katie who were up from Wisconsin. They were working on a boulder problem. According to Peter, it was first climbed in 2003. And nobody has done it since. He said it was probably among the top five hardest boulder routes east of the Mississippi. Leo got in the way and I took a couple pictures. We didn’t find Picnic Rock, but tucked away in the middle of nowhere, we found something even cooler. No rock climbers at Section 13, but, surprise!, here they were in a rock pile away from any known trail. More proof you should always take the spur.
We continued along the ridge with views of Lake Superior and my energy was waning as we entered the Wolf Ridge property. I’d been there chaperoning Sam’s 4th grade class when they did their annual trip to the environmental learning center there. It’s called “teacher appreciation for parents.” There’s an incredible overlook of Johnson Lake. I kind of felt like I was hallucinating as I ran out of gas and fantasized about finally arriving at the truck after four hours.
We flushed a grouse. We looked at the Big Lake. We came upon a spur trail. I blew it off. (Hypocrite.) We hit the parking lot. Several people were there. They looked at me kind of funny. Probably because I was mumbling gibberish as my last calories drained away.
Today’s Data: North Shore Shmo: Leg 31
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T-Shirt of the Day:
I wore my Low t-shirt. Because they’re a good band.