Fall Foliage & Family Trip 2021 | Hiking, Road Tripping, and Camping in Superior National Forest | October 12, 2021
After expecting it to start raining on Monday evening, we awoke in our tent on Tuesday pleasantly surprised to find that not only had it stayed dry, but that it was also not freezing cold. We broke camp and packed up the car, ready and motivated to make the most of the day. It was then, however, that we discovered one of our tires was nearly flat. We weren’t sure when or how that happened, but Curtis changed it out for the spare and we began driving toward Grand Marais hoping to find somewhere where we could get it repaired.
As soon as we found cell service, I looked up places in town and found one that was just opening up. We drove straight there, and luckily they had time to fix it for us. We dropped off the flat tire and then drove to the nearest trailhead to kill time. It was for the trail to Pincushion Mountain — and this just so happened to be our favorite hike of the day. We were extremely grateful with how everything worked out — obviously we’d prefer to not have car troubles, but for all the driving we’ve done this year we are quite fortunate to have dealt with minimal issues and that everything worked out so well today.
The hike to Pincushion Mountain was about 4 miles round-trip and followed the Superior Hiking Trail most of the way. The overlook where we began was actually higher than the mountain itself, but the peak still gave us amazing views to the North and East, overlooking the lake. We spent a long time at the top, all alone together, enjoying the lake view and the colors in the trees. If you’re interested, check out our trail recording here.
Once we were finished, we returned to Grand Marais and picked up our tire, grabbed some snacks at a grocery store, and snapped a picture of the county courthouse. We then began heading South along MN-61 towards our next hike for the day. While it was still cloudy, we were beginning to believe that it wouldn’t rain on us at all and decided to make the most of this perfect day.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, we were especially excited to be in this area because the last time we visited was on our honeymoon. It was so fun to return with so much more experience traveling and with different perspectives, and to be able to bring Charlotte along this time. There was a little temptation to just revisit all of the places that we went 8 years ago just for the sake of reliving memories, but there’s one big difference about us now than who we were then: we now really enjoy hiking — real, long hikes, and since we were at the peak of fall we simply couldn’t pass up the chance to hike more trails and see it all. Last time we were here, we did several short hikes just for letterboxes, visited Split Rock Lighthouse, saw some waterfalls, and drove almost the entirety of the Gunflint Trail. We would end up making a few of the same stops tomorrow, but today’s focus of hiking, and maybe a letterbox if it was on the trail, reflects more of who we are today.
Our next stop for today was in Cascade River State Park. Here we did a one mile loop hike on the Superior Hiking Trail extension, following the Cascade River on the East side down to MN-61, then crossed over on the highway bridge and hiked back up the West side. When at the highway, we also crossed so that we could walk down to the lake shore just to check it out. There were several waterfalls in this small section of the river, and thanks to recent rains the river was full and the waterfalls were quite impressive. However, we knew that just a month ago, this area had such severe drought and that this area would have looked completely different.
We were loving every hike we did and even with the flat tire, we kept talking about how perfect and stress-free today had been. We were starting to feel like we might just love this area and want to spend a lot more time here. But we realized that a lot of that is because we were here at the literal perfect time of year with the most ideal conditions — the peak of fall, not too hot, not too cold, no snow or rain, no crowds of people, no bugs — and even year to year, this “perfect window” will vary and we lucked out that there wasn’t snow up here yet. Even so, Curtis still started planning a potential return to through-hike the Superior Hiking Trail…and that might even be our plan C for next fall. Stay tuned…
Our final hike for today was the Oberg Mountain loop, a 2.5 mile trek South of Lutsen. There were several views along the way to the South, East over the Lake, and North over other smaller inland lakes. Along the trail there were Halloween themed signs that the National Forest had put out teaching about monsters and mythical creatures of the Northwoods, which provided extra entertainment for our walk.
Once we were finished, we went out in search for another rustic campsite like we had enjoyed the night before. We started by taking a forest road through Temperance River State Park and ended up finding a campsite next to Wilson Lake. There were actually five small campsites here, but we were the only ones camping there that night. After setting up our tent, we set up the kayak and went out on a 3 mile paddle around the lake. On our ride, we saw lots of interesting birds, including a bald eagle. The wind had picked up though and the waves became more rough than what we’ve experienced in the past. Also at one point, Charlotte decided to try to stand up with her feet on the side of the boat for the first time, but we made her sit back down not sure if she’d try to jump ship or something. Poor girl probably just wanted to see around me though — she just loves a good view.
Finally, we wrapped up the day with a warm dinner and enjoyed yet another dry and cozy night in our tent. Out of all our days of traveling this year, this one easily was one of the best!