My friends are hiking the Minong, and I am not!
Duane, Gregg, and Michael have been hiking across the Minong Ridge Trail for the last few days, and we all know that trail is my favorite. You can be sure that I am wishing I were there with them, crossing the beaver dams between Washington Creek and North Lake Desor, trudging up and down the ridge repeatedly between Desor and Little Todd, and enjoying the narrow trail atop the wooded ridge between Little Todd and Todd Harbor. I love that hike!
They started from Windigo/Washington Creek, which lets them keep their zero day banked, and it put them past the roughest parts in the first two days. The beaver dams were drier than usual this year, making them easier to cross and easier not to lose the trail. The single creek to get water on the Minong Ridge Trail, near the Little Todd junction, still flows at this point. For the ambitious, it is possible to hike past Little Todd (saving the 1.5 miles in and out to the Lake Superior shore), and get water at that creek, continuing either to North Desor or Todd Harbor, depending on the direction you take to complete the trail. Of course, in late summer, the creek sometimes dries up, so you should not count on it as a water source.
As they progress across the island, they keep sending photos, either by FB Messenger, or by simple text, from the ridge when they have a little cell service. (Remember to have Canada in your plan if you use your phone from the ridge or your bill will be shocking). All the images here come directly from them as they hike. While they had a little rain on one day, the trail has been ideal most of the time, with a light breeze and partly cloudy skies. The campgrounds are busy, but people are amiable, sharing as needed. I can smell the fresh water as I look at the lake in the images they share.
As with all hikers, these three have different propensities. Gregg is a power hiker with whom many people have trouble keeping pace. He’s a brute, I say affectionately. He is 6′ 4″ or taller, and he hikes like a mountain man, moving at a good pace with his loaded pack, a chair, and a two-person tent to spread out in comfort at the end of the day. Gregg sprints ahead of the two others each morning, while the older guys keep a more steady and measured pace.
With Michael and Duane, the focus is on the experience of the trail. They keep a moderate pace. Yes, they have full packs, but their joy is in the process, the stopping and savoring the adventure along the way. As much as Gregg loves the challenge of covering ground, these two relish the contemplation of the ground they cover, the view, the potential for future hikes, and any other idea that comes up as they traverse the island.
They send pictures without captions, and I piece together where they are. From various lookout points, the images come first from Gregg. I see the rugged trail and inland lakes, and especially views of Sleeping Giant. An hour or so later, the second perspective arrives on that esteemed provincial park, or the inland lakes, or the rocky trail, only with a couple different faces in front.
Look at their faces though. They all look happy, and I am happy for them. They are reaching their goals. Michael wants to finish the trail which he has done sections of before. Once that’s done, he has goals for some other trails. Duane wants to make sure they all stay safe because that’s his main priority, but he loves the hike for the views and the campgrounds. Gregg wants to see all there is to see of the trail and all it passes or nears, the mines, the lookouts, the lakes. He has enjoyed taking a dip in each of the lakes, including Superior.
Today (Aug. 11), they are stuck in McCargoe Cove with cold rain. It’s good they banked their zero day so that they don’t have to hike in the rain today. It’s best to stay off the ridge in the rain, for the rocks can be slippery. On the ridge, there is no shelter from lightning or hail, which might threaten. For them tonight, thunderstorms are forecast early with rain overnight.
While they are hiking the Minong, I am preparing for a Daisy Farm Loop and a couple Chippewa Harbor hikes yet this fall. I do have availability in the September 8-15 Chippewa Harbor hike for this fall if anyone is interested. I am also setting up next year’s schedule where I plan to offer one Minong Ridge hike, one Chippewa Harbor, and a few Daisy Loops, and not all will be women-only.
Duane’s itinerary will include some really creative hikes: The Feldtmann tacked on a Greenstone Ridge, Malone Bay and Chippewa Harbor in a single hike, as well as another Minong Ridge and Greenstone excursions. We also think we might have a third guide for at least one excursion next year.
The Minong Ridge Trail extends from Washington Creek to McCargoe Cove, but you generally hike on into Rock Harbor (or out from Rock Harbor, depending on the direction you take) unless you catch the Voyageur II to or from MCCargoe. It is an awesome trail for an experienced backpacker and not for the novice. It’s a good goal for a second or third solo on the island or a second guided excursion. However these three–Gregg, Michael and Duane–do it, you can be sure I wish I were there.