Backpacking on the Superior Hiking Trail is an absolutely amazing experience. My first night was something I will never forget. My expectations did not meet the reality of the experience. Thankfully it all got better. Check out Part 1: Fall Hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail – Hwy 1 to Lake Co Rd 7 Part 1
Day 2 on the Superior Hiking Trail
Waking up it was hard to put on my trail clothing again. It is a mix of layers of short sleeves, long sleeves, and doesn’t have the warm fuzzy feeling. The goal really was to get moving. I packed up our bags and found our food hanging right where we left them.
By the time we got to the fire ring, half the hikers left already, with others just getting on the trail. We were late to the party. It really didn’t matter. We did breakfast quick with what water we had and got moving.
I was so shocked when I started up again and realized how light my pack was. That’s when I realized I didn’t’ have any water. It’s amazing how 4.5lbs off your back can make you feel like you are walking on a cloud.
We were planning 6 miles to the next campsite. According to my sister, we could take our time. On a trail like that, I’m not sure I could have gone any faster.
The first mission was to refill our water. The guys at the campsite had walked through the stream to the lake to refill their water. We actually took the spur trail to Wolf Creek’s Raven Lake to fill up.
Any of the experienced Superior Hiking Trail hikers will tell you is to take the spur trails whenever you can. They have some of the best overlooks. I couldn’t agree more.
With the extra weight back on us, we headed back out. The goal was to lunch at Sawmill Dome Vista. The whole time on the trail, we realized we timed this perfectly for fall colors.
Everything was just starting to change. Sawmill Dome was fabulous. Nice area to chill and spread out, with an epic view. We even ran into some of the guys we were camping with the night before.
Raven Lake’s spur trail was such a gem, we decided to take the next spur trail we found at Picnic Rock. Unless you are a boulder, you can skip this trail.
We followed it for a while only to lose the trail completely. There were multiple groups coming in with a bouldering pad. The trail from what we could tell was just taking you below the Sawmill Dome Overlook rock face.
Lake Co Rd 6 TO Lake Co Rd 7
To get to the next section of the hiking trail, you walked along Lake County Road 6 for a short distance. One thing that blew me away was the number of cars parked alongside the road.
The trailhead parking lot for this section is small, only allowing 6-10 cars. It was overflowing with so many day hikers everywhere.
Back on the trail was a relief, mostly because the sun was so hot on the road. It also gave me a chance to take my bag off and refill water.
Determined not to have the same problem as last night, I was drinking more than ever. I also made sure to take as much water up to the campsite with me as possible.
We were planning on staying at Section 13, with no water for miles. This would be our last opportunity to get some.
Filling up Water
For water collection, there are a couple of methods. I’m partial to the Platypus Water Bladders, because of the quantity of water they hold, collapsibility, and ease to use with the Swayer 2.0 filter.
It works great in places like lakes and big bodies of waters with the flow. Because of the way it’s designed, you drag the bladder through the water and scoop it up. In a low stream, this is a challenge.
The bottom of the bag will stir up sediment. My sister likes to use a Smart Waterbottle to avoid this. We filled up everything we had available to us.
As excited as I was to have all the water, it’s probably the reason why it was so taxing going up the mountain. This was going to be the most grueling part of the trip.
As we were going up, I managed to roll my ankle. I’m always amazed when that happens and I go down like a sack of potatoes. Thankfully I was able to continue on up the mountain, a little slower this time.
Each break we took, I’d ask passerby how much further. They’d say “Almost there”, and “It’s worth it”. Their sense of distance is not in alignment with my ‘almost there’.
Thinking about it, I’m not sure how best to respond to people when they ask this because all you need is a little encouragement. But then again, they are at the top going down, not trudging 30lbs on their back up a mountain.
Section 13 Overlook
When we finally reached the summit, I was exhausted and blown away. My sister immediately wanted to see the view. I just wanted to get my pack off and catch my breath.
The top of Section 13 was rocky and it took me a while just to figure out what was the path to the campsites, and what was the hiking trail. There were a dozen people enjoying the overlook and one was nice enough to give us a tour of the campsites.
Camping at Section 13
There three camping areas with tent pads. Coming from the south, the first site is an overflow site created because of how popular of an area it is. It was already filled up.
We ventured on to the next area down the trail. It seemed like the original campsite with an established fire ring and a seat with a bench. Then there was a third area up the hill from that. The best hammocking trees were at the original site.
The place was packed. After setting up there were a dozen or two more hikers coming through trying to find places to pitch their tent.
This particular section of the trail has two marked campsites on it, Section 13 and Leskinen Creek. The Leskinen Creek sites were closed due to bear activity. It’s probably what caused so much traffic.
We had campers coming in well after dark looking for places to set up. People were making their own space in the woods wherever they could find.
We also found another group the next morning a mile away on a different overlook. When it comes down to it, you have to sleep somewhere.
After setting up, we collected firewood and had dinner overlooking Section 13. It was stunning. The camp was a good mix of both men and women this time, making it a little more relaxing.
We made such a big fire too, we were actually getting too hot by it. The night was perfect.
Sleeping Night Two
The temperatures were going to be a full 10 degrees warmer than the night before. We were all excited about that, my sister and I actually slept under the stars. It was one of the best experiences ever.
We also decided to open up one of the emergency blankets and use it as an underquilt quilt underneath the sleeping pads, giving us an extra layer of warmth. It was heavenly.
I ditched the coat and gloves. I wasn’t concerned about getting a limb off the sleeping pad. The only downside to the setup was I crinkled every time I moved.
After getting a good night’s sleep I felt so much better. This was our last day on the trail. I was excited to head home to see the family but would also miss the outdoors.
We opted for an instant coffee breakfast and a Cliff Bar. I’m not sure why I bought so much oatmeal and other options with me. There was no way I would eat all that.
We got off to another early start. This time we were the second couple out of our little area. I was no longer concerned about water. We were going almost 80% of the way downhill and I felt like we could fly.
We enjoyed every little thing about it. We were also going to do a few interesting sections of the trail.
The Sawmill Creek Pond Boardwalk
The one part of the trail that I was most concerned about was the ‘closed’ section of Sawmill Creek Pond boardwalk. It was noted on the Superior Hiking Trail site that it was closed due to boardwalk conditions.
According to the Facebook Group, we were told that it was still possible, just take your time. As we entered the boardwalk, we decided that it was a 1 person per board conditions.
We lighted as we both filmed each other going over the sectioned that was almost underwater, hoping to catch each other falling in. We both managed to keep our feet dry.
After crossing we found all the materials for the new boardwalk. It is going to be impressive. I also got to sign my first Superior Hiking Trail logbook! I’ve officially left my mark on the trail!
Huge Glacial Erratic
When you see names called out on the map like Huge Glacial Erratic, you have to wonder what the heck is that? But when you stumble upon it mid-hike, it describes it perfectly. It gave us a good laugh and a picture opportunity.
We moved to found the infamous Leskinen Creek campground completely deserted. It was great for group camping, as it was in a big wide open space.
There were trees, but it didn’t fill in the site so there was little in way of privacy. They also had a bear cable. Some of the more popular sites have a cable strung up to help those that do traditional bear hangs find a secure place.
Thinking everything was all downhill, I was a little disappointed to find that there was another hilly section to climb. And in true clumsy fashion, I rolled my ankle again.
I love to say I was in a difficult area, but no, I think I step on a root and was just moving too fast. And with a mile or two left, I managed to roll the opposite angle. I got back up, took it a little slower, and finished up the hike.
Getting back to the car was one of the biggest relief. We managed to the same number of miles on the last day, as we did on the first two days. As much as I love the woods, I love getting to get my feet out of stinky hiking boots.
On the way back, we stopped at Tettegouche State Park again to change into clean clothes and wash up a little. It wasn’t until I got out of the car when I realized how much damage I had done to my ankles. I was hobbling everywhere.
Would I Backpack on the Superior Hiking Trail Again?
Yes, I had a great time. I’m split on if I want to do the entire trail or just a few more sections. It was a challenging trip, but breathtaking.
I was shocked that distance we covered and still can’t believe that there are so many people that visit MN’s North Shore and never get to see these places. I’m hoping to take my daughter up there next spring so she can experience it all.