Small Talk on the Superior Hiking Trail

Small Talk Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail: Questions everyone ask

I just completed my very first section hike of the Superior Hiking Trail. I’ve dabbled on the trail before and completed mini parts of it while I was on the MN State Parks Hiking Club Trails. This fall I completed my first time sleeping on the trail. Unlike most camping, this was a social experience.

As an introvert, I was a little apprehensive about the trip. Everyone on the trail was very friendly and supportive. One thing I found, as everyone asked the same set of questions. Here is your Small Talk Guide to the Superior Hiking Trail.

Benches on the Superior Hiking Trail

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The questions everyone on the Superior Hiking Trail Should be Able to Answer

On the first night of camping, everyone sat around the fire ring and started asking questions. The second day, we sat with some people for lunch, and the same questions came up.

By the time we got to camp the second place, it all started to feel the same. It may be a Minnesota Nice thing, but the questions all seem to have a hidden meaning. Let me decode them for you.

“Where did you come from?”

Maybe you can give me trail conditions from up ahead? The SHT website posts current conditions, like closed sections and trail maintenance. The book also is a good indicator of the source.

“Where are you going?”

Are we going to be headed the same way? Maybe we’ll meet up at the next campsite? Depending on how tonight goes, that could be a good thing or maybe we’ll push it a little further to the next site then. 

“When did you get on the trail?”

How dedicated of a hiker are you?

“Where do you live?”

Local or did you come from out of state just to do the superior hiking trail? You always come across a few that have come great distances to hike the trail.

“What do you do for a living?”

Can I relate to you? Make sure you have a quick answer to this one because if your job is too complicated you’ve lost them.

“What are you eating?” Followed with “Is it any good?”

Everything is Mountain House. Chances are someone is eating the same thing as you.

“Did do you stay warm last night?”

This is a bigger question in Fall and Spring when temperatures get in the 40’s.

Hammock Camping on the Superior Hiking Trail

If you bring a Hammock

How do you like it?

I’ve thought about buying one but don’t know if I want to commit the money. Hammocks look low cost until you start getting all the accessories and then realize it’s only for one person to sleep in.

What is it like?

Could I actually do it, with no ground below me?

Other Terminology To Know

Also before you go, you’ll want to make sure you know the lingo. Knowing the difference between these things will help you fit in a little more.

Types of Hiking

There are three types of hiking. Each has its own level of difficulty and perseverance.

Day Hiking

The easiest form of hiking, getting in and out in a day. People that Day Hike will carry lunches and water with them, but do not spend the night. They carry smaller backpacks.

You often see Day Hikers on weekends, during peak times of the year. They do some of the most popular spots, like Bean and Bear, and look for areas that loop or double back on the trail.

Section Hiking

When you don’t have time to do the entire Superior Hiking Trail in one trip, your section hikes it. Hikers complete sections in overnight trips, weekend, or weeklong trips, breaking it into manageable trips.

Hikers either use shuttle services to drop them off at their starting location, leave their car at the end of the section, or take two cars and park one at each trailhead.

Thru Hiking

The most dedicated type of hiking is the Thru-Hiker. They complete the entire Superior Hiking Trail in one trip. This typically takes people 3-4 weeks to complete about 300 miles of the trail.

Hikers use different locations on the trail to refill supplies.

Food Preparation

There are a couple of different ways people cook food on the trail. It all depends on the type of hiking you are doing.

Hot Food

The most common is to make food over a camp stove. Quick ready-to-make instant meals, like Mountain House are everyone’s favorite. Instant Coffee is always a great pick me up too.

Cold Soak

Those looking to save on weight, choose the cold soak method. Hikers will add water to their food while they are hiking and when they get to camp, it is hydrated and ready to eat.

It saves on time. With this method, you do not have to keep a pot, stove, or cup. It works best during summertime when you are craving cold food.

Campfire Small Talk on the Superior Hiking Trail

The Social Experiment

Each type of camping has its own culture, and when it comes to Backpackers, I’ve never met a nicer bunch. Everyone is supportive and helpful.

I wrote this more in satire, but when you go, I challenge you to get to know your fellow hikers a little more.

If you need some help, pick up a copy of The Serious Business of Small Talk by Carol Fleming. Find out why they decide to hike the trail and what makes them unique.

Because in the end, it’s not about the gear they use, how long they’ve been hiking, or any of the other superficial things, it’s about making connections. And if all else fails, you can always bring a flask with you.

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