Monday, August 7, 2017

Grand Marais, Devils Track Lake and the Gunflint Trail

July 29 - August 5, 2017:

We arrive at the Devil’s Track Lake campground in the Superior National Forest, it’s great to be back in the forest !!  There are a few open campsites to chose from and we set up in one, but then see people in one of the lakefront sites pulling out.  After looking at it we decide to change sites as it is a huge site with a beautiful lake view where you can walk down stairs to the waters edge.  The campsites here have no hookups, but water is available, we have good exposure for our solar panels and if need be we can run the generator.  So in a few miles we have gone from a very noisy, expensive parking lot campground to a scenic, quiet, serene, inexpensive campsite.  The call of the Loons in the lake is pretty special too !  We decide to stay here the whole week as we like the area.

Evening view of Devils Track Lake from behind our campsite

One of our best campsites of the year

Good spot for a campfire

The Devil Track Lake gets it’s name from the Devil Track River which flows through it.  The Anishinabe Indian name for the river is “Manido bimadagakowini zibi”  which supposedly translates into english as “spirits walking place on the ice river”.  This suggests something supernatural about the lake, not necessarily bad, could be good spirits.  I feel something may be lost in this translation.  However, we do have a Loon or two on the lake and the call of the Loon could be considered a supernatural sound. 

The sign at the campground

We take an approximate four mile roundtrip hike on the Superior Trail from the Pincushion Overlook off Gunflint Trail to the bluffs.  On the bluffs we find a woman resting who has been backpacking on the trail for the past week. She is headed for the overlook parking lot where we started the hike and is hoping it has water as she is running low.  She has some water from a beaver pond and could filter it, but would prefer not to.  We didn’t have any on us to spare but remembered on our way back that we had a couple of bottles in the Jeep.  As expected she was right behind us as we arrived back at the overlook and was really happy to get that water which would get her to her next water location.  It always makes you feel good to help a someone on the trail.

The trees are covered in various types of lichens

This Deer stood and watched us walk by from about 20 feet away

After the hike, as we are hot and thirsty and it’s Twinkles birthday, so we immediately go the Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais for lunch and a nice cold beer.  This has come to be our favorite place for food and drink here.

The Gunflint Tavern

The Gunflint Trail is a paved road today but it once was more of a trail.  It goes from Grand Marais northwest for about 60 miles to the “end of the road” where the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area begins.  There are many hunting and fishing lodges and guide and outfitter services along this road.  I took a ride on it to the Moose viewing blind which involves a short hike into the forest to a marshy area.  I didn’t see any Moose but they was an interesting old mangled up 1960’s Chrysler car with a hemi engine sitting in the forest.

The Gunflint Trail entrance in Grand Marais, it's an old metal sign that has been restored

I also liked this water tank about a mile up the trail

This is what you see at the end of the Moose viewing trail, about
25 miles north off the trail.   I hung out for a while but saw nothing.

Except for this 1960's Chrysler along the trail

I took a side trip to this lake where a group of canoeists were
about to depart and took a group photo for them.  It looked like

a great area to canoe.

A nice pond along the road

There was one Lily blooming

The majority of the lakes are obscured by the forest and not visible from the road but there are side roads for access.  A topographical map is really helpful to see them.  This area has been heavily logged, the forests look good from a distance but up close they are pretty mangy looking.  I wish I could time travel back to see the forest in the 1600’s when it was more of a virgin forest.

The Gunflint Trail, a few tall trees among mostly young trees

The hiking possibilities are great along the Lake Superior shoreline both in summer and winter, there is even a major ski hill a few miles away.  There are four or five state parks that are decent day trips from the campground that all have rivers that flow steeply down into Lake Superior with deep canyons and multiple waterfalls.
We visit both the Cascade River State Park and the Temperance River State Parks which both have great trails.  The rivers run steeply downhill into Lake Superior, are fast flowing, rocky and have cut deep gorges and cascading waterfalls.  The trails wind along the river on both side up and down stairs and over bridges.  At Temperance State Park there are a couple of areas where people are swimming and jumping off ledges high above into the water below.

One of several waterfalls on the Cascade River at Cascade State Park

The Cascade River goes through bridge and into Lake Superior

The Temperance River

Great waterfall on the Temperance River

Young teenage girl jumping into the river

We do another hike near Temperance State Park called the Oberg Loop Trail. It climbed up to a bluff top and then looped around to several scenic viewpoints.  It is a very popular hike which got kind of got crowded at the viewpoints.

View at the first viewpoint

Another rocky viewpoint

A beautiful Lake and Beaver Pond

The weather took a change for the worse on Thursday with a cold rain with a high of about 56 degrees.  That becomes miserable when it lasts all day when you’re dry camping without electric, eventually you have to run that generator for heat.  I go to downtown Grand Marais for the morning to escape the cold and use the Coffee Shop and library WiFi which are both excellent.  

There is an annual event from Wednesday to Sunday this week in Grand Marais called the “Fisherman’s Picnic”.   They have periods of rain every day, but it doesn’t deter the crowds much at all.  The American Legion has a Bingo game every day from noon to possibly midnight, with a bar all set up under a tent, it is packed with players.  They have craft vendors, food vendors, kiddie rides, music in the Harbor Park, a log rolling competition, a wood sawing competition, a kids tractor pull competition and best of all a Loon calling competition.

Lots of people downtown for the Picnic

Cheese Curds are popular here

Moose Antlers too !

The waterfront with the folk school ship in background

The kids tractor pull was realistic and drew a big crowd

The log rolling competition

Craft tents under threatening skies

I go out on Friday evening and check out a band called “Earth, Wind and Todd”  at Grandma Ray's.  It was filled at 9 PM with an older crowd and the band was probably even older, but they obviously have been rocking for decades and are excellent players.  I then back outside and heard good sounding music coming from the Harbor stage.  It was a band called “Brothers in Arms” and they were playing great old classic rock and playing it really well.   The even did a rousing version of "Freebird", it was great !

Grandma Rays banner

The Brothers in Arms Band

This is a great town to visit but I wouldn’t come again without a canoe or a kayak and I would go all the end to the end of the Gunflint Trail and into the Boundary Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area.   We have thoroughly enjoyed both Ely and Grand Marais Minnesota. The thought of sitting in front of a roaring fire in a small rustic cabin near the canoe waterways, cross country ski, snowshoe and snowmobile trails appeals to me.    

The next stop is Two Harbors, Minnesota,

Twinkles and Slick

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