Minnesota is waterlogged this time of year. Winter has outstayed its welcome and spring has finally taken a stand, liquefying the snow much faster than the earth can soak it up. Hiking trails are soggy. Campsites are more mud than dirt. Nevertheless, in celebration of spring’s triumph, my son and I spent May 6th and 7th on the Superior Hiking Trail, in northern MN.
Despite the snow melt and overgrowth the hiking was great. We covered a few miles of the George Crosby section, just north of Little Marais, MN, and spent the night on Sonju Lake.
The single campsite on Sonju is on the north side of a small hill with lots of shade – most of it was either under snow or puddle and there wasn’t a single dry stick to burn. Conclusions: in the spring months, don’t camp on Sonju or plan on a bonfire. Also, watch out for ticks.
Spring has finally arrived in Minnesota, and so have the ticks. Last week was our first experience with ticks and kids, an unfortunate combination.
As long as bugs keep to themselves I don’t usually mind having them around. I can tolerate the pesky ones that sting and bite in self defense, and I’ve even made peace with mosquitoes. But any creature that takes up semi-permanent residence on my person is an enemy. And anything that goes after my kids will face my wrath. Sitting in church on Sunday I nearly swore out loud when I found a tick clamped to my daughter’s neck.
We had gone hiking, to get some bald eagle photos, on Friday morning. So this tick had been stalking us for over 48 hours! It gets worse. Sunday afternoon I took the baby (18 mos old) for a walk. When we got home, while twisting her hair into a mohawk, I found a tick on her neck!
We finally concluded that the pair had been waiting on my older daughter’s jacket, which she had worn on our hike, and which my youngest had worn on our walk. Lesson learned – ticks are patient, persistent, and they’re gross.
Here are a few more facts I recently learned:
They typically hatch in the summer/fall, live three years, and are dormant through the winter. It’s not until the second and third years, or phases, that they’re most annoying and most dangerous.
Deer ticks (aka, blacklegged ticks) carry lyme disease and they’re not all deer ticks. The ones we found, in the photo above, were dog ticks.
They don’t jump or fly. Instead, they sit and wait, usually in thicker grass and brush, and grab on when someone comes by.
Depending on the humidity (the higher the better, for them) they can survive indoors. The rugged ones can also survive a wash cycle, but none will make it through an hour in the dryer.
Good methods of prevention are keeping the kids on the trail, putting them in long pants, and doing a thorough check after being out. Tweezers are the best method of removal.
There’s a variety of information on the web, but you’ll find everything you ever didn’t want to know in this document: www.ct.gov/…/tickhandbook.pdf
This weekend we hiked around at Minnehaha Falls, just south of Minneapolis on the Mississippi River. The waterfall is puny by most standards, such as height and volume. But by other standards, like freezability, it stands out. After a few weeks of low temperatures near zero, the entire fall ices over.
The best views are from the underside.
Some notes for anyone planning a visit: The stairs on both sides of the creek are “closed for the season,” but still accessible. The staircase on the west side gets a lot of traffic and has been polished into one long icy slide (see video below). The east staircase, which we discovered on the way out, was much more like a staircase. Also, once you disregard the second warning sign, and fence, it gets real d-icey. Crampons would help.
I can still smell the campfire smoke and stinky socks from our first overnighter of 2011, a quick trip to Afton State Park, on the St. Croix River, about 30 miles from the Twin Cities. Though not as campy or gritty as our last campout, the state parks have a couple of attractions to offer in the winter: heated cabins and snowshoe rentals.
Compared to a tent in the bushes the cabin was luxurious, with heat, electricity, a porch, fire pit, and picnic table. Not to mention a garbage can and coat rack! They’re a bit pricey at $58.50, probably because of the coat rack, but going with friends and splitting the bill made it manageable. For a bundle of firewood, snowshoe rentals, and three meals for 5 people the total came to about $110, and we ate like camping kings (hot dogs, dutch oven cinnamon rolls, cakes with bacon).
Please excuse the blurry, i.e., artsy, photos, taken with my cell phone. I forgot my camera, along with the ketchup, hence the fast-food condiments seen in the hot dog lineup picture. Even with Heinz the trip couldn’t have been better, unless the kids had gone to bed before 11:15 and/or woken up after 5:15. Despite having burnt the candle, severely, at both ends they tromped through the snow with us for a few hours.
A successful first attempt at snowshoeing! I’ve posted a few more cell-phone quality pics here: Campouts – 2011
In my first post, which asks, Is Parenting Worth it? I managed to squeeze in a reference to hiking, in this case the greatest day hike ever invented, Half Dome, Yosemite. If I had to choose a mountain for a father figure it would be this semi-dome. Firm as granite, but not impossible or abusive.
Last summer my bro and I hiked the dome nocturnally. Leaving Curry Village, at the valley floor, at 1:00 AM put us on top just before dawn, about 5:45 AM. After soaking it up and taking a power nap, we blazed back down to the valley in the cool hours of the morning, passing a hundred or so weary hikers all at different points in their journey up.
I highly recommend it, if you can manage 17 miles on zero sleep. You carry about half the water as you would during the day, since you’re exposed to about a fourth as much sun and heat. And there are plenty of other hikers with the same crazy objective, so you’ll easily outnumber any bears; if you don’t, you’ll likely not be the slowest. Best of all is watching the sunrise over the pacific crest. Incredible.