Superior Hiking Trail in the Spring

Sunset over Sonju lakeMinnesota 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.

Sonju lake campsiteDespite 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.

Here are more pics and a link to the Superior Hiking Trail Association. And here’s a map of the campsites, parking lots, and trail section, about 23 miles, from County Rd 6, through the state park, to Hwy 61:


View Superior Hiking Trail: George Crosby Section in a larger map

Ticks and Kids

minnesota dog tickSpring 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

Earth Day 2011: Talking Toilets

This earth day we taught the kids about water conservation by reviewing all our home videos involving toilets. Turns out there are two worth posting online. In the first, my son, as a toddler, explains the mechanics and hydraulics of the traditional toilet. In the second I demonstrate how to empty a waterless toilet.



Some background for video number 2 (pun): in 2006 my wife and I spent four months in southern France, in the foothills of the Pyreness mountains (some pics and a spider video), isolated from other human beings and from air conditioning and plumbing. We lived in a 500-yr-old shepherd’s cottage which my great aunt and uncle had retrofitted with a windmill and a waterless toilet, among other ultra-green technologies.



If you aren’t up for doing your business in a bucket, which you empty by hand every two weeks, a simple water saving trick is to drop a brick in the toilet (not a euphemism). Actually, drop it in the tank, and rather than a brick use a water bottle filled with sand or gravel or adamantium (not water, as the plastic will float). You’ll save a few hundred gallons of H2O per year.

Happy John Muir Day

john muir

Earlier this week, PBS aired its new American Masters documentary on John Muir (see the preview here). The full film is now available online at pbs.org.

Today commemorates Muir’s birthday, April 21, 1838. He was the father, or at least close relative, maybe uncle, of the National Parks movement, and is best known for preserving Yosemite valley and co-founding the Sierra Club. He stood for preservation in a time when other leading environmentalists leaned toward conservation, i.e., utilization of forest land. He advocated defending the wild and inspired others to experience it by getting into it, “feasting in the Lord’s mountain house.”

For more information check out the John Muir exhibit, from the Sierra Club. I also recommend perusing some of his writings.