This was just a quick overnight trip on the SHT. I wanted to test out some new gear and get out of the house, and I also didnt know what the trail conditions would be, so I planned on a quick outing.
I made the drive up to Split Rock Lighthouse State Park and parked my car at the cart-in parking lot that was completely empty. You’re supposed to call the park rangers and let them know you’re staying overnight, you still need to have a state park parking pass to use the lot. They just had me put a note on my dash saying I was on the SHT. From the parking lot you go on the trail to the paved Gitchi Gami trail that runs parallel to Highway 61 for a bit. After about 3/4 of a mile or so you’ll come to the crossing of Highway 61. Here was my route.
The spur trail is pretty boring. If I’ve read correctly this part of the trail is fairly new. It had to be put in place after a nearby landowner had several negative encounters with hikers giving him grief over riding his ATV and hunting on his land.
Walk this for a bit and eventually you’ll come across a deer enclosure.
After another small bit of hiking you’ll come to this sign indicating that you’ve been walking on an old logging railroad grade.
I did some research on this old logging railroad. This article from the Minnesota Historical Society goes into it a bit. Basically this Merrill logging company, now modern day Merrill and Ring Lumber Company built the railroad in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. These logging companies also started the now ghostown townsite of Splitrock Minnesota.
Eventually the trail climbs up. It’s not a bad climb at all and you get some good views from the top. Would love to come back during Fall.
After a couple of miles I came to the campsite. Like most trips for me on the SHT I nearly walked by it.
The campsite is HUGE! There is a whole other part of it tucked among the cedar trees and pines with another fire pit. You could fit 10 tents and hammocks easy in the site.
I had some new gear I wanted to test on the trip. I had swapped out the suspension on my hammock to use Whoopie Slings from MeyersTech. They weigh under an ounce! Were super easy to use and let you make really small fine adjustments. I think I only paid $20 for the set from his eBay shop. Well worth the money.
I’ve setup the hammock, tarp, quilts enough now that I am getting faster about it. This setup probably took me 20-30 minutes to get everything settled. Still way longer than my tent but it use to take me 45-60 minutes so I am slowly improving.
One of the best parts of the SHT are the magnificent thrones you get to poop from! Usually you get an awesome view from the latrine! This one was hard to find, I walked past it twice before I noticed the note on the sign. Once you know to turn up hill to the right past the pines you’ll find it easy.
I had planned on getting water from this creek. It was right on the edge between melting snow for water or filtering. I’m not sure if one way was better than the other this trip. There wasnt that much snow. I never needed my microspikes or snowshoes. But chipping a hole in the ice of this creek was a major pain. I eventually got it opened up enough to fill up my container for the water filter but it was a hassle. Despite it looking pretty yellow and nasty it tasted fine!
The hike in was short so I opted to hike a bit past Chapins creek and onto Christmas Tree Ridge. It was worth the hike! I want to come back again and hike further up to the Fault Line Ridge. As it was daylight was burning and I didnt want to hike by headlamp. Plus I wanted to collect enough dead wood to have a small fire.
I gathered a bunch of dead wood, of which there was plenty and started a small fire. I just kept nursing it along for a few hours into the night. Drank some hot cocoa, listened to a podcast and wolves/coyotes going nuts in the background, and managed to see a few stars through the clouds. I actually managed to get my old Optimus 8r stove going just fine this trip! Took me a few times priming it but I was able to eat a nice hot meal for dinner this time. Then I did a couple of jumping jacks and sprints to warm myself up before heading to bed. I didnt wake up until 9am the next morning! Slept like a log through the night in the hammock.
Other Random Notes:
- As I mentioned above my old Optimus stove did work this time. I just had to fill the priming cup 2-3 times before it would actually fire due to the cold.
- I brought my new 20F Warbonnet Diamondback quilt. Nighttime temps got right to 20F and I was plenty warm from it. I dont know that I would push it past 20F but its temp rating was accurate in my mind.
- This trail would be hard in the winter with a lot more snow. You’d want some snowshoes with good traction or just microspikes/crampons and post holing up hills.
- I brought my UCO candle lantern but there isnt a good way to hang it safely on the hammock ridgeline. Usually in my tent I’ll read by candlelight in the winter but I think I’ll leave it behind on hammock trips.
- The dinner I ate was one of the best backpacking meals I’ve had! It was Dotties Chicken and Dumplings from PackIt Gourmet. Well worth the price.