Superior Hiking Trail – Sugarloaf Parking Lot to Crystal Creek Campsite

This was another “quick” overnight on the SHT. I wanted to finally use my pulk that I had bought last year and see how it works on the trail, if I enjoyed using it, if I thought it was helpful, etc.

A “quick” hike.

I had thought that with this route, I could see how the conditions were and then keep hiking or not depending on how I was feeling. This particular stretch had campsites sprinkled along at 1.5, 2.8 and 3.5 miles as the trail started to run into George Crosby Manitou State Park.

I was worried that I was A) out of shape and B) the trail was going to be a slog. It was a bit of A but a whole lot of B.

The unplowed parking lot.
The Pulk Pulling Setup

For gear I was using a Hill People Gear Umlindi pack with their prairie belt and the racing pulk & poles from The poles went on the pack via a couple of climbing rated caribeners.

The start of the trail. Didnt look to bad…
One big road plow ridge to go over.
Another nice section before all hell broke loose.

After a nice bit of hiking I started to get to an area that must be pretty swampy in the summer months. I started postholing pretty good, even with snowshoes and light pack and getting caught up in downed brush and trees that were bent over with all of this years record snow.

The start of postholing and getting my pulk caught up.
Bent branch after bent branch.
The snow was so deep I was walking over this bench!
Calico Creek, didnt see this on any maps.
Great lake views.

Going down, cross the bridge, and getting back up over that creek was a challenge. The first time I went down my pulk didnt perfectly align with the bridge and I had to take off my pack while leaning over to grab the pulk and pull it onto the bridge. Then going up it wanted to fishtail and pull me to the side. Fun times.

Finally I arrived!

That was probably the slowest hike in my life. It took me 4 grueling hours to go about 2 miles. I cant overstate how much I was pulling my pulk over downed trees, or crawling under them or postholing. It was exhausting.

Saw a grouse hiding!

When the path was clear the pulk was fantastic! I stuffed most of my gear into this army surplus duffle bag and then cinched it down with some rope. It worked really well overall. When its gliding it feels like theres hardly anything back there and I’d have to look over my shoulder to make sure it was still attached to me.

I finally got to use my Warbonnet winter tarp! It worked really well even in a difficult, tight hang. I used my SLD Trail Liar hammock and my 0F quilt set from LocoLibre gear.

I also finally got the chance to use my new multi-fuel stove. The Bushcooker Lt II from Four Dog Stove company. It only weighs 3.8oz which is pretty impressive for its size! I had brought it to just play around with and had intended to bring my MSR white gas stove to melt snow for water but actually forgot to pack it. So I used the Bushcooker with my trangia, esbit tabs, and as a twig stove. It was a lot of working tending the stove but I was able to slowly melt enough water to stay hydrated and to cook with. It just took a lot of fussing with.

Just a bit bigger than a can of pop.

The pattern on that Warbonnet tarp does a great job hiding you out there in the snow!

It only got down to about 15F that night so I was plenty warm. I read for a few hours then ended up passing out for a good 10-12 hours of sleep! Only woke up once to go to the bathroom and because I was to warm and had to take off some layers.

The hike out went much faster since I had packed down the trail somewhat. But I still had to fight a ton of downed trees and it was slow going.

I also came across this which I had never seen before. I had to do some digging but I found some great content online in government databases. The kind of stuff thats one broken link away from disappearing forever. So Ive uploaded them to this site here and here for preservation. The first is a database of bearing trees in Minnesota, as of 1995. I guess now all of the data lives in some database somewhere. The second is a US Forest Service guide to identifying the remains of bearing trees.

What is a bearing tree? Its an old surveying monument for section corners in surveying land divisions. Basically instead of pounding a stake in the ground they’d use a tree! It appears to have been an older system. I’m not sure how much its used now. The information on the tree I found was pretty much sunbleached out and illegible. This page has a ton more info and background and was worth a read.

All in all a pretty fun trip! Was good to get back out there again.

Random Thoughts:

  • I wore VBL glove liners and they were fantastic! Kept my hands warm and just a tad clammy but dry overall the whole time. Its not rare for the tips of my fingers to get a bit cold if Im not careful but that never happened on this trip.
  • The pulk was great when it was getting choked up by downed trees. Will definitely look forward to using it again. I can see how great they’d be on frozen lakes.
  • The Backpackers Pantry Granola with Blueberries, Almonds & Milk was really good! Looked to be just oats and powdered milk with freeze dried blueberries. Going to give making it at home a shot.
  • My toes did get cold pretty often. I just think that with the boots and the thick socks I was wearing I wasnt getting enough circulation to them. I was wearing my Vasque Snowburbans which are pretty good overall but I should have opted for my Steger Mukluks, are had forgone socks and worn a VBL or my Wiggys socks. A lesson for next time.
  • The snow shovel I packed ended up being really handy. Will definitely keep bringing that on all my trips. Used to shovel down to ground level for my chair and stove and to build a little wind break wall underneath my tarp.

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