Midwest Adventures: Backpacking the northwoods

Getting stuck inside is much easier to do in a pandemic, but Joe was on a mission to discover hidden gems in the Midwest perfect for outdoor getaways. This episode he spent a weekend in northern Minnesota backpacking and camping with his friend Sean to recharge and rejuvenate. 

Near Duluth, MN, about an hour away from the Canadian border, Joe and Sean drove alongside Lake Superior to Tettegouche State Park. Once they parked at the trailhead, which conveniently does not require a permit for parking, they were only nine picturesque miles away from their destination, Bean and Bear Lake.

Even though it was technically Fall, the weather provided a wintery aesthetic. The powder- covered wonderland had been untouched. Joe and Sean made the first tracks in the thin veil of fresh snow. About a mile in, the two paused at High Falls to take in the beauty and serenity of the water. Powerful water cascaded down into a relatively calm basin. The commanding sound of the falls drowned out the otherwise quiet crunch of footsteps. As more snow continued to fall, Joe and Sean traversed over shakey, snow-covered bridges and steep, slippery, rock passages. Joe surprisingly mentioned how pleasant it is to hike while it’s 32 degrees out. 

With about five miles to go, it was time for a quick lunch break before reaching the mountains. By the time they reached the top of Mount Trudee, the snow was ankle deep and the temperature was dropping. However, the view of Lake Superior made up for the cold. With 360 degree views of snow-covered trees, the lake, and mountains as far as the eye could see, it felt like Joe was living in a winter scene painting. 

Eventually, the mountains led to an overlook of Bean and Bear Lake. It may not be as iconic as other notable views in Yellowstone or the like, but the view was breathtaking nonetheless. From above, the expansive, reflective lake made it seem like the area couldn’t possibly be part of the Midwest. In perspective, the lake is much smaller than Lake Superior, but it’s impressive because of the way it’s tucked into the landscape. Joe soaked in the moment before finishing the descent to the campground. 

Right by the water, Joe and Sean set up camp. In the frigid evening hours, the golden sunset paired with a warm campfire dinner made for a cozy, relaxing getaway. When they got up in the morning, they packed up and prepared to make the same trip back. Luckily, it was a little sunnier and less snowy. Along the way, they noticed blue markings on the trees to indicate that they were still on the right track. The nine miles back flew by, and the weekend was soon over. 

Even so, trying something different and hiking and/or camping in late October is accessible to anyone willing to make the trip. No matter the season, the Superior Hiking Trail never disappoints on views and thrills. The trailheads are easily accessible and evenly spaced, making this opportunity even more enticing.