Monday, June 28, 2021

Mt. Arvon, Michigan June 14, 2021

Mt. Arvon, Michigan (1,979') via Hiking Trail and Mountain Access Road, June 14, 2021. 


Distance:  3.7 miles (hiking trail up 1.6; mountain road down 2.13)

Elevation gain:  <500'

Directions (courtesy of Stony Burk): Heading north on US41 in L'Anse bear right at the large welcome sign - this is Broad Street (a Subway and the Baraga Visitor Information Center are across the street from one another). Continue on Broad Street for .7 miles to the 4-way stop on Main St. Turn right, (Main St. eventually becomes Skanee Rd.) and drive 13.7 miles to Sawmill Rd. and turn right. Continue on a gravel road for 2.5 miles until you come to the intersection with Roland Creek Rd (aka Roland Lake Rd). Turn right and drive 2 miles to the T-intersection which is Ravine River Road. Turn right and follow this road for about 2 miles (passing a gravel pit), continue on a little further and you will cross a small bridge. Just keep following the road until you come to another T-intersection with a stop sign, then turn right and continue on the last stretch of road to trailhead parking or beyond to the summit parking area.

The roads are well marked with light blue diamond shaped signs and black lettering: "Mt. Arvon." There's a sign for the trailhead on your right about a mile before the summit.

These directions are the simplest way to get to the trailhead (or to drive to the summit). Allow for extra time as many roads are gravel. The road has recently been graded so it should be an easier ride up than in the past.

Welcome sign (Photo: uppermichiganssource.com).

Hiked with Rich today. The weather was perfect, temps in the 70s, not much wind and just a few bugs.


Pull off to the side to park.

The road to the top continues past hiker parking.

Hiker parking is right at the "Trailhead Parking" sign so we parked our car off to the side and walked up that side road to the beginning of the trail.



The well-marked trail was created in 2017 by a couple of area hiking enthusiasts who worked many hours cutting this path in the woods. In a nutshell, it needs more traffic to soften the rough areas. There are dips and drops and we saw plenty of patches of the dark, recently dug earth associated with a newly forged trail. We regretted leaving our trekking poles in the car.

Trail is marked with blazes and diamonds.

The beginning of the trail follows a stream as it gently rises toward higher ground. There is a cute waterfall just as the trail moves away from the water and continues up the hill.

Waterfall.

We crossed the summit road several times and walked across a few small streams (one muddy section almost took my shoe - I stepped carelessly). The trail parallels the road most of the time - yet we often felt we were deep in the woods.

Crossing the road.

At the top of a small incline we saw a trail sign indicating the way to be a right. This "right" is a road walk to the parking lot and the summit. I'll admit I was a little disappointed; I'd hoped the trail would bring us right to the summit marker.

The road walk is short and soon we arrived at the empty parking lot. The summit area is a short distance away.

Road walk from here.



The summit is a small clearing in the woods. We signed the register and took the short walk over to a viewpoint.



Plaque on bench.



Viewpoint.


After a few photos we decided to walk the road back to our car. We were back in no time and headed out for lunch.

Highpoint #36 complete!

More information and a trail drawing can be found here.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Eagle Mountain, Minnesota, June 13, 2021

Eagle Mountain (2,301') via Eagle Mountain Trail, June 13, 2021. 

Distance:  7 miles (RT)

Elevation gain:  900'ish

Directions: The trailhead is located in Grand Marais, MN. (We downloaded directions from googlemaps which brought us right to the parking lot.) From Route MN61, turn onto County Road 4 - aka Caribou Trail - (stay on Route 4 for about 17 miles), turn right onto "The Grade" for 3.8 miles.  Trailhead is on the left, well marked (a compost toilet is located next to the parking lot).


Eagle Mountain is the highest natural point in Minnesota.  Much of the trail is located within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.   Permits are required for day and overnight hikes.  Day hike permits are free and self-issued with blank permits provided at the trailhead.  One copy of the completed permit goes in the box at the kiosk and the other copy must be in the possession of the group. (Overnight hiking is not free and requires a different permit - details provided here.)

Entrance is well marked.

Hiked with Rich, Sandy and Joe today. It was a 50 minute drive to the trailhead from our hotel in Two Harbors, so we got to see a bit of the Northern Minnesota shoreline on the way up.  The forecast called for a stormy afternoon.  Our plan was to finish the hike before the rain arrived.

Ample room to park.

This time of year the bugs are out in force and we were ready with treated clothes, Deet wipes and Picaridin spray.  We doused ourselves and headed to the trail. (Luckily, we encountered VERY FEW bugs on this hike!)


As mentioned, a permit is needed to hike in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. I deposited a copy of our completed permit into the box (on the kiosk), and put the original in my pocket.  There is also a register here so we signed in (and signed out at the end of the hike.)


The trail's surface is so varied; smooth paths turn into very rocky, there are boardwalks and bog bridges (some lovely, some sketchy).  It's a gradual increase in elevation, hardly noticeable  - until you pass the lake.





Our surroundings had that wilderness feel; we saw just a handful of others on this trail.  A few miles into our hike we reached Whale Lake. 

The path around the lake is very rocky.

As we skirted the lake the main trail appears to swing to the right, continuing along the lake's opposite side.  This is a trail junction, where Brule Lake Trail meets Eagle Mountain Trail.  There's a sign here, showing Eagle Mountain Trail continuing as a slight left. Go left.

Go left - the summit is less than a mile ahead.

As you continue on toward Eagle Mountain's summit the path steepens, though never remarkably so.  Several minutes into the climb there's a pleasant overlook with a western view of Minnesota.  From here the path continues up and on to another overlook.  
  
Overlook #1.

Overlook #2

At the second overlook the trail takes a sharp right up a few slabs and through the woods to the summit.  I was busy talking to another highpointer and completely missed this right swing up, and had to traipse through a bit of scrub to reconnect. By now the clouds were rolling in.

The wooded summit is peaceful, subdued.   We took a few photos and headed back down just as it started to sprinkle.

Summit plaque.



The sprinkle turned into indecisive rain, increasing then waning then starting up again causing us to stop and put on raingear, then take off, then put back on and so on. 

We reached the cars, changed out of our wet clothing and headed out to find a place to eat.

We'd passed the Bluefin Grille on the way up and decided to stop for lunch.  Great view!

Highpoint #35 completed!

Friday, May 28, 2021

Mount Rogers, Virginia, May 20, 2021

Mount Rogers (5,729') via Rhododendron, Appalachian and Mt. Rogers Spur Trails, May 20, 2021. 

Distance:  8.6 miles

Elevation gain:  1,500'

Directions Hike begins at Massie Gap, Grayson Highlands State Park, Mouth of Wilson, VA (googlemaps provides directions). Cost to enter the park is currently $7 during the week; $10 on the weekends.  If no attendant is available bring cash or check for the envelope (provided at the toll booth) and deposit in the slot on the door of the booth. Massie Gap parking is 2.7 mile from the entrance (bathrooms at parking).


This hike has many cool features: easy paths with open vistas, a rugged rocky outcropping with a "Fat Man's Squeeze," wild ponies, cattle, a three-sided shelter, numerous campsites and even an alpine forest. There are several turns and trail junctions on this route but lots of signage - no problem finding the peak and your way back.

Hiked with Sandy today.  We'd been planning this hike for several years but something always came up causing us to postpone. Today we found ourselves here and ready!  The weather was spectacular and we couldn't wait to see the wild ponies.

Lots of head-in parking.

The trailhead's about an hour's drive from our hotel in Abington. Thinking it was going to be crowded on such a perfect day I insisted we get there early and was surprised there were just a few cars in the lot. The trail begins across the field.

The route goes over Wilburn Ridge on the AT and through Rhododendron Gap to a spur trail to the Mt. Rogers summit.

AT hikers waiting for a ride.

Entrance to the trail.

It's .6 miles on the Rhododendron Trail to the trail junction, where we hopped on the AT southbound. 



Path is wide and smooth.





The trail changes from smooth to rocky - still wide, flat (we'll encounter more smooth trail down the line).



Portions of the Park and trail are fenced and gated to control grazing animals. "Ponies maintain open space and bald rock out cropping" indicates a sign.  They are managed by the Wilburn Ridge Pony Association.

We were about to pass through a second gate disappointed we hadn't seen any ponies. So we waited.  Soon they came down off the ridge and made their way to the grassy area near us.  Fearless, they ran, jumped, munched, moseyed around.



We passed through the gate and continued on, thrilled that ponies were outside the gated area as well.  And longhorn cattle grazing!  

 
Domestic cattle are allowed here by permit under the Crest Zone Grazing Allotment. Managed by the National Forest the grazing cattle and ponies feed on the vegetation, keeping open what was once forest area (trees were cleared in the early 1900s).

The trail was lively today.  We passed day hikers, AT through-hikers, highpointers and campers. I'm certain we would've reached the summit and been back in our car hours earlier if we hadn't made just about everyone our new friend.  We very much enjoyed the feel of community on this trail!


Awesome views so far!

We climbed up and over a rocky out cropping, home to "Fat Man's Squeeze," not really a squeeze at all but kind of fun to go through (makes a great photo).  

Entrance to Fat Man's Squeeze.


Looking back at the out cropping.

Even the rocky portion of this trail isn't particularly difficult or steep.  No scrambling on this hike (moderate scrambling opportunities can be found on the Wilburn Ridge Trail, which runs parallel to this route).

We passed a few campsites and the Thomas Knob Shelter.  

Campsite.

Another campsite....

Thomas Knob shelter.

Following the signs, we passed another gate and walked through a rhododendron canopy where the bushes drape over the trail, offering us cool shade.

Rhododendron draping over the trail.

Pay attention to the signs.

More gates.

Just beyond the shelter we entered the Lewis Fork Wilderness. There are scads of campsites in this area and quite a view!  The Mt. Rogers spur is just a bit ahead.


Sign for Mt. Roger Spur trail.

We hopped on the spur trail.   Immediately, the texture of the path changes and we are hopping over damp roots and moist rock.


The summit forest is a whole different beast compared to where we just were.  The woods have an alpine feel: spruce-fir forest, damp, mossy - a home for elves. The Mt. Rogers summit is a spruce-fir forest, just one of five in the southern Appalachians.

Alpine forest?!

The wooded, viewless summit came up quickly; I was able to find two USGS markers, both on large flat rocks. 
 
First marker is on this rock.

Second marker.

We joined the others already on the summit: a section hiker just out of Virginia Tech, and a group of three old friends imbibing in their tradition of tequila shots. 

Nice summit.

Three friends; one bottle of tequila.

We started back down the mountain after a few shots (camera) and one shot (tequila - they shared).  

Down was quick! We blew down the spur trail, went straight toward the shelter and up the out cropping (coolest and only "climb" of the trip shown below).


Our three friends from the summit started their descent before us but took the wrong turn, wound up behind and catching up to us. 

Quite a few of the hikers we talked to on the way up we met again on our descent. We're not sure how this happened since we dawdled most of the trip and expected them to have finished long before us.

The trip down was just as beautiful.  The views are spectacular and we stopped a few times to enjoy the ponies.

View on the way back.


Heading back to Massie Gap.

It was a perfect day.  The weather was spectacular and our route had a lot of character and friendly people to talk with.  I cannot wait to return.

Check out our trip the following day to Black Mountain, Kentucky's highpoint!