Today was a long, but enjoyable, hike to the Pike River Wayside Park. I’d planned to have Jim, the cyclist/police officer I’d met yesterday, shuttle me after his shift, around 7 p.m. But Leah, the manager at the Adventure Inn, had also offered to shuttle me today, when she was returning to Ely from Duluth, where she was visiting her parents on her day off.
I did some mapping and realized it would be pretty easy for Leah to shuttle me, while Jim would have to come after a long day’s work. So I switched my shuttle to 3 p.m. with Leah, and arranged for Jim to shuttle me tomorrow.
This is one of the best things about hiking. You meet SO MANY nice people who go out of their way to help you, even though you’re a total stranger. Now I’ll just have one final day to find shuttle help before my prearranged trail angels take over.
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Making My Way to Pike River
I had about 21 miles (33.8 km) to cover today – all by 3 p.m. So I woke with the sun around 5 a.m. and was at the trailhead by 7:30 a.m., after driving a while to find some ice.
At camp this morning, the mosquitoes weren’t too bad. Still, I used my Thermacell and threw on my bug suit top. There were no mosquitoes on the trail today, but a handful of persistent deer flies. One bit me. The nerve!
Anyway, the day started off on the paved Mesabi Trail, which initially wound along the roads. Then it swerved into the state park where I’m camping (Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine). The temps were pleasant and it was easy to maintain a 3 mph pace (4.8 kph).
Seeing Corduroy Roads
A few cyclists passed me, but nowhere near as many as yesterday. Wonder if that’s because people from Ely cycle on the trail closest to town? Saw one deer.
Early in the park, there was a huge boggy area that smelled bad. Some men were standing on logs stacked in a row, platform-style, over the bog. I wasn’t sure if that was new construction or what. Not that much later, I came across an interpretive sign about corduroy roads.
Corduroy roads were used all over America in the early 1800s. They were made by placing logs in a row over boggy areas. They were lumpy and bumpy, but helped with transportation. There was one such road here, connecting the mining towns of Tower, Soudan and Ely.
Skies Cloud Over
The skies clouded over late morning, as I neared Tower. I chatted with one man resting on the trail; he’d had a hip replacement. (FYI: Curiously, there are very few benches along the trail.)
I ran into two ladies looking for wild blueberries and juneberries, but their buckets were empty. They asked if I’d seen any, but I had not. I also wasn’t looking!
I wound around the outskirts of Tower, then had a road walk on Hwy. 135. The Mesabi Trail’s website (I think) had some warning about no shoulders on this busy highway, and to take care. It wasn’t that busy, and while there were no paved shoulders, there was always a wide gravel one to walk along. It was fine.
Day Is Done
I ended the day in a bit of a panic. I’d selected this wayside park for my stopping point, as there really weren’t any other options, other than stopping early in Tower. But I wasn’t seeing any wayside.
I then Googled it, plus looked on the North Country Trail map, but didn’t see it. What the heck?! I certainly didn’t make this park up. I’d seen it somewhere! I eventually found it, although it’s just an unmarked gravel pull-out. I texted this to Leah, who had passed the spot without realizing it.
I’m back at camp, ready to enjoy a new-to-me meal I’d dehydrated – a Georgian chicken stew. Yum!
MN NCT miles today: 20.5 (33 km)
MN NCT miles to date: 484.6 (779.9 km)
Total NCT miles to date: 2,503.1 (4,028.4 km)
Total NCT miles to go: 2,096.9 (3,374.6 km)