What's so great about hiking in spring? That's easy – there's so much to see.
Move your feet in any direction and you'll run across wildflowers, waterfalls and, best of all, sweeping views that last only until the trees leaf out.
Head out before summer makes its brash appearance, with walls of greenery and fleets of bugs.
In the woods, the first ticks appear along with warmer weather, usually by late April.
Regular ticks are bad enough, scuttling into hidden niches on the human body and gorging themselves on blood. But their ick factor pales next to the danger posed by deer ticks, which can transmit Lyme disease.
A deer tick needs to be attached to the skin for 36 hours to transmit the disease; even then, it’s easily treatable if caught promptly.
When it rains on Isle Royale, you just have to soak it up.
Moisture comes with the territory in Lake Superior's northern reaches. No one comes here for the weather, despite early advertising that called it a "Summertime 'Bermuda' Paradise."
Bermuda it's not. But paradise? It depends on how you look at it.
Along Michigan's Pictured Rocks, there's no such thing as a bad view.
White sandstone cliffs line nearly 40 miles of national lakeshore, the nation's first when it was created in 1966. Named for the colorful swishes and whorls painted by mineral-laden water oozing through cracks, Pictured Rocks draws tourists from around the world.
This part of Michigan is inconveniently distant for tourists from big cities; Detroit is closer to Charleston, W.V., than
The first two weeks of summer 2011 were deadly in the north woods.
Near Marquette, a 62-year-old Michigan man died after his ATV became stuck in the mud, though his wife repeatedly sought help on the county road just a mile away.
In the Apostle Islands, a 19-year-old Minnesota man, paddling with friends, died after his kayak capsized. In the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a 23-year-old Wisconsin man died after he left his family's campsite to fish.
To a novice, Minnesota's Superior Hiking Trail presents a bewilderment of possibilities.
There are 277 miles of trail between Jay Cooke State Park near Duluth and the Canadian border. Some are in the city, some deep in forest. Many stretches include spectacular views of Lake Superior, but others (gasp!) are a little boring.
People come from all over the nation to hike this beloved trail, and some take three weeks and do the whole thing. But there are many ways to hike the trail.
It took me nearly 20 years of hiking on the North Shore to tackle Eagle Mountain.
It’s the highest point in Minnesota, but it’s not exactly on the shore; it’s 14 miles inland, as the crow flies. I was used to tramping along the rocky river gorges whose horehound-tinted waters rivers boil furiously down to Lake Superior; I was used to drama.
But the 3½-mile hike up 2,301-foot Eagle Mountain was just as dramatic. The path, a root-choked corridor through cedars and
spruce, soon enters the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
When you're a tourist, you don't always want to get "off the beaten path.''
We visited Portland for the first time over Labor Day, and all we knew is that it's an outdoorsy town. So we were looking for a nice hike in Forest Park, one of the nation's largest municipal forests with 80 miles of hiking trails.
Wow! Except we only needed four or five of those miles. Surely, we thought, there's a "best hike'' that all the locals know about. Nope — our guidebook, maps and the local hikers forum were useless.
Like many places, Starved Rock State Park has a name whose origin is lost in the mists of time.
Supposedly, the Potawatomi and Ottawa trapped a band of Illini on a 125-foot butte along the Illinois River. However, anyone who’s actually climbed up Starved Rock — and millions of tourists have — can see that no one could defend it long enough to starve.
“It’s like Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox,’’ says Kathy Higdon of the Illinois Waterway Visitor Center across the river. “It’s a legend, like the Lover’s Leaps we've got all over the place.’’
The skies were leaden and forbidding as Lake Superior slid into view and we descended into Duluth. The wind mauled our hair as we stood alongside the harbor canal, waving to the crew of the Sea Pearl II as it pushed toward Malta with a load of grain.
Driving up the shore, we listened to taped stories of shipwrecks: The sidewheeler Lotta Bernard, pummeled into pieces off Gooseberry Falls on Oct. 29, 1874.
The steamer Edenborn, hurled into the mouth of Split Rock River and broken in two on Nov. 28, 1905. The Lafayette, pulverized against a cliff near Encampment Island on the same day.
If Duluth wasn't already one of the best hiking cities in the nation, it definitely is now.
Creeks, ravines, bays and lakefront have given it spectacular terrain for the Congdon Park, Park Point and Western Waterfront
trails (See Walking in Duluth).
Now, 45½ miles of the Superior Hiking Trail stretch from Jay Cooke State Park to the northeast end of Duluth, roughly
following the same ridges and glacial beach terraces used by Skyline Parkway.
In Minnesota canoe country, hikers get serious bragging rights by backpacking the Border Route Trail.
This 65-mile trail roughly parallels the Ontario border, mostly through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The volunteers who maintain it can't use mechanized tools there, and signs aren't allowed.
Navigation isn't easy, and hikers frequently have to dodge blown-down trees.
In Wisconsin, a bunch of rocks sets hearts aflutter.
They enchant geologists, of course, but also scuba divers, rock climbers and botanists. The rest of us, too — hikers, birders, campers, Boy Scouts.
We all go to give Devil's Lake its due.
If you’ve ever walked in Wisconsin, chances are you’ve walked on the edge of a glacier.
The ice is gone, but not the rubble it pushed across the landscape, or the rock its melting waters carved. As the last glacier retreated, it left a path that geologists can follow as easily as yellow lines on a highway.
That path now is the 1,100-mile Ice Age National Scenic Trail, with 620 miles marked, usually by yellow rectangles tacked to trees. It’s easy to follow in the forest, but many of the most spectacular spots are right along highways.
An autumn Saturday dawns, sunny and mild. It’s a perfect day for hiking — but where?
This time of year, you could walk down the street and see something nice.
But if you're looking for the kind of hike that makes you marvel at nature and feel glad to be alive, you'll probably have to look a little farther afield.
Even if it weren’t official, Timm’s Hill would be the high point of any Wisconsin hiking trip.
Timm’s Hill, a big pile of rock and gravel deposited by the last glacier, is Wisconsin’s highest point at 1,952 feet above sea level. I went hiking there expecting, well, a big pile with a nice view.
Which it was. It also turned out to be in the middle of an intriguing pocket of forest, settled by Swedes, Finns and Germans stubborn enough to handle the rocks sprinkled over the hills like salt on a pretzel. They were folks who liked to be outside, hiking, sliding and skiing, and it’s thanks to them this area now is a trove of trails.
When it comes to hiking, we all like to be on top.
There's nothing like a great view, especially in fall. Climbing until we're eye level with birds and caressed by breezes, watching the land roll away into the horizon, we feel as if we're on top of the world.
Even military officers and scientists turn into poets when faced with a beautiful view, such as those at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the Upper Peninsula.
The expedition began on a beautiful morning in October. I got in the car, drove a few miles over the Wisconsin border and
followed country roads to a gate, where a gravel lane led to a farmhouse.
I parked, walked up an oak-lined path and, just like that, was atop the highest point in Illinois.
Charles Mound, at 1,235 feet above sea level, certainly was a nice place to be on a fall day. Near the U.S. Geological Survey benchmark, its thoughtful owners had placed two lawn chairs, facing a golden, hazy countryside dotted with silos.
When the last glacier melted out of Wisconsin, it left a gift to future generations.
It wasn't much at first — boulders, heaps of gravel, water, chunks of ice trapped under rubble.
But over time, the ice seeped away and created kettle lakes for fishermen. The raging meltwater stripped away softer rock, leaving walls of volcanic rock for climbers and scenic river gorges for canoeists.
In April, everything returns to the forest.
It's easy to see the ephemerals — false rue anemone, hepatica and trout lilies, swelling into a carpet of
white — and the watercress that swirls in cold brooks.
Tiny chartreuse leaves unfold from the tips of tree branches, and tightly furled fiddlehead ferns push up from the old brown fronds.
If you love to hike and you like Duluth, this is a good time to get to know a new part of town.
West Duluth always has been a hub for bicyclists on the Willard Munger State Trail, paddlers on St. Louis Bay and skiers on Spirit Mountain and in Magney-Snively Park.
Now, it's a hiking destination unlike any other: Hikers can immerse themselves in wilderness, then return to their starting points by way of bicycles, city buses, taxis and motel shuttles.
A few steps into the forest, and it hit.
The tang of cedar bark and pine needles, moistened by droplets of mist from waterfalls. The loamy richness of earth carpeted by ferns.
It was that north-woods perfume all Minnesotans instantly recognize, a powerful eau de outdoors that gladdened my heart and also made it sink with the realization that I'd stayed in the city far, far too long.
On the northwest corner of Lake Superior, a 1,000-foot-high sleeping giant stretches across the horizon.
It’s mesmerized onlookers for millennia. In 2007, Canadian Broadcasting Corp. listeners voted it No. 1 of Seven Wonders of Canada, far outpolling Niagara Falls.
From Hillcrest Park in Thunder Bay, it looks exactly like a cigar-store Indian, with a square jaw and arms folded over a
Going hiking on the Superior Hiking Trail? You'll want to pack sturdy boots, thick socks, water bottles, maps and rain gear.
Oh, and don't forget the bikes.
There's a new trail on the North Shore, a nice flat one, too. It's the paved Gitchi-Gami, with a 17½-mile stretch that links Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock State Park and Silver Bay Bay and a 6½-mile stretch that links Schroeder to Temperance River State Park and Tofte.
If ever there was a game for our times, it's geocaching.
Why worry about the lost billions on Wall Street when there's treasure everywhere, under fallen logs, in the crooks of trees, on the girders of bridges? Why think about the future when you can be out in the woods channeling Long John Silver, Indiana Jones and the Hardy Boys?
Anyone who enjoyed childhood will like this modern-day party game, enabled by a Tom Swiftian gadget that flashes numbers beamed out of the sky.
Out in the forest, solitude can be overrated.
Occasionally, we all need silence. But you may have more fun if you play follow the leader.
When I go on a hike, especially if I don't know the area well, I like to tag along with naturalists. Thanks to them, I've learned all kinds of interesting things.