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New Year’s On The North Shore

Chris Soash
January 5, 2012
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“Really? 40 degrees again?!”

Hitting the hill as a youngster. Me and my Ma at Lutsen Mountain on the north shore (1987?)

These words have unfortunately become a common part of my mornings this winter. I’ll wake up, turn on the news to check the daily weather and undoubtedly be disappointed in the unseasonable warmth and even more disappointed in the lack of snow. I enjoy most outdoor activities, however, skiing has topped the list for me since I was about three years old. Although when I was three, most of my time was spent enjoying cookies and some cocoa in the chalet, rather than attempting to set land-speed records on the slopes. Regardless, I THRIVE on snow in the winter months. This is the first winter in my 27-year span on this earth that I’ve ever experienced such little snow and such warm weather.

To celebrate this New Year’s Eve, my girlfriend Bridget and I drove from Minneapolis up to Duluth, MN for a long weekend on the north shore. I attended college at UMD and have a great love for all that Duluth has to offer. It’s a short 2.5 hour drive, but the difference in scenery, lifestyle and outdoor offerings is massive. If you enjoy anything about the outdoors and have never been to the north shore of Lake Superior, you are missing out on some of the best opportunities for an outdoor enthusiast in the country. It offers camping, hiking, paddling, pedaling and so much more!  On the docket for our trip was skiing, hiking, live music, good food, a local brew or two and hanging out with friends who still reside there. We successfully accomplished all.

Bridget on the bridge

Bridget and I stopped briefly on the bridge to snap some photos and listen to the river run under the ice.

New Year’s Eve morning rolled around and I’ll admit, I was actually happy to welcome the mid-30s temps that greeted us that day. The winters in Duluth are known for their bitter cold temps which can easily hit -20 without batting an eye. And that’s NOT including the 30 mph wind off of Lake Superior! So, with the temperature at a comfortable 35 degrees, there was only one thing to do… head to the trails. We chose Lester Trail, that follows right along the Lester River and opens up into the great Gitche Gumee (Lake Superior). Lester is an easy hiking trail and is just on the outskirts of town which makes it extremely accessible to anyone and any ability. There are also great single track mountain biking trails that run along it which range from easy to more advanced.

The hike was perfect. We were comfortable in light winter gear which kept the cold at bay, yet didn’t allow us to drown in our own sweat. I had on my trusty Helly Hansen shell with a thin layer of Patagonia insulation underneath and Bridget had on her new insulated Salomon jacket. Midway through our hike, we found a great bridge where we stopped to rest briefly. you could look down and hear the babble of the river running underneath the thin crust of ice, like an icy, moving crème brûlée. After our rest we decided to cross the bridge and follow the trail down the opposite side of the river. Further into our journey, we came across a waterfall that was completely frozen over. You could still hear the water running briskly underneath, but there was no visible movement on the surface. The path meandered along the riverside for some time before we found ourselves back at the car. It was a great start to what continued on to be an amazing New Year’s.

The Black Eyed Snakes rocking into the new year.

The Black Eyed Snakes rocking into the new year.

We continued that evening with some live music at one of the local establishments. The Black Eyed Snakes brought in the New Year with their gritty blues/rock. The Snakes were selected by City Pages as the Best New Band of 2001 and I believe they’ve only gotten better with time. After the Black Eyed Snakes got the crowd a rockin’, they made way for a great up-and-coming local band called Dirty Horse. I pulled a quote from the Dirty Horse website which I believe sums them up nicely: ”Filling empty spaces with loud noises is a common interest…especially among all of the bearded members…well, also among our non-bearded drummer. Floating life between urban and rural is a balance that can describe life in Duluth.” They put on a wonderful show and we all enjoyed dancing into the night until the unpopular but predictable closing time rolled around. Everyone sauntered out the door in single file with smiles on their faces. No one knew what 2012 would bring, but I’m certain that everyone in that place, at that moment, knew that they wouldn’t have wanted to bid adieu to 2011 in any other way.

All in all it was another spectacular trip to the northland and I eagerly await my next adventure up there … Hopefully I won’t have to wait too long.

P.S. I just checked the weather for the upcoming week … Looks like my morning routine continues…

upcoming Minneapolis weather

Really? 40s again?

— Chris Soash

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