It’s a silly thing to drive to the North Shore and back in a day. And it’s sillier when it’s snowing. But Ryan was in town for the first time since January and had not seen the big lake in too long. So we pledged ourselves to coffee, music and conversation and drove on up the road.
We turned off the road some miles past Duluth and then drove up to a Superior Hiking Trail trailhead Ryan was familiar with. The parking area, next to some sort of wastewater holding tanks, not far from giant taconite tailings basins, was not exactly the idealized version of the scenic North Shore, but we just needed a little patch of woods to wander in.
We left the trail not long after setting out. We dropped down to the river and made a small fire in a stand of cedars on its banks, only burning enough wood to make a cup of tea. The snow was falling ever silently, the river was half-frozen.
After the tea, we hiked a mile or two down the river to a series of falls that crashed through cataracts in the rock. Our timing was good and we hiked back out in the dwindling daylight and got back to the car as the world disappeared into swirling snow and early wintertime darkness.
The drive to Duluth and another 30 miles past was slow-going. The snow was at times heavy; we were driving Ryan’s capable four-wheel drive and he knew our best bet was to keep our speed down. We stopped for refreshments at Fitger’s in Duluth. When we arrived back at my car at his parents’ house hours later, all was windy and frozen.