Sunday, April 08, 2012

Seen along the trail....

Saturday's schedule called for 20 miles and I was thrilled to be able to get out onto the Superior Hiking Trail in Duluth for the run. The trail is in excellent condition, dry and firm in all but the perennially wet areas. Of course, this is an indication of how dry our past winter and this spring have been.  The weather has been much warmer than normal and I was on the lookout for spring flora. 

I met Ron at the Fond du Lac trailhead and we headed up Mission Creek and onto the trail. There is a lot of climbing to start this section but it soon leads you onto the ridges overlooking the St. Louis River. 

Many of the trees and shrubs are starting to bud and flower but I was on the lookout for early spring wildflowers such as hepatica, bloodroot, dutchman's breeches, leeks, bellflower, wild oats, wild ginger etc. In a normal year it would be way too early to expect to see these but it has been anything but normal weather in these parts.

When we reached the Magney-Snively area and it's mature forests we encountered our first spring "flower":
Wild Leek
Leeks really flower in July, but they are most noticeable at this time of year when their dark green foliage emerges from the ground. There is a bit of red at the base, but it is their pungent odor that is the give away. We dug down to get a look at the bulb and crushed a bit of leaf to release the odor.

Trash found along the trail and less than 10 feet from the garbage can at this trail head

As Ron and I were descending towards the second crossing of Skyline we met up with Leslie who's plan was to join us for a portion of the run.  In this short section of trail, and within a quarter of a mile of the next trailhead, we spotted the large McDonald's cup perched in a tree stump. Sigh. I grabbed it, emptied out the soda and carried it out. I had picked up the Cliff Bar wrapper along the way  as well as some other microtrash from gel packets. We did a quick clean-up of the Magney-Snively trailhead and placed all of this trash in the garbage can at the edge of the lot. 

This is the start of the "Big W". The trail descends to the base of Spirit Mountain, climbs nearly to the top, descends towards the Zoo (at the base of the hill) and then climbs again to the Highland & Getchell trailhead. The last time I did this run there was a fair amount of snow still on the trail. We encountered a bit of snow at the base of Spirit (a ski hill) and you could see there was still some ice in the deep, shaded creek valleys. 

The area around Spirit can be quite wet with one section of trail resembling a small creek. This was the only really muddy section of trail we encountered in the whole 20 miles. Though with all the rocks, it was pretty easy to stick to the center of the trail and keep my feet relatively dry. 

Climbing the infamous 130 steps leads to a beautiful section of mature forest and another chance to look for spring ephemerals (no luck). It is a fun section of trail as there are few rocks and a nice dark, soft soil to run on. Pretty soon though you are in open meadows. This area can be quite warm on a sunny day, but we were "blessed" with an east wind (off Lake Superior) to keep things cool.

I wonder about the story behind this discovery:
Fox tail

The next section leading up to the Highland & Getchell trailhead involves a lot of climbing. As we crossed under the railroad bridge and over the taconite pellets (similar to running on marbles) I spotted this shrub tucked next to a bridge support:
Elderberry - flower buds just emerging

A few weeks ago this section along Keene Creek had a couple of extensive snow fields to cross. Today this was all that remained:

It still necessitated that we go around it so as to avoid slipping and falling into the creek.

The rest of the run was fairly uneventful.  Leslie headed home, but we picked up Wayne as we entered the Piedmont section of trail. By now the clear skies were gone and it was becoming quite overcast. The wind was also picking up as we neared Lake Superior. A good motivation to keep the pace  up at the end of  my first 20 miler of the year.

At a tributary to Miller Creek we spotted this couple paddling about in the water: 
Mallards - will there be a nest in my neighborhood?
From here it is a short distance to the spur to my house. Ron and I arrived before the rain started, and Wayne finished up just as it started to sprinkle. There was a bit of shuttle driving to perform and this time the trick was to see how many adults could fit inside the cab of a standard transmission '83 Chevy pick-up with bucket seats. Fortunately for Wayne, Ron knew how to drive a stick so I volunteered to climb into the jump seat for the first part of the journey.

Today we had travel plans mid-morning so I was up early to get in a 12.8 mile run on the SHT. I left from home and ran west to Highland and Getchell. I was joined by Marcus for the first few miles, then met another friend Rudy at the turn around. I was secretly hoping he would be on the trail before I had to make the descent along Keene Creek as it is steep, very technical, and just not all that fun to run. Alas, I was early, so met him just as he was leaving the trail head.

This run wrapped up my first ever 50 mile week. I have been a pretty low-mileage runner and rarely went above the high 30's in training. I wasn't even sure I could sustain mileage in the 40's week after week but so far, so good.

Next weekend I will be in southern Minnesota volunteering at the Zumbro 100. I am looking forward to this vacation and to the opportunity to catch up with friends from the Ultra community.


Wayne said...

thanks for letting me run with you for about 10 seconds. and for future reference I can drive a stick as well. :)

wildknits said...

Good to know Wayne, will keep that in mind next time we have to use the truck for a shuttle vehicle. Though I am quite happy to drive and let someone else have the jump seat (maybe we could get Mr. Wildknits to clean the truck out too).

Sorry about taking off so fast, I was pretty chilled and the weather was looking rather ominous.

Jean said...

Great job on the 20 miler!

It is astonishing how early some of this stuff is emerging. I was in Lutsen over Easter, and we even saw the little pinkish flowers on the beak hazelnuts were popping out. I also saw a red admiral butterfly. My folks have never seen one of those until May!