Lookout, You Might End Up Somewhere You Didn’t Intend

Forest trail shrouded in mist

#45hike of my 52 Hike Challenge

Trail/Park: Hiking Club and Lookout Mountain Trails, Cascade River State Park

An extra hike before I go. Its always too far between my longer hiking adventures and this trip is my last opportunity for multiple days of hiking before the weather changes and snow covers the ground. So I savor every moment I can be in the woods on trail. Even though the skies were grey and the temperatures cool, I needed to get out and move. So I went to one of my stand-by parks, Cascade River State Park. There are plenty of trails to explore and I’ve seen much of the park in my time living in Minnesota.

John and I at Lookout Mountain with the Superior National Forest in the background.

My story is tied to this place in so many ways. My first hike-in camping experience was in this park more than 20 years ago. A few years later, my now ex-husband proposed to me on Lookout Mountain in late October 1996 as the first snowfall dusted the still brilliantly covered fall leaves of the forest. On one of John’s and my first trips together we took in the hike and views, fresh in our relationship. The place is special.

But much like the days leading up to this hike, I was craving a different experience. As I checked in with the ranger and grabbed another copy of the park map, having forgotten mine at home, I craved a new hike. But I was also feeling lazy. So I headed out without much of a plan. The rain was soft and intermittent. A slight foggy mist was hovering over everything. Before I knew it I had somehow decided to hike the Hiking Club Trail, which would take me in a loop that I could then chose to omit Lookout Mountain from when I got to the trail junction. I’d hike the longer route around Lookout Mountain. Or so I thought.

As I crossed the Cascade River and headed north, somewhere, either due to my lax attitude or a missed trail crossing, ended up on the section of the Hiking Club Trail that includes the accent to Lookout Mountain. My plan was to circumnavigate Lookout Mountain and skip the hike to the peak. I’ve done that hike numerous times and with the rain wasn’t feeling up to tackling the rocky spots I knew would be slick thanks to the rain. But first I headed south along the river for nearly a mile before I decided I’d turn around and head back for my original plan. This area is a softer version of the river than the falls area as the water makes the last of it’s journey toward Lake Superior. It was lush and overgrown in many places.

52 hike patch in the foreground with one of Cascade State Park's creeks in the background.

At some point I knew I wanted to turn around and head back to finish out my planned route so I backtracked. I crossed the bridge over the creek closest to Lookout Mountain and started on my way. Since I was in a meandering mood, that’s what my path ended up being.

It was as the point that I’d kept gaining elevation that I realized I’d missed my intersection to head north around Lookout Mountain. Instead, I was making the steady climb up to the top. I wasn’t lost, I just hadn’t gone the way I’d intended. Especially with the soft rain falling making the rocks slicker as the time passed. Going up would be fine. I never mind ascents. It’s the decent that I hate in weather like this.

I was within 500 yards of the overlook, but I’d hit my limit for the day and decided to turn around and head back to the car. I continued to follow the Hiking Club trail south toward Highway 61 before it heads east back toward the parking lot. I was alone on every trail which allowed me to get lost in my thoughts while I pressed on through more overgrown areas.

When I hit the junction of the forest road that leads to Cascade Lodge, I considered adding that side trip to my hike for a moment. In the end I kept to my new plan to head back to the car, back to the cabin and a cozy blanket with a stop to take in the falls, of course.

On this last segment I found a bag of dog poop that had been left trailside near the trailhead. I’m sure the owner had every intent of returning, but I was surprised that they hadn’t taken the time to walk to the garbage that was in clear view not far away. I added to the very small amount of trash I’d found on my wanderings and headed to the garbage. With my work done, I headed to the car and back to the cabin to hunker down for the rest of the day with John.

I was grateful for yet another hike in this special park. Keeping connected to it each year as the many years have rolled by is one of the anchors in my Minnesota life that I truly appreciate. It’s an anchor that I carry willingly with me.

GEAR: Vasque Talus Mid UltraDry Hiking Boots, Marmot Kompressor Pack, Dueter Dirtbag, Kula Cloth, Leki Lhasa Lite AS trekking poles. Want to know more about my gear selections? Head on over to Gear & Gadgets.

Next Post Preview: Trail Angels work in mysterious ways. Sometimes when you think you’ll be doing a kindness for someone else, the journey ends up being your gift.

*To find out more about Leave No Trace (LNT) principles,
check out the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics
or on the Stewardship Resources page.

Copyright Ruth Wikoff-Jones, ruthsbluemarble.com | No Use Permitted Without Prior Permission

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