The Wreck of St Louis Gorge

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Faith and Jacob head up past Hancock for some slushy hikes and a needed distraction from distressing recent events. published on by

A snowy car wreck

Thanks to certain unfortunate circumstances my schedule was blown wide open. No longer did I have to wait through the drudgery of a job before escaping to the wintery woods. I had all day to hunt down waterfalls (when I wasn't applying for new jobs, that is). It was a weekday afternoon when I reached out to Faith. I needed to vent, to get out of the house, and to take my mind off of the job situation. We headed up to the Keweenaw between slowly melting snowdrifts and she let me rant.

When we reached the first stop, just outside of Calumet, I was done thinking about the (lack of) job. I led us down the railroad-grade-turned-snowmobile-path to the gorge of St Louis Falls. Together we peered down into the woods. There would be no waterfall to find today, that was for sure.

A slowly melting gorge

A slowly melting gorge

Tumbling down the hill was not as fun as it had been a month ago with Logan. The snow was hard and wet now, all chunks of hard and slush from the warm spells we've been having. I slowly broke a trail, Faith followed, and Logan bounced around and mocked us.

Not everything was hidden down here. A few boulders stuck out, black rock against the white snow, and some trickles of water could be heard at the bottom of the gorge. And the old car wreck was starting to break free as well. Wait, a car wreck? That wasn't here last time.

A snowy car wreck

A snowy car wreck

Forgetting about the buried waterfall I broke a path back up the valley's side to the wreck. The snow must have completely hidden it last month. The car was rust with spots of green paint, almostly completely gutted/rotted, and looked very old and outdated. Fifties or sixties, if I had to guess. We careful circled around it, worried about hidden objects or shifting something, throwing out guesses on how the thing got this far into the woods.

After the excitement of finding a car wreck continuing on to the waterfall seemed unimportant. Plus, both of our pants were soaked from the wet snow. We headed back to the car and I tried to thick of other places to visit. Hungarian Falls was too easy, and Douglass Houghton Falls would be an even tougher hike in this mushy weather. Maybe we should take a break from waterfalls.

I drove us through Calumet and turned east, away from Houghton, and we headed up towards Copper Harbor. Before driving too far I turned down Cliff Drive. The tall, rocky ridge soared up on the far side of Eagle River, topped with tall pines and overhanging drifts of white. I knew that there were trails up there through the mines and along the cliffs even if I wasn't totally sure on how to reach them.

A snowy, swampy Eagle River below the cliffs

A snowy, swampy Eagle River below the cliffs

Near the eastern end of Cliff Drive I saw a wide shoulder and some tracks heading north. Parking here we headed out, Logan in the lead, over a hard-packed snowshoe trail. The trail took us through a swampy section of Eagle River and right to the base of the Cliffs. And then the trail climbed.

Countless previous visitors had turned the steep path up the cliffs into a veritable bobsled track, forcing Faith and I to jag back and forth to avoid slipping on the hard pack. It was a tough climb, one that even Logan lagged behind on, and when we broke the first crest there was even more hiding behind it. By the time we reached the top we were both out of breath, panting heavy as we searched for views from the top.

Partial view down through thick woods

Partial view down through thick woods

There really wasn't much to see. The path forked, two different routes going in two different directions, and we opted to head back west along the cliffs. The hard-packed snow didn't last long in that direction. Within twenty minutes of strolling along the brim we were reduced to slogging through deep snow again. With no views and the dropping evening temperatures I made the sad call to return to the car.

Even though both of our hikes were relatively short and, with the exception of finding a car wreck, fruitless, it was still a nice distraction to get out and flounder around in the snow. We chatted about future hikes and the spring melt and how classes were going and I ignored the looming employment question. That question can wait until we get back to Houghton.

Trip Photos

  • A slowly melting gorge
  • Ice-choked tunnel
  • Rock walls beginning to poke out
  • A snowy car wreck
  • Logan checking out the old wreck
  • A snowy, swampy Eagle River below the cliffs
  • Partial view down through thick woods
  • Better outcroppings to the east
  • Steep descent back down

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