Tettegouche State Park: Backcountry skiing and Rustic Cabins
As I type, I am actually in Chicago: The Windy City! My sister Colleen had to go to the Chicago China Consulate to get her Chinese work-visa and I thought I might as well tag along. While Colleen gets her visa figured out, I’ll be exploring the city’s vibrant coffeehouses and freelance writing/photo editing for RootsRated. (It’s awesome being a freelancer; I can work from anywhere!).
But, I’ll have to tell you about Chicago another time. I bet some of you want to hear about my backcountry ski trip in Minnesota’s Iron Range.
Tettegouche State Park: Skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking around the Historic Tettegouche Camp.
In my last post, I mentioned I went ice climbing at Sandstone, MN’s Robinson Ice Quarry with a handful of my co-workers. Well, after spending a morning/afternoon climbing, we packed up our equipment and carpooled up to the North Shore. Since we climbed longer than expected, we picked up a parking and ski pass at a nearby State Park (because by the time we would get to Tettgouche, the park would’ve been closed. And it’s necessary to have those documents while in the park).
The drive went nice and easy. When we passed Duluth, it began to snow. It was a calming scene: watching snowflakes fall with frozen Lake Superior as the backdrop.
The sun had set by the time we parked at the West/Historic Camp Parking Area and it was a little chilly as we set off from the parking lot. Three of us were on skis (Sonia, Phil, and Kyra) and two of us were on foot (Ian and I). The first ¾ mile was a grueling climb, but once we reached the top, the rest was smooth sailing. The skiers flew ahead of us, while Ian and I enjoyed the quiet of the night. Ian and I split for a short while and I decided to turn off my headlamp. I realized the moon was quite bright and that I could see the trail just fine. For the rest of the hike, I enjoyed the quiet of the forest; the only sound made was by the crunching of the snow beneath my feet.
I reached the final bend and saw lights from the Historic Tettegouche Camp cabins. The skiers were already there and when Ian and I trudged in, they were just about to open our cabin door. When we walked in, I was very surprised by how much space we had! There was a lounge area/dining room, a kitchen, and a sleeping area. One of the first things I noticed was a wood stove, which would be keeping us warm the rest of the week (there was a back-up thermostat set at 40F).
I forgot to mention, there were two groups of us staying in Tettegouche for the weekend. The other group had already arrived and they had started making dinner. So, the rest of the evening was spent cooking, eating, and playing word games. When we went to bed, I decided to sleep in the lounge area, so that I could tend the fire and fall asleep to the sound of crackling wood.
Sonia sipping coffee beside the wood stove
I woke up bright and early to a nearly dead fire. I tended it and spent the rest of the morning crocheting a hat. I also walked down to the lake to watch the sunrise over the horizon. When everyone was awake, we made coffee and pancakes. Yum!
Before getting on my skis, I first had to wax them. I had never done that before, so Phil taught a group of us before we set off. When I was ready, I put my ski boots on, grabbed my skis, and walked to the lakeshore. With some help from a friend, I got my skis on and carved my own path through Mic Mac Lake’s freshly fallen snow. (Oh, and if you hadn’t realized already, I’m not good at skiing. This was my third time on cross-country skis)
As I looked across the lake, I could see cliffs and steep hills etched in the horizon. To my left were pine trees that had a light coat of snow. I was grateful for the recent snowfall. It made the lake look untouched, almost like what to expect in the Northern Wood’s wilderness.
I spent the afternoon galavanting around the lake, even braving the actually trails Tettegouche offers its ski patrons. I think my favorite part was having the freedom to go wherever I pleased. On the lake, there were no trails, so if I thought something looked cool, there was nothing to stop me, I could just ski to it.
Judd showing me his ski techniques
I returned back to the cabin and added another log to the fire. I was feeling pretty tired and my foot pain was slightly flaring (from a previous injury), so I decided to rest my feet for the afternoon. As I was sitting and crocheting, lunch was made, as well as a plan. Almost all of the group decided to go on a ski/snowshoe hike to the nearby hill called Mt. Trudee. I wished them all good luck and promised I would start dinner by the time they got back.
When everyone had left, I had the whole cabin to myself. It felt great! Before getting all comfy cozy, I decided to get out on the lake one more time. It was now full circle, I had seen the lake at sunrise and now I saw the lake at sunset. Both were beautiful and peaceful. While skiing back to the cabins, I was chasing the shadows of the trees, trying to catch the last glimpses of sunlight for the day. When I got back to the cabin, I still had almost 2 hours until my friends got back. The rest of the time was spent by me tending the fire, crocheting my hat, and writing in my journal.
When everyone got back, dinner was cooking and people were voracious. When dinner was served, there was not one shred of lettuce left in the salad dish and no chile left in the bowl. When our appetites were met, we played a good ‘ol game of Cards Against Humanity. After that, we got into teams for a Wilderness Trivia Game. I knew a lot of the animal questions, but the guns/ammunition questions were definitely out of my league.
That night was our last night in the cabins, so when everyone went to sleep, I laid in the lounge and focused on the sound of fire crackling. I knew it would be awhile until I fall asleep next to a fire again. Within seconds, I drifted into a deep sleep.
The next morning, as Phil made breakfast, the rest of us cleaned up the cabin. It didn’t take all that long and the reward for cleaning the cabin was delicious bacon and egg sandwiches… yummmm…
When everything was packed, we put on our packs and started our hike/ski out. Phil had a sled, which we piled with our extra food and heavier winter supplies. (For anyone wanting to stay at the Historic Camp, it’s a good idea to have a sled).
Here is Phil ready to bomb a hill.
We were lucky the weather was so nice, we could see for miles. Before reaching the parking area, I made sure to soak in all the views.
As we drove south, back towards Minneapolis, I reminisced about my epic weekend. Ascending ice walls and gliding across frozen lakes is something not the average Minnesotan does over one weekend. I’m thankful to surround myself with such adventurous people and will always think fondly of my time ice climbing in the Robinson Quarry Ice Park and backcountry skiing at Tettegouche State Park.
Thanks for reading my unusually long post. In my next one, I’ll tell you about my time exploring Chicago.