Duluth’s Gentle Hikes: Shorter, Less Demanding

An overview of the “Gentle Hikes: Minnesota’s Most Scenic North Shore Hikes Under 3 Miles” guidebook

Some of the most incredible Lake Superior views, dramatic waterfalls, breathtaking vistas, rushing rivers, lush wooded paths, and scenic trails in Minnesota lie within its North Shore, a region often defined as the area along Highway 61 between Duluth and the Canadian border. Since the landscape is quite diverse, hiking in the North Shore typically involves inclines, declines, rocks, roots, and uneven terrain. Therefore, some may hesitate to explore its wonders. The authors of the 2002 15th Annual Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards nominee for “Gentle Hikes: Minnesota’s Most Scenic North Shore Hikes Under 3 Miles,” set out to open the gates to the outdoors by identifying some of the area’s “gentlest” trails. They point out their primary goal was to create a guide for individuals and groups with limited time, small children, seniors, or participants experiencing mobility challenges.

Although the guide primarily concerns hiking trails (i.e., trails under 3 miles), additional sections cover roughly 13 “Almost Hikes” (i.e., very short trails ranging from 100 feet to 0.6 mile), 20 waysides and scenic locales, as well as 15 picnic areas. Within each category, locations are neatly divided into four sections: Duluth to Two Harbors, Two Harbors to Little Marais, Little Marais to Grand Marais, and Grand Marais to the Canadian border.

To assist readers in more easily identifying trails compatible with their schedules or personal abilities, authors created a trail rating system taking into account potential concerns and challenges. Plus, they noted which trails are “multi-use” (i.e., permitting bicycle and or in-line skating, but prohibiting other motorized vehicles with the exception of wheelchairs and scooters) and which are listed as meeting universal design standards.

The guide details helpful information for each trail reviewed, such as a map; trail highlights; trail length and surface (e.g., paved, gravel, hardpacked dirt, rock); the number and degree range of inclines/declines exceeding 10° (18% grade); the location and length of the steepest incline/decline; the location and length of the longest incline exceeding 30 feet; the location and description of steps, rocks, and roots; the location of benches; potential safety hazards/concerns; location of the best photo opportunities; distance from Duluth on Highway 61; and, trailhead directions, contact information, parking details, facilities, and fees. The authors’ trail explanations are very detailed, generally outlining key highlights in tenth-of-a-mile increments. They hope the information will help readers make informed decisions based on their abilities regarding how far to go along a certain trail or whether to choose another trail altogether.

Near the end of the guide, they placed a section of particular interest to readers with physical challenges other than those for readers traveling by RV. They even included quick reference charts describing waysides, scenic lookouts, and picnic areas having one or more accessible features. The chart lists information such as restroom type and accessibility features; availability of designated parking; descriptions of views available from vehicles; existence of visitor centers; and details regarding paths leading to these amenities.

My favorite section, referred to as the “Authors’ Corner,” provides a quick and easy reference to the best Lake Superior views, waterfalls, vistas, wooded trails, and river views plus the flattest, shortest (i.e., a half-mile or less), and paved trails.

I especially like the authors’ style; they offer several features and reference methods targeting, beginners as well as more experienced hikers. As an example, for beginners they provide supply, preparation, and safety suggestions in addition to a glossary of hiking terms. For all hikers, they offer a list of other recommended readings and resources plus a directory of general contact information for trail headquarters. For those not yet sold on the idea of hiking, another section summarizes various consequences of inactivity followed by several benefits of physical activity, including some of the rarely addressed psychological, social, and spiritual benefits. Because of the authors’ strong academic backgrounds in health education and health psychology, I felt the information was not only interesting, but sincere and reliable —not just another fad in our culture’s fitness craze. Finally, for trivia fans, the book even contains fun facts from various professional studies that can be discussed on the trail, over lunch, or in the car!

Best of all, a portion of the proceeds from book sales are deposited into a scholarship fund for University of Minnesota Duluth students majoring in health education.

For more information, grab a copy of “Gentle Hikes: Minnesota’s Most Scenic North Shore Hikes Under 3 Miles” released during May 2002 (ISBN: 188506148X), or its companion “Gentle Hikes: Northern Wisconsin’s Most Scenic Lake Superior Hikes Under 3 Miles” released during April 2004 (ISBN: 1591930502), written by Ladona Tornabene, Melanie Morgan, and Lisa Vogelsang and published by Adventure Publications Inc. of Cambridge, Minnesota. The next book, “Gentle Hikes: Mich-igan’s Upper Peninsula’s Most Scenic Hikes Under 3 Miles,” is scheduled for release in spring 2006.

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Dr. Ladona Tornabene, Ph.D. and Certified Health Education Specialist, is a recently tenured associate professor of health education at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Her focus lies in confronting the number one public health problem in America today — lack of physical activity. This fact, combined with her sense of adventure and unquenchable appetite for scenic beauty, birthed a passion. That passion is to promote better health through opening outdoors to people of all abilities. She believes the Lake Superior Region, with its breathtaking scenery, is a prime incentive for accomplishing that mission. An advocate for active lifestyles, she desires for people to grasp that health is more than just being in good physical shape, it is psychological, social, environmental and spiritual as well. Her advice: For better health on the inside—get outside!

Melanie Morgan’s organizational skills and accounting background have been instrumental to this book. She developed an interest in the wonders of nature from her father, who shared his love of the outdoors with his children. Melanie and her husband, Mark, enjoy hiking and snowshoeing out back of their Duluth home. Some of her favorite activities include camping, canoeing, cross-country skiing, sewing, and quilting.

Lisa Vogelsang, Ph.D., is a researcher and adjunct faculty in psychology and American Sign Language at the College of St. Scholastica. She is also sole proprietor of Lisa Vogelsang Photography as she specializes in scenes found along the trails throughout the Gentle Hikes Series. A former two-time Olympian in volleyball and track and field (discus), she now enjoys hiking, biking, sea kayaking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and photography. After five ankle surgeries, and developing severe arthritis from a previous athletic injury, she must keep her hikes short and less rugged. Her disability was, in part, a catalyst in the conception of this book.