"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Climbing Stony Tower Hill

I wasn't going to do these posts, but I haven't been on a trail in two weeks and so I've been thinking about my last foray into the woods.

Stony Tower Hill

The name of this hill is picturesque, but I knew that there'd be no tower, much less a stone tower. I was trying not to expect too much, but this entire trip was a matter of "Was that it?"

The way to get there: From Highway 61 along Minnesota's north shore, just past Tettegouche State Park, one turns onto County Highway 1, where one crosses the Sawtooth range, where there are a series of jagged hills that makes one think "I have to climb something higher than that!" Some twenty miles later, just past the town of Isabella, a half mile past the Forest Work Station, is an intersection; north is paved, south is Forest Road 103, which is the way to Stony Tower. I drove past the intersection. "Was that it?" The road has a sign that says it's unsuitable for passenger vehicles; using a truck, one can get within 200 yards of the peak. The road didn't seem too difficult, until I saw a 30 foot pine lying across the road and truck tracks around it. I, of course, ran the road.

Following the road, there's a private road almost immediately on the left, then a low swampy area filled with stones (which suggests how the nearby Stony River got its name). I was swatting deerflies - it was late July - but was able to wonder how such a low-seeming area could be near a high point, if no high point was visible. There's another trail to the left to avoid,  a  forest road (103H) to the right, a slight rise, a forest road (391) to the left, and then, a total of 2.6 miles (by Garmin) from Highway 1, there's the summit path to the right. I stepped onto it and decided ten feet in that it couldn't be right, so headed further down the road (which goes uphill... and I was thinking "going uphill is the point here") and then back. There is a post in the ground marking the path [I may insert a boring photo here someday]. "Was that it?"

The trail, a bit better than a deer trail, is very overgrown and small fallen trees covered the path. I was certain I was the first person to be there in a long time. Bent double, I could manoeuvre through most of the trail, occasionally going around fallen trees and sometimes losing the trail for a few yards. The trail splits in the woods and I went left, following the trail until it seemed to be a dead end and I'd been going downhill for some time; it should connect back to two forest roads (380 and 103G?), but I lost the trail, bushwhacked a bit, then headed back (and uphill). When I seemed to be at the highest point on the trail ("Was that it?"), I went step by step into the brush, trying to locate the true high point, pushing the brush down hard enough to be able to see exactly where I'd been.

This trip really should be done in April or October, when the leaves of bushes don't obscure the view.

I went back along the trail to where it had forked, then took the opposite fork until it, too, disappeared. It should connect back to forest road 103H. While the path did go uphill for a bit, trying to find the high point would just lead back to where I'd been, so I was certain I'd reached the summit.

The total climb after entering the woods is less than 50 feet, which is disappointing. There is no view (at least in summer). Isabella is at 1944 feet, one climbs another 30 to the forest road, another 70 gradually along that road and 50 more in the woods, for the peak of 2080.

On a topographic map, within 300 feet of vertical of the summit are several other peaks: Peabody Hill (2019 feet), Mount Weber (1946), Cloquet Lookout Tower (2067) and Wanless Tower (2062). All are undoubtedly more interesting than Stony Tower Hill.

This was an easy climb. The harrowing account of my climbing Lundeen Mountain that same day is forthcoming.

Added: There are a few reports and topo maps of this peak on the internet which are badly out of date.

1 comment:

Jean said...

I am glad you decided to post these, Steve. Thanks for sharing. Highway 1 is such a pretty road. Very interested in hearing about Lundeen.

I heard the deer flies were awful up north this year. A friend of mine has been running with a deer fly trap on her neck!