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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Five Easy Peakses

It was time to climb the one 2000 foot peak in Minnesota outside the arrowhead region. I'd put it off because there was nothing else to do in the area and it seemed a long trip for just that. Then I decided I could manage 5 of the 50 highest peaks in the state, hit a few county high points in the process and check off an entire section of the state. It'd take an entire day, so I started out at 3 AM, hoping to get done with the worst of it before it got to 90 degrees.

It's not a vacation without endangering one's life

On I-90, between St. Cloud and Sauk Center, ninety minutes into the day, I hit a deer. The car still worked, so I pulled into the nearest gas station and took a look. No broken glass, no leaking fluids (and no deflated air bags. Hmm...), only a dented hood; even the wheels seemed to have stayed aligned. I called the police to see if I needed to report it. (No injury, car drivable, no wounded or dead animal left on the road... no police report, and since below the insurance deductible, no report to them either). Too dark for a photo then, here's what it looked like 16 hours later:

Guess I needed to make the trip worthwhile.

Height of Land Lookout Tower, Clearwater County 2005 feet (#18 of 55 highest in state)

This was the furthest from home and the one I wanted to complete, so I was going to do it first. Unfortunately, I'd lost the latitude and longitude, wasn't using directions or a map. I remembered how others had done it - 5 miles north of Elbow Lake, then half-mile up unnamed trail to fire tower. Shouldn't be hard to find this:
The tower's gone, unfortunately. I drove toward Lake Itasca State park, west on 113, then 5 miles north on Height of Land Road where I started the search by going at least 1/2 mile up (or down) every road, trail or deer track from that point. The flies were everywhere. Running helps keep the flies at bay; I was sore from the long car ride, sore from the accident, sore from running injuries, sore from rehab exercises - but I wasn't wheezing! - and I got to see otters for the first time in my life. I also saw a lot of turtles laying eggs.

After miles of this, I went back to the car and drove along to see if there was an obvious route I'd missed. I drove past it without seeing it (it angles back the other way) and when thinking all hope was lost of salvaging the day, drove back the other way and found it. I climbed the hill, saw the remains of the tower and saw I forgot the camera - so I went back and got it.
Cheap proof for doubters

The remains of the tower. (forgot to change camera focus)
I was feeling dehydrated (and itchy; I'd walked through some bushes I shouldn't have). I drank a quart of water and headed to the next one.

Thorpe Lookout Tower, Hubbard County, 1845 feet (#29)

Back to 113, back to MN 71, north to 200, east to Cty 91, south to state forest entrance, 1 mile east, 1 mile south. Drank some more and headed out, first on a wrong track (honestly, I could get lost in an empty parking lot), then on the obvious spur to the tower, which, of course, wasn't there. There were, however, a lot of wood ticks as well as flies. In the car, I stopped counting after 12, but had at least 20 I removed. I finished off the first gallon of water and headed on - occasionally swerving as I'd find another vampirish hitch-hiker on my legs.

Concrete footings of the old tower (more focus probs)
Wolf Lake Lookout Tower, Becker County, 1865 feet (#28)

Took 91 south, which becomes a paved road with a surprising amount of traffic and a lot of tourists with boats, bikes and ATVs to MN34 west through Park Rapids (where I bought gas - cheapest I saw was $3.33, compared to the $3.54 I filled up on back home) to Cty 21, south to Wolf Lake Road, which is drivable in a truck, but not in a compact that just hit a deer. More flies, but by now I wasn't even swatting. This is the only place I saw another person that day.

Note the hand swell with dehydration

There is an actual tower, but not what I was expecting.

One of the concrete footings of the old fire tower.
Otter Tail County High Point, 1795 feet (#34)

Back to Park Rapids, south on 71 to Eagle Bend, west to Parker's Prairie on 22, which becomes 233 at the county line and continues to 89, but I wasn't sure, so I turned north and caught Cty 6 west to Cty 89, north to Shiloh Ranch Road, east to a dead end with a "No Trespassing" sign on the gated road. Bushwhacked up the hill (about 120 feet of climb in 100 yards) to the communications tower. Ate a little and drank as much ice water as I could comfortably hold, noting I hadn't urinated all day.

Nice (illegally gained) view

Always get permission.
Peak 1435, Stearns County (#49)

From parker's Prairie, I took 29 south to I-94 toward St. Cloud, 23 west to Cty 8 in Rockville, south to 110th street, west to tower on a road that just begs to have a race from Cold Spring to Lake Grand. This property, too, is posted.

See? Address, tower, evidence of misdemeanor trespass.

Looking South


West. That odd shape in the middle is an expensive house with a view.
Polished off another 2 quarts of water and drove home. Did not fully hydrate until 11 PM.

Hot, eventful day. There's still one wood tick that I knocked loose while driving that's either still there or in one of the bags I brought.


Johann said...

Wow, great day out on the peaks! I would enjoy doing something like this. Ouch for hitting the deer but luckily nothing serious.

wildknits said...

Looks like you had an enjoyable day.

D**n deer!!! Though have to say, if you are going to hit one let it not destroy glass or land in your lap, so good job on that!

Anonymous said...

Boy, if those were "easy peakses" give me the hard ones. If you want to punish yourself, you should just run.

John K.