A GeoCaching Weekend

It had been a couple of years since my last GeoCaching adventure in DuluthMUCH earlier this year I asked Best Bud Ed what he thought about doing it again.  Ed was all for it, so we scheduled a weekend (several months in advance) to ensure it would work out.

Ed lives in one of the hardest hit areas of the 2012 Duluth Flood.  (For more photos, check out here.)  While I have been to Ed’s place since the flood, and have seen some of the damage done (from a distance) – I had not really had a opportunity to see the damage UP CLOSE and PERSONAL.


We decided to GeoCache around one of the nearby Trail Heads to the Superior Hiking Trail.  This trail starts at Mission Creek Trail and winds in and around the creek gorge until it meets up with the SHT.  This area was one of the major sources of flood damage to the area.  According to the Mission Creek Trail web page…

“Mission Creek trailhead is just above the DNR holding dam which was built to catch and hold logs and other debris from spring runoff or heavy rains.”

That holding dam caught TONS (literally) of debris from several significant mud slides.  Once the dam was blocked, the creek flooded and filled the town with flood water. 

As you can see from the “terrain map” (and/or Topo map) below, Mission Creek cuts through a DEEP gorge in the landscape, and is subject to some “significant’ elevation changes. 

Topo Topo2

Last year after the flood, we visited Ed and his family.  He took us around and (as best as he could) showed us much of the damage that occurred.  Many areas were completely inaccessible – so we could only get so far in to see.

This GeoCaching trip would take us deep into Ground Zero of the flood, and over / through / around many of the mudslides that ultimately caused the flooding of Ed’s town.

It’s been just under a year now since the flood – and unfortunately due to the economy – the cleanup is only partially complete, and there has been little (if any) actual repair to the damage.  The trail we walked is still “officially” closed (photos below will indicate why) – but hikers, sightseers, and GEOCACHERS still regularly use the access.        

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In these two photos, we are past the most significant obstruction.  Here you see the trail has been completely washed away.  We are looking back toward the parking area which is way off in the distance.  From the left edge of that photo to where the trail would have been is another wash out.  That is a tiny little “stream” coming down from the hill.  In the second photo (the one with Ed poised on the edge of the washout) you can see a portion of the culvert that USED TO run under the trail and out to where it would spill into Mission Creek.  This is (I believe) one of the primary areas / reasons why the trail is closed.  We had to navigate up that little stream until we could find a safe crossing, then make our way back down the stream to where the trail picked up again. 

That was not the the only place the trail disappeared.  Further down the trail we came to another area where the trail ended, and we had to ‘bushwhack” our way around a number of obstacles. (Downed trees and some significant mudslides… I call them “mudslides”, but the were actually “clay slides”.  Very dense, wet, and VERY SLIPPERY clay…

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Here, you see me on the edge of yet another wash out.  This one was further down the trail from the first one.  The photo was taken from ahead on the trail, looking back. 

As we progressed along the trail (and often off-trail), we were ascending the gorge.  The further we ascended, the less trail washout we encountered.  Instead we found ourselves having to cross a number of the mud clay slides.

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Image05182013152752Once we made it to the top of the gorge, it was very interesting to see where these mud clay slides originated. 

They start relatively small, but as they progress down the hill, they wipe out more and more, cutting a wider and wider swath of devastation as the travel.   

From this vantage point, you could hardly tell how significant this mudslide really was.  The results all but decimated a small town. 


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Here we are.  at one of the highest points of elevation.  It’s difficult to see in the photos, but one wrong step and it’s going to be a quick (and I would suspect, painful) trip to the bottom.     

Image05182013170147 Image05182013170136 Image05182013155753       

Left:  Another portion of the trail.  Right along the ridge. 
Center: The same trail – with Ed a few yards ahead of me.
Right:  Ed, logging a cache find.  LOGGING a cache find from the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!  It’s amazing what technology will allow us to do. 

We stumbled upon one anomaly.  Something we both found pretty interesting.  Think about this one.  How does this happen??  I know how a tree braches off and becomes two trucks as it grows up, but how does two separate and distinct different trunks grow back together into one tree??    

Image05182013160005 Image05182013155956



All totaled on our first outing…  Five caches found for five caches attempted.  A total of four hours, 4.2 miles and assent / decent of over 600 ft (highest elevation point was 984 feet and the lowest was 335 feet). 

Thanks to my GPS and Everytrail.com – you can follow us along our journey! 

GeoCaching Weekend #1

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Minnesota

Once we made it home, we enjoyed a well deserved (and amazingly cooked) dinner of Stuffed Pork Chops from Superior Meats while #3 of 5 and I tried to warm up / dry off near the fire. 

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Ed and I had previously discussed the possibility of trying to find a couple of “night caches”. 

Night Caches are GeoCaches with night time attributes – such as reflective tacks - that lead you from waypoint to waypoint in order to aid you finding the GeoCache.

We never found any Night Caches in the immediate area to attempt, but Ed had another idea!  Once we finished dinner and got the younger kids settled into bed – Ed, #3 of 5, and I headed out to find a couple of nearby Caches that Ed already knew about.

We Geoached by the light of the moon – only since it was so cloudy and overcast, we actually GeoCached by the light of our flashlights!! 

One hour, nearly two miles, and three found GeoCaches later – we headed back home to call it a day!! 


GeoCaching Weekend #2

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Minnesota

During my second and final day in Duluth, it was raining.  It was very wet, cold, and windy.  Much of the day was spent in Ed’s garage, playing cribbage, smoking cigars, drinking beer, and watching episodes of Sherlock and Dragnet.   


Yes, before call me out on this, let me be the first to point it out… The deck of cards we were playing with do say “Sexy Girls” on them.  But, it’s not what you think!  They are reproductions from classic paintings of “Pin Up Girls” by well known artist Gil Elvgren.  His work spans from the late 1930’s to the early 1970’s. 

Honestly, between the beer, cigars, and these cards - I truly believe that Ed was trying to distract me from my most excellent cribbage playing skills!! 


We decided that rain or shine, we would make one more attempt at GeoCaching before I had to head for home.  We scoped out a nearby Multi-Cache (a GeoCache with two or more components to it) that was also near another traditional cache, and headed out.    

The first phase of the Multi-Cache was located in a nearby park, located near the mouth of the St. Louis River and Mission Creek called John Jacob Astor Park.  It required us to locate some data from a plaque within the park about the park’s history in the Fur Trade of early America, decipher that into data that was converted into GPS coordinates.

Again at John Jacob Astor Park, the mud, clay and damage from last year’s flood was still very prominent.  There was still a layer of mud, silt, and clay from the previous mud slides all around us.

We took the deciphered coordinates and headed off to the final phase of the multi-cache.  Here is Ed, again logging his find on his uber advanced technical smart-phone with installed geocaching app!     

Our final cache for the weekend was located in Chambers Gove Park.  Chambers Grove park is a beautiful park located along the St. Louis River above the mouth of Mission Creek.  It too saw a significant amount of damage from the flood.  Damage that has yet to be repaired.  Most notable was the boardwalk that runs along the river. 

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In the first photo, we are standing near the beginning of the boardwalk, looking NW along the river.  In the second photo, we are looking back SE towards where the first photo was taken.  You can see the warping of the boardwalk in the first photo, and the washout of the support under the boardwalk in the second photo.

This short outing lasted just over 30 minutes and added another mile and two more caches out our weekend GeoAdventure!


GeoCaching Weekend #3

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Minnesota

All totaled, Ed and I spent more than 5 hours traveling over 7 miles to locate 10 GeoCaches.  We had a great time and made some fun memories!  I want to thank Best Bud Ed and his family for their hospitality, and good times!! 

I am looking forward to being able to do it again sometime soon!! 

GeoCaching Weekend - Combined

EveryTrail - Find the best Hiking in Minnesota

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a fun trip. Sad to see the damage almost a year later. I think you need to log some Ohio caches one of these days!


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