7 Kinds of Mushrooms, 5 Waterfalls, 3 Happy Dogs, 1 Bullfrog, Tons of Thimbleberries, Way Lots of Mud, and an Ungodly Amount of Mosquitos: Hiking the North Country Trail to Black River Harbor
As I mentioned in my last post, we spent our first day with Teri and Grey hiking a segment of the North Country Trail. This 6 mile (one way) section cuts through mature pine, hemlock and hardwoods, passing 5 waterfalls as the Black River rushes toward Lake Superior. Most if not all these falls are accessible via spur trails from the Scenic Byway and we’d seen some of them on our visit in 2015 but we’d neither seen all 5 nor has we hiked more than a few miles on the North Country Trail so we thought it was worth a visit.
For the first few miles the trail was not all that close to the river and so we found ourselves hiking through forest under heavy tree cover. The lack of light and the rapid movement of enthusiastic dogs blurred many of my photos but the second, only-slightly-blurry shot of Tom and Teri hiking ahead of me is characteristic of what the trail looked like: mixed trees, plenty of ferns, and mosses. Because this area both gets large amounts of precipitation and is under a dense canopy, a thriving understory of water-loving plants, moss, and mushrooms exist here: Within the first half mile Teri had already pointed out 2 of these different, exotic-looking fungi which led to the rest of the hike becoming somewhat of a mushroom hunt for us.
We got our first views of the tannin-stained river less than an hour from the trailhead and we reached the first of the waterfalls not long after that. Each time we approached one of the falls we ducked off onto the invariably- steep spur trail down the gorge to make our way down the gorge to the river. Since these short trails were accessible from the road as I said there were frequently groups of people enjoying the scenery as we climbed around the rocky banks. Thankfully we were alone for the rest of the hike and didn’t have to worry about our 3 crazy dogs bothering anyone else.
About a half mile from Black Harbor we encountered a slew of ripe thimbleberries which slowed our progress a bit (as had the previous off-trail excursion that led to some fairly serious bushwacking) so that by the time we were approaching the shore of Lake Superior it was raining. This was a little unfortunate since I remembered this stretch of beach to be quite pretty, but the fog ultimately left me without any photo opportunities. In any case, it was a wonderful hike despite the mosquitoes and it was wonderful to spend time with Teri again after not having seen her for so long.