Friday, October 18, 2013

Sun Rays at Stairway Falls

Earlier this week Jessica and I did some hiking within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness just off the Gunflint Trail in northeast Minnesota.  We did the Caribou Rock Trail all the way to where it intersects with the Border Route Trail at Rose Lake.  This is NOT an easy hike!  We were prepared for a tough hike, as all the guide books say it is a difficult hike and takes much more time than you would expect.  Even so, the trail was much more rugged than we were expecting!  You are pretty much always hiking either uphill or downhill and the hills are often very steep.  So steep, in fact, that this time of year with the majority of the leaves already blanketing the ground, it can be very difficult to tell where the trail goes.  Several of the slopes along the trail were more like goat trails than people trails.  It's hard to believe that a trail was constructed through such demanding terrain.  

The difficulty is worth it, though, as the sights along the trail are spectacular.  You pass by 4 different lakes, 2 just outside the BWCA (West Bearskin and Moss) on the first half of the hike and 2 within the boundary waters (Duncan and Rose) on the second half.  There are magnificent views of each lake as you hike past them on the surrounding hilltops.  The last overlook of the hike is arguably the most dramatic as you sit on an open rock ledge high above Rose Lake overlooking the vast U.S./Canada border country that surrounds you.  

The final reward of the hike is a visit to Stairway Falls on Stairway Portage, which connects Duncan Lake to Rose Lake.  Stairway Falls is located within a beautiful rocky gorge lined with moss and cedar trees.  We were there at just the right time of day to see some amazing sun rays penetrating down into the gorge from above the waterfall.  According to the guide book, the hike was 4 miles from the parking area to the Rose Lake overlook, making this an 8-mile round-trip hike.  According to our GPS unit, it was just over 5 miles from the parking area to Rose Lake, which would make for just over 10 miles round-trip.  Whichever was right, the guide book or the GPS, one thing is for certain: this was a strenuous hike with rewards that made it well worth the effort to get there!

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