Sunday, January 22, 2017

January 7 2017 Pigeon River Provincial Park Finger Point...In The Winter

With the wife in Florida visiting friends, I took the opportunity to make what would be my longest trip for a day hike every.  The goal was to climb Finger Point in the Pigeon River Provincial Park.  The park is about 6 hours one way from my house so I was out the door before 5am and reached Duluth about 7:30 as first light was beginning to show in the eastern sky.  With the northwest winds and temps about -12F, a thick layer of fog, clouds, and sea smoke blanketed the eastern shore of Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan in the distance.

Another shot looking east while coming down the hill into the Duluth harbor area.

Although all of the drive along Lake Superior is interesting, my favorite area is north of Hovland.  In my opinion it really gives you the feel for how rugged and for the most part, desolate, this area is.

The objective for the day.  The wife and I have hiked this in the summer but I saw some winter pics on Google Earth from the lookout on the top of the hump.   Border crossing was no problem but parking was a little tricky at the trail head.  You park at the Canadian Tourism welcome center right when you get through customs.  However it is closed in the winter and they only make one pass with the plow around the center and through what is usually an ample sized lot during the rest of the year.  I tried my best to park in a way someone could get around me if needed but wasn't too worried about it as no one else was around.

The trail follows the shoreline of the lake for a while.  I was surprised the  bays weren't frozen over more than they were with string of -20's and -30's we have had.  Just goes to show how difficult it is to get Superior to freeze.

The lower portion of the trail was pretty well packed thanks to someone who had snowshoed their way in using bear paw style shoes.  Further up the trail I think they regretted it as I saw a lot of slip marks (no cleats) and butt prints from having to slide down on their rear to avoid a certain nasty fall.

Selfie as the climb to the top starts.   The abruptness of the elevation change on this hike is one of the things I love about this hike.  Just use caution as they are a lot of loose rocks under the snow.  Poles help quite a bit as you can kind of feel your way up.   I was just using my winter hiking boots at this point.   I had ice spikes in my pack and my cleated snowshoes were also lashed to my pack just in case I needed them.

This is why I love  hiking.  I can see pictures of places like this whenever I want.  However, the reward is seeing pictures like this and knowing my own two feet have stood in that spot also.

Looking northeast over Pigeon Bay.

Looking west / southwest back to the mouth of the Pigeon River.  Where I am standing is there the outlook is.  The bump in front of me is where you come out at the end of the climb.  There are about a dozen or so switchbacks to navigate to get to the top on that bump then you have to cross a fairly steep but short draw to get to where I am standing at.

Looking east / southeast.  That is the very northeastern tip of Minnesota in the foreground and Isle Royale National Park in the back.

One shot for my memory scrap book.  The iron artwork around the outlook depicts many scenes and items associated with the history of Lake Superior and the surround area.  There is also a nice bench which is cut in the shape of the lake.   didn't want to disturb the 12"-18" of snow covering it just for a photo but trust me, it's there.  The winds were gusting 20-30 mph up on the top and it was still below zero so the windchill was somewhere around -30F.  Hung out for about 45 minutes just taking in all in before heading back down.  I did put on my ice spikes at this point as after seeing all the butt time the previous hiker spent descending with snowshoes, I opted for solid footing.

On the way out I stopped to gawk at the ice along the shore of Pigeon Bay.  Perspective doesn't do this justice as it was 3-4 feet high and had a great blue glow but the back light killed it.

Ontario on the left, Minnesota on the right, and Michigan (Isle Royale) in the background.

One last look back at the point before turning into the forest and back to the trail head.  It was kinda cool as the ice sheet in the bay wasn't really attached to the shore.  The sheet would heave at times with water squirting up along the shore only to retreat through the cracks along the edge.

Of course I had to stop for one shot over Wauswaugoning Bay south of Grand Portage as the sea smoke was forming before rocketing off to the southeast on the strong winds.

The road home.  Crossing the "summit" of Mount Josephine.

The day ends at it started.  Total trail time was about 3 hours but only about 5k return.  I tend to spend a lot of time looking around or dinging around with photos so if you make the hike, it will likely take you much less time.  As always, if you have any questions about one of my hikes, please email me at

Thanks for reading

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