Temperance River has two really nice campgrounds, each with their own highlights. The Lower Campground sits on the lake and if you’re fast enough you can get lake view sites reserved. We were at camping with family that was RV camping so we chose two sites right next to each other. They were sites 57 and 58. The bathrooms were just vault toilets a little bit down the road so not super convenient as with the shower bathrooms at the Upper Campground but they worked fine for us. Our site did not have a view of the lake but was a fine size for our car and a large tent. A short 3 minute walk brought right to the lake and rocky beach where there were plenty of books and crannies to explore. The Temperance River also comes out in this beach so you can play around that as well. From our location at Temperance we easily explored and enjoyed hiking the Oberg Mtn Loop, trails like Honeymoon Bluff up the Gunflint and visiting other parks like Cascade River.
After finishing the beautiful yet slightly grueling Lake Walk you head northeast eventually coming to the Little Brule River where depending on the water levels you’ll see little waterfalls and pools. You’ll also run into three consecutive campsites; South, North and Northwest Little Brule River. First South, then 0.4 miles later the next two. All three have unreliable water conditions so stock up in Lake Superior if unsure. The tent pads on the second one, North Little Brule, were nice settings. The fire pit was pretty beat up but serviceable. Overall, I’d suggest waiting and getting a spot at Judge C R Magney.
This site is pretty typical with 4 tent pads, fire pit and pit toilet and it’s be 3 stars since water is really hard to access but it’s proximity to some really cool features gives it an extra star. Get here early so that you have time to set up camp and then head 1/2 a mile past the site to the spur trail that heads down the Kadunce. Once you get low enough to gain access to the river hop down and start working your way back up the river. We did this is the Fall so I’m not sure how easy this would be in the Spring during higher water levels. As you head up the river you can mostly walk on rocks but to see some really cool stuff you’ve got to be willing to get your feet wet! You’ll know you’re done when you’ve reached the end, a rounded canyon walk with waterfall.
This site has potential but in September Crow Creek is barely a trickle. The site sits high above the creek so you have to walk down to get water. It would be great if you actually had views of the canyon that you’re sitting above but you might have to wait till winter to see them. If you visit in the heat of Summer the site is well treed to provide lots of shade and the tent pads (4) are fairly spacious. The fire pit bench was falling apart but still a few sections available to sit. Like all sites on the SHT this site contains a pit toilet close by.
Kimball creek campsite is your reward after heading over several ups and downs on the trail. Crossing over the creek and heading up and down stairs. If you’re heading SOBO and starting at CTY RD 14 parking lot then Kimball Creek might be a good option if you’re hitting the trail late and want to just get on and set up camp. The camp site only has about 3 pads but you can choose to be near the fire pit or head down the hill and be closer to the creek. The setting is just beautiful and listening to the creek as you head off to sleep is sublime.
Cliff Creek is exactly that, above the creek . It’s a more private campsite in the fact that it’s a little walk on the spur but it is one of if not the largest group sites with at least 8 tent pads. Heading NOBO you will experience a very hilly up and down as you pass over runoff trails and small creeks. The trail changes and becomes rocky as you start to pass by exposed red Rhyolite and a few nice open vistas of Lake Superior are seen. You head back into the woods and head up to reach Cliff Creek group site. You are off the creek so you have to walk to get water. The fire pit is small for such a large group site but it’s open and there is more seating than normal.
Heading NOBO on the SHT out of the Woods Creek campsite we came up out of the forest into some previously logged hillsides that have a prairie like appearance and some of the most amazing views of Lake Superior, Pincushion Mtn and Five Mile Rock. Past the open sloped field you head back into the trees and come upon Durfee Creek, labeled only by a group campsite sign. The site is slightly off the creek so it’s a quick walk past the site to reach the creek for water. The tent pads are spread out and the fire pit is normal sized so if the site is full seating will be at a premium. Overall the site is serviceable but lacks easy water access and views.
On our 3rd day of a 4 day trip on the Superior Hiking Trail, heading north out of Grand Marais, we stopped at Judge C.R. Magney State Park. Our morning started at the Kadunce campsite; we headed south and did the famed lake walk and then headed north following the little Brule River, then a straight line East following private property until we hit Judge Magney and did a short stint south to the campsite. The next morning we'd be heading North again along the Brule River. Passing the famed Devils Kettle, a waterfall that splits in two and half disappears. Back at the campsite we were site #8. It is a spacious flat area that is suitable for drive in campers and vehicles. The fire pit and picnic table were together and there were a few trees at the site to hang our hammocks from. The bathrooms were across the road, a comfortable distance for noise but easy access at night. We were also very close to the SHT to hop right back on the next morning. Overall the location was pretty great, we were surrounded by nature on two sides and the other campsite was pretty separate from us. Just an FYI it was a quiet campsite mostly filled with older couples.
During our backpacking trip we took a few "excursions" without our heavier backpacks and we used the Ethnotek Cross Body Bag to bring along snacks and extras. Some pro's of the bag were the large opening and sizable closure. Inside were a few different sized pockets for holding smaller items and a small side zip for quickly grabbing an item without opening the whole bag. The large 'seatbelt' looking strap could be held around the waist, fanny pack style, or cross body. For me the crossbody was a bit of an awkward fit. Being a women the strap goes right across the chest and either smooshes you or divides you extravagantly. Wearing it as a fanny pack, it's a bit large so you wear it with the bag to the back and it works well. The unique styling of the bag design and the fabrics make this a fun bag to travel with. I always enjoy products that support artisans from other cultures and Ethnotek does just that. Overall I give the Cross Body Bag by Ethnotek 4.5 out of 5 stars. https://ethnotek.com/products/cyclo-cross-body-bag?variant=1894797639704
The Kadunce River campsite sits above the river on a ridge. It is oddly close the trail which suddenly disappears into long grasses making you wonder if you've gotten off target. The site has great trees from throwing up your hammocks and about two comfortable tent pads. The campsite sits in the trees so you don't have much of a view of the river and can barely hear it for that matter but you do get views of the tree tops off in the distance. The highlight of this site is it's proximity to one of the coolest and little well known spots on the trail; the Kadunce River gorge and waterfalls. If you take the trail back to the Kadunce spur trail, that heads south to hwy 61, and follow it till it becomes level with the river you can hop in the river and start heading north in it. It has several large rocks and you can keep your feet dry for the majority of the journey but when it's not possible to stay dry, don't! Keep heading up the river and you suddenly take a bend and the gorge closes in and reveals it's end, a rounded, walled canyon and waterfall. it's amazing, and hard to capture on film, but you'll get the gist. I don't know if this trip is possible in the Spring when the water levels would be much higher so if you're deadset on going, do it in the later Summer, Fall or even winter!
On the trail I brought along the Vivobarefoot Eclipse Sandals. They are an ultralight minimalist sandal that has a strapping system designed for you to size to your foot. I used my sandals to explore the campground once we had arrived for the evening. They were nice because of their weight ( I carry a 21lb fully loaded pack) but that minimalist feel was also why I didn't really care for them. The soles were textured to give you traction but you could feel everything underneath. I know there's a trend towards that exact feeling but I did not enjoy it. I would not have lasted long wearing them out and about. The strappy design was fine but I prefer sandals I can slip on as I step out of my tent vs sandals that take some work. I went onto the Vivobarefoot website https://www.vivobarefoot.com/us and could not actually find this model? I'm wondering if they've steered away from it for the cooler months or others have also had a similar opinion and they've beefed up the soles a bit. There were a few other models that I would have considered had they been available when I ordered. The Primus Light for example seems a bit sturdier but still an ultralight feel. Check out my video review below to see up close the Eclipse model I was sent to review by Vivobarefoot.
Wood's Creek Campsite is located about 6.3 miles (including a spur stop on Pincushion Mountain) from the Grand Marais, Pincushion Mtn overlook parking lot. Since we drove up from the cities and got a late start we chose to do a slightly shorter day as we headed NOBO on the Superior Hiking Trail. The trail was very up and down with some great Superior views, many changes in trees and a dramatic drop and rise in and out of the Devils Track River gorge. The site sits on the small but flowing Wood's Creek. Considering we went in a drier time of year and still had water to filter from tells me this is not a creek to worry about drying up. I can imagine it's raging in the Spring. The site has three main tent pads and then another spot a little more secluded and a backup spot if needed right by the fire pit. In all our days on the SHT we have actually never shared a site until this one. Our group of 4 (2 tents) arrived first and shortly after another couple (2 tents), a single gal and a pair of sisters (1 tent) hiked in. We were able to fit all 6 tents on the site. The latrine is back up the trail a bit but a nice benefit of hiking on the SHT (aka no hole digging). The water was clear and delicious thru our Sawyer minis. No bugs in mid September was also a HUGE bonus.
Our first morning waking up on the trail was made all the better by our camp coffee. For the first time we tried out the Nature's Coffee Kettle in the hazelnut flavor. We got off to a rocky start when the pre-cut slits for opening did not open low enough to break the seal above the sip lock. Luckily we had a swiss army knife to work with and after a couple minutes got it open. We boiled our water and poured it into the top of the kettle bag where a filter bag of the coffee is placed. We poured the first cup slowly to let it saturate the filter bag and then poured in the rest. Sealed it up and let it sit for a few minutes. Once we thought it was ready we were able to pour out about 4 cups. It does say if it's doesn't look strong enough to pour it back thru the filter but it looked and tasted great to us. Once done we sealed it back up put the cap back on and put it in the bear vault, where unfortunately thru the day it leaked all over. Bonus, everything in the BV smelled AMAZING, but of course everything was also covered in coffee. The next morning we opened up the kettle and put in a new filter to use the kettle again. It worked the same as the previous morning with another cup of yummy hazelnut coffee. Overall I'd give the kettle a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Missing 1/2 a star for the bag malfunctions. The coffee was delicious and I look forward to trying out other flavors in the future. Maybe the cider or hot chocolate as well! https://www.naturescoffeekettle.com/
Sonju Lake is just a short hike from the Sonju Lake Road parking lot on the Superior Hiking Trail. It's a great spot if you're getting a late start on your trip or looking for a short ending at the finale. There are two campsites on Sonju and one is the star. This is not the one. It's fine but it's lacking the highlight of this trail section, Lilly's Island. The site sits on the lake but has little view from the actual site. Water access is so so but the views of the lake are lovely.
I was heading out with my oldest for her first backpacking trip so we did a quick 3 day 2 night trip out on the Superior Hiking Trail. I let her pick the section and she chose a nice short but scenic section from Sonju Lake Road out to the Baptism River and back. We chose Sonju Lake and Egge Lake as our two night, with Egge Lake being the first. We attempted the South camp but there were already visitors so we headed back to the North camp. It was spacious, flat and open with easy access to the lake for water and views. The lake was mostly hidden from view by the trees once in camp but you could still enjoy the sounds of Loons and frogs at night.
When my oldest and I headed out for her first backpacking trip we decided to do a quick 3 day trip with 2 overnights that were fairly close together. We chose to do an out and back from Sonju Lake Road parking lot to the Baptism River crossing and back. Even though Sonju Lake is a short walk from the lot we went to Egge Lake for our first night and then came back to Sonju for our second night. There are two sites on Sonju but you MUST try and stay at the south site. It has one of the best little spots on the trail called Lilly's Island. You can not camp on this sweet little oasis but you can definitely spend an afternoon lounging there. Our only regret was not bringing our hammocks. The campsite is just a short 2 min walk from the island and has sufficient space for a few tents. The water access from the site wasn't huge but it was good for getting water. This is definitely a highlight camp spot on the trail.
Lake Mary is a very nice campground. Large open sites with pines surrounding you. Some have tremendous views of the lake or even the mountains. Our site was directly next to the bathrooms, which we were initially worried about but it wasn't an issue for smell or noise and quite nice at 3 in the morning. There is a very nice divided paved path that meanders thru the campground. We saw lots of bikers, walkers and runners pass by. The lake has a plethora of activity options and we would have enjoyed them if we'd had the time. We were simply there to acclimate for our trip on the JMT. The trolley system in Mammoth is extensive and extremely useful, not to mention, free. Learn about it and use it. For those looking to hike/backpack Duck Pass Trail/The JMT this site isn't the closest campground but with all others full it worked out well. It was a couple miles to the trailhead but when you're walking for days whats a few more miles.
There are a few ways to exit (or enter) the John Muir Trail and for our trip we chose to exit on the Piute Pass Trail (also known as Piute Canyon closer to the JMT). For us we had camped the night before near Muir Trail Ranch and had just a couple miles till we reached the very nice bridge crossing over Piute Creek. We enjoyed views of the creek and bridge but never crossed the bridge because the Piute Pass Trail began directly before it. This trail is amazing. It is not an easy trail but it has so much diverse beauty from the beginning as you rise above the Piute Canyon, to the middle where you have views of the Glacial Divide and then move into the awe inspiring Humphrey's Basin, to the end where the rock over the pass (11,423) turns an orangish red, unlike anything we'd seen the entire trip. Our campsite was after crossing several small streams that seemed to be zigzagging every which direction. We were in a forested area next to Piute Creek and enjoyed a refreshing dip in the ice cold waters. A nice pine floor was easily cleared of pine cones and plenty of rocks were around to hold down tents. The next day we would climb out of the forest and enter into the incredible Humphrey's Basin where plenty of trails spread out into areas such as the Desolation Wilderness and plenty more options for camping.
After Marie Lakes we had a very short 300 foot climb up and over Selden Pass and then a long decent past Heart Lake, Sallie Keyes Lakes (where the traditional Indian wood flute was being played) and a major 2000 foot switchback decent to Blayney Meadows and Muir Trail Ranch. MTR closes at 5pm so we were eager to get there and get our resupply. Ironically enough most of my resupply I dumped and grabbed a few things from the free hikers buckets. I wasn't eating nearly as much as I had planned and didn't crave anything I had in my resupply. I really just wanted apple sauce and mashed potatoes. After a nice couple hour break at MTR we headed back towards the JMT on the Florence Lake Trail. It runs along the San Joaquin River and had the most incredible trees surrounding us. The trail runs about 1.5 miles to jump back on the JMT and the camp site is close to the end of that. Maybe less than 1/2 a mile till the merge. It is open along the river and several others chose to camp in this area. The river is fast moving so not one to frolic in but easy enough to wash up and get water. Their is little privacy so a steep ascent up the hill on the other side of the trail is where you'll need to take care of "personal Matters" there's a bit of a trail that'll take you up there if you can find it. We hoped for clear skies and low winds that night as the trees we camped under were so large a pinecone would have caused so serious damage had it fallen on us. It was nice having others around as this area felt a bit like bear country and we weren't keen on uninvited guests. The next morning we would travel a short way to hop back on the JMT and meet up with the Piute Pass Trail.
There are several ways to enter onto the John Muir Trail and one of the most scenic ways is via Duck Pass Trail our of Mammoth Lakes. It's about 6 miles up and over the pass to the JMT and a great way to work on acclimation. Since we were doing just that we did the short mileage and though we were travelling SOBO the closest camp spots were about 100 yards northbound. The signage when we entered onto the JMT was almost non existent. We actually started heading SOBO until we realized were had entered onto the trail and turned around for a quick switchback decent to the camp spots. They were not easily found as well so when you're heading down you'll see a meadow coming up on your right and Duck Creek in front of you and then heading to your left. The camp spots with fire ring are on the left up a small incline. Your view is of the meadow and though you can't really see the creek it's about 25 yards in front of you. The site is lacking in flat surface so it fits one person perfectly and then after that you start to spread out. We ended up with two by the fire ring and then three others went up a short trail to another semi sloped but clear surface (as seen in the pics). The site overall wasn't ideal but it had water and a bit of a view so it worked. If you didn't care to go quite as far I'd suggest stopping about a mile prior on the Duck Pass Trail and staying at the end of Duck Lake where there were abundant views and crystal clear lake to enjoy.
After starting the morning at Silver Pass Lake we descended SOBO into the land of giants for about 2000 feet. Finding Bear Creek and following it and it's gurgling cascades to about 8600 feet. It was another long day at around 11 miles and we weren't to picky on a campsite. The area is fairly clear along the stream so there are several places to camp. We found a spot for our group of 2 tents and 3 tarp tents and set up for the night. Pine needle floor was nice after you moved all the cones away from your site. Creek was great for cleaning off and refilling water. A nice sound to head to bed to. No views being so low, and frankly it was chillier then being higher up in the mountains because the sun took longer to appear. It's a nice rest from the higher altitude but it also means you'll be heading back up on your way to Selden Pass.
Silver Pass Lake, on mile 80.5 of the southbound trek of the John Muir Trail, sits at 10,350 feet. It is located about 1/2 a mile below Silver Pass which is at 10,900 feet. As you descend the pass you see two lakes, one on each side of the trail. The one to the left is closer but much smaller and not the one you want. Continue on down and to the right Silver Pass Lake will open up to you. The trail takes you closer to the first lake and honestly there's not a great way to just walk over to Silver Pass, you have to go off trail but it's over grassy, rocky meadow so it's not difficult and with no trees there's nothing blocking your view of were you need to go. You will find that once you're by the lake there are flat areas of gravely rock with which to pitch your tent, tarp, pad, etc. Most spots have several medium sized rocks lying around which make for great tent holders if you go ultralight with no stakes. These gravely sites are located all along the trail side of the lake and if you prefer privacy and there are others present just keep walking down the lake. The area is surrounded by mountains so the sun sets early and it is cooler at the higher elevation but if you're like us and hiking from Duck Pass that day you don't care. It's an exhausting trip up and over the pass. The lake is crystal clear, cold and filled with beautiful lake trout. There are no fires at this elevation so prepare to boil water, cook, etc with your backpacking stove. The water is drinkable with a filter. The area is open so you have to walk a bit to find privacy for digging your bathroom hole. We enjoyed this camp spot under clear skies and were rewarded with stunning starry skies and a bit of aurora.
Campground Review: Marie Lake, John Muir Trail
Marie Lake is nestled 99 miles into the 220 mile John Muir Trail, JMT, if you're heading Southbound. It sits at a thin 10,600 feet and what it lacks in Oxygen it makes up for in pure beauty. A unique setting surrounded by mountains it has plenty of little islands and peninsulas to spend a few days exploring. What makes it even more ideal is it's just a couple hundred feet below Selden Pass so you start your day with a quick climb and then a steady descent for 8 miles to below 8000 feet. The lake is littered with possible campsites. There are plenty of flat gravely areas to pitch a tent or tarp. No trees at this elevation so no hammock camping. Also no fires above 10,000 feet so be prepared with your backpacking stoves if you need to boil fire. We stayed at Marie Lake in early August and experienced clear skies and temp from the 70's to the low 40's. A cool morning instantly warmed when the sun peaked over the mountains. The trail passes directly beside Marie Lake so if you desire privacy you'll need to explore around the lake on the north side. The water temperatures were quite tolerable once you took the plunge and a quick float on your inflatable sleeping mat brought you to one of many islands for a siesta. The are is fairly open so privacy for the "loo" was found up the hillside behind large boulders. Not for they shy. I would not be out of line to say Marie Lake is one of, if not the, most beautiful camp spot on the John Muir Trail. I'd even recommend planning your entire trip around staying at this spot during your hike. Titanium by AfterShokz
Product Review: TREKZ Titanium by AfterShokz
The TREKZ Titanium wireless Bluetooth headphones are the future of headphones. Using some crazy thing called Bone Conduction the headphones sit outside your ears so you are able to hear your music (but others don't) and hear your surroundings. Great when you're backpacking in the backcountry and don't want any surprises from the "locals" aka black bears, cougars, even those tenacious Marmots. I enjoyed the quiet of nature most of the time but some of the passes we climbed on the John Muir Trail lasted hours. Hours of climbing without relief and I needed a major distraction. Having my super lightweight wireless TREKZ made it easy for me to bring along and throw on whenever my brain was going into "what the fork are you doing???" mode. They easily connected to my Bluetooth in my phone and lasted for about 6 hours before needing a recharge. I enjoyed not having anything in my ears i.e. nothing falling out of my sweaty ears, and being able to hear my fellow hikers when they spoke to me. I also used my TREKZ on the airplane and shuttle bus and used the provided ear plugs to zone out all other sound. They felt effortless to wear but were very secure and didn't fall off or bounce around. I do wish they would have had a bit of adjustment available as they stuck out a little in back but really not to a disadvantage just slightly noticeable in some motions, like looking at 200 foot tall trees. Overall I highly recommend! https://aftershokz.com/products/trekz-titanium