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Outdoor Recreation

Hiking the Superior Trails with Jakob Swanson

June 28, 2018

Jakob Swanson, who has spent the last three years working for Iowa State Outdoor Recreation Program, has led a number of extended trips, weekend trips, and workshops through the program covering a wide variety of activities (including [but not limited to] rock climbing, kayaking, mountain biking and backpacking), and his recent backpacking trip on the Superior Hiking Trail has placed him in the Staff Spotlight this week.

The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) follows above Lake Superior from the southern portion of Duluth, Minnesota, and travels toward the Canadian border. With trailheads situated approximately every 5-10 miles, it makes the Superior Trail the ideal spot for backpackers in the midwest.

We were fortunate enough to sit down with Jakob and ask him about his experience on the trail:

Why did you decide to backpack the SHT?
I needed fresh air. Being in class and in school makes it difficult to separate yourself from everything and take time to relax. I spoke with some friends throughout the semester to recruit hiking partners to join me on different sections of the trail.

Did you know when you wanted to be back by? Did you have a deadline?
Nope! I wanted to hike until I [felt satisfied with] my experience. I was hoping to be back by July 5th, but I felt no pressure to finish the trip by a specific date.

What did you learn while you were on the trail?
I like company. I wouldn’t have learned that about myself if I hadn’t gone on the trip. I realized that some moments don’t feel quite the same when you have no one to [share them with]. It was great spending time with my friends as the joined me [for different sections] along the trail.

Was there any point in your hike that was especially difficult for you?
I decided to take a 0-mile day. I thought it would be nice to relax and take a day off from hiking, but it ended up being really hard for me. I didn’t see anyone until 3 pm that day. Hiking occupies your mind because you’re constantly moving.

What’s your favorite memory from the trail?
Sleeping on the beach on my last night. We stayed along the north shore and slept on the rocks. No sleeping bag, no tent – nothing. It was beautiful and the stars were out, and I knew I was close to seeing my friends in the city. It was a great way to end the trip.

Before our interview with Jakob, we heard that he had his car broken into while he was on the trail. We asked him to share that story with us:
Before I started, I left my car on Martin road near Duluth at the end of the trail, and my friends shuttled me to the top. While I was hiking I heard about some break-ins, so I hopped off early. Once we got there, we noticed that none of the cars had broken out windows so we figured that was a good sign, but as soon as we got to my car we noticed that the passenger window was broken out. They only stole things out of the glove box, but in the process of breaking the window, they damaged my car door. The police had been there already and left a note about the case file and who I should call. It was a beautiful day though, and we got everything cleaned up. I would still say that was the best day of the trip.

The Superior Hiking Trail is one of a number of hiking opportunities offered through the Outdoor Recreation Program trips. If you have any questions about the trail or hiking trips in general, Jakob would be a great person to contact. You can check out our trip and workshop schedule online, or you can stop into the Outdoor Rec office in State Gym to join this trip or any other trips!