On the road with Sam Cook


Chris Evavold being photographed by Sam Cook at Divide Lake

Every two or three years, the phone rings and a familiar voice with just a hint of Kansas in it says, “Hi, Andrew, Sam Cook.” Just like the sound of a bell got Pavlov’s dogs to salivate, that voice makes me start to stuff my day pack. We’re going on an adventure.

Sam wanted to do an article about North Shore hiking and our new book, Hiking the North Shore: 50 fabulous day hikes in Minnesota’s spectacular Lake Superior region. “Where would you like to go, Andrew?,” Sam asked. What a great question to get!

Sam was looking for something different. The day would be hot, so it would be good to be near a lake. He’d done a lot on the Superior Hiking Trail. He wanted to bring his lab, Lucy. Fortunately, I had the perfect hikes for him. And the perfect hiking companion.

Eighteen Lake and Divide Lake are both in the Superior National Forest, just east of Isabella off Highway One. They both have hiking trails around the shore, 2.7 miles at Eighteen Lake and 2.1 at Divide Lake. In the National Forest, dogs can run free off leash. And Divide Lake is a trout lake, which was perfect for my old friend Chris Evavold. 

Pipsissewa in bloom along Divide Lake trail

Chris, Sam and I met in Duluth and headed up Highway 61 to Illgen City. I drove Sam’s minivan so he could ask me questions and jot down notes in his classic narrow reporter’s notebook. I was ready: “What’s so great about hiking here?” “Why did you want to write this book?”

At Illgen City I checked my watch. The “Lake Superior region” in the subtitle of my book roughly means anywhere you can reach within one half hour of driving from Highway 61. It was 32 minutes up Highway One to Divide Lake. Phew!

Hiking (or skiing, or snowshoeing, which I’ve done with him for other articles) with Sam is a moving chat fest in the woods. Much of the conversation is off the record and only distantly related to the story at hand. But every few moments, Sam would either dash ahead to get photos of Chris and me, or lag behind to write in his notebook.

The hikes were scenic and a lot of fun. Divide Lake is more for anglers and naturalists, with interesting botany and (supposedly) trout in the lake. Eighteen Lake is great for hiking, with lovely pine forests and dramatic views up and down the wild lake.

After the hike around Eighteen Lake, Sam got “head shots” of Chris and me. We were into the heat of the day, so before we headed back to Duluth we went for a refreshing swim in the cool lake waters. Just what the reporter ordered.

Here’s the article. There’s some good related content, too. See you out there!


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