It took me all winter and part of the spring to get back there, but yesterday I skied on my absolute favorite first kilometer of ski trail on the North Shore. Every ski trail has its charms in how it starts, but no trails have a first kilometer that is more intimate, welcoming and scenic than this one.
It’s at the Northwoods Ski Touring Trail outside of Silver Bay. Skiers looking for this charming ski trail have no choice in the matter; from the parking lot on Penn Boulevard, every skier heads up the first kilometer of trail before they can choose another trail. The single-track, classic-only trail leads right along the bank of the quiet East Branch of the Beaver River. You climb gently through dark hallways of balsam fir, pop out on a short sunny stretch, then return to the woods. The trail pulls you into the woods; the river alongside the trail anchors you to the place.
The last time I was here, I was with Sally, another friend, and Duluth outdoor writer Sam Cook, and we were all excited about skiing through to Tettegouche. My ski yesterday felt like the end of the season. There is still plenty of snow in the hills around Silver Bay, but it’s going fast. Each day the sun takes its toll, turning some open stretches to slush while leaving forested sections crusty and needle-ridden.
Trail designers cleverly put a trail register at the first real intersection, a full kilometer in, so you sort of have to prove yourself to be able to sign in. Since I first skied these trails back in 1996, trail managers have done a much better job keeping snowmobilers and walkers off the trail; maybe this new sign helped!
It was a great day in the woods…especially that first kilometer up the banks of the Beaver River!
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