FKT: Eric Nelson - Minnesota Lowest to Highest (MN) - 2024-07-04

Route variation
open course, out & back
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
7h 16m 28s

Without straight-up bushwhacking, I USUALLY like the idea of “FKTing” the most direct way possible so that’s why I followed Eric Chandler’s route from 3 years ago: Lake Superior by the mouth of Cascade River, Superior Hiking Trail, Cascade Bridge Connector, Pioneer Loop, Harmon Sever Rd, Pike Lake Rd, North Pike Road, Cascade River Rd, Bally Creek Rd, Eagle Mountain Trail to Eagle Mountain. Uh, yeah, I should have planned a little bit more before setting out on this FKT. The first 2 miles (which also would be the last two miles) were probably the most grueling. Starting from the mouth of the Cascade River and following the Superior Hiking Trail was exhilarating, my adrenaline pumping, ignoring the fact the first three miles are a gradual ascent. Hopping onto the Cascade Bridge Connector and Pioneer Loop in theory was a great idea, until you experience its unkept manner. This is where I should have taken a different route, something more that resembles a hiking trail. Thick grass, wild flowers, weeds, fell trees, ankle / shin deep mud, and the unnoticeable gradual ascent considerably slowed my pace. But my adrenaline was pumping and pushing me hard through this section.

When I reached Harmon Sever Rd, I was gassed, heart rate racing, and trying to catch my breath. “There’s no way I’m going to survive the remaining route.” Walked and fueled up for a bit on this section and when I felt good, off I went toward the Eagle Mountain Trailhead.

Through the Pike Lake Rd / North Pike Rd / Cascade River Rd / Bally Creek Rd section I was able to maintain a 9:30-10:45 pace. This part of the route was dirt / gravel roads with rolling hills and a very unnoticeable uphill grade, easy enough to keep a consistent pace. (This section was a bit slower pace on the way back with the late morning sun / heat / humidity and frequent hikes up the rolling hills.) Uneventful and not a single soul was seen on the roads, except THE F’N MOSQUITOES! After crossing the boundary of Cascade River State Park I thought the cloud of swarming mosquitoes would subside until Eagle Mountain. Nope. I kept thinking this is how Pig Pen from Charley Brown felt with his ever-existing / never conceding cloud of dirtiness. Except for me it was the mosquitoes. At any part of this route when I hiked or stopped, I was swarmed. If I was idle long enough I probably could have been carried away. Knowing it was going to be a thick cloud of mosquitoes along the trails I decided to wear long sleeves and hiking pants. Hoping to disrobe to something a little more cooling on the roads, I gave it a shot. Nope. And this is when I decided to keep the sleeves and pants on for the entire route.

Hitting the Eagle Mountain Trailhead, I quickly filled out the permit and proceeded toward the summit. Mud, ankle deep puddles, janky wooden planks, boulders, jagged rocks, and roots everywhere…now this is what a trail should be. I felt comfortable with my slower pace as I hopscotched my way up to the overlook just yards from the summit. Then I got a bit discombobulated and took a few minutes looking for the Eagle Mountain plaque designating the highest point in Minnesota. Finally found it, snapped a few photos, spent 10 minutes extra getting fueled and ready for the descent back to Lake Superior. Now do it again in reverse.

And off I went. Basically the way back was the same…hopscotch-ing back to the trailhead, a slower pace along the dirt / gravel roads back to Cascade River State Park, swatting at a million bloodlust mosquitoes, bushwhacking through the madness of unmaintained summer ski trails, and now having to dodge hikers on my way to the shores of the Great Lake.

7 hours, 16 minutes, 28 seconds. From the lowest point in the state (any point along the shore of Lake Superior) the highest point in the state (Eagle Mountain). Unsupported but with the encouragement of the mosquitoes to keep me going.