Carlton Peak (Tofte, MN)

Ever since my grandparents finished their “retreat” up in Tofte, Minnesota, the north shore has become a fun place to get away for the weekend.  There has been many fun trips up to the North Shore in the past year, but in January 2016, it was especially great.  Maria, Beth, and I headed up for a quick weekend.  Grandma and Grandpa were not able to make it due to their move from Dassel to Delano, so we got the “retreat” to ourselves for the weekend.  However, we weren’t really alone because when we walked up the sidewalk to get into the cabin, we heard a, “Hi girls!!” come out of nowhere.  After a mini panic attack, we realized that it was just their new doorbell that has a motion sensor and a video camera on it.  We were greeted by the doorbell upon all of our coming and goings, so it was almost like grandma and grandpa were there! Our plans for a crazy weekend quickly changed… 🙂

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Did you even go on a trip if you didn’t take a selfie?

There are many, many different hikes up on the North Shore but not all of them are accessible in the winter.  Grandpa recommended Carlton Peak because it was close by and offered a great view(s).  You definitely need snowshoes if you are going to do this hike because it is pretty steep and it was nice to have the metal prong to get stable footing.  If you do not have snowshoes, you can rent a pair for a pretty reasonable price from the outfitter across from Bluefin Bay.

It was a chilly, grey day and none of us had done the hike before, so we didn’t really know what to expect.  The trail head (pictured below) did not reveal what we were going to see just around the bend.

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The best travel/hiking partners

After entering the forest, we quickly realized that we stumbled upon perfect conditions for majestic views. It had been pretty warm and snowy the day before we came up and then the temperature dropped really fast which froze all of the snow onto the trees. After rounding the first bend, we all stopped to just look around. It was so beautiful. The trees were so tall and were covered with snow.  The trail through the woods resembled a path to some great lands or castle in a fantasy novel. It probably took us 20 minutes to walk a tenth of a mile because around every corner was a new view that we needed to take 100 pictures of.

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Courtesy of Beth Tormanen

This hike up the “mountain” is really fun.  There are many different views and terrains that you get to go over. If I remember correctly it is just over a mile one-way.  It is very steep at many points and you will think you are almost to the top at least 4 times before you actually get there, but keep going because the view at the top is worth it.  As you get to the top, there are a few different viewing spots so you can decide to do one or all of them.  We came across a little opening in the path and saw the light, literally, and decided that this place was our summit.  The sun was shining, the snow was bright, and the air was crisp. The view was crazy; there was a cool mix of trees, houses, and lakes with Lake Superior being the main focal point. As we plopped down in the snow at the edge of this ledge, we looked at each other as if to say, “Is this real life?! Is this my life?! How are we lucky enough to see this?!”. No conversation was needed to say what we were thinking.

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This is one of my favorite photos. Ever. It captures the moment so perfectly. The definition of content. Thanks Beth!

As we looked around, all I could think was, “I don’t want this moment to end!” Maria once told me when we were parasailing in Texas, “Take it all in because pretty soon it is going to be over!” It is such a good reminder to be fully present where ever you are. It is over so quickly. Thankfully, these amazing moments become amazing memories and these memories are what urge us to travel and experience more amazing moments.   It’s a pretty unreal cycle. I am excited to create new memories on top of Carlton Peak this summer!

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