Full moon on North Shore of Lake Superior in winter

Winter is an incredibly beautiful time to visit the North Shore of Lake Superior. With some rare free time on my hands, I decided to make a quick trip north on March 1 with hopes of getting some good late winter hiking in, and to see my Virgo full moon rise. It ended up being a perfect day.

Winter is a long season in Minnesota, and come March, many of us are stir crazy with cabin fever. I am no exception, and had my gear packed just after sunrise and made it to Duluth by mid-morning. The morning light was spectacular, with blue skies and light clouds floating over Lake Superior. With no crowds around, I spent nearly an hour roaming around Duluth Harbor before trekking further north.

doing my best Richard Ashcroft at Duluth Harbor

My next stop was the wayside where the Split Rock River enters Lake Superior. With its easy access to the lake and wonderful views, this is a popular spot. But on this day I shared the parking lot with only one other car. I finished a tasty Northern Waters Smokehaus sandwich while listening to the Grateful Dead in my car before venturing out with my camera. It was 35 degrees outside, and the sun had a wonderful intensity that I hadn’t felt in months.

Split Rock River Bay
Lake Superior in winter

The beach near the bay had ten or more inches of crusty snow covering it and I cracked through ankle deep on several occasions. Around the north edge of the bay I pulled myself up a mud-slick trail that connected with the larger trail system of Split Rock State Park. I was delighted, as the fresh snow that had just fallen days before was perfectly groomed and in many areas I was the first to place footprints into it. I followed it for a while, and ran into a gentleman snow-shoeing who told me about a trail to get down to a beautiful hidden beach. I thanked him, and ventured back down to the lake to the black stone beach he pointed out. It was gorgeous.

beach in Split Rock State Park

An few hours later, I made it back to my car and headed further north to Tettegouche State Park. Tettegouche may very well be the nicest State Park on the North Shore of Lake Superior. It is wildly popular, especially in the summer, but on the first Thursday of March there were only a few people around. I hiked through a foot of snow where the Baptism River meets Lake Superior, then over to Shovel Point. The earth was thawing all around me, and the pines and birch filled the air with the sweet scents of spring.

Hiking in the snow proved to be a challenge at times, but it was such a beautiful day that I appreciated every moment. When I finally made it to the very end of Shovel Point, I rested for a while and took some photographs. On the way back, I met two young men (and their very friendly dogs) on the trail. They were also from the Twin Cities, and we chatted for quite a while before I ventured back to my car to make a plan for sunset.

North Shore of Lake Superior
from Shovel Point in Tettegouche State Park

I drove north past Tofte in the late afternoon. The skies were clearing now and I was unsure where to go for sunset so I kept driving with hopes that I would get a clue. I decided to head back south then inland from Little Marais west on highway 6. The road goes over bluffs and was a beautiful drive, but I didn’t find a good sunset location so I made it back to Highway 61 and travelled further south. By this time, the sun was setting and casting a warm glow over the sky in front of me.

I made it to Silver Bay and noticed how beautiful Lake Superior looked at the marina. The temperature was below freezing now, and I ducked under a guardrail and walked out on the slick pavement road towards the end of the marina. As soon as I climbed over the large rocks, the Virgo full moon began rising right in front of me behind a thin line of clouds. It was perfect timing, and I set up my tripod and fired off several shots while Lake Superior was calm and serene. I took my time to soak it all in and knew I was right where I was supposed to be.

Silver Bay Marina
Virgo full moon rising over Lake Superior