Another walking adventure for Steve Cole

Hiking alone, pulling supply sled to International Falls and back to Ely

by Anne Swenson
On February 12, Steve Cole of Ely started his hike to International Falls, arriving in the Falls 12 days later. He started from Lake Vermilion pulling a sled with his all his supplies, following snowmobile trails to get there.
Cole keeps a diary of sorts, noting his progress. In it he noted that this is his third hike.
He started at Oak Narrows, hoping to stay at Gruben’s, but ended up that night sleeping on the ice. A couple times he got rides from pickup truck drivers. From the Vermilion Hotel in Cook he got a ride to Elbow Lake and then walked to the Ban Lake Trail where he pitched his tent.
By day four, he hiked on the Arrowhead Trail most of the day. The next day he made it to Melgeorge’s Resort where he stayed for the day and ate at the restaurant there.
By day seven, Cole faced snow much of the day over the 16 miles but managed to find the Black Duck River Shelter as it got dark.
For the next 10 miles, the 10 inches of new snow made it hard to pull the sled, but after snowmobiles packed it down it was easier.
On day nine he got a ride to Sandy Point Lodge after finding the Gateway General and Ash Trail stores closed.
Back on foot, Cole’s next stop was the Hagerman Shelter where he found a man gathering firewood. During the night the trail groomer passed by.
Onward to the Blue Ox Shelter it was below zero but the temperature moderated during the day. He carried his sled across Highway 53 and ended up at the Voyageur Motel in the Falls. After a few days there he got a ride to Thunderbird Lodge with his sled “to avoid plowed roads and confusing trails.”
From there to Sandy Point Lodge he observed trail groomers and Park Service snowmobiles.
On Kabetogema he walked to Ash Trail near the Chain of Lakes and stopped at the Rocky Ledge Restaurant on the way. That night he again slept on the ice. On day four of the return trip to Ely, heading to the Ash Trail, he took the Sullivan Bay Trail from Kabetogama to Namakan Lake where he intended to stay in a shelter, but darkness caught up with him.
On Crane Lake he decided to cancel the side trip to Dawson Portage and camped on Crane Lake. From there it was ten miles to Voyagaire Lodge and he stayed there most of the day.
On day seven he made the 14 mile trek toward home. His dairy notes, “I headed straight out from the shore toward fish houses and turned right at the point. I knew I was on the right course when I saw Handberg’s Marina. Found the Voyageur Trail and Trails End Resort where the lodge was open but not the bar and restaurant.”
From there to Elbow Lake Road on Echo Lake was 16 miles. He had a pizza at Vermilion Trail Tavern in Buyck and continued on.
He crossed Susan and Black lakes before he got to Head-O-Lake Resort. From there, on Lake Vermilion, he eventually found a friendly yurt then on return trip day 12, from the Mud Creek Road to Burntside Lake which “looked familiar because I used to live there.” From Burntside Lodge he made his way using portage wheels for his sled to his home on County 88.