Ascent of Eagle Mountain on 1989-06-26

Climber: Greg Slayden

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Monday, June 26, 1989
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Eagle Mountain
    Elevation:2301 ft / 701 m

Ascent Trip Report

From US 61 after Lutsen, MN, I turned left on Secondary Route 4—Zummwalt’s main directions were from Grand Marais, MN, and it looked much shorter to take an alternate he mentioned briefly. This road, though, which started out on a steep, muddy climb up from the lakeshore that was under construction and very treacherous, soon turned into a monotonous muddy gravel track through thick coniferous woods. Every ten miles of so there were a bunch of signs pointing to various places (I followed ones to Eagle Mountain), but in between I became very apprehensive that I was getting deeper and deeper into trackless forest, especially since the road I was on was, as usual for these high-point access roads, brutalizing my car. The only good thing was that I was sunny and fogless now that I was up away from the lake.

This access route, though, was by far the longest of all the high point routes I did. After over twenty miles of dirt and gravel through totally uninhabited forest, my road came to an end at a main east-west dirt road, and a sign pointed right to Eagle Mountain. Another ten miles or so brought me to a parking lot I at first drove past, where the trail started. I parked, glad to have found the place and glad that there wasn’t more awful road to drive. I was about two hours later than I thought I would be back in Minneapolis—it was about 5:30 P.M.

If you know anything about hot early-summer days in the middle of the deep woods of northern Minnesota you know there are lots of mosquitoes, but, still, nothing had prepared me for the massive black clouds of bugs swirling in the air. As I put on my boots, got together my pack, and covered my arms, face, and neck with buckets of Muskol (I decided on long pants), I talked with a large group arriving back at their car piecemeal. One of them wanted to know about my high points quest, while most complained bitterly about the incredible amount of insects. People in this group would close their eyes and have someone else spray aerosol repellent all over their faces—I’m not kidding.

It took me a while to get my stuff together, and then I started up the trail. After a while the bugs didn’t bother me too much, since my repellent was good, I kept moving, and I just got used to looking up or behind me and seeing thick black masses milling about in the air. The trail was very flat for about two miles, crossing bogs and brooks as it wound through deep woods, then it came to a big lake, where a big group of people were camped on the other side. Here the trail abruptly turned left and started a gradual (to me, anyway) ascent up the east ridge of the forested hump called Eagle Mountain. I soon arrived at a clearing atop a rounded stone bluff, but I continued another minute to the actual summit, my 38th state high point.

There was a big plaque full of surveyor’s tales on a boulder at the summit, and someone had left an American flag there, so I took my obligatory pictures in the little scrubby, viewless clearing and returned to the bluff, where a light breeze kept the bugs at bay while I started out at the enormous green expanse at my feet in the pleasant late evening sunshine. After letting some of the sweat on my shirt dry I explored around to the east of the peak along the top of the bluffs, thrashing through the mosquito-infested brush and looking out at slightly changing views until the bluffs gave out and I forced my way on a dim trail back up to the summit area. Here I found another dim path that led back to the trail I had come up on, which, after a quick trip back to the bluff to make sure, I set off down Eagle Mountain on.

The trip back to my car was uneventful, down the “mountain” that was, incredibly, the highest point for over 500 miles in any direction. The bugs became more and more annoying, though, probably because I was all sweated up and my repellent was wearing off, and I was very glad when I finally reached my car. It was close to 8 P.M., but at 48 degrees north (my furthest north ever in North America at this point) on June 26 there was plenty of light. I carefully tried to avoid letting bugs in my car as I unpacked and changed my shirt, and I was reasonably successful.

I left the parking area and retraced my path outward, but, inexplicably, it stated raining—it had been clear as a bell (except for the fog covering Lake Superior) from Eagle Mountain. The rain turned into an utter downpour, and then I almost hit a moose wandering around on the narrow dirt road, and the black clouds suddenly made things very dark, so I decided to find a place to crash for the night. After a period of apprehensive looking in the blinding rain I found a narrow side road, where I found a wide spot where I could park and leave room for people to get by.

Eagle Mountain is marked by a plaque that tells the history of the summit (1989-06-26).
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:554 ft / 169 m
    Trailhead:1747 ft / 532 m
    Quality:2 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Partly Cloudy

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