DULUTH — I pulled into the Fond du Lac neighorhood’s Nagaajiwanaang, or Chambers Grove Park, on an overcast Monday afternoon. There were pavilions, grills, bathrooms and a well-marked trail map at the start.
A bit overwhelmed at the options, I asked a geared-up biker which trail was Upper Cathedral (Noopiming Giiwedinong).
He told me to follow the green, zig-zaggy trail on the map, and to steer clear of the Flyover Country trail, and he didn’t have to tell me twice.
It’s “mostly uphill from here,” he said, before pedaling away, so I filled my water bottle and set out with my dog, Lu.
We passed through the Lower Cathedral to get to the Upper, both making up the two-way, 3.8-mile, point-to-point, multi-use trail for bikers, hikers and runners.
The trail is mostly smooth and wide enough to stagger two hikers or a snug fit side by side. Though, we encountered more tree roots and rocks farther north.
Eyes forward for the height averse, as there are steep drops moving through the winding Lower Cathedral.
The trail was busy Monday afternoon, with friendly bikers zipping through, making this a “look-alive” spot, unwise for headphone use. Each biker was friendly, shouting a greeting, well-wishes or simply to communicate another’s following close behind.
Our first biker caught up with us on his way down, shouting, “You’re doing good, girl,” as he sped along.
Abundant greenery surrounded us along with pine, cedar and birch and spots of red fungi, acorns, moss and reluctant signs of fall shown in decaying, crumpled leaves.
There are a couple forks in the road and several maps on the ascent. There are many berms, bike bridges, some with b-lines, and spots covered in trail armor.
It’s a well-maintained spot, with several sharp, blind twists and turns — and in some spots you can watch a biker buzz back and forth ahead of you before they are lost behind the trees.
Past the halfway point north, we ran into a little rest stop with an overlook — our first comfy place to sit with a fallen log for respite and enough room for folks to park their bikes.
I took a long swig of water, and Lu splayed, belly down, on the ground.
The Upper Cathedral Trail has seven markers along the way, and we made it about 20 minutes past marker M6 before Lu started lagging. We turned around, and I rotated carrying her from my right arm to my left, and back again.
Sweat rolled down my cheeks and neck, and after 45 minutes of no contact, a trail runner unintentionally startled me making a quick turn around a corner.
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As we continued our descent, I was comforted to hear the return of nearby traffic along Minnesota Highway 210 — reminding me that there was an end and a water fountain ahead.
The Noopiming Giiwedinong is a lovely trail, I suspect perfect for bikers, and good for an endurance trek, but the bustling in-trail action made it a bit busy for this gal who often craves the quieter times among the trees.
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