Midwestern Wanderlog

Barn Bluff Sunrises

So!  First key to success in any endeavor is proper planning and groundwork.  I’m starting my 366 sunrises on March the 1st and go until February 29th of next year (cool, how that works out, huh?), which means that I’ll be dealing with cold weather, snow and ice for a bit.  That means the first order of business is the right gear.

Ice cleatsI’m set for outerwear – I picked up a new snowhat and face mask this past hunting season, and I have my carhartt bibs and my very warm blaze orange jacket.  Just needed cleats to deal with ice underfoot, which I picked up at a local store.  The very last thing any photographer needs is to slip and fall down on top of camera equipment!  Not only potentially expensive, but also potentially very painful.  Imagine catching the top of a tripod between the ground and your ribs.  And the pathways on Barn Bluff aren’t cleared or maintained in the winter.

So, time for a Trial Run!  Because if I’m going to be up on the eastern face every morning in time for the sunrise, I need to know what time to leave the house, don’t I?

As it happens, we’re also headed up to Superior this weekend for a look at the ice caves!  But, the trial run has to be done before March the 1st, so that means the only day left for it is today, on the way to pick up my brother Ted on our way north.

Set the timer getting into the truck and we headed into town.  Took me a minute to remember the way to the Bluff – haven’t been since last summer, and I’ve not been there often enough to be sure of the side streets and byways.

It was a tough walk – but not nearly as tough as putting the ice cleats on!  I pulled a muscle in my stomach and mid-back doing it!

Now, as to the trail –

First set of stairs to the bluffIt starts with stairs.  The Kiwanis Club of Red Wing built the original stairs back in 1929, which lasted to the mid-1950s.  The Kiwanis in 1983 created a new path to the top of the bluff, using thirty-five of the original stairs to create benches to either side of the new stairway.

Map of Barn BluffAs you get to the top of the stairs, there’s a map and information about the bluff itself – and it’s worth a read, but the important bit is the map.  The trail I’m going to walk is the south trail to where it divides, then the solid black line without a name to the prairie trail, then prairie trail east to the overlook.  0.86 miles all told to the overlook, and 0.86 miles back.

Eastern overlookAnd this is where I’m going – right to the top.  You can just see the curve of the bluff through the trees.

Lower trailSo, this is the lower part of the south trail.  It’s a nice easy walk, and there are plenty of animal tracks.  Mostly dogs, I’d expect, probably some cats… but there might be others in the days to come; deer, rabbit, maybe even foxes!


Next, though, comes the climb.  It’s in four parts.  The first half of the lower climb, which ends in a semi-gentle spot ideal for taking a breather.  Then the second half of the lower climb, which is steeper and ends at the stairs.  After the stairs is the steepest bit of all, and if I had any sense at all, I’d take the gentler section of the South trail to the left instead of hiking up the stiffest part of Barn Bluff that doesn’t require actualy rock climbing.

But I don’t, so I’m not.

So at this point in the trial run, I’m starting to wonder if I really have what it takes to do this for an entire year.  I’m overweight, out of shape, I’ve read of people undertaking strenuous exercise without building up to it properly and suffering heart attacks as a result…

On the other hand, the hills aren’t really that bad, and if I plan my time properly I won’t have to rush up any of them.  I’ll be fine.  And I want that year’s worth of pictures!

Prairie trail to the eastSign in the distance at the end of the trailHere’s the view of the trail from the top of the steepest bit, and from the top of the ridge, ending in the eastern overlook – right where the sign is.  See it, the tiny thing in the distance?


And this is the eastern overlook, and down below is the old NSP plant – it burns refuse-derived fuel now, stuff created out of solid waste like plastics and other garbage, and generates enough power for half the homes in Red Wing.

NSP plant

So the walk up the bluff to the eastern overlook took forty-three minutes; the trip from home just over thirty, so all in all, I have to allow an hour and fifteen-ish minutes before each sunrise.

Oh, lordy.  That means in the depth of summer I’m going to have to get up before four in the morning to be there by the sunrise.

Have I mentioned I hate getting up in the morning?

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