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Adventure Lifestyle Hiking and Backpacking

A Chat with a Superior Trail Hiker

Sam Glinsmann

We recently met adventure photographer Sam Glinsmann who is currently based in Minnesota. Our conversation quickly turned to his hike of the Superior Hiking Trail that runs along the north shore of Lake Superior. Sam and his dog Finn crushed 155 miles of the trail in just 7 days. Read our conversation with Sam and get some inspiration to plan the next backpacking trip with your dog!

1. First, give us the details. When and where did you start and finish? How many miles in total?

We set out on the trail at the end of May last year (2018). We started just outside of Duluth, MN at the Martin Road Trailhead and hiked north for seven days. When it was all said and done we had hiked a total of about 155 miles, all the way up to Tofte, MN.

2. What was your inspiration for doing this trip? Was Finn part of that?

Well, I had just moved to Minnesota from New Mexico the previous October, and at some point, during the heart of winter, I found out you could thru-hike the entire length of the North Shore. I decided that come spring I wanted to give it a shot. So in a way, I guess the bitterness of the cold inspired me. It was a bit of a shock coming from the desert! I had gone on a handful of extended backpacking trips previous to finding Finn and had always wanted to take him on one. As we already go camping and hiking all the time, it seemed like the natural progression.

3. What did you and Finn do to prepare physically for the trip?

Like I said I had been on a few long backpacking trips (a NOLS course in New Zealand and a solo trek in Iceland). They didn’t put too much strain on me physically, and I felt that my body was already in good shape. So to be totally honest we didn’t prepare quite as much as would be expected. Our lifestyle is generally pretty active. As it was finally starting to warm up we were going on runs around the lakes pretty regularly (mostly for my benefit), and for the occasional bike ride together (because my running pace isn’t nearly fast enough for him!).

4. Were there any special logistical challenges to pull this off?

The only real logistical challenges I faced had to do with my food: meal planning for 16 days [the number of days originally planned to be on the trail], I had decided to assemble my own dehydrated meals from scratch and needed to figure out where to send resupplies. And of course, I saved all of that work for the few days before I had planned to leave! So those couple of days were way more stressful than they needed to be. But the Superior Hiking Trail Association had some great resources available for resupplying, and in the end, I got it all packed and sent out and didn’t experience any issues on the trail!

5. Did you learn anything about Finn during this trip?

Probably the biggest thing I learned about Finn was how resilient he is. We pushed each other pretty hard over the course of that week (we actually took turns leading and setting pace!). Though some days he’d wake up with a bit of stiffness, he always warmed into it and had no problem crushing 20+ mile days (and that was with him carrying all of his own food and some water). We definitely earned our breaks; we went swimming together in every watering hole that we came across.

6. What was the hardest part of the trip?

For the first few days, the ticks were a nightmare. The trail followed snowmobile trails up until Two Harbors that were wide paths with tall grass, a ticks dream. So each night I’d have to spend a good chunk of time picking them off of his legs. But I wouldn’t consider that the hardest part, mostly just inconvenient. The hardest part for me happened to be my meals. I had decided to assemble my own dehydrated meals instead of buying them, and the recipes I used just weren’t enticing enough. So although I had hiked over 20 miles a day, I was never excited for dinner. And you’d be surprised what a lack of food motivation can do to someone psychologically.

Next time I’ll be trusting my meals to a company that specializes in them. For Finn, the hardest part came right after Gooseberry Falls. A section of trail was out because of repairs being made to a bridge, so it rerouted onto a state trail next to the highway. This meant for a few miles we were hiking on the pavement. That did neither of us any favors, especially Finn. His paws got pretty roughed up on that short piece of trail. So for the next few days, I carried his pack for him to alleviate some of his discomfort. I should have done more to avoid that happening, but we made do with the situation!

7. Have you heard of the 3-Day effect? Did you feel that on this trip?

I hadn’t heard of the three-day effect in regards to qualitative thinking, but I definitely agree that it takes at least a few days for the trail to wash away the lingering effects of civilization. The ritual of living on the trail doesn’t become a reality for a few days. But once it does, it’s such a refreshing and cleansing experience. I was looking forward to that moment, but unfortunately, it overlapped perfectly with the Memorial Day weekend crowds. So as I was settling into the trail, it was suddenly overwhelmed with people. I was still able to adapt to trail life, but not quite as peacefully as I had expected. Though the sudden company was a nice respite from the solitude (yes technically I wasn’t alone but Finn isn’t very talkative).

8. What was yours and Finn’s favorite pieces of gear?

My favorite piece of gear is probably my Peak Design Capture Camera Clip. Essentially it’s a holster that allows you to mount your camera onto your backpack strap. I’m an adventure photographer, so being able to quickly access my camera is ideal. As for Finn, if I had to guess his favorite piece of gear, it was probably my sleeping pad. He definitely preferred it to his own! I’ll definitely be upgrading his in the future so I can have mine to myself again!

9. What piece of gear of Finn’s did you find most essential?

The most essential of Finn’s gear was easily his pack. He wears the Ruffwear Palisades Dog Pack. It’s perfect for multi-day backcountry trips. The saddlebags provide load stability and comfortable weight distribution, so his agility was never hindered. And being removable, they’re a breeze to take off before an afternoon swim (and leave the harness in place).

10. What would you do differently with Finn’s pack list next time?

The only thing I would change about Finn’s pack list is his sleeping pad. It’s been recommended to use one of the Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat Pads as a dog pad, so I think I’ll give that a shot, though I’m open to other suggestions!

11. What’s the next adventure for you and Finn?

Our next big adventure is hopefully a Boundary Waters canoe trip in May! He’s been in a canoe a couple of times since living in Minnesota and seems to enjoy it, so an extended portaging trip would be awesome. I can’t really imagine a more perfect adventure than hiking, canoeing, and swimming for a week together! Though this time I think we’ll bring some friends along too.

About Sam Glinsmann

Sam Glinsmann

Sam is an adventure and lifestyle photographer currently based out of Minneapolis, MN. He grew up in the deserts of West Texas, and since high school has been moving around from place to place, searching for the right vistas to set down roots. Same spent significant time in both Iceland (working for family friends on a dairy farm) and New Zealand (three months on a NOLS course).

Finn came into his life while he was living in New Mexico, shortly after his time in NZ. Sam adopted him from a Humane Society outside of Santa Fe, and ever since, he’s been Sam’s constant adventure co-pilot. They saw the eclipse together in Grand Tetons National Park, driven 4×4 tracks in Moab, UT, hiked in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest, and currently, they’re spending the winter in Minnesota building snow forts and running across frozen lakes. Sam’s photography is a natural extension of his adventurous lifestyle with Finn.

I’m always trying to capture the authenticity of our lives, while balancing the time I spend looking through the lens. We’re always on the lookout for the next adventure, and currently we’re preparing to move west this summer, heading towards the mountains.

Follow Sam on Instagram: @sglinsmann or his site: samglinsmann.com

More of Sam’s Work

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