Goal 8: Road Trip to Spirit Tree

About a year ago my girlfriend and her friend found a magnet on the fridge. The magnet was a long forgotten souvenir with the words “Witch Tree” marked on it. They did not know much about the Witch Tree, expect that it was significant to the Ojibwe.

My girlfriend told me of the tree. Being of Ojibwe heritage myself, I was curious. I talked to my dad, who corrected me by saying it’s name is not “Witch Tree” but rather “Spirit Tree”. He told me the tree is sacred to the Ojibwe, where it has lived in Northern Minnesota for over a thousand years. Although, it’s not the age that makes it special, it’s how it has lived. Spirit Tree grows on a rock where none of the branches touch the ground. It’s a mystery that has baffled scientists since its discovery. Jokingly, my girlfriend wanted to know if I want to go on a quest to the tree with her friend. I agreed.

Her friend, Eli, my girlfriend, and I, were all not licensed at the time. We agreed we will make the trip once we are licensed. Over time we invited a fourth member, Steve, to the trip. Steve was able to drive, so we set out to plan for the trip.

The planning took many months. In order to cut cost, we decided to share a camping spot with my parents when they went on their annual Ojibwe language camp in Duluth. We left off on in the later afternoon then arrived at the campground at night. We past out shortly after setting up. We spent the majority of the next day browsing Duluth’s local shops. There were many spectacular amenities. One of my favorites was a local bakery called Positively 3rd Street Bakery. They had a variety of treats such as pumpkin raisin bread and banana cookies(banookies). A very savory treat for the road.

We then took a detour to Goosebury falls. Steve and I went off pathway to take a closer look at the falls. I skipped along the rocks to transverse across the water. I slipped on one of the surfaces and found myself knee deep in water. We eventually headed back to the campsite where I dried off by the fire for the rest of the night.

On day three we headed out to Grand Marias. We arrived at the campground by the evening. Upon our arrival we were met with a light drizzle. We quickly set up camp, gathered some wood, then ate canned soup cooked over a fire. We made sure to secure everything in a dry location before trapping ourselves in the tent when it down poured.
The weather did not let up throughout the night. By next morning we decided to make the trip to Grand Portage and visit the Spirit Tree. The Spirit Tree was located in an unmarked location on the Grand Portage reservation. In order to prevent any damage to the tree, the Tribal Council requires visitors to be escorted by a member of the reservation. We made a stop by the Grand Portage Reservation Heritage center to find a guide. One of the workers informed us we would need to speak directly with the Tribal Council Office. We drove to the Council Office, but discovered that the office was closed for the day.
The Heritage Center employee had suggested we try the casino down the road to see if any of the members would be available. We made our way down to the casino but found that no one was available to give us a tour. Defeated, we went back to Grand Marias. We parked by the Grand Marias’ beach in order to explore the town. I found that along the shore there was a hiking trail that lead to a rocky peak stretching into Lake Superior. I made it my quest to travel down that trail to reach the peak. The rain did not led up during my hike. By the end clothes were heavy, and the pathway was flooded. Nevertheless, I reached the peak stretching into Superior. I found the closet tree to the lake and dubbed it was “Lil’ Spirit Tree 2” before laying some tobacco down by it.
We made the walk back into the city while facing cold rain and harsh winds. With our clothes soaked and our stomachs empty, we went out to eat at a local cafe to dry off. After filling our stomachs we spent the remainder of the evening hanging around a laundromat playing cards until late in the night After enjoying a couple of drinks by the fire we had settled to get to bed early for our trip back home the next day.
The last day was nothing too adventurous. We had to spend some time drying out our camping equipment so there were long periods of waiting in between packing. We did manage to get some more hiking in before leaving. We stopped by a place close to Two Harbors known as Betty’s Pies. The place was fantastic, and I would recommend anyone near the area to try one of their delicious Pie Shakes. We made this stop our last before heading home.
Although we didn’t get a chance to go to Spirit Tree, I still found myself have a great adventure. I was able to explore new areas in Minnesota and figured out there are some items I want to add to my Challenge List for 2016. One item I hope to accomplish is hiking up the highest point in Minnesota, Eagle’s Mountain. I called the Tribal Council when I got home and found out they stopped giving tours to the Spirit Tree a long while ago. It seemed like it was a futile attempt but I do not regret the effort we spent getting there.
Would I say this goal was successful? It’s hard to say. On one hand I never did get to Spirit Tree. On the other, my goal wasn’t so much the destination, more so just making the trip to there. Still, I do feel as if I would be cheating myself out of my goals if I didn’t push myself to actually accomplishing something. So, I do intend to leave this goal unchecked for now. I have a goal I do wish to accomplish as an alternative, but finishing it is completely dependent on transportation. If I can figure out transportation, I will be revising my goal and make a second trip up to Northern Minnesota where I will make the hike up to the top of Eagle’s Mountain.
Eli and Steve
Eli and Steve