This is the Enger Tower in Duluth. It sits on a hillside with a great view of the city. The Superior Hiking Trail, extended into Duluth, runs near it. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
This is the Enger Tower in Duluth. It sits on a hillside with a great view of the city. The Superior Hiking Trail, extended into Duluth, runs near it. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Minnesota is a top state for all types of outdoors recreation. You could say Minnesota has it “goin’ on.” If you don’t want to believe it, I’ll share some of the state’s accolades, plus an inviting trail celebration you’ll want to place on your August calendar.
Duluth ‘Best town’
At the conclusion of a contest held online by Outside magazine, Duluth was named “Best Town 2014” in the U.S.
Set up as a tournament, 64 towns were placed into four brackets – East, West, Midwest and South – yes, set up just like the NCAA basketball tournament. A single town was pitted against another single town in a match. The winner then advanced to the next round. You know how it goes – the Sweet Sixteen, the Elite Eight and the Final Four followed by the title match.
Computer users were asked to vote for their favorite in each match. So, yes, there was a need for each city and its promoters to get people online to vote. Social media was put into action. (I admit it; I did share ‘vote for Duluth’ messages on Facebook.)
The towns also were seeded in the four brackets. In the Midwest, the top seed went to Madison, Wis., which has won other such contests. Duluth was seeded sixth.
Initial rounds
Here’s how the first round went. Seeding numbers for each town are shown in parentheses:
Madison, Wis. (1) defeated Fargo, N.D., (16); Grand Rapids, Mich., (2) defeated Omaha, Neb., (15); Athens, Ohio, (3) defeated Lawrence, Kan., (14); Minneapolis (4) defeated Iowa City, Iowa, (13); Cincinnati. Ohio, (12) defeated Bloomington, Ind., (5); Duluth (6) defeated Columbia, Mo., (11); La Crosse, Wis., (7) defeated Rapid City, S.D., (10); and Houghton, Mich., (8) defeated Waterloo, Ill. (9)
Second-round winners were Houghton, Mich., (8) over Madison, Wis., (1) with 52 percent of the vote; La Crosse, Wis., (7) over Grand Rapids, Mich., (2) with 52 percent; Duluth (6) defeated Athens, Ohio, (3) with 79 percent of the vote; and Minneapolis (4) defeated Cincinnati (12).
Third-round winners were Minneapolis (4) over Houghton, Mich., (8) with 69 percent of the vote, and Duluth (6) defeated La Crosse (7) with 64 percent.
So the Minnesota cities of Minneapolis (4) and Duluth (6) faced off to determine the winner of the Midwest bracket. Duluth won with 60 percent of the vote and then faced the winner of the South bracket, Ashville, N.C. The top seed in that bracket was Charleston, with Ashville seeded 2. Duluth headed to the finals, defeating Ashville with 60 percent of the vote.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, Provo, Utah, the lowly 16th seed in the West, kept advancing, defeating the top seed, Jackson, Wyo., in the very first round with 55 percent of the vote.
The 16 towns in that bracket included Jackson, Wyo. (1); Boulder, Colo. (2); Mammoth Lakes, Calif. (3); Missoula, Mont. (4); Bend, Ore. (5); Anchorage, Alaska (6); Santa Barbara, Calif. (7); Hilo, Hawaii (8); Taos, N.M. (9); Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (10); Tucson, Ariz. (11); Bellingham, Wash. (12); Carson City, Nev. (13); Durango, Colo. (14); Sheridan, Wyo. (15); and Provo, Utah (16).
You can check out the other two brackets and get the actual number of votes in each match by going online to
Both Duluth and Provo (what an amazing underdog!) will be featured in September issues of Outside magazine and also on the magazine’s website. Be watching for it.
Minnesota has many trails for all kinds of trail users. The high quality and great variety saw Minnesota named the “Best Trails State” in the country in recent years by the American Trails. This award is presented every two years by American Trails, the only national nonprofit organization that works on behalf of all trail types, including bicycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, equestrian, snowmobile, off-highway vehicle and water trails.
So let’s combine some trails – hiking in this instance – around beloved and top-ranked Duluth for the “Great Minnesota Hiking Celebration,” set for Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 21 to 23. Four Minnesota branches of the North Country Trail Alliance (NCTA) are sponsoring the event at Spirit Mountain and other Duluth locations. The website for the event – — advises booking lodging soon due to the popular Duluth Air and Aviation Expo Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23 and 24. It features the U.S. Navy Blue Angels.
North Country Trail
If the North Country Trail is new to you, it’s a long-distance hike plotted across northern states. Right now it runs from North Dakota through New York using trails and roads, the latter hopefully turning into non-road trails in the future.
All kinds of hiking will be available both on your own and guided.
The schedule includes programs on topics such as overviews of the following trails: Superior Hiking, Kekakabic, Sioux Hustler, Border Route, and Pow Wow. Other options are “Thirteen Trails including the SHT (Superior Hiking Trail), and NCT (North Country Trail in Wisconsin and Michigan) and quite a few in Canada and more. There’s also lightweight backpacking, phrenology along the trail and an exposition on the outdoors also will be held.
It sounds like a fun event. There is no fee to attend unless you decide to attend a banquet with a speaker. You can find out more information and a link to register online at
The registration deadline is Thursday, Aug. 7, for the banquet dinner only. Online registration will remain open for the rest of the event up until Wednesday, Aug. 20. On-site registration will be available as well at the Skyline Chalet (Thursday) and the Grand Avenue Chalet (Friday and Saturday.)
Plan now to check out the “Best Town,” Duluth, and immerse yourself in all things hiking at the “Great Minnesota Hiking Celebration.”