This hike was to the mysterious Devil’s Kettle Falls in Minnesota’s Judge C.R. Magney State Park, along the north shore of Lake Superior about 30 miles south of the U.S. and Canadian border.

hiking slugs

Hiking slugs


The Hike

It is a spectacular sight as the Brule River drops 800 feet, splitting into two waterfalls. One waterfall continues downstream into Lake Superior, but the other disappears into a giant hole called the Devil’s Kettle. To this day, nobody has figured out where the water goes.

With your State Park pass, pull into Judge C.R. Magney State Park along Highway 61. There is a parking area with an outhouse and water. Great signage tells you just where to go. You can also park along the highway in a few spots, if you do not have a pass. I was lucky to hike the trail after a huge rain that left the water surging with force over the cliffs. I started early in the morning, so it was just me and the loud, very loud, raging water. You get a good workout on lots of stairs up and down the cliffs before coming to a well-maintained trail.

You can read more about the vanishing water mystery into the Devil’s Kettle rock formation at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_C._R._Magney_State_Park

Thinking about stuff

Once again, memories surged as I thought back to last year when I hiked the Devil’s Kettle four times. After each hike, I sat at the edge of the Brule River and worried. Not so unusual for me — I have always been a worrier. When my son Pat was born, I worried his nose wasn’t growing; I worried he had some new, non-growing nose syndrome. I worried my son Mike would wear his dinosaur costume until he graduated from high school. I worried my daughter Kelly had an extra lung (don’t ask). Back then, my worries came from an over-active imagination.

Last year at Devil’s Kettle,  my worry focused on bills. In November when we found out that Barry had frontotemporal dementia (FTD), I had even more worries!! I was constantly worried that my husband would be fired from his caretaker job — then how could we pay the rent?  What if I fell off my bike — we had no health insurance? I felt like I had a million electrodes surging through my nervous system.

On the hike this year, however, I could not sit by the river because the water was too high, so I just kept hiking on to The Timber Doodle Trail (a marked nature trail), then on to The Superior Hiking Trail. I hiked most of the day, thinking about what I had learned from these past worries.

How to pay the rent

I knew Barry could not do the caretaker job anymore. Too bad, because along with the duties came a much reduced rent. A few weeks after his diagnosis, Barry got fired. I could now stop worrying about that happening. When you get fired as a caretaker, you have 24 hours to move. I learned this three days before Christmas!!!

I went to the manager’s office armed with a letter from Barry’s neurologist saying he had FTD and begged her to let us stay. How can we move him in 24 hours? Where would he go? Should I send Barry to California to live with his sister? The manager had to check with her corporate office about whether we could stay.




That night I laid awake at my parent’s house where I had moved the previous month, trying to make a plan for moving out. But, thank God, they let Barry stay. Then there was the rent to worry about. I calculated that Barry received enough in Social Security to cover the rent. So the rent worry was gone.

Unexplained dents in the car

The next worry was about Barry’s driving. For some time, we tried to ignore the fact that Barry was not driving well. Over the past three years, Barry had had many fender benders. Side view mirrors would be gone. Once, he hit another car at the gas station. And he had no explanation for the many dents in the car. At the time, I thought it was just unbelievable bad luck.

But it wasn’t bad luck, it was FTD. Once I found out about the diagnosis, I worried and worried that Barry might cause an accident injuring others, or worse, hit a child in our complex. I had to remove that worry, too. So I signed Barry up for a driving assessment at The Courage Center. I learned about this service through the Alzheimer’s foundation, one of the first places I went to for information after Barry’s diagnosis.

On a cold, snowy morning, I drove Barry to The Courage Center for his three-hour driving assessment. He was done in just two hours because he did not even come close to passing. People with FTD usually don’t have a lot of emotions, but Barry was a pretty sad guy that day. For a long time, he told people I took his license away! But he doesn’t mention it any more. For Barry, it seems like a lifetime ago when he was free to drive.  For me, Barry was off the road and another of my worries was gone.

Oh, I still worry but some silly things, like is baby Charlotte’s nose growing? And I still have some big things to worry about, but I try, when I can, to take control of some of those big worries. Maybe I should just imagine throwing my worries into the Devil’s Kettle. Then they would be gone forever.

What do you worry about? I hope you can find a way to figure them out so you can sleep and feel relaxed. Maybe tackle them one at a time. What do you do to combat your worries?

Things I saw

People running the trail.

Water that looks like root beer.

A guy trying to fish. He gave up.

The sun peeking through the forest early in the morning.

Lots of birds singing.

I saw me not worrying!

For more hiking details, go to: www.northshorevisitor.com/state-parks/judgemagney.html information in the State Park




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One comment on “HIKE NUMBER FOUR
  1. I meditate…..Try to get Thich Nhat Hanh’s book The Miracle of Mindfulness from your library….Or Jack Kornfield’s The Wise Heart…Also, Grieving Mindfully. that helped me after Paul died. But when your life partner has dementia of any sort, you are already grieving and could use some support…

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