I was warned that the Duluth section of the SHT might come with a few roadblocks (meant both literally and figuratively), but the views would be amazing. Both of these things were true.


The roadblocks were plenty, and on my way out of Duluth, I found myself in what I have now termed the “endless Bagley loop.”


Non-SHTA neighborhoods have made trails, bike trails, ski trails, spur trails, and overlooks. These made navigating difficult and frustrating because not all of them were on the maps.


For nearly an hour, I circled the first (NOBO) campground directly on the trail. I was consulting my map, pocket guide, and phone. Finally, a young man in flip flops directed me toward his family-made trail that would take me to a road.


A deer that I’d seen previously and asked directions to aloud was on that path as well. The path led me out of the loop to the main road and (eventually) back to the trail.

I found my way out of the loop and to Tom O’Rourke, the Hartley Nature Center executive director (HNC)—or he found me. Regardless, I met Tom during a massive storm that made foot travel hazardous, slippery, and ill-advised.

We talked about the trails and the history of the HNC. We also spoke about canoeing and books. Tom mentioned he built a shack that he stocked with books in the middle of the woods.


Little did he know that one of my childhood dreams was to live in a cabin in the woods, filled with books and a typewriter for writing. There is something majestic about reading a good book during a lightning storm, and I was giddy with joy to see the Library Shack.

The shack features several glass windows, a wood-burning stove, and access to his family-made backcountry trail. I can’t vouch much for the trail, as I didn’t venture too far.


I highly recommend visiting The Hartley Nature Center, especially to thru-hikers who might want to set up camp at the Little Library Shack in the Woods.

Enchantment can be found even amid the uncertainty of a thunderstorm, especially when good company and books are involved.