2017 Trip Seven: Acadia and Cape Cod: Sept.21-22

Mattapoiset, MA.

Just arriving at Mattapoiset at our AirBnb location

In no way am I seeking sympathy.

We have been watching 24 hours so far of rain and winds ranging between 20-45 mph, an effect of tropical storm Jose. We were without power or water for two hours in a strongly built house. What the experience demonstrated in a personal way was a faint feeling of what others in the South and in the Caribbean have experienced over the last few weeks.

Our wind was strong but probably more like a melodic CD featuring ocean sounds, waterfalls and bird calls compared to the hurricane levels they went through. We only saw one tree branch down on our drive to dinner compared to roofs missing and homes destroyed. Our refrigerated food stayed cold with only a two hour power outage. And while our water is a well system relying on an electric pump, we had a decent supply of bottled water. There were candles in the house and we had the small flashlights we take with us on our trips.

We can sit inside and read and be amazed at the power of the wind and waves. Birds flap their wings and get nowhere or, if flying with the wind, travel maybe three times their normal speed. Even during the night, we could watch the two lighthouses flash on a regular basis. Inconvenienced a bit, but suffering, no. Let us all say a prayer, donate time and material, or give money to those in great need today.

Thursday was a travel day. Today, Friday, we are spending the day reading, doing puzzles, and playing games. An easy way to spend a rainy, windy day which in five years of travel is probably the longest continuous spell of bad weather we have encountered.

Wind and rain video

Ed and Chris. Sept. 22

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , | 1 Comment

2017 Trip Seven: Acadia and Cape Cod: Sept. 20

Ellsworth. Maine Wednesday Sept. 20

Schoodic Point

The sun came out today, briefly, and weakly. But that did not matter to us. We accomplished two priorities: Schoodic Peninsula and Cadillac Mountain.

Schoodic Point

High tide was at 11:30 AM. Tropical storm Jose was expected to increase the height and power of the normal waves. We thought, a Ranger confirmed, that the Schoodic Peninsula would be a good place with smaller crowds to observe the waves. Schoodic Peninsula is about an hour from Ellsworth. Its name probably derives from an Indian name meaning end point or end of land.

Schoodic Point

The Schoodic Peninsula portion of Acadia National Park has an interesting origination. A wealthy Maine resident who moved to New York and made a fortune in the telegraph business and banking bought property in this area. His money also bought influence in the United States Senate under conditions that today would be considered corruption and bribery. He wanted to develop the area on the Schoodic Peninsula in a manner similar to that of Bar Harbor. While he was able to amass property and lots of money, he died before his development desires in Schoodic came to fruition. His widow and daughters wanted to get rid of the 2000 acres of land and spend their time in New York and Europe. George Dorr, one of the originators of what was then called Lafayette National Park, worked out a deal changing the name from the French based Lafayette National Monument Park to Acadia National Park. The Moore daughters loved the British but disliked the French and the land donation was confirmed.

Two further arrangements added to Schoodic Peninsula park land. The first involved another land swap whereby a US naval facility used for listening to telegraph traffic on shipping in the Atlantic was transferred from the Bar Harbor area where it was in the way of John D Rockefeller’s plans for Acadia National Park to Schoodic Peninsula. That facility has since been decommissioned and is now park property.

The second arrangement occurred in the 2000s when a developer proposed to build a 3200 acre resort community directly north of the Schoodic Peninsula park property. An anonymous donor bought the property, built a modern campground, developed biking and hiking trails, built a visitor center and then donated everything to the NPS to be added to the Schoodic Peninsula park portion of Acadia National Park. This new section just opened two years ago.

Blueberry Hill and its cobble stones

Okay, enough with the history. We arrived at Schoodic Point at 9:30 AM, early enough to obtain a parking spot. Waves were crashing and surf coming in. We took pictures, listened to the waves, and then moved on to Blueberry Hill. Blueberry Hill was unique; the waves here pick up cobble stones-rounded stones between the size of an apple and a basketball. The stones make a tinkling sound as the waves move them off and on the shore. The waves today were most effective in doing this. I made a video but the wave and wind sound hides the sound of the cobble stones. Sorry.

Bunker’s Harbor where we had lunch

Schoodic Peninsula has a one-way loop road similar to the main Acadia Park. We left Blueberry Hill and returned to Schoodic Point to watch the waves some more. When we left at 11:45, the line to get in to the parking area was several blocks long. Slackers. We went to Bunkers Wharf for lunch where we split a fish and chips dinner which guaranteed us room for dessert, chocolate hazelnut mousse and pumpkin cake.

View from Cadillac Mountain

A little shopping in the small town of Winter Harbor followed but nothing grabbed our eyes. By now it was 1:30 PM, and the skies were getting lighter and no fog was present. We decided to take a chance and head to Cadillac Mountain. It took us 75 minutes to get there and the sky changed frequently. As we ascended the mountain, the skies were clear. When we reached the top, the fog and clouds had gathered; yet there was enough visibility to see a partial vista from the top. We submit them as proof that we made it to Cadillac Mountain and actually saw something.

We are back at the hotel, doing laundry and getting ready to spend Thursday driving to the Cape Cod area.

Ed and Chris Wednesday Sept. 20

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Trip Seven: Acadia and Cape Cod, Sept. 19

Ellsworth Maine, Wednesday Sept. 19

A carriage road bridge in Acadia National Park.

A shorter day today. After hiking 11 miles Sunday and 8 miles Monday, we only hiked 7 miles today. We returned to the carriage trails, looking for two bridges that were close to each other. Along the way, we conversed with some people who not only had lived in Minnesota, but one had worked with our first landlord in Minneapolis when we had just gotten married. All of the carriage road hikers we talked to were a pleasant, convivial bunch.

During the morning walk at Acadia National Park

One of the bridges was a recent addition, not designed by John Rockefeller and completed in 1995. It spanned a creek with a waterfall that was only trickling. It has been dry lately in Maine. The morning drizzle did not add much moisture.

Walking at Eagle Lake before the rains came

Walking at Eagle Lake before the rains came

We had lunch at the Asticou Inn, fresh popovers, seafood chowder and salad. Aren’t we the nutritious ones though? After lunch we went to Eagle Lake to hike along more carriage roads. Hah, we thought the lake walk would be flat. It had enough inclines to remind us that we have walked a good distance the last three days. About 2.5 miles, the drizzle turned to rain. We had to decide to walk back the 2.5 miles, complete the loop by walking 3.7 miles, or take a chance on the island shuttle bus service about which we knew nothing except we were close to a shuttle stop and our car was parked by a different shuttle stop. My legs and Chris’ concern about getting wet and cold dictated the shuttle bus option.

The Island Explorer shuttle is subsidized by L.L. Bean. There are 10 different routes and after Labor Day it operates on a less frequent schedule than during the summer. With help from friendly bus drivers and volunteer bus coordinators, we survived three bus rides to arrive dry and relaxed at our car probably only thirty minutes longer than walking. Choosing the shuttle had a bonus. I talked with a ranger who provided tips about how and where to watch the surf tomorrow at Schoodic Peninsula, a section of Acadia separate from Mount Desert Island and over an hour away.

We warmed up and relaxed at the hot tub at the Hampton and the extra time allowed me to finish blog posts for two days.

Ed and Chris. Tuesday September 19

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

2017 Trip Seven: Acadia and Cape Cod: Sept. 18

Ellsworth, ME. Tuesday Sept. 19

Thuya Garden

Monday the 18th started great, hit a real “blah” period in the middle of the day, and then ended great. Lets discuss the blah first. Bar Harbor-best summed up by Chris’ comment: “This is ugly. Get us out of here.” To be fair, if you want to shop, go to Bar Harbor. Maybe if you want to eat, try it at night. Bar Harbor is the commercial hub, the lodging hub, the shopping hub, and the eating hub. It is also a cruise ship Mecca with ships stopping almost daily from May through October. Monday one cruise ship dumped 5,000 passengers on to the eager tour guides, shops, etc. I would guess this is no different from other small city locations where cruise ships arrive. Add on other visitors by car, and the streets were jammed. We left immediately.

Now that the blah is behind us, lets move on to the great. Oops, well, weather is not great if you like blue skies. The temperature has been in the mid-60s F and light winds. Fog and clouds have predominated so forget blue sky photos and wonderful vista photographs. Still, it is pleasant walking/hiking weather and fog gives a different dimension to many of the pictures. We have not minded the fog and clouds.

Our first stop was not until almost 9 AM. It takes us about half an hour to reach interesting locations in Acadia from the Hampton Inn in Ellsworth. Thuya Gardens is not far from Asticou Azalea Gardens and is a trove of blooming plants. Also part of the Land and Gardens Preserve, the staff were cutting dead blooms and raking lines in the sand walkways when we arrived.

Thuya Gardens is part of what is called the “Quiet Side” of Acadia National Park. Away from the Bar Harbor crowds, our walks and stops have generally been calm and non-hectic. We continued this pattern with a hike along Friends trail leading to Little Long Pond.

Friends Trail

Spider webs along Friends Trail

Friends Trail suggested to me the forests in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series. A variety of soils from spongy to rocky, bent trees casting weird shapes, spider webs hanging from trees, and trails that enticed you in with a pleasant surface but slowly deteriorating to a rocky, steep ascent to the pond. Then you get to the pond, and the carriage roads around it returned you to a pleasant, relaxing walk.

Seal Harbor harbor

By now it was time for a break. Seal Harbor has a small harbor with a few businesses. Main Street could best be described as two parking lanes and one travel lane. My Dad would have loved it; keep your car evenly on either side of the yellow center line. We had just a muffin, tea and smoothie here but the cafe was enveloped in the aromas of lasagna and garlic bread that were the special of the day.

Cadillac Mountain-no blue sky, no blue ocean

We went on the Park Loop Road to Cadillac Mountain. For the uninformed, Cadillac Mountain is the place to go to see the best vistas in the park, particularly at sunrise. Well, the fog has wiped away any sunrise options. 10 AM to 3 PM is supposed to be a very busy time for Cadillac (tour buses from the boats and late rising tourists). It was still patchy fog and clouds, but we gave it a chance, hoping for a break in the sky and maybe a break in the throngs. I guess one out of two is not too bad; the throngs were missing, the fog was present. I don’t think the weather is going to allow for any vista views from Cadillac Mountain for us during our time here.

View from Loop Drive

We continued along the Loop Road, stopping at Sieur de Monts visitor center. Sieur de Monts has a nature center, an Indian artifacts collection run by the Abbe Museum, and the Wild Gardens of Acadia. None of the three intrigued us and we continued driving.

Our hike along the coast to Otter Point

Since the Bar Harbor experience eliminated lunch, we made a quick stop for a candy bar before our 3 PM park ranger hike. The hike was an hour and 3/4 along the eastward facing cliffs ending at the southern tip-Otter Point. Our Ranger informed us that Mount Desert Island was named by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain as “lle de Monts Desert”, meaning island of bare mountains. Evidently it was treeless back in 1604. The island was formed by volcanic action, carved and impacted by glaciers and erosion. Mount Cadillac was a volcano. Much of the rock here is granite-extremely hard.

Around Otter Point

Acadia National Park at 30,000 acres represents only one-half of Mount Desert Island. Private property is scattered through out. The park is not always contiguous with large stretches of private land between parcels of park land. Our hike along the cliffs were along the southeast corner of the island.


Video of waves crashing near Otter Point, Acadia National Park

While the skies were not a beautiful blue, the waves were starting to crash. Hurricane Jose has been downgraded as a tropical storm but is still stirring up wave action along the coast. We hope to see further storm action on Wednesday.

As we hiked back to our car, we conversed with two women watching the waves. One was recuperating from hip surgery and a friend from Boston came up to help her. The local woman recommended a restaurant in Northeast Harbor, the Tan Turtle, where we had dinner.

Ed and Chris Tuesday, Sept 19. (Happy Birthday Jude!)

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Trip Seven: Acadia and Cape Cod: Sept. 16-17

Ellsworth, Maine Sunday Sept. 17

Cruising around Acadia NP and the Cranberry Islands with a fog bank

What happens when travelers wake up at 5 AM? Well, they are waiting for the breakfast doors to open at 6 AM; they are one of the first to shop at the grocery store when it opens at 7 AM; and they “squeeze” in a 2.75 hour boat ride along with hiking 11 miles by dusk. Oh, and they have Maine lobster for lunch and Maine blueberry pie for an afternoon snack. All in all, a fulfilling day although by the end of the last hike, I think a turtle would be walking faster than I was.

Chris and I are in New England for a twelve day adventure. We get to see Deb and Rebecca for four of those days. Saturday was the travel day; we had decided to fly and rent a car versus one of our usual multi-week driving tours. No hassle flying. Driving a rental car is less fun now that we own a newer vehicle. I miss the compass, the back-up camera, the adjustable cruise-control, the quieter door lock sound, etc.

Driving from Boston’s Logan airport, I had left an “avoid tolls” feature in the Google maps driving directions. When we got to the New Hampshire line, we took a thirty minute extra drive and were able to observe a running race, a craft festival, and lots of back roads of New Hampshire. Not a problem though as we had just enough time to have a quick dinner and make it to 5:30 PM church in Kittery Maine. Chris accepted the invitation to bring up the gifts at the Offertory so everybody in church got to wonder who were these strange folks. We made it to the Hampton Inn Ellsworth at 10 PM and crashed.

Asticou Azalea Garden in Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island Maine

As you know from paragraph one, we got up early. Our boat cruise was scheduled for 10 AM (please arrive at 9:30 AM they had requested) so we had two hours available to drive a thirty minute trip. Our first stop was at the Asticou Azalea Gardens, only a little over 2 acres in size but wonderfully laid out even when azaleas and rhododendrons are not blooming. A person was out sweeping away gathered leaves so the dirt paths were immaculate. We were impressed with the juxtaposition of plants and shrubs; everywhere one looked was another stunning layout. We should not have been surprised, the Gardens are part of the Mount Desert Land & Garden Preserve, a total of 1,165 acres of gardens, lawns and trails set up decades ago by the Rockefellers to preserve the land for all to enjoy.

our first carriage road hike in Acadia National Park

After the gardens, we took our first hike along one of the famous carriage roads of Acadia National Park. The 45 miles of carriage roads were built between 1913 and 1940 when John D Rockefeller and his family built motor-free byways for horse and carriage to travel around Mount Desert Island. The carriage roads are an example of attention to detail; Rockefeller oversaw much of the work. The road has a deep base with a heavy crown to drain water away. The roads follow the contour of the land, using native granite for the stone and accenting the roadway with native vegetation. Bridges received particular attention; using bridges in New York City’s Central Park for inspiration. While the bridges are steel-reinforced concrete they are faced with native stone.

Upper Hadlock Pond viewed from a carriage road

The walk was pleasant; the roadway smooth and the trees line both sides with overhanging arches. Few people were out. We turned around before making our hoped for destination, one of the bridges based on a bridge in Central Park. We wanted to make sure we were at the cruise docks on time. Of course, we were early. The cruise boat was about the size of the boat we had taken two years ago to Isle Royale National Park, and even though it was not fancy, it was much nicer than the Isle Royale one. It holds about 50 people, we had maybe thirty plus two Park Rangers and two crew-one of whom was a retired park ranger.

Harbor at Hortheast Harbor

The boat ride lasted for two hours and forty-five minutes around the Cranberry Islands, a series of five islands just off Northeast Harbor. Forty five minutes of that was at the town of Isleford, a community of year-round residents, most of whom still fish, and summer residents, who take the daily mail ferry back and forth to the mainland as necessary. Isleford is on Little Cranberry Island. The Cranberrys were named after the fruit which is native to the area. The Native Americans introduced the Europeans to the berry.

Little Cranberry Island has a museum dedicated to the history of the European people who moved here, with fishing being the primary reason to settle here. Maine was settled relatively late; the English and French were contesting the area. After the 1763 Treaty of Paris resolved the issue, settlers came here in greater numbers. They were attracted by the offer of land from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Maine remained part of Massachusetts until 1820 when it split off and became a separate state as part of the Missouri Compromise.

lobster pots at Isleford

Lobster buoys in the water

In Maine, logging and fishing were early commercial activity. Fishing is good due to the currents of Arctic cold water that flows in here, above the Gulf Stream warm waters. Cod was the early fish caught here, salted and shipped around the world. Cod was over-fished and fishermen here who normally go back generations remember that and have taken precautions to keep the lobster fishing from repeating that mistake.

On Little Cranberry, I observed stacks of lobster pots and buoys. Each fisherman has a buoy that is distinctively painted to identify his buoys. The buoys are tied by rope to the pots on the bottom of the ocean; normally several pots are tied together. The fisherman will check the pots once every one to three days and can have several hundreds pots of his own. They may place their pots as far as 20 miles out to sea, or right next to the shore. On our cruise we saw numerous buoys in the water, with the variety of colors a remarkable occurrence.

On Somes Sound looking toward Cadillac Mountain (on the right)

The rangers staffed the museum at Isleford and narrated our trip through the water. We saw cormorants, loons, harbor seals, eagles,etc. The fog removed the chance to view much, but not all, of the shoreline and coast. No matter, the fog presented unique photographic opportunities.

After the boat trip, we had a lobster lunch in Northeast Harbor. Chris and I split a lobster roll and a lobster salad. Both were good but we preferred the lobster salad. Then we headed back to the carriage roads and trails, finishing our trip to Hadlock Pond where we examined one of the 17 bridges Rockefeller had built; this one was specifically modeled after a bridge over the lake at 59th Street in Central Park.

Food for the day

Two separate hikes to the coast followed, the Wonderland hike and Ship Harbor hike. But before hiking, we fortified ourselves with fresh blueberry pie and ice cream at a small, roadside stand in Southwest Harbor. We could have had a lobster dinner at this place too. We also made a quick visit to a lighthouse which could have been skipped.

The Wonderland hike

The Ship Harbor hike

Each hike traveled through the woods leading to the ocean, with the path alternating on rocky ledges and on soft forest paths. It was low tide with minor waves. The Ship Harbor hike was more interesting, longer, and more varied. Fog was intensifying again and daylight starting to lessen so we headed for the hotel and a cheese pizza before we collapsed for the night. It was a long but extremely fulfilling day; it was not until the next day that we realized how truly peaceful and quiet our day had been.

Ed and Chris. Ellsworth Maine. Sept. 18

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Trip Six: Summer Camp for Seniors: Aug. 25-26

St. Paul, MN. Saturday Aug. 26

Friday afternoon paddle on Arrowhead Lake

Friday morning camp continued but after breakfast of pancakes and sausage, etc., we skipped morning classes and went for our own walk in the area around the Laurentian Environmental Center. Nothing dramatic, just an opportunity to be on our own, get some exercise, and observe nature. Temperatures were in the low 60s with clear skies.

The first afternoon class was on biomimicry. Biomimicry is the study and use of natural actions to improve human life. Some examples that were given in class included: 1.) the use of the shape of the bill of the kingfisher bill to redesign the engine of the Japanese bullet train to reduce the boom-like noise made when the ultra-fast train exited tunnels along its route: 2.) how the plants with burrs helped imagine the development of Velcro; 3.) the whale fin with ridges helped improve the design of wind turbine blades; and 4.) the German paint company Sto used the features of the lotus plant to design exterior coatings that are highly water and dirt resistant. Another intriguing animal was the wood frog which remains frozen for eight months during the winter and then defrosts over two days and goes back into a normal living cycle.

Bald Eagle perched in tree on Arrowhead Lake MN

After that class we went out for another canoe ride on Arrowhead Lake. We saw a bald eagle perched in a tree, a loon fishing for food, and a family of ducks. I only had my iPhone and not the camera so I was unable to zoom in for a great picture. You will have to endure less than dramatic photos.

Archery class

Archery class was the final afternoon adventure. Ten of us went out to the archery range on the property. The last time I shot a bow and arrow was probably 50 years ago, with a long bow that gave me a burn along the left arm holding the bow. We used compound bows set for 20 pound pull. Result: I am not Robin Hood. I got one bulls-eye in the practice target and three minor touches on a fake deer. I won’t tell you how many arrows in total I shot. P.S. the targets were not set a great distance from the stand. But it was fun.

Friday night’s musical presentation

Our evening entertainment was a two-hour musical presentation put on by one of the staff and a friend of his; one of our participants sat in for a portion of it. The music was usually familiar and the patter of the two musicians was a blast. The group viewed it as a highlight of the week.

Saturday morning while there was a walk with a humorous twist, it was raining and so after brunch, we left for St. Paul.

So what did we think of this adventure? We both enjoyed it. Chris would go back next year in a heart beat; I might prefer to try another new adventure. The instructors were knowledgeable and friendly. The courses were interesting. The food was good and well-balanced. Each day, three to four blocks of time were set up and one was able to pick and choose from numerous classes, hikes, and service projects. One was able to leave the property and explore other area attractions if desired. The participants were friendly and pleasant.

The lodging was great from a camping viewpoint, plenty of hot water, clean, no creepy-crawlies, spacious enough and bunks long enough although somewhat hard. The lodging would not qualify for a AAA star, as long as your expectations are reasonable, you would be comfortable.

Did we tell you the price? $210 per person for five nights lodging, 15 meals, use of equipment, and programming. Can’t beat it.👍

Ed and Chris. St. Paul MN. Aug. 26

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2017 Trip Six: Summer Camp for Seniors: Aug. 24

Britt, MN. August 24, 2017

We played hookey from summer camp today. The lesson on loons and on lake ecology were well recommended but one of our goals for this trip was to visit two state parks: Bear Head Lake State Park and Lake Vermillion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park. Bear Head is a popular destination, despite its distance from the Twin Cities. It was a 60 minute drive for us from the Laurentian Environmental Center. The geology of the park reflects the glacial action ending about 12,000 years ago to form hills, lakes, and rocky landscape over the 4,000 acres of the park.

The Norberg Trail at Bear Head Lake State Park in northern Minnesota

Chris and I hiked the Norbert Lake Trail, a 3.5 mile loop that traversed numerous hiking terrains. We started out on a smooth, wide, well-marked trail with soft pine needles on the trail. The trail switched to a narrower, grassy trail under birch trees. But, the last two-thirds of the trail was on rocky, hilly ground that slowed us considerably. Those rocks translated into a hike of 1.75 hours to traverse 3.5 miles.

Seen along the Norberg Lake Trail at Bear Head Lake State Park in northern Minnesota

We passed two lakes, Norberg and Bear Head. Some of the red and white pines were quite tall; they were too small to cut in the late 1800s when wholesale logging decimated the area and have had 140 years to grow. Small bushes, ferns and flowers occupied the undergrowth. Deciduous trees are starting to fill in.

Lunch was at the “Good Ol’ Days Bar and Grill” in Tower MN. Food was quite tasty but Chris was a little nervous as it took a while for the food to be served and we had a 2 PM tour at the Soudan Underground Mine. But we were able to enjoy the meal and drive to the mine with plenty of time before the tour started. The bar has been in business for 13 years but its roots pre-date Prohibition. They have a little paper “broadsheet” that re-publishes old news tidbits from the Tower Soudan area. The old newspapers seemed to delight in listing the mis-deeds of local Finns.

The mine tour was excellent; while the young man never worked here, he has conducted local research to go along with his geology degree. The mine is in Soudan, the town of Tower was the business-residential center for the area. Together their current population is less than 1,000. (The broadsheet listed above reprinted one article from 1893 that enumerated 22 bars in Tower.)

Soudan was named after the African country Sudan as being the opposite (heat) from the extreme cold of the Tower-Soudan area. Tower was named after Charlemagne Tower, a Pennsylvania industrialist who financed the initial prospecting and mining here. Tower’s accumulation of land seems to have been fraught with illegalities, particularly in regard to the acquiring of small plots of land owned by Native Americans. Eventually he sold out to eastern steel interests leading to ownership by U.S. Steel.

The tower hoist above the Soudan Mine shaft

The Soudan mine is considered the oldest, the deepest, and the richest in Minnesota. Its best days were in the late 1800s as its ore was extremely rich in iron and could be used directly in steel furnaces. However, it was expensive to mine given that its ore seams have to be mined underground, and its use lessened but did not die out until 1962. The iron ore here had a percentage of oxygen in it that was crucial to the operation of Bessemer blast furnaces. As the last Bessemer furnace was closed in 1962, so was this iron ore mine. The Mesabi region of Minnesota, south of here around Hibbing, which utilizes open-pit mining of low-grade ore to convert into taconite pellets, surpassed the output of the Soudan mine in the early 1900s and continues to be the largest U.S. source of iron ore.

Charlemagne Tower, despite the questionable land purchases, innovated in that he paid his first workers twice the wages they were making in Michigan mines, promoted home ownership over company rented housing, and encouraged local shopping over company stores, all grievances held by miners prior to this time. The Soudan mine is located in extremely hard rock that provided safer working environments for underground mines with low rates of water infiltration. These circumstances led to high miner loyalty and good wages; not perfect conditions but better than that found in comparable mines of the day.

Our carriage awaited us 2,341 feet below the ground at Soudan Mine

Our day included going underground in two steel cages, down to a depth of 2341 feet below the surface, over 700 feet below sea level. Our cages descended at a rate of close to ten miles per hour. Once down at stage 27, we rode 3/4 of a mile in a tracked car that resembled a Disney ride with sharp turns and minimal lighting. At the end of the ride, we walked and climbed around the mining area as it was when it closed in 1962. Another part of the tour described the working conditions of the late 1800s when candle light was used–after the workers walked the 3/4 mile to the work area in pitch blackness.

Our canoe ride on Arrowhead Lake in northern Minnesota

After the tour we returned to summer camp and went for a half hour canoe ride before dinner. The weather was perfect; calm, sunny, 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Dinner was tater tot hot dish. After dinner was a presentation on bats; it seems currently there is an effort around the U.S. to educate people about the positive benefits of bats.

Ed and Chris. Aug. 25

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2017 Trip Six: Summer Camp for the Senior Crowd: Aug. 22-23

Britt, MN. Wednesday August 23

Looking at Laurentian Environmental Center across Arrowhead Lake

After lunch on Tuesday, most of the participants gathered to take a hike to the “Meteorite Site”. With 25-35 hikers, with a mix of hiking speeds, it took us a while to hike through the forest to the site. What is the “Meteorite Site” you ask? Well, it is a hole in the ground, 60′ deep, and 300′ around. The people here have been researching the hole for over twenty years; with no special funding the research has been piecemeal and dependent on the goodwill of various research groups.

Three theories exist. One, a meteor crashed here. Two, glacial action created the hole. Three, mining activity resulted in this round depression. Our guide discussed each theory in detail and the research undertaken in an effort to support it. For theory one, scientists calculate a meteor the size of a softball would have been required to generate a hole the size of this one. But, there is no obvious residue that would be associated with a meteor.

The large group hiking to the Meteorite Site on Tuesday afternoon

For theory two, since the bottom of the hole is uniformly dry, glacial action would have also created an outlet for the water that falls in the depression. Searching over numerous years has revealed no outwash from the depression. For theory three, the size of the trees indicates that mining activity would have had to have occurred by Paleo-Indians and again, there are no remnants of copper mining and the depression would likely have had a more gradual exit from the pit rather than the uniformly steep sides that exist.

So the conclusion is no conclusion. No scientific evidence exists, so far, to back any of the three theories. We all hiked back in time for dinner of pork bar b que, potato salad, etc with home-made cookies for desert. After dinner, one of the participants made a slide show presentation about owls. He covered each of the owls found in Minnesota with pictures and audio of the sound they make.

Chris and I debated an evening canoe trip but the on again-off again drizzle discouraged us until the weather is definitely clear. Instead, I played cribbage with two other women. I won one game and lost one game.

Paper birch trees: several tall ones on the right; on the left stumps. Paper birch last about 70 years, then they start to rot and frequently the top of the tree falls off.

[The following sections may be a little confusing in style as Chris and I took turns writing about the activities we each undertook separately.]

Wednesday morning breakfast was French toast sticks and bacon. After breakfast, Chris and I split. Chris went to a popular presentation on dream interpretation. The morning talk was presented by a retired ER doc from the Twin Cities. While I (Chris) went more to support a fellow camper, I found her talk rather interesting. A comment made by a member of the group was “we all dream, so there must be a reason”. So true. She talked about how to remember dreams (put them in a notebook), to having a dream buddy to share your dreams with. She talked about how to analyze dreams (are they symbols, represent feelings, point to emotional/physical issues now). She talked about how to “program” your dreams and how to ‘confront” your nightmares (turn to the demon and ask “what do you want).

The group session Ed skipped to go hiking worked on cleaning apples. The end result was a very tasty apple crisp to go with our lunch.

After lunch we split up again with Chris going to a talk on fire ecology and Ed joining an art project. The fire ecology talk focused on the three elements needed for fire (heat, fuel, and oxygen) and how these elements are found in our world and sometimes work against successful fire suppression. It, too, proved an excellent talk by a member of the Center’s staff that had great discussion as we answered the question “are fires good?”

Ed’s art tile creations

I (Ed) went on a solo walk in the morning, able to set my own pace. I learnt less than on the group walk but enjoyed the time to myself. As Chris mentioned in the two paragraphs above, the afternoon was a real role reversal. Art made by me would not be my first choice and while fire ecology seemed interesting, I chose the less obvious path to make some personalized art tiles. Store bought ceramic tiles were covered by sharpie pens in our design and then sprayed with isopropyl alcohol which allows the colors to melt and blend. When dried they are covered with a clear spray enamel to protect them. The eight tiles I produced may not win any awards but now we have eight more drink coasters.

The second afternoon session again saw us separate. Chris was with the group that had a demonstration on how to make deep dish pizza. While she said that it seemed ‘doable”, I will not be holding my breath to have this anytime soon. The work done by the group led to the preparation of several varieties of pizza which we had for dinner-along with salad, canned pears, cut veggies, etc.

Pineapple Mushroom

My second group afternoon activity was another walk. This one was planned to be faster with less interpretation. It was although the small group of six people still asked questions of our leader and pointed out numerous plants along the way-including a nice specimen of pineapple mushrooms. Our trek went out into the Superior National Forest and did create a little nervousness on our return as the path disappeared and we had to bushwhack through the underbrush until we landed back on the trail. All in all, I hiked over eight miles today.

After dinner, we had a sing along in the lodge, led by one of our participants who had brought along his guitar. The group of participants interact well together which makes for a very pleasant experience. Chris is already laying plans for next year. I am enjoying myself but would be more interested in spending this time next year continuing our explorations of areas of the U.S. we have not yet enjoyed.

Ed and Chris Wednesday Aug. 23, 8:30 PM

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Trip Six: Summer Camp for the Senior Crowd: Aug. 20-22

Britt, MN Monday August 21

Arrowhead Lake at Laurentian Environmental Center, Britt MN

Summer Camp for the Senior Crowd. My preferred title was going to be Summer Camp for Geezers but Chris tells me Geezer normally refers to men. My title succinctly describes what Chris and I will be doing for the next five days. We are at the Laurentian Environmental Center (LEC), a 30 acre property run by the Community Education Department of the Mounds View MN School District. The property is leased from the state of MN. It is located on what is called Section 16 land; land dedicated by the Land Ordinance of 1785 to provide for the use and benefit of public education. We are about 15 miles north of Virginia MN, about 50 miles south of the Canadian border, in the Superior National Forest, nestled in the Minnesota Iron Range.

Our bunk space at LEC

The LEC offers educational programs for school kids from Mounds View and numerous other school districts around the state. One week of each year, in late August, a program for senior citizens is offered. The official title is something like “Young at Heart” or “Summer Camp for Seniors”. Room and board are included in the fee; we are sleeping in bunk beds in the Cedar Lodge along with about 10 other couples. We can spread out, we are not lodged right on top of each other. We have our own bathroom and share a shower. There are other cabins for single women and single men. There are probably about 50 people here “at camp”. The oldest person is 87, down to about low 50s. There is a roughly 2/3-1/3 division between women and men.

During the five days we are here, there is a mix of loosely scheduled pre-set programs and activities and of free time and/or programs chosen/organized by the participants. In addition, if you really want, you can just take off and explore the broader Iron Range area. For instance, we are planning to visit both Bear Head Lake State Park and Tower-Soudan Underground Iron Mine during the time we are here.

Enger Tower, Duluth MN

View of Duluth Harbor and Lift Bridge

We arrived here around 11 AM today. We drove up north Sunday, stopping in Duluth MN to eat lunch at the Thompson Hill overlook rest stop providing a grand view of the St. Louis River emptying into Lake Superior. We made a visit to Enger Park and Tower, a city park in Duluth also contributing a view of Lake Superior and Duluth, this time from the top of an 80 foot tower on top of the bluffs overlooking the lake. Enger Park was a tip from Chris’ sister. It was our first visit to this park, despite numerous visits to Duluth. We spent the night with friends in Babbit MN. They live on Birch Lake, a quiet lake bracketed by a high percentage of land owned by the state or feds.

After checking in, we unloaded our stuff, picking out a section of the Cedar Lodge that seemed to provide a bit more privacy. Checking in early was a good idea; this year there are more participants than usual. We were allowed to pick our own location in Cedar Lodge; later arrivals discovered some couples spread out a bit more than the program had expected and the later arrivals had to be accommodated in cabins other than Cedar Lodge. Not a big deal, but some expectations had to be adjusted.

(A side note. Today is solar eclipse day. We did not get excited about it. We are at a location with only 75% coverage and we had cloud cover all day. If you are looking for fantastic news and photos of the solar eclipse, look elsewhere.)

Evening bonfire, Community lodge, our bunkhouse

Lunch was simple but good. Wild rice soup, sandwiches, cut veggies and grapes and pumpkin cake. They even had milk. We made name badges and spent time introducing ourselves. Chris and I did not know anyone but numerous connections are evident. This was the first year Mounds View advertised this program in the St. Paul Community Education booklet and numerous attendees have a St. Paul connection. I can overhear other conversations discussing topics and people who would allow me to chip in comments, but that would be rude. This appears to be the first time here for about one half of the people. The other half have been here three to 20 times. Some are returning after 15 or 20 years, bringing friends or siblings. The five staff have tenure ranging from 27 years to only three years.

Two programs were offered for the afternoon after intros. Chris chose a session of Night Sky which covered new and old information. She came away determined to sign up for a notification service that projects when the aurora borealis should be highly visible. If we see an upcoming night, we might just hop in the car and head north.

I took the outdoor class on phenology–the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to changes in climate and plant and animal life. For two hours the group went walking around the property learning about various topics. One participant had brought a cage with monarch butterflies in various stages of growth; releasing one of them to begin its long journey to Mexico. From that beginning we found milkweed plants and our instructor plucked a milkweed pod. The pod is at a time when the seeds are tasty even for us to eat, the pod and seeds could be tossed into a cooking pot and would taste like cashews.

Release of the Monarch butterfly

On our walk, it was evident the participants had a range of knowledge. Some people were able to educate the instructor on specific topics, others were more interested in watching the solar eclipse on their smart phones. We saw (and some were able to sample) choke cherries, hazelnuts, raspberries, and serviceberries. Serviceberries, also called June berries, were named serviceberries (according to our guide) since when people died in the winter, they could not be buried in the frozen earth. When the June berries blossomed the ground was soft enough to bury people and have their funeral service.

Our guide mentioned that northern Minnesota has not had the frequency of -40° weather that it needs to kill harmful insects. This has resulted in an increase in the number of wood ticks. One result that is still being verified is that the increase in wood ticks makes the moose population scratch their bodies more frequently against tree trunks, reducing the amount of fur they have on their bodies, leaving them less able to survive the winter. Our guide has seen his first raccoon in his 27 years up here due to the warmer weather.

Dinner was sloppy joes, corn, cut vegetables, etc. After dinner we had some down time in which I worked on this blog. A bonfire gathered many of us around 8 PM while others worked on puzzle, played cribbage and other games, or just talked. It is an easy group to set up conversations; and yes, daughters, even I did some talking although not as much as other people.

We were in bed by 9 but not asleep until after 10. Our neighbors spent an hour in conversation and lights out was not until 10 PM-we share a light switch controlling the lights in each of our bunk pods. We did not hear major snoring, just a loud clock going tick-tock-tick-tock all night. Neither of us hit our heads on the upper bunk. I slept no worse than at home, I was just lacking the ability to wander anywhere so I just tossed and turned in the bottom bunk.

Tuesday morning dawned cloudy and cool but we did have several hours of mixed sun during the morning. Breakfast was sausage, scrambled eggs, muffins, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Chris and I split up again for the morning session. Chris went to gourd making; a highly popular activity. The instructor was one of our participants and started with a 45 minute slide presentation about the art of gourd decorating. Participants would choose their gourd, cut and shape it if desired, and then decorate it. Chris stuck to a small gourd she only had to decorate.

Stuffed wolf at our morning class Tuesday.

I went to the session on Minnesota mammals held in one of the classrooms filled with skins, bones, stuffed animals, etc. The instructor began asking us to identify the four identifying traits of mammals–we could not. (Fur/hair; live birth, warm-blooded, and milk feeding of young) Then we progressed to examining the specimens and we were asked to identify the four mammals in the display not native to Minnesota and the three specimens that were not mammals. We did not complete the task until the very end of the 2.5 hours as our group digressed unto multiple topics, ranging from mammals, mining, bogs, etc. Some of the discussion involved simple questions I thought anyone should know, other conversation went to current scientific research, to personal experience with environmental and scientific travels we had undertaken, etc.

Before lunch,some people, Chris included, participated in a stretching yoga session on the lawn. Lunch was salad, sphaghetti, garlic bread, watermelon and chocolate cake.

End of first blog on Summer Camp for the Senior Crowd. More to follow.

Ed and Chris
Britt,MN. Aug. 22

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Trip Five: Northern MN: Aug. 3-4

The Iron Man memorial in Chisholm MN dedicated to the miners of the Iron Range. It is listed as the third largest free standing memorial in the world.

Grand Rapids, MN Aug. 4

If you scratch in the right location, most towns have some claim to fame. Just a few examples; back in June we were in Vining MN, population 78. A young woman born there has become a U.S. astronaut. During our March-April 2017 trip we were in the towns where Kool Aid and Dr. Pepper were invented. On this trip, we have been to Judy Garland’s hometown (Grand Rapids, MN); to the childhood home of Bob Dylan (Hibbing, MN) and the town where the Greyhound Bus Lines originated (Hibbing MN again). And, arguably, one could claim that we have spent time here on the Iron Range, the location that gave birth to the American industrial might. My arguments for that will be in today’s blog.

A chilly, rainy day drove us inside Thursday as we explored the manufacturing and immigrant side of the Iron Range. Our first stop was the UPM Blandin paper mill tour in Grand Rapids. This paper mill has existed for over one hundred years; one of its earliest products was the production of newsprint for the St. Paul MN Dispatch and Pioneer Press. The tour begins with a 30 minute video and personal explanation of the paper making process, along with the history of Blandin Paper Company. I have to admit I have a fondness for Blandin. The owner established a foundation in 1941 and in 1958 when the owner died, the foundation had one million dollars. Upon the sale of the company in 1977, $77,000,000 was added to the foundation. Currently it has over $350,000,000. Mr. Blandin focused the efforts of the foundation on rural Minnesota, with an emphasis on the Grand Rapids area. The Finnish company UPM now owns the company and the foundation is separate. Still, seeing a company where the needs of the community were important to the company owners is heart-warming. Mr. Blandin, besides being a successful entrepreneur, was far-seeing in the terms of his trust. He even required a court to review the foundation operations every three years.

After the video of the company and paper-making process, we donned safety glasses and head phones and headed for the mill across the street. Our tour guide was a former Blandin employee who explained the operations of the machinery we were viewing. The head phones provided protection from the noise of the machinery and a means for the guide to talk to us with radio attachments to the headphones. The paper making process keeps getting faster and more efficient. Today, the company produces twice the output with one-third of the employees that were previously employed here. The major line that we observed is an interconnected series of: an applicator of a wood pulp slurry to paper forming machines, de-waterers, rollers, heaters, quality inspection etc. that would cost one billion dollars to replace today. The paper is then coated, smoothed, and buffed to produce a high gloss paper used in magazines, advertising materials, flyers, etc. Blandin uses a mixture of three kinds of trees (aspen, balsam fir, and spruce) grown on land they own (187,000 acres of forest land) and from independent operators harvesting trees from their own land or under leases with public forests. 200,000 cords of wood per year are used to produce 400,000 tons of finished paper.

Bob Dylan’s childhood home in Hibbing MN

From Blandin in Grand Rapids, we drove to Hibbing MN and drove by the house where Bob Dylan lived from kindergarten through high school. Dylan, born Robert Zimmerman, is the musician who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016 “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. There is no museum here, just stores selling T-shirts etc. with his name on them. Next stop: the Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mineview, an area and exhibit of the huge open-pit iron ore mines that mark the Iron Range of Minnesota.

I think at this point I need to give a brief overview of “The Range”. Many states have an area of the sate which is unique and described in a shorthand style, such as the UP of Michigan, the Hill Country of Texas. In Minnesota, this is the Iron Range. In the late 1800s, high-grade iron ore was found in the northeastern quadrant of Minnesota. The iron ore is found in four bands of ore called ranges, the Measbi, the Vermillion, the Cuyuna, and the Gunflint-although the Gunflint is primarily in Ontario.

One view of Hull-Rust-Mahoning mine

The ore was found as America was going through its industrialization phase. The large supplies, the high-grade of the ore, the ability to use open-pit mining, and the capacity to ship major quantities through the Great Lakes from ports like Duluth-Superior made the Minnesota Iron Range the primary producer of iron ore in America for decades. The ore here made the steel that built America’s skyscrapers, the rails that spread trains across the United States, and the armaments for WWI and WWII. Without this accessible ore, the development of America into a global powerhouse would arguably not have occurred. When high-grade ores ran out in the 40s, MN researchers developed the process to consolidate lower grade ore into taconite. This taconite mining continues today, although at a much lower quantity given that a high level of steel is now imported. Our stops on Thursday and Friday explored the history of Minnesota iron ore mining and the settlement of the area by immigrants.

Another view of the Hull-Rust-Mahoning mine

Four snaps indicating the size of the mining equipment

In Hibbing, we visited “Mineview”, an exhibit and viewing area above the Hull-Rust-Mahoning (HRM) mine. The HRM is the largest open-pit iron ore mine in the world. The HRM, at its maximum, is 800 feet deep, 8 miles long, and 3.5 miles wide, covering 5,000 acres. The mine is constantly changing as dirt overburden is removed to access the iron ore, the ore is removed, and roads and train tracks constructed. More dirt has been moved here than for the Panama Canal. The mines started out as numerous small claims. Consolidation occurred as eastern monetary interests became involved to provide the large sums of money necessary to operate the mines and to provide their factories with a steady supply of raw materials. Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Hill all became invested in the mines and the infrastructure to ship the ore to Cleveland, Pittsburgh, etc. Over 800 million tons of iron ore have been shipped from the HRM mine. The mine grew so steadily, it paid for the moving of the town of Hibbing. When the town was first constructed, it was close to the mines. As the mines expanded, they began to encroach on the town itself. Beginning in 1918, the town’s buildings were put on wheels and logs and rolled two miles to the south where you now find the businesses and homes located.

Moving the mine towards the Mineview viewing area

The mineview overlook allows one to look into the pit, watching the operation from the edge of the pit. This exhibit site will be moving next year as it is so close to the mining operation, that the ground underneath will be mined in 2018. We watched the construction of an access road from the depths of the mine up towards the mineview site. The mining process here consists of: the removal of overburden, the blasting of harder waste rock and ore into smaller chunks, the scooping of the ore into trucks to carry the ore to a crusher and grinders to create a fine concentrate, the pelletizing of the concentrate through dewatering and addition of bentonite clay, and then the pellets are rolled into 1/2″ balls and hardened by heating. The final pellet balls are then shipped by rail to loading docks on Lake Superior. In 1901 steam shovels dug rock with bucket capacity of 3/4 yard. Nowadays, the buckets can load 65 tons into trucks that haul 240 tons. Our pictures show out dated trucks from 20 years ago, but still huge by any standard.

From the HRM Mineview, we drove a short distance to the Greyhound Bus Lines Origin Museum. The museum is the effort of local people in Hibbing, particularly one Gino Nicolelli. It is not funded by Greyhound. Greyhound began in Hibbing, MN. As the mines spread out, residential areas developed in “locations”, areas where homes and boarding houses could be built. In the early days, the population on the Range was primarily single men. Even as families developed, the pay was not sufficient to allow people to build their own homes and have horses (or cars later) for transportation. A couple of miners got together and purchased a Hupmobile auto and began transporting miners to work and stores. Over time, the men added more vehicles and modified them in their own body ship to provide additional seating. The museum covers the men who began the transportation business and develops the story line of how it branched out, eventually buying out small competitors until it became nationwide.

One of the Greyhound buses on display

The museum has several buses demonstrating the various designs used over the years. There was a cute display of a passenger on a bus huddled up with a blanket around him. Early buses did not have heat but they did provide blankets. The museum displays start to peter out around 1970; it does not cover Greyhounds later history of strikes, bankruptcy, re-organization and eventual purchase by a British firm. Another notable omission is any mention of the role of inter-city buses, like Greyhound, during the desegregation efforts in the South. Our previous trip to Anniston Alabama included the site of a burning of a Greyhound bus.

We left Hibbing driving east to Chisholm and the Minnesota Discovery Center. While the Discovery Center began in 1977, it has been upgraded recently and includes a complex of 660 acres. We spent most of our time in the 33,000 s.f. museum which covers the Iron Range through exhibits on “The Land, The Mines, The People and The Work”. Our emphasis was on the people; the European immigrants from all over Europe who came here, creating a diverse spectrum of small, urban communities. Unlike much of Minnesota which was primarily rural and agricultural, the people concentrated in small towns.

One exhibit discusses the strikes of 1907 and 1916 which were broken by the use of company hired “security” forces and local sheriffs. After the 1907 strike, many participants were denied work in the mines. By 1916, the strike breakers hired in 1907 had come to the same conclusion as the workers in 1907 for the need to strike. Pay was low and graft common. Workers were only paid by the production of good ore. While this might seem reasonable, the more you produce, the more you earn; the consequences were that safety measures were ignored (no pay for that), people who argued were assigned to production areas with low-grade or low concentrations of ore (unless they bribed the foreman), and as mines expanded, travel time to further reaches of the mines were not compensated. Both strikes were broken and no union existed on the Range until the 1930s. The eastern financiers who invested money into the mines were handsomely rewarded, workers who toiled in harsh conditions had trouble just getting by.

Honoring Slovenians at the Minnesota Discovery Center in Chisholm

The Range went through periods of discrimination where the Swedes and Norwegians were “better” than the Finns, Italians, and Slavic people. Over time, intermarriage between ethnic groups occurred, and today there is more a “Ranger” identity versus the rest of Minnesota, rather than ethnic groups identifying against each other. The Range suffers economic cycles as lumbering and mining go through periods of expansion and contraction. As automation increases, the towns suffer the loss of younger people. The desire for good paying jobs creates a tension with people advocating environmental issues over all else. Part of that tension is occurring as new mining proposals put forth copper mining, which has a greater environmental impact than does iron ore mining.

The museum was an excellent source of information about the Iron Range, providing a background to the economic and political conditions on the Range today. As we headed back to the Green Heron B & B, we had dinner at the Cedars in the Sawmill Inn, a comfortable restaurant with style and great food. A better meal than Zorbaz the night before, but Zorbaz was a family, pizza style place. It served its purpose but Cedars was more enjoyable.

Snapshots from Bovey MN

Friday our only goal before heading home was the tour of the Hill Annex Mine. This is a closed mine, owned by the State of Minnesota and managed as a state park. Tours are currently offered only on Fridays and Saturdays. However, on our way to the tour, we made a stop in Bovey MN. Bovey’s claim to fame is that a local photographer snapped a well-known picture called “Grace”.  “Grace is a photograph by Eric Enstrom. It depicts an elderly man with hands folded, saying a prayer over a table with a simple meal. In 2002, an act of the Minnesota State Legislature established it as the state photograph. Wikipedia” It was created in 1918, so its fame now is more in the realm of senior citizens and certain religious groups who still market it. The book in the photo is actually a dictionary, although it is frequently erroneously credited as a Bible. Certainly the photographer is sending the message of the book as a Bible even though some photographic liberties were used in the shooting of the photo. In any event, we stopped at a small antiques store and looked for something interesting to buy. While nothing struck our fancy, we did discover their display of a speakeasy in the basement, with an escape tunnel through a tall chest of drawers.

The Hill Annex mine, with the water filling in the pit

From Bovey we drove to Calumet MN to visit the Hill Annex Mine State Park and take the 1.5 hour tour. The Hill Annex mine operated from 1913 to 1978 and was the sixth most productive mine in Minnesota. There are still piles of tailings and ore that could be productive depending on future demand and economics, although near term use is very unlikely.  When operating, the mine had to be pumped to keep water out. Once the mine closed, the pumps no longer operated and portions of the pit have become a lake.  The park has displays in the old mining clubhouse but our target was the tour.

Abandoned equipment at the Hill Annex mine

The tour is led by a former miner at the Hill Annex. We took a bus over the grounds, some reclamation areas with abandoned machinery, some top of the pile view points, and a spot close to the water now in the former pit.  The tour started in sunny weather but half way through a light drizzle came out. The drizzle made our journey up one of the hills a challenge as the bus was unable to gain full traction on the wet rocks. It took four tries before we made it up the hill. Our guide explained his work and the machinery.

This mine is named after James J Hill, who through the building of the Great Northern Railway, was truly instrumental in the development of the northwestern United States from Minnesota to Washington State. (In my volunteer work Saturday at the St. Anthony Falls visitor center for the Mississippi National River and Recreation area, two men from Seattle were visiting Minnesota and touring locations connected Hill. They understood the role he played in developing their state.) Hill and his sons purchased land and a small railroad in the range, primarily to obtain timber. Iron ore was known to be in the area, but Hill just lucked out into one of the most productive mines on the range. The full story is complicated, but the mining leases he set up, rather than operating the mine, provided his heirs and investment partners $500 million dollars in revenue through 2015 when the last of the leases ended.  Most people in Minnesota know of Hill’s railroad wealth, his mining wealth from the Hill Annex mine was hidden behind a little known trust.

From Calumet we drove home, stopping for lunch at a bar/restaurant in Carlton MN. This mini-vacation was a pleasant learning experience with great overnight accomodations.

Ed and Chris St. Paul Aug. 6

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Blog at WordPress.com.