Well, I’m sitting back in my basement as I write this last installment of my trip blog. It has been a very hectic day, a whirlwind tour of packing, hiking and driving. It is good to be at home though, as I miss my wife and kids.
My day began very early again, as I was awake at the crack of dawn; unable to sleep, I ventured to the balcony to snap a photo. It is at times like that I wished I lived on a lake such as Gunflint so I could experience the sunrise every morning. Maybe one day!
My first order of business was to pack everything and prepare for the drive home. It was sad to leave, but it was a great adventure. I certainly will miss my hosts, John and Rose Schloot. They made the entire trip fantastic; their warmth and hospitality were beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. I really hope I can get back next year. If you’re planning to head up to the Boundary Waters, I would highly recommend a stay at the Cross River Lodge.
Before I hit the road, I wanted to return to the Minnesota side of the Gunflint Narrows to complete my work there. Area resident Jerry was once again very willing to take me along the grade through the private property. On my previous visit, we had looked unsuccessfully for a potential “treasure” that had been located in the area. As we walked toward the Narrows, Jerry informed me that he had better intel on where this item was located.
After a bit of searching along the lake shore, I found it; problem is that I have no idea what it is. I thought I was looking for a railway handcar, but I found a mystery. It is an older item, but it is unknown if it dates from the railway period. It is located near where the power line crosses the bay south of narrows, so it very well might have been used to lay to cable there. Maybe at some point I will figure it out.
The area from the Narrows to where the old grade meets the Gunflint Narrows Road is a 450 metre stretch of near continuous 4 to 6 foot high rock cuts. There is only one real break, about 45 metres from the trestle which is the probable location of the US Customs House. It was constructed 1892-1893 and was supposed to oversee the flow of iron from the Paulson Mine to Thunder Bay. There are a few assorted items lying around the site, such as an old mattress spring and what appears to be the metal frame of a single axle wagon.
As the grade becomes the road, it curves westerly another 700 metres along the shore of the lake. This section is filled with many large rock cuts, the railway blasted from the sides of nearly sheer cliffs. The highlight of this area is a 330 metre stretch that contains cuts that are some 25 to 30 feet high and sheer sides that slide an equal distance to the lake. I can imagine the train creeping along the grade, much as vehicles do today.
The railway then heads in a southwesterly direction for another 2km, weaving through a few more cuts and several wet areas. The drivable section ends at a large gravel pit and the grade continues for another 300 metres, crossing the Cross River twice before reaching the Gunflint Trail. I’ll need to revisit this area again, as I’m still trying to find the elusive turning wye and the water in the river was a bit high.
I’ve only been home a few hours, but I’m already getting geared up for the next event. I’m heading out to camp on Friday, but I’ll have to leave for a few hours on Saturday. I’ll be participating in the History Day at Silver Mountain Station, which will be a gathering of people interested in the history of the station, the railway and Dorothea Mitchell. Mitchell, the Lady Lumberjack, is quite the legend in the area. She was a pioneering entrepreneur in a male dominated business and certainly made a name for herself.
Anyway, I think it’s time to wrap this up. I’ve said enough over the past four days. I need to save a few things for next week. Until then…