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Long walks and battle scars!

No, I didn’t walk 500 miles, but I did wear boots…rubber boots that is. I did walk like a man, but definitely not like an Egyptian. It was very hot outside, so I may have well been walking on the sun. It wasn’t after midnight, and I definitely did not walk in a line. See what I’m doing here? Do ya? I know you do.

I’m back kids! I’m sounding a little chipper right now, but if you’ve looked at a calendar lately you’ll know that this isn’t a great time of the year. Yup, it’s almost time to go back to work. Sigh. We can’t stop time, so it is inevitable that the end of August comes around. I’ve already started back into parts of the routine; going in to work, prepping for football, getting materials ready, yada, yada, yada. I’m exhausted after two days and I’m not even officially back…it’s going to be a rough start-up.

I just returned from a family vacation the other day and I’m still in that “I need a vacation from the vacation mode,” which might explain why I feel tired. Jo-Anne and I took the boys to Minneapolis and Wisconsin Dells. In Minnie we made our first visit to Valleyfair, which was great, but not quite the same as Wonderland. The boys enjoyed all the attractions, especially the coasters; dad, not so much.

The second part of the trip took us to the The Dells for the first time. The “Water Park Capital” certainly has a lot of waterparks. We got our fill of water rides, coasters and go carts. The boys’ favourite spot was definitely the wave pool at Mount Olympus called “Poseidon’s Rage.” Every two minutes a gigantic wave comes rolling through the pool; we positioned ourselves at the 3 foot level where the wave would break, pummel us with water and send us flying backward. We spent hours in there and I may have left with a slight concussion.

So since I was away for a bit, I haven’t had railway time lately. However, I did manage to get some in before our trip south of the border. If you remember, I had a presentation scheduled at the Chik-Wauk Museum for August 14th. This was going to be my first full-length lecture on the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad, so I was pretty excited. It went well, but the turn out was a bit disappointing. Unfortunately there were several other events coinciding with it that contributed to the lack of bodies in the seats. The good news is that I’m going to be back there next summer with the same presentation and hopefully a bigger audience.

Because I had to go there for the presentation, I decided that I would take the opportunity to do some field work at Gunflint. I booked a night with John and Rose at the Cross River Lodge so we could hike the next day before heading home. What would be different for this hike was the fact that I had a larger entourage; in addition to the boys, my wife joined us as well (with a lot of prodding). I was hopefully going to trace the route of the G&LS along the north shore of Crab Lake, if luck was on my side.

After a nice ride across the lake, we beached the boat south of Bridal Falls. From there we walked to the top of the falls, about 700 metres, which was made a little more difficult by a number of trees knocked down on the trail by recent storms. There we split up, with Jo-Anne and the boys continuing east along the Border Route Trail for 1500 metres to where it intersects with the Crab Lake Trail. They would then take the latter trail south for 900 metres and await my arrival.

In the meantime, I would follow parts of the railroad grade south for 800 metres until I reached Crab Lake. From there, the meeting point at the east end of the lake was more than a kilometre away, the temperature was climbing and there was not a stitch of wind. I had no idea how difficult the walk would be and what the bush looked like.

Turns out, it was quite the mess. The last time I walked the railroad grade in the summer it nearly killed me (not literally)…this time was pretty close. The tall grass made it very difficult to see where you were stepping and there was a lot to trip over. The area was burned by the 2007 Ham Lake Fire and there was already a ton of deadfall on ground. Recent storms pushed many dead, burned trees over, making some areas a nightmare to negotiate.

Thankfully I had success in my goal of following the grade. I did find several spikes and one fishplate along the way, as well as a few examples of rock work beside the lake. There were a few spots where I could not find any traces, but in general I was able to get the route down. I did cut the hike a bit short at the east end of the lake as I was completely exhausted and I could literally feel my hamstrings tightening up on me (walking over all the deadfall tends to do that). I’ll have to try and get that part done at some other time, maybe next year.

Railroad grade along Crab Lake, August 2016.

Railroad grade along Crab Lake, August 2016.

Spike at Crab Lake, August 2016.

Spike at Crab Lake, August 2016.

Railroad grade along Crab Lake, August 2016.

Railroad grade along Crab Lake, August 2016.

Fishplate at Crab Lake, August 2016.

Fishplate at Crab Lake, August 2016.

Railroad grade along Crab Lake, August 2016.

Railroad grade along Crab Lake, August 2016.

Railroad grade along Crab Lake, August 2016.

Railroad grade along Crab Lake, August 2016.

I had kept in radio contact with the family the entire way, so they were waiting for me when I was done. At our reunion, I was greeted by the sight of my wife with a large, bloody gash on her forehead. Apparently she had an unfortunate encounter with a dead tree branch, earning herself a nice cut, or better yet, a “battlescar.” Hey, did I mention that battlescar was my nickname when I was in the army reserves? Obviously a play on my last name, I thought it was an appropriate term for her boo boo.

Hiking injury, August 2016.

Hiking injury, August 2016.

The walk back was tough as we battled through the stifling 31C heat. However it was compensated by the beautiful panorama that we passed beside on the trail. It would be great to visit that spot in the fall as the leaves changed colour; I’ll have to keep this in mind for the future. It was a very productive hike and I am excited to get back to Gunflint in October for another round of field work.

Panorama of Gunflint and North Lakes, August 2016.

Panorama of Gunflint and North Lakes, August 2016.

My next big event to look forward to is the Northern Great Plains History Coneference in St. Cloud, MN on September 17th. I think I’m ready, but my brain so isn’t there right now…too much school stuff to think about. I am sure I’ll be good to go when the time comes, but it all adds to my anxiety. It is going to be a quick trip as well; I leave after school on Friday for the six hour drive to St. Cloud. Hopefully I don’t get in too late, because the presentation is at 9am (cst) after which I need to head back home. What a whirlwind visit!

Anyway, I better go. Way to many things to do right now. I’ll be back in the near future, probably after the trip to St. Cloud. Until then…

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2016 in Hiking, History, Railway, Travel

 

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The view from the Balcony

I think I’ve mentioned on many occasions that I love the Boundary Waters between Canada and the US; North and Gunflint Lakes are my favourite places in all of this area. It is probably the combination of remoteness, beauty and history that draw me to it and continues to do so. I’ve already been there a lot this year and I wish I could be there even more. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know what I’m referring to…it’s all in the view!

Sunrise, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

Sunrise, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

So it is hard to believe that my vacation is already half over…where did the time go? I can answer my own question very easily though. I have not been home very much; this past week is my longest stretch I’ve been at home since school ended. Unfortunately the weather this year has not been very cooperative, with quite a bit of rain and crazy temperature swings. Hopefully things steady up for August.

So last week was a busy week for me on the railway front as I had a number of events on the go. Things got rolling on Sunday the 20th when I travelled down to Gunflint and the Chik-Wauk Museum for a presentation on the Paulson Mine and the railway. There was a good turnout on the front porch of the museum and the audience was very interested in the history of both enterprises; there were a lot of questions afterwards. This was my second appearance at Chik-Wauk and I decided this time around to place my focus more on the mine as opposed to the railway. You can watch the presentation online here.

My trip to down Gunflint had a dual purpose, the second of which was to do a bit of field exploration on a little project that I am working on. I mentioned in my last post that I am planning to write an article on the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad, which was a little logging line that branched off the PAD&W at Little Gunflint Lake and travelled several miles into Minnesota. The last time I had done any extensive exploration of the G&LS was way back in 1997.

I was up very early on Monday the 21st as I wanted to get going before things got too hot. The temperatures were supposed to be close to 30C in the afternoon. My other big concern of the day was the wind; Gunflint Lake is over 11km long, very narrow and situated in a valley. When the wind picks up, especially from the west, the water gets very angry. My ride from the Cross River Lodge was slowed by the waves, which were already up at that time, but by 9:30 I was on the beach at the eastern end of the lake.

The first part of the day would involve following the G&LS grade north-east to where it intersected the PAD&W. I was last in this location in July 2011 and in addition to the timing, the weather was eerily similar. That time I walked 13km from Trestle Bay to the same sandy beach in some killer heat…I’m pretty sure I had heat exhaustion. Before the day was over, I would find myself in a similar situation.

Until the 1999 blowdown, the grade of the G&LS in Ontario was a nice little trail about 400 metres long. The blowdown and 2007 fire unfortunately did a number on it and I remembered how difficult it was to explore from my experience 3 years earlier. My plan was to hike to the PAD&W, cutting a trail and marking it for future exploration in the fall or next spring when it would be more visible without the leaves. It would be a little more challenging without my trusty machete (which first hiked with me in 1994) since I wasn’t comfortable taking it across the border. That left me with my K-Bar knife, another trusty friend, but its packs a little less punch than the machete.

It did not take me very long to realize that this would be a difficult journey. Away from the lake it was stifling hot in the bush, and the thick forest growth made it very difficult to cut a trail. Very quickly I was dripping in sweat and the mosquitoes and black flies were eating me alive (even active bug dope doesn’t last long with that kind of perspiration). It took me over 2 hours to cover all 800 metres, which is rather ridiculous (most people can walk that in 20 minutes).

After photographing the area where the grade crossed into Minnesota, I jumped into the boat for a 1.5km journey around the peninsula to where the railroad rounded a bay and crossed a small river. However, try as I might, I could not find a place to beach the boat to start the hike. I was forced to backtrack to the narrows between Gunflint and Little Gunflint. It was a bit of a challenge getting into to the narrows; this year with all the snow and rain, the water on the lakes is several feet above where it normally is. I had to fight a very strong current coming through the narrows before I could beach the boat.

Boundary Marker, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

Boundary Marker, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

G&LS Crossing, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

G&LS Crossing, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

G&LS Crossing, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

G&LS Crossing, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

It was after 1:00 when I started on the 750 metre journey along the twisting grade to the bridge crossing. This was going to be an interesting hike for me, as I was entering some “virgin” territory if you will. I had only ever hiked about 100 metres of this portion of the G&LS so I was excited to see what I would find. The only downside was that the wind had dropped and the temperature was climbing fast.

This section of the G&LS turned out to almost as bad as the one I had hiked in the morning. There was a lot of deadfall and new growth, but there was a lot to see as well. For a logging railroad, this part of the line was very well constructed. There were a few sizable rock cuts, and rock fill had been used in a number of places. Corduroyed logs were still visible in the water under parts of the grade, exactly where they were placed some 111 years ago. I did get sidetracked a little bit, losing the grade for a short distance until I backtracked and got myself going in the right direction. When I reached the river crossing, I was unable to continue following the grade to its end due to some wet ground; it would turn out to be mute a point anyway since I slightly miscalculated the exact location of the crossing.

G&LS grade, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

G&LS rock cut, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

The journey back was a bit of an ordeal since the heat was beginning to take a toll on my body. Despite drinking water and Gatorade to keep myself hydrated, my legs began to cramp trying to negiotiate all the fallen trees and brush. I really had to will myself back to the boat and it reminded me so much of my experience in 2011. When I later returned to the lodge the thermometer was showing 94F, which works out to be 34C and with the humidity it was nearly 45C!

Now despite the searing temperatures, I was not finished for the day. Back in 1997 I had identified a piece of “machinery” near the site of the logging camp along the G&LS. It turns out that this was not some random chunk of steel, but rather a gear shaft from a specialized locomotive known as a Shay. Made by the Lima Locomotive Works, Shays were used typically on logging railroads because of the heavy grades involved. The kind folks at shaylocomotives.com had helped my identify one of the engines used by the G&LS as SN-164, but they wanted me to measure the shaft to confirm it. Turns out this shaft was not from SN-164, but most likely from another loco SN-683.

Shay shaft, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

Shay shaft, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

Unfortunately my next day of exploring was a bit of a wash due to some heavy rain overnight and some pretty wicked winds on the lake. I did venture out after supper for a quick run (which is a relative term, since it is 6km away) to Leeblain. I had not been there since last August, so I figured it was time for a check in. My excitement very quickly turned to disappointment though; I was not very pleased at what I saw, but I’ll save that thought for my later.

Wednesday was my last day and even though I was leaving, I was hoping to make up for some lost time. I had to move quick though, as I needed to be home by the early evening. My first stop across the lake was the site of the river crossing just south of Monday’s hike. I beached the boat and poked around a bit looking for the where the grade resumed. I became very frustrated when I could not find anything, so I jumped back into the boat hoping to find some traces of the bridge. Turns out I could not find anything as I was looking about 15-20 feet too far west. I’ll have to get back when I have more time and when the water is lower to expand this find.

From the river I drove 2.5km southwest to where the Crab River empties into the lake. There a 600 metre trail that heads west toward a beautiful set of falls known as Bridal Falls and about 40 metres beyond that is the grade of the G&LS. I was last there in 2011 and the trail at that time was much easier to negotiate; this year’s weather left sections of the route very wet and muddy. However arriving at the falls was well worth the walk, but that would have to wait for later.

The falls had more water cascading over its rocks than I ever remember seeing, which made it a real challenge crossing over the river toward the railroad. Before the 2007 fire there was an amazing wood corduroy trestle beside the falls, but that is a story for another time. Starting at the top end of the former trestle, I worked my way up and south over the ridge toward Crab Lake. Eventually after about 200 metres the grade became too wet for me to follow so I decided to leave it for my return trip in the fall.

G&LS rock cut, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

G&LS rock cut, Gunflint Lake, July 2014.

Before I had to make my way back across the lake to the lodge I had a little spare time to do something that I haven’t been able to indulge in in recent years. Since I caught the “bug” in the early 1990’s, I have always loved photography. Before marriage and a family I had time to do both the railway and photography, but those times are long gone, so it is very rare that I have time these days to take photos. I found myself getting a little giddy as I snapped away!

Bridal Falls, July 2014.

Bridal Falls, July 2014.

Bridal Falls, July 2014.

Bridal Falls, July 2014.

Now one of the biggest results of the whole trip was what I discovered at Leeblain. I didn’t have a lot of time to poke around, but I did check over the rock ovens. I found that two of the three remaining intact ovens had been tampered with. I don’t think it was a malicious act, but rather an attempt an individual (or individuals) to help? clean up the ovens. However at 122 years old and having been through a lot of turmoil in the past 15 years, this is not the type of interference they need. Unfortunately this is not the first example of someone trying to “help” these historic sites. I have followed this up with a series of emails; I’ll see what transpires.

Rock oven, Leeblain, July 2014.

Rock oven, Leeblain, July 2014.

Rock oven, Leeblain, July 2014.

Rock oven, Leeblain, July 2014.

Anyway, I better get rolling. There’s a lot to digest in this post, so I better save some for next time. Until then…

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2014 in Hiking, History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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The things we do!

My dad told me it would happen at some point in my life. He even guaranteed it. At the time I refused to believe it was possible; I probably told him he was making it up. Why? Most likely it was because I did not know any better. Oh the foolishness of youth! My dad is probably watching me right now and laughing. If he were here he’d tell me I told you so. Karma right? Totally one hundred percent!

If you’re looking for the answer to that cryptic series of sentences, you’ll have to keep reading. In the meantime, let’s get up to speed shall we?

So we’ve arrived at the midway point of July; wow, that was fast! Time flies when you’re having fun right? The last time I posted was the end of June and I was getting ready for the end of school. A lot has happened in that time. The football trip to Duluth was great, and the team certainly enjoyed themselves. It was also a good time for the coaches, though it was hard to get my brain into football mode at this time of the year. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to go back next year.

Yesterday we arrived home from a fourteen-day trip to Toronto. My wife was taking an AP math course there and the boys and I headed down on the 2nd. It was an interesting road trip to since I had never taken the boys that far by myself. It went well though, and we eventually met up with mom on the 4th.

Old Woman Bay, Lake Superior, July 2014.

Old Woman Bay, Lake Superior, July 2014.

Our first weekend was taken up by two trips down to Hamilton and the Niagara region. On Saturday we visited the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum, located at the Hamilton airport. We were supposed to go there on last year’s trip, but it was closed due to a freak storm that caused damage to the facility. By fluke the museum had a special visitor, which was a B-17 Flying Fortress “Sentimental Journey” from the Commemorative Air Force Museum in Arizona. For $5 we got to tour the plane, which really made you appreciate the challenges the crew faced manning the plane. We did not see it take off, but the Mynarski Memorial Lancaster was waiting on the tarmac sporting its special D-Day anniversary markings.

B-17 "Sentimental Journey," July 2014.

B-17 “Sentimental Journey,” July 2014.

Mynarski Memorial Lancaster, July 2014.

Mynarski Memorial Lancaster, July 2014.

Sunday we were back in Niagara, this time very close to the falls. After dropping my wife and my brother’s girlfriend off at the outlet mall, the boys, my brother and I headed to the Battle of Chippawa Historic Site. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battles of Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane from the War of 1812, the park would be hosting a re-enactment of Chippawa on July 5th, and then a re-enactment of Lundy’s Lane on the 6th (which really happened on July 25th).

Entering the site you were greeted by various historical vendors, which was rather neat to see. Passing the “gates,” there were rows and rows of tents of the re-enactors and their families. It was fascinating to see so many people dressed in historical attire, though watching them eat potato chips and drink bottled water did solicit a bit of a chuckle on my part.

The festivities began with an artillery demonstration by the six cannons that would be taking part in the re-enactment and then followed by a performance by The Drums Crown Forces 1812 band. The Battle of Lundy’s Lane was one of the bloodiest battles of the War of 1812, and most likely the bloodiest battle ever fought on Canadian soil. The re-enactment was fantastic; the volleys of musket fire, booms of the artillery and the blinding smoke really gave you a sense of what an early nineteenth century battlefield was like. I’ve already made one video of the event with more in the works.

Artillery demonstration, Battle of Lundy's Lane, July 2014.

Artillery demonstration, Battle of Lundy’s Lane, July 2014.

Battle of Lundy's Lane, July 2014.

Battle of Lundy’s Lane, July 2014.

Battle of Lundy's Lane, July 2014.

Battle of Lundy’s Lane, July 2014.

Monday the 7th was a rainy day in Toronto, which was the perfect weather for what I had in store for the day. I had decided a long time ago that if we did this trip, I wanted to pay a visit to the Archives of Ontario, which are now located on the campus of York University. It was a short bus ride from my brother’s house to the Archives (due to new subway construction on Keele Street, I walked from Finch Avenue to the Archives).

Back in 1999 I made my first to the Archives to examine a very important file associated with the sale of the railway. I had made some notes from this legal suite that went to the High Court of Ontario, but I felt that I needed to go over it again to find more specific details. It’s funny on how our perceptions can change over time and when I opened the file it seemed to me that it was much larger than I remember. Since I’m not a lawyer, and obviously there is a lot of legal stuff in the file that I don’t quite understand, I ended up photographing the whole thing with my iPad so I could go over it later. It probably saved me a lot of time, but it still took me almost 3 hours to go through the whole thing and left me with some very sore shoulders!

Another highlight from the trip was the celebration of Noah’s 7th birthday. After looking at a number of venues, we settled on a trip to the Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament. Other than my brother, none of us had ever been there, but I had heard a lot of good things about it. It was pretty cool from start to finish. We were seated in one of the front rows of the blue section, and in between some great performances we enjoyed the very “medieval” meal served to us on pewter bowls and plates; the soup, chicken, ribs, potato, bread and dessert were all consumed without the aid of any utensils. Our knight was not champion on the evening, but I would definitely go back again.

When we travelled to Toronto last year, Noah had unfortunately broken his left arm only a few weeks before the trip. This left him unable to really enjoy one of the great attractions of Toronto, which is Canada’s Wonderland. It would be different this time around, which brings me to the title of today’s post. You see, my oldest son Ethan has evolved into quite the thrill-seeker. He decided, much to my chagrin, that he wanted to do all the crazy coasters at the park (Noah isn’t quite tall enough yet). The problem is that his dad isn’t very good with heights and I have never been a really been a fan of these crazy rides. But, like any good dad would do, I choked back my fears and jumped in with both feet.

After a couple tame rides, Ethan decided it was time to take on the Leviathan; it is the tallest and fastest roller coaster in Canada, with a height of 306 feet and speeds approaching 150kph. I actually felt ill as we approached the front of the line and it got worse as we climbed that first big hill in the car. The initial drop is near vertical and the speed is numbing. As I fought hard to control my fear and panic, all I could hear was Ethan screaming “this is awesome!” When it was over, it was great to get back on to solid ground, though my fingertips were white and my legs were like Jello. In spite of those things, I later got on the Behemoth and was a bit more relaxed. The things we do…

So other than the trip to the Archives, things on the railway front have been quiet, having been in Toronto and all. However, that is about to change very soon. On Sunday I will be giving my first lecture of the year at the Chik-Wauk Museum at the end of the Gunflint Trail. My first presentation there in 2012 was very successful so they have asked to me return and speak again on the front porch of the museum. This time my emphasis will be more on the Paulson Mine end of things, which means I have a bit of work to do to modify my usual lecture to be ready.

I’m planning on spending a few days on Gunflint Lake after Sunday; if the weather cooperates I’ll be doing some field work in the area. I did have to modify my plans somewhat, since the bush is still a little wet from all the rain we had in the spring. I’ll be focussing my attention on the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad, which was a small logging line that branched off the PAD&W at Little Gunflint Lake and ran about 4 miles into Minnesota. It was owned by the Pigeon River Lumber Company and operated from 1903 to 1909. This visit is actually some preliminary work for a trip I have planned for Thanksgiving weekend in October when the leaves are down and it is easier to see things.

So this visit to Minnesota reminds me of my trip to hike there in 1998. Since it’s been twenty years of work on the railway, it seems appropriate to take another stroll down memory lane. At the time I was not yet 25 years old and had just completed my first year of supply teaching. I would be heading down at the end of June, since it was the only time I could fit it into the schedule of my other part-time job. Since money was tight and I couldn’t afford a lot of extravagances, my accommodations for the trip were my small tent and a camp site at the Gunflint Pines Resort.

After stopping for some provisions in Grand Marais, I headed up the Gunflint Trail for the first time ever and made my way to Gunflint Lake. After arriving, I spent the afternoon walking along the Gunflint Narrows Road from the Cross River right up to the Narrows. It had rained earlier in the day, but thankfully it held off and let me accomplish all of my objectives. It wasn’t a super adventurous hike, but it was amazing to see some of the big rock cuts on the road. At the Cross River I could see a few traces of the trestle that once spanned the river.

Gunflint Narrows, June 1998.

Gunflint Narrows, June 1998.

Gunflint Narrows Road, June 1998.

Gunflint Narrows Road, June 1998.

The next day I headed over to the Round Lake Road to try and trace the railway as it passed through a switchback and made it’s way to the Paulson Mine. I initially had some difficultly finding the grade as it looped through a swamp (I would have the same problem years later) so I ended up searching for a rock cut that was supposed to be just beside the road. I did find it and followed it along to the location of the first of two trestles in the area, but I could not find the western side (in 2011 I would determine that there were in fact two rock cuts and two trestles, one slightly above the other). I picked up the grade a little farther west and could see the lower arm of the switchback under the forest canopy (my plan to follow it later in the day would be frustrated by rain).

Rock cut, June 1998.

Rock cut, June 1998.

The railway took me along the north side of a ridge, through a number of small rock cuts until I reached a long rock embankment. From there it was into a long, dark rock cut, which is now a big attraction on the Centennial Trail, but back then very grown in and difficult to navigate. A short time later I reached the eastern side of a 400 foot trestle; unfortunately, owing to the very thick forest growth, I could not locate where the western side resumed. Today I know that it is blasted out of the side of the ridge but at the time I had no idea where to look. I had to head south to skirt the valley and at the same time try to locate the grade. I ended up on the top of the opposite ridge with the railway nowhere in sight; I actually got lost for a while try to figure out where I was. I eventually located the grade on the north side of the ridge and worked my west until I found a spot where there was a manageable descent. I planned on locating the western side of the trestle on my way back.

As I headed west the weather took a turn and it began to drizzle; I’m not sure if you can picture what it was like, but hiking along this overgrown railway, soaking wet and tired was not a nice position to be in. A short time later I entered a long rock cut and was amazed to find ties still in their original location. After that I was along the north shore of a small lake, the grade barely above the waterline. On the western shore of this lake was the site of Gunflint City, which was the camp for the mining operations in the area back in 1892-1893. After another 400 metres or so, I found my way blocked by a flooded rock cut, so I headed north and got on the Kekekabic Trail. With the rail coming down and thunder booming in the distance (and also being completely drenched), I decided to call it a day and make my way back via the Kekekabic and the Gunflint Trail; the missing parts would have to wait for another time.

Rock cut, June 1998.

Rock cut, June 1998.

Grade and Gunflint City, June 1998.

Grade and Gunflint City, June 1998.

After drying out back at the resort (the sun came out later in the day), I was back in the same area the next morning. It was bright, sunny and warm and my plan was to explore some of the sites along the Kekekabic Trail, Gunflint City and hopefully locate the Paulson Mine. I made a quick stop at one of the test pits located alongside the trail (mislabelled as the Paulson Mine; now it is the third of five test pits in the area) and then headed toward Gunflint City. It would be a bit of a hike over the ridge between the trail and the mining camp, but I eventually made it. There I found some remains of the buildings that were at the site and it was interesting trying to envision what it would have looked like back in the 1890’s.

From Gunflint City it was back over the ridge toward the Paulson Mine. Finding the shaft, I was a bit disappointed at the state it was in. Surrounded by a green snow fence, the opening was completely blocked by several trees that had fallen across the collar of the shaft, shielding my view of the inside. I was able to explore the site a bit, finding some pieces of machinery and seeing the piles of oxidizing tailings excavated from the shaft.

Once I was back on the Kekekabic Trail, I headed west about 1.5 kilometres to Mine Lake (known historically as Akeley Lake). On the western side of the lake was a shaft that was sunk around the time as the other locations. I found what would turn out to be the best preserved mine in the area (which has changed today-see my June 25 post) and a lot of machinery scattered around the site. All of my time for the day was used up by that point so I had to sadly head back to the resort. The last day of the trip was spent on the lake doing a little exploring and taking some pictures.

Anyway, it’s time to get rolling. I will be back next week with some posts about my presentation and field work. Until then…

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2014 in History, Railway, Travel, Writing

 

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