Lately days off haven’t been happening around here. As a result, crankiness abounded and everything started to seem like a lot of work. So on Wednesday, after I completed the last phone interview necessary for the August batch of articles, Andy and I decided to take a hike.
Last year, the Forest Service completed a new 3-mile loop trail in the area called the Centennial Trail (last year was the Superior National Forest’s centennial) which follows an abandoned railroad bed from the 1890s and goes past several test pits of an abandoned mine from the same era. In addition, the trail offers a snapshot of the forest fire/blowdown events of the last decade. The interpretative trail is pretty much in our backyard and despite sending several inquiring visitors to our respected work places to go hike the new path, neither Andy nor I had actually hiked the entire trail.
The trail itself isn’t terribly difficult, but it’s awfully interesting. Along the way, there are 14 markers along the pathway which point out unique historical and natural history factoids about this path which goes under where a wooden rail trestle once stood and passes through a 120 year old rock cut. This is the corner of our woods that was, more than a century before, a bustling town of laborers, complete with a brothel. Now, looking at the pathway through scrubby brush, it’s hard to imagine the blind optimism that prompted prospectors to stomach the expense of building a railroad here which would remove only a single load of minerals during its entire life.
|Andy peers down into one of the test pits along the trail, where mineral prospectors searched for minerals in the soil. They found iron ore . . . just not quite as much as they found farther west in the state, on the Iron Range.|
|Centennial Trail overlook, looking towards Gunflint Lake and showing burn from the Ham Lake Fire and blowdown from 1999.|