August 19th to the 21: Beatrice Lake Retreat

As predicted, the temps dropped into the 30s that night in Orr. But the front had moved through and the sun was shining brightly on Sunday morning.
Check out time at Norman's was 10:00am but Betsy got them to extend that to noon so I could get some web work done.

While I pecked away at the keyboard and worked the mouse, Betsy took a walk over to the shore of Pelican Lake. The lake is pretty big, nearly 12, 000 acres. As you can see from the Google map below Norms Hotel is on Orr Bay and that is where Betsy went for a walk.

Pelican Lake MN

While Betsy was strolling the bay she saw a beaver busily munching on some vegetation. It paid her no mind and she got fairly close. But with no camera there is no picture to show you but this one from WikiPedia.

American Beaver

I finally finished my web work and we got out of there around 11:30. But since we had only about 35 miles to our next destination, the time did not matter.

Click on the photos below for a larger image.

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I took advantage of the obligatory photo op before we went down the road and on to our next camping adventure.

Speaking of camping adventures - Betsy and I have been at it for a while. One of our first dates was an overnight camp-out in a borrowed tent. That was either in the fall of 1980 or the spring of 1981. Neither of us can remember now.
At the time all I had for a tent was an El Cheapo pup tent with a leaky floor which I had purchased at an Army Surplus store. It had so many guy wires for support it was a hazard to walk around and a pain in the ass to get in and out of. And it was a one piece, single wall tent which meant it had no rain fly. Instead it had a "waterproof" coating on the fabric.
With no rain fly to trap a warm air layer between the tent and cold outside air, it meant all the water vapor released while you were breathing would condense on the inside of the tent and then rain down on you. Definitely not a 4, or even 3 season tent! Now, this was OK by me. I got used to it and took it on a number of cool weather trips. But it just would not do for a date with Betsy, now would it? I mean, after all, can you imagine all the condensation from two of us?! (Pant,pant!)

Pup tent

My 1979 model pup tent looked sort of like this one. But, mine did have a floor in it.

Since Betsy and I were still in the very early stages of our romance of course I was very keen to impress her and do what I could to make sure she had a good time with her new hill-billy boy friend. So, I knew that old pup tent simply would not do for our camping date.
Enter Geary (AKA The Grand Poobah). I had met Geary when I joined the WVU Grotto which was the student caving club. At the time he was the President. Geary had a lot of outdoor sports experience; caving, rock climbing, ice climbing, back packing, etc. And he had all the gear to go with it. This included a then space age tent called a North Face Ring Oval Intention. At the time it was the Cadillac of Mountaineering tents and cost a whopping 650 bucks.

North Face Ring Oval Intention

I told Geary about my big date with Betsy and I either asked to borrow, or he offered to loan me his North Face Ring Oval Intention. Awesome! Now I knew Betsy could not help but be impressed by my outdoor savvy and way-cool tent!

I remember that night well. Our tent site was situated on the banks of Lake Terra Alta. It was about dusk and it was time to get about the task of setting up the Oval Intention.

Take a look at the above photo again. The Oval has 6, extruded aircraft aluminum tent polls. And there are 3 different pole lengths which all need to be threaded through the appropriate set of rings in order to set up the tent. So when you laid out the tent flat and looked at it, you saw about 40 rings.
Geary had shown me how to set it up, so - no problem. Well, about an hour later and after many combinations of pole and rings tried I simply had no luck.
It was getting dark and I was embarrassed, pissed and frustrated. So, I finally gave up and told Betsy I was going to call Geary and ask him for some help. Then, the unexpected happened. Betsy said "Let me try". I figured at this point we had nothing to lose so I told her to go ahead and give it a shot. 15 minutes later the tent was up. To this day I still have no clue how she figured out the right pole/ring combination - of which there were many. And she did it with very little day light left.
Now, guess who was impressed? HA!

That little adventure was the first of many fun camping trips we were to have. And after that I decided to upgrade my tent to something a little more suitable for future camping dates, and our not too distant 7 week long Honeymoon.
So after consulting with Geary, he suggested I think about a North Face VE-24. It was similar in design to the Oval Intention, but smaller, had 4 poles instead of 6, and most importantly the poles were all the same length. And, instead of steel rings to stay the poles, it had pole sleeves. A vast improvement over the ring method.

I was excited about getting the tent and told Betsy, who then lived in Cleveland, all about it. Armed with a brand new tent we made plans for another camping adventure. This one would be in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, an area I had only recently become acquainted with while on a Fern Survey with Warren H. (Herb) Wagner.

So one afternoon in the spring of 1981, I drove up to Cleveland with all the camping gear at the ready. I arrived prior to Betsy getting home from work so I decided to surprise her. As soon as I got there I a unpacked the tent and then set it up in the living room! Boy, I wish I had a picture of that. So, when Betsy got home from work she got quite a surprise, as did her two house mates.

The next morning Betsy and I left Cleveland and drove north to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When we got there we decided on Little Beaver Campground. It was remote, small and on a nice little lake. We unpacked and then set up the brand new VE-24.

Betsy Beal with out new North FAce VE-24 tent at Little Beaver Campground: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Here, in 1981, next to Little Beaver Lake, Betsy poses with the new VE-24 tent.
(AKA "the Love Nest")
Note the "Bug Bonnet" - that is one of the same ones we have on this current Minnesota trip - 31 years later.

Betsy Beal cooking at Little Beaver Campground: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Here is our site at Little Beaver Campground. Some of the gear you see here is with us on this Minnesota trip - 31 years later.

Betsy Beal with camera at Little Beaver Campground: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

The lovely Betsy Beal - my bride to be.

Skinny-dippin Betsy - 1981 - The UP of Michigan

The year was 1981. The place was Little Beaver Campground. The attraction: a skinny dippin' Betsy Beal!
This was the Water Sprite's first skinny dip. The first of many as you well know!

Ok - enough about the good old days. Time to get back to the good new days.

After taking the picture of Betsy in front of the Giant Blue Gill, we departed Orr and wandered our way south towards McCarthy Beach State Park. Our destination was to be Beatrice Lake Campground. The campground is actually in Sturgeon River State Forest, but it is managed by the staff of McCarthy Beach State Park.

Beatrice Lake has 30 sites with no electricity, no running water, has vault toilets and no accommodation for large RVs.
The State Park campground has 60 sites, 21 of which have electric and accommodates RVs up to 40'long and has all the amenities. Since we prefer "primitive" camping, Beatrice Lake was a logical choice.

I found this description of the roadways to the campsite which nicely captures the feel of the place. of the first memorable scenes one encounters is a boulevard of towering red pines that grow right to the edge of the road. What’s more interesting is that the road’s lanes are divided by a center boulevard of stately pines, so the roadway becomes a narrow corridor overshadowed by giant, stately trees. The effect does not last very long, but the image is reminiscent of Lake Itasca and other “avenue of pines” types of roadways.

Source: Copyright 1999-2012., Inc.

Indeed there were some nice big Red and White pine along with some nice mature White Birch all along the road to the campground as well as in the campground itself.

We pulled into the campground access road and drove past the self registration kiosk. We immediately saw a small RV in the first site along with a screen tent and all manner of other camping comforts. There was also a sign which said "Campground Host". This surprised me.
We continued on through the campground carefully looking over each site. The road wound up a small hill and we saw several promising looking sites. There was only one other campsite occupied. We got out and did an inspection on foot. We went from site to site and then settled on #9 - for now. While I stayed at #9, Betsy went to look at the rest of the sites. She was gone just long enough for me to start wondering exactly where she had got off to. I started walking down the road in the direction she had gone when she reappeared. She said "I found the walk-in sites" and waived to me to come in her direction.
I got back in the van and drove down to where she was standing and this is what I saw.

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Beyond the sign are the 3 walk-in sites with #19 being at the very end, separated by itself. This was starting to look good.

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When I first saw this sign I thought "Maybe there is a god...".
Never before had I seen a sign like this in a campground. What a radical concept.

We left the van parked in the area marked for site 19 and then headed down to the registration station. We paid for 3 nights. We had now walked the whole campground loop. Other than the camp host only one other site was occupied.

When we got back to the van we started the process of unloading everything and hauling it back to the campsite. This included the Kayaks. It took awhile to get everything back to the site and set up, but it was certainly worth the effort.

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Now that we have settled in it is time for a little relaxin'.

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There was a path down to the water from our site and I found a nice place to set up my old lawn chair for the next day's morning coffee. Nice and quiet. I have had that old chair for many years. I rescued it from the garbage years ago and put a new cover on. And as I recently said to someone: "I don't leave home without it".
Have lawn chair - will travel.

After a nice quiet Happy Hour at our new home we set about getting dinner ready. Betsy fixed a nice salad for the starter course. So far we have had only nocturnal rains on this trip. Very lucky for us. Trying to fix dinner in the rain would be a real drag.
I set about dicing up a mess of onions and green peppers which I sauteed and then I threw in a pound of ground beef until it was well browned. Then came the jarred spaghetti sauce which I let simmer for about 30 minutes. Below is the result.

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Whole wheat pasta smothered in semi home made spaghetti sauce. Pretty tasty!

Notice the nice color of the sauce. This is from my special ingredient - blood. Human blood that is. While I was slicing up the peppers and onions I managed to slice off a piece of my thumb as well. It bled quite profusely and by the time Nurse Betsy got it bandaged the plate full of onions and peppers had a nice covering of the sticky red stuff. No matter. It did not seem to effect the taste.

After we cleaned up and stowed the cookware, I went on a hunt for some firewood. The two previous places we camped I had no luck - picked clean. But, here I was able to scrounge enough for our first campfire of the trip.

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Betsy has been diligent about keeping up with her journal and being next to the fire made for a toasty spot to work on it.
The tent you see in the background is what I packed for this trip. So we have been taking turns sleeping in the van and tent. Both are comfy.
We have a big tent now, one which we can stand up in. But for some reason we decided not to bring it. The VE-24 which we used during our courtship, our honeymoon and for many years afterwards had to be taken out of service. The rain fly got pretty tattered and eventually needed replaced. I bit the bullet and paid the $220 for a new, and thankfully greatly improved one. But it was not long after that the floor started to leak. And not just through the seams. It was oozing through the floor. At that time I knew of no remedy for a leaky floor but having it replaced, a very expensive proposition. So it has been in storage now for at least 4 years.
But I recently stumbled across this at the Backpacker Magazine site.

Restoring the floor (Online Bonus)
Just as seam tape will eventually crack and peel, so will the waterproof coating on your tent floor. You can restore the floor and get a few more seasons' use out of it by using a pot scrubber to rub off as many loose flakes as possible. Then sponge off the floor so it is completely clean and allow it to dry. Using a foam brush apply McNett Tent Sure or some other DWR product that is designed specifically for restoring tent floor waterproof coatings (available at most outdoor stores).

Source: Copyright 2011 Cruz Bay Publishing

Guess I will have to dig out the old VE24 and give the Tent Sure a try.

We sat and enjoyed the fire and made plans for the following day - a hike on some of the nearby trails.
After a stroll around the campground we turned in at our usual time - 9:00ish. We dozed off to the sounds of the breeze in the pines and call of the loons in the distance.

Good night....

August 19th to the 21: Beatrice Lake Retreat
Part 2

Our first morning dawned cool and mostly clear. While getting the cobwebs out we snuggeled into the covers to the sounds of the Loons as they greeted thee new day - and each other. I finally crawled out of the can, pured my self a cup of coffee and headed down to my coffe spot by the lake.

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This is the early morning view from my coffee spot on the shores of Beatrice Lake.
BTW - I have found if I brew my coffee the night before and immediatly decant it into a pre-heated stainelss steel Thermos, it is still piping hot the next morning. Then, when the Thermos is empty I brew fresh coffee for Betsy.

After breakfast we loaded up the packs with food and water and went out for our first hike in the area. We would start our hike on the Taconite State Trail.

Beatrice Lake MN-DNR

As you can see from the map above the Taconite State Trail trailhead is just a short distance from our campsite.

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Here we are at the start of our hike on the Taconite State Trail. The trail is quite wide and mowed. We are used to little paths in the woods, so to us this seemed more like a pipeline right-of-way than a hiking trail. And, there is a reason for that - it is used primarily by snow mobiles and horses, not hikers.

The Taconite State Trail stretches 165 miles from Grand Rapids to Ely and intersects with the Arrowhead State Trail just west of Lake Vermillion. The first 6 miles from Grand Rapids are paved for biking and in-line skating. The remainder of the natural surface trail is used primarily for snowmobiling in the winter. The trail goes through a few areas that have standing water in the summer, however portions of the trail are suitable for horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking.

The Taconite Trail winds through forests of birch and aspen intertwined with pine, leading the visitor by many isolated lakes and streams. From Grand Rapids heading north, you see the impact of the taconite and iron mining industry. The northern portion of the trail terrain is rolling and tree covered as it winds through state and national forest land.

Source: Minnesota DNR

Snow mobile groomer

When you consider the size of some of the groomers it is no wonder the trails are so wide. Not exactly what I would call low impact outdoor recreation.

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There are warming huts at regular intervals on the trail.
Firewood? Hauled in on a snowmobile with all the beer.

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At one point the trail went through a plantation of Red Pine. A relatively undisturbed forest is seen on the right where there is much greater species diversity and a good mix of both deciduous and coniferous trees.

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There were plenty of safety and warning signs on the trails. Snow mobilers, like ATVer, sometimes engage in high speed, alcohol fueled driving.

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We finally hit our junction for the Ridge Trail and we were now on a foot and x-country ski trail - much more to our liking.

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Even though it had been pretty dry we did see a few mushrooms.

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I wish Bob was still here so he could ID this for me.

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The ridge trail connected back up with the Taconite State Trail.
We were very glad to see this sign!

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Here Betsy holds a frond of the Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum). I am sure this plant looks very coarse and un-fern like to a lot of people. Bracken Ferns are found on all continents except Antarctica and in all environments except deserts. The genus probably has the widest distribution of any fern in the world. So, although widely distributed all over Planet Earth I have found it is not commonly thought of as a fern. Looks can be deceiving...

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When we got back to camp it was not long before The Water Sprite was back in her element.

We then had a leisurely Happy Hour, dinner and then took a walk around the campground again. To our amazment and delight we were the only people in the entire campground. YIPPEE!
When we got back I built another fire of bone dry White Birch which made a really nice fire.

After talking we would do our own thing on the morrow. Betsy made plans to explore the lake in here kayak and I decided I would drive over near Scenic State Park for some exploring and hiking. Then it was off to bed - Betsy settled down in the tent, and I the van.
The 4 window screens which I had made for the van worked great. Easy on/Easy off and completely bug proof.





August 19th to the 21: Beatrice Lake Retreat
Part 3

The next day we decided to do our own thing. So I visited nearby Scenic State Park and Betsy got ready for an exploration of the shoreline via kayak.

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This is on one of the county roads I traveled to get to Scenic State Park. ATVs are used everywhere up here including on city streets in most of the smaller towns.

Up here it is very typical to see small drives disappearing back into the woods and going back to a small lake. Often there will be a dozen or so mail boxes and markers to indicate which families live there.

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Here are some of the markers at the junction of a small road. At first I thought the tree had been scalloped out and the markers nailed right into the tree.

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A closer look showed that was not the case. Nicely done.

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This was a common site on the back road I drove over to Scenic State Park. Some of the loggers had left absolute pig sties. Others were not so bad. One bonus of these clear cut jobs was lots of branches lying about that we could use for firewood.

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Not too far from the park I spotted this nice meadow and beaver dam pond so I stopped and took a coupla snaps.

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As soon as I pulled into the access road for Scenic State Park, I spotted a small parking area, trail-head and map.


Marked hiking map of Scenic State Park MN

After looking over the map I decided to take the trail out to Chase Point. It turned out to be a good choice.

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A reminder to hikers to clean the mud from their boots so as not spread the seeds of invasive weeds like Tansy.

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Ahhh... the little brown path through the woods. There were many big, beautiful Red and White Pine up on the ridge.

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This was one of several interpretive signs along the Chase Point Trail.

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The bark of White cedar (Thuja occidentalis) is commonly in long fibrous strips that can easily be shredded.

Compact, pyramidal; height 50' to 60', diameter 24" to 36"; trunk often twisted, strongly tapered, and frequently divided into two or more direct stems; branches short and nearly horizontal; sometimes forms almost impenetrable thickets as dead branches are very stiff and persistent; in the open, develops a conical, symmetrical crown. There are numerous ornamental or garden varieties of white cedar known as arborvitae.

Gray to reddish-brown, separating in long, vertical, narrow shreddy strips.

Scalelike; green to yellowish-green; length 1/8" to 1/4", arranged to make the small branches flat; pleasant, aromatic scent when crushed; pungent to the taste.

Fruit (seed)
Small, oblong cone ripens in the fall of the first year; yellowish- brown; size about 1/2" with six to 12 scales borne singly or in large clusters on ends of branches.

Northern part of the state; usually grows in moist places where it is often found in dense pure stands; sometimes found on rather stony ground, singly or in small clumps as far south as Winona County; shade-tolerant.

Source: MN-DNR

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This nice bench made for a good excuse to sit down for a spell.

While I sat there I caught some movement out the corner of my eye. I turned to look and saw a Red Squirrel busily dissecting a pine cone and eating the seeds. I watched it as it worked and worked on it.

Red Squirrel photo by Photo by Dave Brislance

Photo by Dave Brislance at Northern Wilds Media

Then another squirrel appeared and then all manner of squeaks and scolds could be heard from both squirrels. The interloper inched his way up the tree trunk until he was several feet from the feeding squirrel. Then he would dart up the branch and try to nip the feeding squirrel on the rump. He did this repeatedly but all to no avail. The feeding squirrel would not give up its morsel.
At one point the interloper climbed above the feeding squirrel and squeaked and chattered wildly and made half-hearted dashes towards the feeding squirrel. Then the meal was done, the squirrel dropped the cone to the ground and they both vanished.

Spent cone

This is all that was left of the pine cone by the time the squirrel had finished up with it.

Squeaking really does not describe the weirdly, wildly frantic noises they make when agitated. You can hear a good example of what they sound like at

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After all the action was over, I returned to enjoying the view of Sanwick Lake from the bench. It was the middle of the week and very quiet and relaxing.

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As I walked along, I caught a glimpse of these canoers slowly drifting by.

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Kaiser Island can be seen in the distance. A nearby commemorative plaque tells the story of Hugo Kaiser, the park's first superintendent and his family's donation of Kaiser Island.

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At the point I found these doting parents deeply involved in infant adulation. They never even knew I was there...

After my hike up to the point and back, I walked the loop to the Visitors Center and then back around to the parking area. Then it was back down the highway to my next destination.

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After a look at the map I decided to get back to camp via the southern route to Nashwauk and Hibbing.
The blue sky with big puffy clouds and lightly travelled roads made the drive down to Nashwauk and into the heart of the Mesabi Iron Range a pleasant one.

The Mesabi Iron Range is a vast deposit of iron ore and the largest of four major iron ranges in the region collectively known as the Iron Range of Minnesota. Discovered in 1866, it is the chief deposit of iron ore in the United States.

Map of Minnesota 2 Billion Years Ago with Iron Ranges Highlighted

The deposit is located in northeast Minnesota, largely in Itasca and St. Louis counties. It was extensively worked in the earlier part of the 20th century. Extraction operations declined throughout the mid-1970s but rebounded in 2005. China's growing demand for iron, along with the falling value of the US dollar versus other world currencies, have made taconite production profitable again, and some mines that had closed have been reopened, while current mines have been expanded.

Source: WikiPedia

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When I rolled into Nashwauk I noticed this pull-off on the left. It was at the west end of Central Avenue which is also CR 86.

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I walked up the steps to the overlook platform and found the fence line flanked by these trees. They looked like plums to me, but I could not be sure. I was tempted to try one of the fruits but I learned my lesson back in 1969 and decided not to.

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The Hawkins Mine was the first mine in Itasca County, shipping out 25 million tons of iron ore between 1902 and 1962. It represents, to me, the real heart of Minnesota's iron and taconite industry. The small town with the big pits and bigger-hearted people.

The town that borders the Hawkins mine today, Nashwauk, was actually moved at one point during the mine's heyday, because the ore located under Nashwauk's main street was more valuable than the town buildings. Nashwauk's main street still ends at the edge of the pit today.

Source: Minnesota Historical Society

The iron ore mentioned above is called Taconite.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was an abundance of iron ore of such high quality that taconite was considered an uneconomic waste product. By the end of World War II much of the high-grade iron ore in the United States had been exhausted and taconite became a new source of the metal.

Source: WikiPedia

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This is the view from the platform - a flooded open pit mine which was once the Hawkins Mine.

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Looking southwest from the Hawkins Mine overlook in Nashwauk. One can see no end to the flooded area which was once an open pit iron ore mine.

Hawkind mine at Nashwauk MN

Minnesota is "The land of a 10,000 lakes". Actually, the official count of lakes more than ten acres in size is approximately over 11,000. So, a flooded open pit mine is not necessarily an asset up here. Especially when you consider this area will never again be the productive, diverse forest land it once was.

But, the old Hawkins pit is small potatoes. Let's look at the Big Picture.

Nashwalk-Hibbing open pit mines

Although the Hull–Rust–Mahoning Open Pit Iron Mine is said to be a mere 5 miles long and two miles wide, that must refer only to the active portion of the pit. If you take into account the old workings, tailings and ponds it is huge. Remember, this was all forest land. Now it is a wasteland.

And, this is still not really the "Big Picture".

Big Picture - open pit mines area

There are open pit mines, spoil banks and ruination all along the line shown on map. And, if you click on the above image from Google Maps you can zoom in along the line and see the huge gashes open pit mining has left on the landscape.
Of course, The Iron Mining Association of Minnesota sees things differently. Apparently all that matters is making money in the short term, thus insuring future generations will have nothing but a huge environmental mess - and no iron ore.

Over 519 million tons of waste material and 690 million tons of iron ore have been gouged out of the earth since ore shipments began in 1895. If you take into consideration Taconite had little value until after WW II that means a lot of the land was dug up, piled up or hauled away in the last 60 years. Where did all that iron ore go to? Much of it was shipped to the big steel mills in the Lake Erie area. Now, with reduced domestic demand much of it is being shipped to Mexico and China. Iron ore is a finite resource, so is coal.

But we continue to sell off these valuable assets to the highest bidder. This makes the operator/owners rich, but it depletes our reserves and threatens our national security. How ironic that a nation like India, which many Americans still consider a third would country, realizes the need to conserve their natural resources. In fact, India's steel minister has called for a ban on iron exports. What a radical concept! One had to wonder why we don't keep our resources at home to make our country secure and less reliant on exports in the future.

Of course, not all the iron ore mined in Minnesota is exported. We do use some as the graphic below so clearly shows.

Resource consumption by humans

If ever there was a good argument for resource conservation and population control, this graphic clearly illustrates it.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg. This shows only the projected consumption for Americans. Not Chinese, Europeans or anyone else. Makes one wonder exactly how long this rate of consumption can last until the shit hits the fan.

WASHINGTON—Saying there’s no way around it at this point, a coalition of scientists announced Thursday that one-third of the world population must die to prevent wide-scale depletion of the planet’s resources—and that humankind needs to figure out immediately how it wants to go about killing off more than 2 billion members of its species.

Representing multiple fields of study, including ecology, agriculture, biology, and economics, the researchers told reporters that facts are facts: Humanity has far exceeded its sustainable population size, so either one in three humans can choose how they want to die themselves, or there can be some sort of government-mandated liquidation program—but either way, people have to start dying.

Source: The Onion

And in the meantime self proclaimed "greenies" still keep having babies.

Minnesota is not the only state which is "lucky" enough to enjoy the spoils of open pit mines. There is a proposed Taconite Mine in the Penokee Range of Wisconsin.

Gogebic Taconite (GTAC) recently purchased the mineral rights for a vast area in northwestern Wisconsin-- 21,000 acres along 22 miles of the beautiful Penokee Range in Ashland and Iron Counties. GTAC is now proposing to build the largest mine our state has ever seen (it would initially be 4 1/2 miles long, 1/3 mile wide and 900 feet deep) to extract taconite, a type of low-grade iron ore. They have been working behind the scenes for months to gut Wisconsin’s mining law in order to do it, even after claiming that they had no interest in circumventing Wisconsin’s current protections.

Proposed Taconite Mine in the Penokee Range

Sierra Club – John Muir Chapter 222 South Hamilton Street, Suite #1 Madison, WI 53703

Wonderful. How lucky can the people of Wisconsin get? Once again, this will be short term gain and long term destruction of productive forests.


OK! Enough doom and gloom! On to more pleasant things.

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This is the view of downtown Nashwauk from the open pit observation platform. It's a tiny little town. In 1990 the population was around 1200. But it has since shrunk to about 900 people.

The gaudy looking building on the corner is Wizard's Bar and Grill which serves the always popular stuffed hash browns which have close to 1000 calories per serving. Ugh...

Half of main street was torn up and it looked like there was some sort of beautification project underway which included a new crosswalk and access to the Mesabi Trail.

As mentioned before, Nashwauk is in Itasca county. I found this interesting tid-bit in the Public Utilities Commission Blackberry – Nashwauk Pipeline Routing Permit Application (PUC Docket No. PL, E280/GP-06-1481 Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. March 2007)

Itasca County has a total land area of 1,856,000 or 2,900 square miles, of this total about 170,700 acres or 267 square miles is water surface. About 1,331,600 acres of the total is forest land; 121,000 acres is farmland. There are many thousands of acres of mine land, especially near the southeast corner of the county where the project is being proposed. The population of the county was 44,384 in 2005. The county has 14 incorporated cities – Bigfork, Bovey, Coleraine, Deer River, Effie, Grand Rapids, Keewatin, Marble, Nashwauk, Squaw Lake, Taconite, Warba and Zemple.

The county is sparsely settled with an overall average population density of 17 persons per square mile. The Highway 169 route from Grand Rapids to Keewatin is the most densely populated part of the county with approximately 14,000 people living in the roughly 50 square miles along the main road. This will be approximately 280 people per square mile in this portion of the county. The largest city and county seat is Grand Rapids with a population of 7,764 in 2004.

Source: Minnesota Department of Commerce

And just what does the name "Nashwauk" mean?

It is believed that Nashwauk was named after a river in New Brunswick, Canada. The word is said to be from the Algonquin language and means "land between". Northern Minnesota was a vast forest land occupied only by Indians. First by the Sioux and later by the Chippewa.

The first to come to the Nashwauk area in the 1880's were loggers. Most permanent settlers did not come until after 1900 when mining of iron ore became a reality. The town was the first mining community to develop in Itasca County. The first ore was shipped in 1902 from the Hawkins mine. On May 26, 1902 forty acres was deeded to the Nashwauk Realty Company and the town was platted. Nashwauk was incorporated on January 12, 1903 and boasted a population of 220.

Source: Nashwauk City History

I decided to have a look around town and of course ended up out of town in no time. As I headed down a small, unmarked road I saw a sign and stopped to investigate.

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This was an unexpected pleasure! I pulled into an area adjacent to the Community Garden to have a look-see.
As soon as I stepped out of the van I was warmly welcomed in by Carol and Jonathan and given a tour of the gardens.

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Here Carol proudly shows off what will soon be one big pumpkin!

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And a tour was not all I was given! When I mentioned to Karen and Jonathan Betsy and I were camping they loaded me up with enough produce for a delicious dinner for two. Yummy!

I then said "good-bye" to the lovely Nashwauk Community Garden and hoped I would someday be able to return and stay for a while.

Karen, whom I met briefly on my way out related this info about the genesis of the Nashwauk Community Garden.
Turns out Karen started the garden. I found her contact info on the web and emailed her for more info.

It started in January 2011, with planning. Early Spring 2011 was busy getting a site identified and soil tested, meeting with City Officials, forming a Steering Committee and grant writing. United Way was the first organization that supported the effort with a $2,500 initial grant.
Ground was broken on June 5, 2011 and planting began on June 10th.There were 6 original gardeners that first year.

In 2012, the garden has grown to 30 gardeners with almost the entire site being planted and worked. We have 3 apple trees, one cherry tree, 4 honeyberry bushes, raspberry canes and a strawberry patch. We also have two 4x8 ft raised beds for disabled and wheelchair bound residents. This past Spring, the high school shop class built us a shed which now sits on the property. The Fire Department fills the water containers. The City Crew mows the grass. We give 10% of our harvest to the Nashwauk Food Shelf that serves over 70 families every month.
We love our garden!!

We need more of this kind of enthusiasm and dedicated community service!!

My next stop was Hibbing - the town that Taconite built. But we have heard enough about that. I was going to be there for another reason.

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Note the street sign. If you have trouble reading it, click it to get a bigger image.

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Here it is, the house where Bob Dylan spent part of his childhood.

Being a child of the 60's, I spent a lot of time listening to Dylan's albums - usually while stoned out of my mind on weed. The songs were pretty heady stuff for a then 15 year old boy in Morgantown, West Virginia. Now, 45 years later, I stand before the home in which Dylan once lived.

Hibbing, Minnesota is home to famous songwriter and musician Bob Dylan. The world-known artist was born in Duluth on May 24, 1941, and named Robert Allen Zimmerman. The Zimmerman family moved to Hibbing in 1948, and for most of Bob's life in Hibbing, he resided at 2425 7th Avenue East, a street renamed named "Dylan Drive". Although the house is not open for tours, fans can connect with the Dylan mystique by driving past the great musician's childhood home.

Dylan graduated from the historic Hibbing High School in 1959. A copy of the '59 yearbook with his high school photograph is located at the Hibbing Public Library, along with a collection relating to Dylan's life and accomplishments. Tours are available of the historic Hibbing High School where Dylan once performed in the fabulous auditorium. The actual piano that Dylan played in school is still used today.

The Atrium / Zimmy's Restaurant located in downtown Hibbing features more Dylan memorabilia, and every May, people from all over the world travel to the City of Hibbing to celebrate "Dylan Days". The event typically includes a Mystery Bus Tour, Open Mic Night, Live Poetry & Short Story Contest about Bob Dylan, a Bob Dylan Birthday Bash and more! For a complete list of ongoing events and to learn more about Dylan Days contact the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce at 800-4-HIBBING or visit online at

Source: Copyright 2006-2012 - Stuart Johansen - Prudential Northland Realty

Dylan of the 60s

This is how I remember Bob Dylan, from the albums listened to so many times.

Hibbing High School - postcard from the 1940s

Here is Hibbing High School as depicted on a postcard from the 1940s. Apparently Hibbing has many such interesting buildings. Hopefully I will get back there someday for a closer look.

After a quick stop to replenish our beer supply, I headed back to quiet little Beatrice Lake.

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Nothing like fresh vegetables while on the road. All you see here came from the good folks at the Nashwauk Community Garden. Bon appétit!

Next installment: Exploring the woods and beaches of McCarthy State Park.
Stay tuned...



August 19th to the 21: Beatrice Lake Retreat
Part 4

The next morning broke clear and calm - again. How we got so lucky with the weather, I do not know.

After coffee and breakfast at our private beach front resort we packed up for our hike and set out for McCarthy Beach State Park. It is just a few miles away - within walking distance actually. But we had yet to explore the area and see the beach and hike some of the trails there.

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Come to McCarthy Beach State Park and you’ll remember the lakes. The sandy beach on Sturgeon Lake was rated one of the top 17 beaches in North America by Highway’s Magazine. Walk along the half-mile of shoreline, or venture out into the shallow water that extends hundreds of feet into the lake.

Launch a boat on Side Lake or Sturgeon Lake to explore the five connected lakes of the Sturgeon chain. Hikers, mountain bikers, and skiers enjoy scenic trails that wind along pine-covered ridges and through stands of birch. Snowmobilers and horseback riders take advantage of the Taconite State Trail to access miles of trails outside the park. Located near many tourist attractions, McCarthy Beach State Park offers opportunities for both relaxation and exploration.

Source: Minnesota DNR

We arrived at McCarthy Beach State Park around 10:00 and after a photo op at the entrance sign we drove down to the contact station near the entrance to the campground and beach.
We had a nice chat with the Ranger who was on duty. She was very interested in hearing about our trip - where we had been and where we were going. We mentioned we would be moving on east tomorrow to the Arrowhead on Lake Superior. She told us about a "scenic route" to take to get over that way. We got a better idea when we looked at the route on a map she had and then were pretty sure we knew what route she was talking about.
We said our good-byes and went across the road to check out the beach. It was quite nice. The beach had clean white sand and there were nearby changing rooms. The only person we saw was a staffer who was emptying the garbage cans. We decided to stop back and sample the water later that day after our hike.

Pickerel Lake Hike: McCarthy Beach State Park

Here is a cut-out of the McCarthy Beach State Park map showing the beach and our hiking route in yellow. The red line is a closed trail section we mistakenly took.

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After locating the parking area for the trail head it was just a short walk down to Pickerel Lake. All was calm and quiet here. It reminded me of another spot where we camped in 2010.

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Up here - where there are lots of lakes there are lots of beavers. These were mighty ambitious critters! I wonder how long it took to get these three stems down.

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The trail went up the hillside and we left the lake behind. Soon we were in this nice stand of red pine. Looking at this scene reminded me once again of the 3 week trip we took to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where we saw the massive White Pines on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

  Michigan: The Lower and Da Yooper Summer 2010: Betsy's Retirement Trip! Day 12: Estevant Pines, Keweenaw Mountain Lodge, Old Baldy and Bear Encounter No 2 & 3

This shot was taken in June of 2010. I hope the Red Pine pictured above get this big someday.
We continued on up the hill to the Big Hole Loop trail. The plan then was to pick up a connector trail and head back down to Pickerel Lake and then back to the trail head. Well it did not quite turn out that way. We took a wrong turn and ended up walking the wrong direction for at least a mile. We knew we had screwed up when we intersected the Ridge Trail which we had hiked a couple days earlier. We stopped at the shelter and, finally realizing what we had done, headed back the way we came, this time on the Ridge Trail.

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The trail system we were hiking today is a very popular cross county skiing area as this sign attests. It was at this point we made our second navigational error of the day. We took the left fork of the trail which went sharply down hill and walked for at least a half mile. Then we saw a gate across the trail. There was a sign stating the trail was closed and only open during the winter months. Great.
So it was back up the hill to the Ridge Trail. By the time we got back to the trail intersection we were hot, sweaty and tired and thinking about the cool water back at the beach.

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OK. Now we are on the right path - we hope! We saw this beautiful moss on the way back down to the lake. In spite of the dry weather it was green, lush and in active growth.

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A closer look at the moss pictured above. The moss looked familiar to me but I could not quite conjure up a name. But, luckily I know someone who could.

That would be Susan Studlar, visiting Associate Professor, Department of Biology at West Virginia University. Professor Studlar's research focuses on West Virginia bryophytes: their diversity and ecology.
I sent her the above photo and asked if she could ID the moss for me. She replied:

That is one of my favorite mosses, the beautiful Knight's Plume Moss, Ptilium crista-castrensis, a species of the north and mountains. We have it in WV as well, at higher elevations.

Sure is handy knowing so many experts!

After two wrong turns and an extra several miles of walking we got back to the car. We were tired and hot, but satisfied. It had been another great hike.
Now it is time to cool off and relax!

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The empty beach of this morning was now a busy place. Seeing all the bikes and kids one can only imagine what it would be like on Labor Day weekend when the campground, which has 90 sites, is at full occupancy.
But today it was not so crowded and we found a nice spot to spread out a towel and enjoy the beach and water.

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Here, Betsy demonstrates the proper stance for "The Full Barbie" pose.
Hot Stuff !!

We both enjoyed the water. Betsy in her suit, me in my undies as I had not brought my suit. Actually , this worked out great as they needed laundered anyway. We relaxed and dozed for a bit then collected our stuff and headed back to the camp site. On the way we stopped at the post office in Side Lake where we sat in the parking lot and wrote a few post cards.
I found out later there are a number of places for sale in Side Lake. One of these is 952 sq ft with 1 bedroom and 1 bath and only $349,000. What a deal...

I had previously scoped out the area for firewood and found an inactive log landing. There was plenty of stuff lying around and I used the bow saw to cut up the longer pieces while Betsy collected smaller pieces.

We got back to camp just in time for Happy Hour - imagine that! Betsy relaxed with a book and then went for another swim while I started on dinner.
Tonight dinner would be a treat since we had all the fresh veggies from the Nashwauk Community Garden.
For appetizers we had cucumber spears and raw corn on the cob which was the sweetest I can ever remember having. Yummy!

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For the main course I sauteed onions, tomatoes, green beans and squash and mixed in some keilbassi to make a simple but hearty meal. I am starting to like this camp cookin'!

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Note the bottle of Jack Daniels hot sauce. Matt and Amanda gave this to us for Christmas a few years back. Betsy and I are both used to more conventional hot sauces like Tapatio, San Luis and Guacamaya. All three are red sauces. The Jack Daniels sauce is not red and has a very distinct taste compared to the other three. And, it is HOT! So, for us, a little dash is all we use. It gave a nice zing to the keilbassi-veggie medley.

After dinner and clean up we took a stroll around the campground. An older (older than us) couple had set up camp. They had an old pick-up and well used pop-up camper and no generator. We never heard a peep from them.

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We spent the evening lounging and I amused myself with some cloud gazing. This was our last night here and I hated to leave.

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We enjoyed the balmy, breezy evening and our last campfire here at Beatrice lake.
Tomorrow we would pack up and make our way east to the shores of Lake Superior.

Until then...