This was our last day on the actual Mesabi Trail, August 11, 2009. Although it is projected to extend all the way to Ely, it currently ends short of that goal. So we finished the trail miles.
This first picture is one of the mining locations that has been completely rehabilitated. The lake has been treated to make the waters safe for swimming. What you see across the water is a community beach. We saw children riding their bikes to the swimming area from town. That's a really nice resource to have close at hand to get kids outdoors and exercising.
After that we switched to roads. Not that it looked much different from the trail. It didn't have much more traffic, either.
Roadside details included the Inky Cap Mushroom
We enjoyed sandwiches, and the only internet access of the entire Mesabi hike. I looked back, and I did do a quick blog post but without even any pictures!
And now let's get to that problem I've been hinting at. I knew from the earliest planning that this was to be a paved hike. There was some hope that we could make this connection via the Taconite snowmobile trail which is slightly west, and not used for snowmobiling in the summer. Even in Minnesota. The problem turned out to be that a great deal of it is through swamp. That freezes in the winter so it's fine for the snowmobiles. No one could give us any assurance it would be passable at all in summer. So we opted for the pavement.
Although, as you have seen so far, this turned out to be a beautiful hike with lots of historic and cultural interest, I wanted to get these miles done. Fast. Marie and I talked about it and decided to try to average 16 miles a day. We'd never done that many, day after day. I can't remember for sure (and I'm too lazy to listen to the taped journal until I really get to writing this chapter for North Country Quest), but I think the problems began on that long day of the trail detour.
We had two good legs. The problem was that with both of us hiking, we needed four good legs. My left leg began to hurt, and Marie's right leg decided to commiserate. I mean really hurt. We've hiked enough to know that little bits of tenderness or whatever can be ignored. This was bad.
I took to wearing one pair of shoes half the day and carrying another to switch to for the afternoon. That helped a tiny bit. We began buying a bag of ice every night and icing our legs for most of the evening hours, and while eating breakfast. That helped the most.
We weren't sure if the biggest part of the problem was just the pavement, or if it was because of the slight outslope which allows water to drain off roads. We've always known that our legs don't care for that.
At any rate, we walked on, slowly. Although I tried to hike fast because if it was going to hurt I decided it would be better to just let it hurt, but try to finish as quickly as possible and return to camp and the waiting ice.
Don't even ask. Not hiking wasn't in the option book.
Hiking day 8, 15.2 miles for a total so far this trip of 128.6.
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