Entries to Win Afghan

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mesabi Hike - Day Off

Saturday, August 8, 2009. It was a wet and miserable day. We were not at all sorry to spend it lounging around a motel room. I don't have specific memories of what we did, but we are really good at playing our favorite word game Quiddler, reading aloud, and finding somewhere to have a good dinner. It was Marie's birthday, so I'm sure I teased her a fair amount about being old.

After having hiked thousands of miles together and having braved pretty much every kind of weather in a tent (OK, not a tornado yet, but we did do the end of a hurricane), we don't feel we have to prove anything. (Yes there are two green Foresters there. Only one was mine.)

Super 8 motel

We drove around town a bit that afternoon and spotted the car for the next day's hike. It was a seriously non-activity day.

Caught a wet nuthatch looking for dinner.


The funniest thing was the large inflatable loon that floats around the small lake.

floating loon

Want to get a better idea of its size? Hilarious.

floating loon

But, we do only get one day off. Tomorrow we'll be back on the trail.

See Kewatin to Chisholm
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Monday, February 27, 2017

Mesabi Hike - Kewatin to Chisholm

In local news: the great blue herons have returned. I saw one flying over this morning on the way to the river. I used to know where their rookery was, but they abandoned that one and I don't know where it is now. They are right on time, usually showing up in February or March.

I dried clothes outside for the second time this month. That is certainly a February record. Actually, even the one time was a record.

Now back to 2009- Friday, August 7:

We continued north on the paved Mesabi Trail. Iron mining still defines the area. Towns are proud of their heritage. Both of these displays were in Kewatin. This tough little engine is an electric 60-ton steeple cab, designed especially to pull cars from the depths of the mines.

Hannah Mining engine 304

Here are two of the small cars historically used inside the mines.

mine cars

As we continued north, we got a glimpse of what modern mining looks like. This is the largest open-pit iron mine in the world, the Hull-Rust Mahoning Mine. It's 3.5 miles by 1.5 miles, and is 535 feet deep. Say what you will... raw materials for the things we insist on consuming have to come from somewhere.

Hull-Rust Mahoning Mine

The ore is carried through pipes above ground (perhaps with an internal auger) to locations where it can be collected for transport.

ore pipeline

We enjoy these cultural aspects of the trail as well as the natural ones.

However, the next event of the afternoon was not as much fun. I'd planned long days anyway, just to finish all these paved/road miles. But we hit a real unexpected snag.

There was no information posted about how long the detour was (my maps seemed to indicate it had to be at least two extra miles). There was no information as to whether hikers could get through with care, just not bicycles. There was no clue as to how far ahead it was. Should we continue and see if the way was passable, with the possibility we might have to backtrack to this point?

We chose to follow the detour signs.

trail detour

And follow the detour signs.

trail detour

A planned 16 mile day turned into nearly 20 miles. Marie says it's the longest day she's walked.

This sign was not us.


We limped into Chisholm. Pavement walking is hard. Literally. Our planned day off was theoretically a day away. But rain was predicted. We know how to flex. We drove back to Grand Rapids, broke camp and had a Super 8 night.

motel sign

We found out later the trail was completely passable. Repairs had been completed, but the signs had not been removed. Sigh. And the long day probably contributed to problems that began to develop.

Hiking day 5, 19.5 miles for a total so far this trip of 83.1 miles.

See Marble to Kewatin
See World's Largest Gravel Pit
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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Mesabi Hike - Marble to Kewatin


Thursday, August 6, 2009, Marie and I continued north on the paved Mesabi Trail through former iron mining lands. This view shows how the trail has more interest and topography than a simple rail-trail. You can also see the greenery beginning to cover the raw landscape.

Mesabi Trail

Two of our most interesting wildlife sightings happened this day. First we saw a mammal completely new to me at that time, Richardson's Groundsquirrel. It's more commonly called a Flickertail because of it's nervous habit of twitching that tail.


Not long after that, a gray fox calmly trotted across the trail ahead of us. Unfortunately, the picture isn't focused well. But I was amazed at how unconcerned the animal was with our presence.

gray fox

I think Marie loves the turtles best of all. This is a common Midwestern Painted Turtle, but it's not covered with pond muck or duckweed, so it was looking nice. I've recently learned that this sub-species differs from the Eastern Painted Turtle in a couple of ways. Easy field mark is that the scutes (plates) of the shell are alternated across it's back.

painted turtle

And, I found another new flower. The blue one. It's Creeping Bellflower, Campanula rapunculoides, and the yellow is Common Tansy, Tanacetum vulgare. Although the blue and yellow are so pretty, both plants are alien.

creeping bellflower

For the days we followed the Mesabi Trail we loved marking our progress with the gateways to each town.

Kewatin sign

Marble to Kewatin, Minnesota. 15.8 miles, 63.6 to date for that trip.

See Grand Rapids to Marble
See Spermophilus richardsonii
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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mesabi Hike - Grand Rapids to Marble

Since I managed yesterday to stumble into pictures of a hike I never blogged about, I've decided to take us all back to this trip in 2009 for the next few days. I even accidentally hit the first day of that hike. There could be interruptions if something exciting happens. Or not.

Anyway, this was the longest continuous time that Marie and I ever were out. I had an obsession with completing the Minnesota miles of the North Country Trail that summer. We began by connecting the Chippewa National Forest with the Kekakabic Trail, a distance of 180 miles. Yesterday, I showed you the road miles that took us from the Chippewa into Grand Rapids (two days). There we picked up the paved Mesabi Trail.

Mesabi Trail

The trail is not a true rail-trail, as many portions are not old rail bed. However, a lot of it follows the former Duluth, Missabe and Northern rail grade. This line opened northern Minnesota for iron mining. A lot of the landscape we saw was great hills of red ore tailings surrounded by lakes formed in the open pits. It had a certain beauty of its own.

Very little active mining remains. the companies are working very hard to reclaim the land, undo the ecological damage, and make the area attractive for recreation. Aspen trees are covering the tailing hills. Nature does heal itself, although sometimes it needs some help.

Mesabi Trail

Along the way, we saw continuous reminders of the former industry, such as this nifty Diamond Reo truck.

Diamond Reo truck

The primary waterway we now followed was the Prairie River, which flows into the Mississippi in Grand Rapids.

Prairie River

Since that time, we have encountered a much longer floating bridge in Ohio, but in 2009, this was the first one we had ever crossed.

floating bridge

You know me... I was greatly interested in the wildflowers. Prairie clover, Petalostemum villosum, was one we had learned in North Dakota, but it always brings oohs and aahs when in bloom.

prairie clover

Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum, can be seen throughout the northeast. It's not just a prairie plant.

Culver's Root

This one had me stumped for a while. Sadly, that's because it's native to the western US, but is considered invasive in Minnesota. It's bigleaf lupine, Lupinus polyphyllus. Yup, pretty much like the common one, only much bigger and much easier to grow. "So who cares which one grows?" you ask. The endangered Karner Blue Butterfly needs the common one for its life cycle. Here, it's gone to seed, busy pushing the native one out of it's natural range.

bigleaf lupine

This was August 5, 2009. Day three of the hike, 16 miles, total 47.8.

See Chippewa to Grand Rapids
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Friday, February 24, 2017

2-24 Game

The actual day was dreary, beginning with thundersnow and ice which changed to rain. I worked all day and am soon headed back for the Friday night routine.

But I'm reading a book about conquering fear and hiking. The author mentioned a study where hospital patients healed faster when they could view nature scenes through their windows. Even seeing pictures of natural settings promoted healing!

So, I'm playing that game where you take some numbers and look in your computer files for pictures. The date is 2-24. So I looked on my second SD card after I started taking digital pictures that were stored on them. Here is the 24th picture. I took a chance that it would be something outdoors, and I win that lotto.

This is a multi-use trail in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Marie and I hiked it in August of 2009. It's part of the North Country Trail connections. When I first saw this picture I assumed it was part of the Mesabi Trail, which goes north from Grand Rapids. However, this was the day we hiked into town from the Chippewa National Forest. That was mostly road, but there must have been some small piece of paved urban trail.

Grand Rapids MN Trail

Since I never really blogged about any of this (very hard to get internet connections on the road then), I'll put the picture in some context. As we connected from the Chip to Grand Rapids, we generally followed the route of the Mississippi River.

Mississippi River

That same day we also walked past some lovely wetlands filled with water parsnip (Sium suave).


If there is any one flower that says northern Minnesota in late summer it's fireweed, Epilobium angustifolium.


We camped for several nights at the City Park where the sites were very reasonably priced. The alpenglow on the trees that evening was gorgeous.

alpenglow on campground

The joke was on us a couple of nights later. We found out the park was right next to the speedway race track. On Saturday night we literally could not even stand being in the tent, so we took our book and drove to a different park many blocks away where we read and then talked till long after dark and it was "safe" to return to our tent.

Here's hoping this little nature moment from a few years back made you smile.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Moses Makes Another Appearance

My houseplants are pretty much abused, but this one has agreed to bloom again. Just ignore the dust and spider webs.

Tradescantia discolor

It's the one called Moses-in-the-Boat, Tradescantia discolor. When it bloomed before I gave a lot of explanation, so I won't repeat that.

Tradescantia discolor

Instead, I'll show you some previously featured relatives, other Tradescantia.

Wandering Jew, maybe T. pallida

Tradescantia pallida

Unknown, but in the same family.

unknown Commelinaceae

Common spiderwort, a wildflower, Tradescantia virginiana

Tradescantia virginiana

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Not Mine, But...

My friend Irene has also been dogless for quite a while now. I shared when Pearl passed on in 2013. Then in 2015, Sandy Fe, the older of the two dogs died quietly. Pearl loved everyone. Sandy was more selective, but I was on her good list. Dogs mostly just like me.

Anyway. Irene is more than ready to welcome another canine into her life. One of these cuties is going to be hers in a few weeks. Here they are at four days old. Yup, another golden retriever.


And again today at nine days. (Colored spots on their puppy butts are nail polish to tell them apart.)


I'll get to meet whichever one it is this summer at the wiggly age of about 6 months.

(photos used with permission)

See Puppy Fix
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