Monday, June 18, 2012

Day One

Before I can even start on the vacation, I have to say that we first took a three-day trip to Rochester for the DFL state convention. That’s right, after several years of self-exile, we are returning to the promised land of folding chairs, points of order, requests for clarification and occasional butthurt. If we had timed it better, we could have started in Rochester and gone counter-clockwise around the state, but then Maia wouldn’t have been able to dance in her dance recital. There were a lot of moving parts at the beginning of this trip, and so rushing out at Monday morning felt more like an escape than a vacation.

And this was not going to be a restful, reflective vacation. The point of this was to see as much of Minnesota as we could, and see if there were places we would want to see again sometime under more laid-back circumstances. And there were several such places, as well as places we’ve now seen and don’t need to go back to again.

So we left Two Harbors around 8 in the morning, and headed off to our first stop, the Soudan Underground Mine. Matt had been there once as a child, but none of the rest of us had seen it. The mine started off as an open pit until it was discovered that it made more sense to mine it underground. It was known as the Cadillac of mines for several reasons, one of which was that it’s a very dry mine. It closed in the '60s but is now the site of underground research regarding subatomic particles (which you can also tour!).

51 degrees and a half-mile down.
The trip down is exciting: we were loaded into a skip and dropped 2,500 feet (to level 27) in about three minutes. The descent is at an angle and it is noisy. I thought it might prompt some vertigo or claustrophobia, but it didn’t. The air down below is cold and fresh; the mine “breathes” in such a way that the air turns over every half hour, which makes it a pleasure to go into as a tourist.

The kids were charmed by the little electric train that ran us to the display; the miners, who were paid by piecework, had to walk in the dark. You can see the skip at the end of the video. We learned about the oxygen-heavy form of iron found in the mine (as well as copper and other semi-precious metals). The rocks were smashed on site and then shipped off to Two Harbors.

The Soudan Underground Mine was a huge success in kicking off our tour, and coming back up to the surface, where it was hot and muggy, and after lunchtime, was a little bit of a downer.

(One thing we learned on this trip was how much the kids' digestive systems were dictated by the clock; I now know that Maia had lunch at school at 11 a.m., because 11:30 is about when she would get crabby every day if we hadn't eaten.)

We had planned on picking up some sausage at Koshar’s in Gilbert, but it was closed on Mondays, so we ended up at F&D Meats in Virginia instead.

We ate in the van on the Laurentian Divide, the first of many meals that consisted of cheese, beef sticks, crackers, carrots and fresh fruit.

International Falls was the next stop; CN has a terminal there that Matt wanted to see. By that time, the afternoon was growing short and we had to rush to get to Zippel Bay State Park, which is on Lake of the Woods. We were delayed by detours and the sudden decision of my iPhone to think that it was in Canada and thus would cost $15 a minute to access the map function. The paper map we had was not helpful, so we almost ended up heading out toward North Dakota before we finally figured it out.

If you go to Zippel Bay, be aware that there is not a lot of signs showing you where to go. It’s a laid-back, out-of-the-way, not-so-well-known state park that makes for good camping. I think we were the only campers at Zippel Bay that night; we had the place to ourselves. Despite being on Lake of the Woods, the campsites are not on the lake. We were in the deep woods and listened to whip-poor-wills and chickadees late into the night. After rushing through a 12-hour day, we were happy get the tent up before sundown and head right to bed.

Day One set the pace for the rest of the trip.

No comments:

Post a Comment