A shipwreck, a lighthouse, a beetle

IMG_3452The North Shore of Lake Superior is quite a place. The lake in this area has been called “the most dangerous piece of water in the whole world”. This could be a very long post if I went through all the fascinating history, geology, ecology, meteorology and various other “-y’s”. In one day we experienced much of this, and it’s easy to see how people are drawn in.

Our morning bike ride was along a small part of the Gitchi-Gami State Trail which will eventually run 86 miles along the shore. We ended up at Iona’s Beach SNA, which was a private tourist stop with lodge, gift shop, etc. that catered to the rapidly-growing tourist trade that started when a road was built along the shore in the ’20’s. The unique beach is composed of similar-size and similar-color rock that comes from the cliff in the distance and is ground up on the beach. The noise as the waves roll in is magical.

Headed up from Gooseberry Falls to tiny Beaver Bay with the trifecta of a decent place for lunch that day, Camp 61: a good table to watch the World Cup, a laundromat, and a quilt shop (???!!!) so April could get some elastic. Missions accomplished!

Purportedly the most photographed lighthouse in the country is Split Rock Lighthouse. As the volume of east-bound iron ore shipments from Duluth increased rapidly in the early 1900’s, more and bigger ships were being pushed harder. The number of shipwrecks increased, with a particular fierce storm on a particularly historic day, November 28, 1905, bringing down 29 ships in one day. From that event, US Steel and others lobbied Congress to build a lighthouse and by 1910 the lighthouse was complete. Accessible only by ship until 1924, it became a prime tourist destination in part due to its photogenic location. (Forgive the geeky shots of the (original) fresnel lens, the clockworks mechanism that was wound every 2 hours to keep the light turning and a schematic of the mercury-float bearing – all still in use.)

IMG_3464There are forests of dying trees in many, many places around the country, with the birch in this area another example. Turns out there’s an interesting story beyond just the bronze birch borer. Extensive logging around the turn of the 20th century, fires in the ’20’s and 30’s, tent caterpillars in the early 2000’s and the beetle are all complicit. It’s pretty bad, as you can see in this shot of just one section along Hwy 61.

After a night of rain, got these early-morning shots at the waterfall. The temp drops about 5 degrees as we ran from waterfall toward campground on the shore. Cool!

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