We continued our meanderings through Minnesota at Bear Head Lake State Park. We couldn’t get into our reserved site due to trees blocking our needed angle of access. With ranger assistance, and trial and error, we found a site we were able to fit into for our two night stay. Whew!
That stress event was followed by another when Elko injured his leg getting off the bed – something he’s done hundreds of times before. We couldn’t determine if the injury involved his foot, leg or hip but he was a hurting three legged dog for the rest of the day. (We were anticipating taking him to an emergency vet in Minneapolis over the Fourth of July Weekend but he was better the next day.)
While Elko was resting, we went to Soudan Mine State Park. We got hard hats and prepared to descend a half mile into the earth.
The ride down takes two and a half minutes and goes 10 mph at an angle of 78 degrees. We descended 2341 feet underground to Level 27, the last and lowest level mined.
These double cage lifts transported 18 miners in each cage. There were 11-12 of us in a cage each time we rode and it was snug. The thought of eighteen men together was uncomfortable.
Once down, we rode in cars on the rails once used to transport ore. We went 3/4 of a mile further into the mine to learn about the work that was done here.
The Soudan Mine opened in 1882 and was Minnesota’s first iron ore mine. It initially operated as an open pit mine but went underground in 1892 for safety reasons.
The iron ore mined here was exceptional because of its high oxygen content. That allowed for a higher quality of steel.
In the early years the miners, who came from all over Europe, worked in teams of three and often spoke three different languages. Foremen used this strategy to make it more difficult for miners to unionize.
Eventually, the workers did unionize and together with management created the “Cadillac of Mines.” The Soudan Mine was safer than most due to good air quality and the hard rock holding the ore. Even so, 140 miners lost their lives at Soudan during its 80 years of operation.
Operations shut down in 1962 as the industry shifted to lower quality ore. There is still high quality iron ore in the Soudan Mine, but no market for it.
Later in the day we rode the cage back down to tour the High Energy Physics Lab. Utilizinging aspects of the old mine, the lab was built underground to shield sensitive experiments from cosmic rays. Physicists from around the world conduct experiments looking for dark matter and neutrinos.
I don’t even begin to understand dark matter knowing only that it is presumed to exist due to consequential evidence.
The Soudan lab is recording the number of neutrinos collected at this site from the trillions of neutrinos released from Fermilab near Chicago, Illinois. The neutrinos travel 457 miles underground in 2.5 milliseconds, nearly at the speed of light. A single neutrino is detected in the Soudan collector every few hours. It would have traveled through the empty space in matter from Chicago to northeastern Minnesota. Mind boggling, huh?
After our minds were boggled, we headed home and saw wildlife along the way!
Then we saw one cub and then another! Later we learned there were actually three cubs and they are frequently sighted along the road. We’ve seen more bears this week in Minnesota than collectively ever before.
We traveled south and arrived at an Anoka County Park 15 miles north of Minneapolis. It is one of the best – a great park with lakes, beaches, and trails. The 50 amp grass sites are large and private with a picnic table on a pad. We have a fire pit and a barbecue grill – and a resident rabbit!
We’ve stayed in great county parks in Oregon, Arizona and Minnesota. Our theory is that when tax money stays close to home, sometimes people are willing to pay for nice parks.
In Minneapolis we went to the Mill City Museum which was built within the ruins of the Washburn Mill.
The first Washburn mill was built in 1874 and destroyed by a flour dust explosion in 1878. The explosion killed 18 workers and destroyed much of Minneapolis’ mill district. When an improved version was built on the same site in 1880, it was the largest flour mill in the world producing two million pounds each day.
The Gold Medal Flour sign was erected in 1910 and the Washburn Mill became General Mills in 1928. Minneapolis was the flour mill capital of the world from 1880 – 1930. This mill closed in 1965 and burned in 1991. The Mill City Museum, built within the ruins, opened in 2003.
Across the river, the Pillsbury Mill was the largest in the world for 40 years. It closed in 2003. Currently the world’s largest flour mill is in Jakarta, Indonesia producing 23,000,000 pounds of flour daily.
The Mill City Museum has exhibits about grain, the Mississippi River, General Mills, Pillsbury and Minneapolis.
The Flour Tower Experience describes the historical workings of the mill and ends on an observation deck. The deck offers great views of the Stone Arch Bridge and the St. Anthony Falls and Dam on the Mississippi River.
The upper St. Anthony Locks were closed in June 2015 by an act of Congress rendering the Mississippi River unnavigable through Minneapolis. The locks were closed to prevent the migration of Asian Carp further north.
Our best Minneapolis activity was meeting our friend Eric at a Minnesota Twins game. We so enjoy being able to reconnect with people!
There were nice Independence Day themed pregame events. The company, the weather and the game results were all terrific. Twins win! Twins win!