Last week on my WCCO blog, I wrote about visiting Hill Annex Mine State Park, which is a beautiful and fascinating place to visit. As it turns out, it's just one of the many mine-related scenic spots on the Iron Range. I didn't get to all of the overlook sites while I was there, but here's a brief overview of the ones I did get to see.
Mineview in the Sky, just east of Virginia, has a visitor's center (free) and gift shop and this large truck to give you some perspective of the scale involved in mining. It also offers this:
So often I've heard to these bodies of water referred to as "pit lakes", which makes them sound ugly, but clearly they aren't.
Another site that has a visitor's center (also free) and gift shop is Hull Rust Mahoning Mine View. This is just down the road from the Greyhound Bus Museum, and gives you a bird's eye view of an actual working mine.
This is the largest operating open pit mine in the world. I tried to get photos of the trucks moving through, but seriously, they're so small that they disappear by the time I load them onto the blog.
And those are big trucks, remember.
This is a park adjacent to the visitor's center. It's great for kids--they can climb into the truck's cab, and there are other machinery they can explore hands-on.
Even working in the visitor's center can have an element of danger. Here's a rock that came through the center's roof after an explosion a few years ago.
These are the more elaborate overlooks. Others are smaller in scale.
This is the Wacootah Overlook, just north of Mountain Iron. No visitor's center, just a grassy plaza and a gorgeous view.
In the center of the photo, you can see just a hint of the mining and a pit lake. It's amazing to me how nature just takes over again.
West of Eveleth is the Leonidas Overlook.
You can see for miles and miles. It's stunning.
I should note that if you visit any of the sites that have visitor's centers, do them a favor and sign the guestbook. They're not asking for your address, phone number or email--in other words, they're not going to contact you. They simply need a record of visitors in order to get the funding necessary to keep these places open for visitors. Help them out and give them your John Hancock.
Should you go to the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area in Eden Prairie and take the Elizabeth Fries Ellet Interpretive Trail in the direction of the scenic overlook, you'd climb a steep hill until you reach this opening.
Then you'd see this and think, wow, cool, what a great overlook.
You might also, oddly, find a little veggie in the grass.
But really, you wouldn't have reached the real overlook yet. See this little trail?
Just a little extra jaunt, and you get this.
Gorgeous overview for miles of the Minnesota River and Shakopee and Eden Prairie.
Then, if you look back at where you just were, you might see this.
If you then continue on the EFE trail, you'll be deep into woods very soon.
And what beautiful woods they are (in a Blair Witch Project kind of way).
I might have exhibited an unruly amount of exuberance kicking leaves off the trail than is acceptable for a woman of a certain age.
The trail winds up and down steep hills and across little bridges.
And occasionally near a little brook.
Do brooks babble or burble? I think this one burbled.
This is only one small portion of the gorgeous trail at the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area. The Elizabeth Fries Ellet Trail was named after, well, Elizabeth Fries Ellet, who did not live here, but visited back in the 1800s and compared the natural beauty to that of the Garden of Eden--hence the name, Eden Prairie. It's a beautiful place to hike and wander.
(Also, click on that link to Elizabeth Ellet--she was quite something, a pioneer writer who documented women's roles in the Revolutionary War and had significant dust-ups with the likes of Edgar Allan Poe.)
I was looking through some photos on my computer and immediately became nostalgic when I came upon some of these.
A hiking trail at Blue Mounds State Park, just north of Luverne. I visited the park last summer and fell completely, wildly in love with it. I loved the wide open spaces. I loved the vast fields of prairie grasses and wildflowers blowing in the breeze. I loved that there were spots where the wildflowers and grasses on either side of the trail were taller than I am (5'8"). At first, it made me a little nervous--a whole lot of buzzing bee activity going on there. But then I realized the bees were far too busy with all the wildflowers to pay any attention to me. And given all the bad news about bee populations, I was delighted to see so many of them, apparently live and well and going about their important work.
I think I stopped about every three feet to take a picture. (Don't worry, I'm not going to post all of them. Let's face it, the landscape doesn't change that dramatically on a yard-by-yard basis.) The park is heavily composed of prairie lands, but there are also stands of trees.
And the blue mounds themselves.
These appeared to be blue to the settlers and pioneers who first made their way west, hence the name. Interestingly, on the southern end is a 1250-foot line of rocks running east to west, and on the first day of spring and fall each year, the sunrise and sunset align perfectly with those rocks. No one knows why or how the rocks came to be in that position.
Near the park's entrance is a little viewing stand. Although not tall, it's worth the short climb to get a better view of these:
A herd of bison that lives within the park. They can be quite fun to watch.
My pictures don't do justice to this small but lovely park in the southwest corner of the state. If you find yourself in that area, make sure to stop.
How fun does that look! And there are chapters outstate too. Every walk/hike seems to have been carefully thought out, and may include historical and/or scenic highlights--and there's even a winter skyway walk.
What a great way to get some exercise, act all social (as in real-life social, not online social), and see some of the state's sights. I'm in!
--is now (somewhat) open to the public! I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek this summer, which I wrote about here. I'm looking forward to seeing it when it's fully up and operational, but hey--any access is good access, right?
First of all, sorry for the quiet on the blog--trust me, once I turn the book manuscript in to the editor in September, I'll have lots to blog about! I've been on the road, doing research and photography, mostly having a great time (detour signs and deer flies notwithstanding).
Anyway, there's some good travel news from MPR this week--the Paul Bunyan Trail, a paved trail extending from Brainerd to Bemidji, is finally complete and, at 110 miles, is now the longest paved trail in the state. The MPR piece also notes that trail use is in a decline--so get out there and use those trails, people! The Paul Bunyan Trail winds through a mighty scenic part of the state.