Sunday, March 25, 2007

Interlude With Waterfalls

September 11-12: Between leaving Duluth in late morning, then stopping in Two Harbors to have lunch take a few more pictures, we realized we weren't going to make Thunder Bay that night. (BTW, Two Harbors is a place where you particularly want to avoid legal trouble, or you might have to hire these people to get you out of it:)

The great thing about touring in the off-season is the campgrounds are rarely crowded, so we just picked a place out of the tourist info we had, and stopped around 3pm at Cascade River State Park, only about 100 miles up the Lake Superior North Shore from Duluth. This is a beautiful spot where the Cascade River flows several miles through a narrow slit of a gorge before passing under the highway bridge and emptying into Lake Superior.

Below is our campsite at Cascade River. On the left is our rolling motel -- a functional and comfortable trailer from Escape Trailers of Chiliwack, BC. On the right of the picture is the 75 watt solar panel that keeps the battery charged when we're camping without services. It's great to feel just that little bit self-sufficient -- but still completely comfortable.
After a peaceful night and a couple of hikes up the gorge, we leave Minnesota and re-enter Canada, camping Tuesday night at Kakabeka Falls (the "Niagara of the North"), about 30km west of Thunder Bay.

Labels: , ,

Duluth's Other Scenic Railroad

September 10: A block from our campground was a sign pointing down a side-street, reading "TRAIN RIDE". Obviously, we had to check it out, and found ourselves at a trackside shed identifying itself as the Lake Superior & Mississippi Railroad. Back at the (wi-fi equipped!) campground, we hauled out our laptop, found their website, and decided to take the Sunday morning trip. Here is the train we found waiting for us when we turned up the next day -- a 45-ton switcher, two vintage coaches, and the "safari car":

While the coaches are pretty posh, our choice of transport was the open-air safari car -- an old flatcar adapted for passengers.

The tour covers 6.2 miles of track along the St. Louis River, winding west out of Duluth -- all that remains of the mainline of the original LS&M, which operated from 1863 to 1877, before being absorbed by larger railroads. Part of the route is shared track with the BNSF, and in fact our departure was delayed 15 minutes when these two engines came along, ran up the line, and returned with a tank car.

Once en route, we soon find where that BNSF crew was switching: the Tate & Lyle syrup plant.

Proceeding onwards, the line runs through marshland along the edge of the river -- very scenic, and we had a beautiful sunny day. On the way back, this eagle circled above us for a short period, and then we startled a heron in the marsh as we passed.
The LS&M line passes beneath this bridge which carries traffic to the Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific's Pokegama yard on the Wisconsin side of the river.
Here's the same bridge, seen from across the river -- but what an odd collection of motive power: CN; leased power that looks like ex-Conrail and ex-BN; and Union Pacific.
After a leisurely hour we reach the end of track in the suburbs, and run around for the return journey.

Between yesterday and today, my capsule review of Duluth train rides is:
The NSSRR is the "rail-fan" trip; but for scenery: the LS&M.

Labels: ,