Ice and Fire

Saturday, September 01, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Mountain Iron, MN to Minneapolis, MN 
Driving south on US-53 from Mountain Iron on Saturday, we passed through the town of Eveleth (pop. 3,718).  Though small, the town has a reputation as a hotbed of hockey talent, owning numerous Minnesota high school hockey records including most consecutive championships with four.  It was no surprise when the town built a U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973 (not to be confused with the major league Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto) to preserve the history of ice hockey in the United States.  And what better home for the largest hockey stick in the U.S. than Eveleth?

At 110 feet long and 10,000 pounds, however, this impressive colossus is dwarfed by a 205-ft, 61,000-pound stick exhibited on the side of a building in a town on Vancouver Island.  But it was still worth a stop and provides an effective symbol for this hockey-obsessed hamlet.  Signs around town point the way to the "Big Stick."

Hinckley Fire Memorial
Near Carleton, we hopped onto I-35, the first interstate highway we've driven in ten days.  After experiencing the rush of unimpeded driving again for a while, we paused in the town of Hinckley (pop. 1,800) to search for a letterbox.  The box was planted as a memorial to more than 400 victims of the Great Hinckley Fire in 1894.  
A two-month drought coupled with high temperatures and careless lumbering practices led to ideal circumstances for a major conflagration on September 1 of that year.  An odd temperature inversion contributed to the conditions that enabled several scattered fires to unite into a firestorm that scorched more than 200,000 acres and killed as many as 800.  Temperatures exceeded 2,000 °F., fusing the wheels of rail cars to the tracks.  
The residents who escaped did so by climbing down into wells or ponds or catching a ride on the few overcrowded trains that were able to leave the town before it was destroyed.  One engineer on a train headed south was able to rescue almost 300 people by backing up his train for more than five miles to a lake where passengers were able to avoid the fire.

Finally we made it to our hotel in a Minneapolis suburb in the late afternoon and took time to plan our visit to the city tomorrow and post clues for five letterboxes we have planted on this trip.

In case you can't find the 110-ft hockey stick with your eyes
Canada Geese everywhere
Stamping in at Chub Lake Park
Cool Headstone of the Day