Wednesday, March 17, 2010

In the midst of the woods: The Forest History Center

I think my spring fever is still growing and I keep pondering summer time fun. One place I have been thinking about is the Forest History Center, located in Grand Rapids—North Central Minnesota. It is a living history museum operated seasonally by the Minnesota Historical Society. With so much to do, we have managed to miss this wonderful place several times on camping trips in the area either because we were just too busy or we were around during the off season. We finally made it last year. I had always wanted to bring my mom up there, but after visiting, I am not sure she could handle the walking—I will have to see if there is a way around it. Located in the woods, it is a wonderful site to learn about how the loggers worked.

Logging was a convenient occupation for farmers who wanted to supplement their income because the majority of work can only take place during the winter months when the ground is frozen. The loggers would fell the trees and bring them to the river to be floated to the sawmills to the south during the heightened water levels of the spring thaw. Floating the logs was a dangerous job; men died getting the logs clear when the inevitable jams would occur.

The history center does a great job of interpreting camp life—the loggers’ quarters, the store and the dining hall. The
boys even had a chance to saw some logs—now if only I had such an effective way to harness that at home! They also got to see an example of a boat that would have been used to cook the meals for the men floating the logs down the rivers. They also saw a fire tower that would have been used in later years after the Civilian Conservation Corps had replanted the forests. Though the tower was closed on our visit, we have climbed similar towers. What a climb the towers bring, but—man, what a view! They also had these cute little sheds that would have been placed throughout the area to help firefighters when fires broke out. I know, cute probably isn’t the word people want used with fire equipment—but cute they are. The entire area is nestled into a beautiful area and is criss-crossed with scenic hiking trails.

The inside exhibits have fine displays for people to see vehicles used in the logging industry. My daughter loved the truck cab from the 60's. They also have ones used currently--a John Deere vehicle that has been developed to help loggers prevent damage to the forest and the trees not being harvested. Very cool! I would like to go back there, but with so many things—how do we choose? As many times that we have driven through Duluth to the north shore, we haven’t done a great deal in the city itself. Between issues with my mom’s mobility and my kids’ desire to see stuff within the city—maybe we should go that route. With the history center only an hour from my mom, maybe it is worth the attempt anyway. We’ll see.

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