Welcome back to the frigid cold of Minnesota in early March! After two days of sitting in a meeting room for some surveyor training for the latest Trimble software, it's time for me to get behind the wheel of the GeoJeep and head back to Texas.
My traveling geocacher sidekick CuteLittleFuzzyMonkey (CLFM) has been out driving all over Minnesota and Wisconsin the past two days finding geocaches. He'll be back in the passenger seat navigating the return trip and choosing which caches to go after.
We're up and out at sunrise to hit the road and beat the Minneapolis morning rush hour traffic. Our first two caches were just around the corner in a shopping center parking lot. These were two challenge caches hidden under a lamp post skirt. Normally easy park-n-grabs, but the snow and sub-freezing temps had these hard to lift open. Probably would have skipped these except being challenge caches, meaning that you had to fulfill the required challenge in order to claim the find. These were called 10x10 (GC37PR0) and 15x15 (GC3D5K7) Challenges. The requirement was to have found at least 10 caches in each of 10 different states and 15 caches in each of 15 different states. And as much as we get around, this was accomplished long ago!
Next up and also nearby was a virtual cache called Surveyor's Error (GC5882). As a surveyor myself and in town for some surveyor training, how could I even think of passing this one up! The piled up snow didn't make this one easy. (CLFM had already gotten this one 2 years earlier when he was in town on another trip.) At the location was a boulder with a plaque on it. It marked the Latitude of 45° 00' 000' which is the halfway point between the equator and the north pole. I got the required info I needed and we moved on.
Passing through a neighborhood on the way to our next geocache (GC6CDV8), we saw this humorous sign by one of the residence. I just had to stop for a photo. I've always felt that snow was nice to go visit and see, but not to live and work in!
Slowly working our way north... wait Texas is south? But there are still virtual caches and geocaches of interest to the north! Like this virtual geocache at a Veterans Memorial at Bunker Hills Regional Park (GC74C7).
Heading northbound on I-35, we made a quick exit to grab a "Welcome to Wyoming" cache (GC5QW44) at the welcome sign for Wyoming, Minnesota. This also gave us Chisago County. Further up another quick stop for a virtual in Pine County at the Hinckley Museum (GC7B7YK). Got the info we needed on the outside, but the inside was still closed.
Then in Carlton County was a virtual geocache (GC8EB7) at a historical marker in a roadside picnic area to commemorate the early Finnish Settlers who came to the area in the 1870's. What caught my eye about a hundred yards behind it was the old church. And with all the snow on the ground, it made for a nice photo.
As with the first photo above, sometimes you see things that make you laugh and you have to stop and take a photo of it. Driving through Cloquet, we saw this laundromat and car wash combo. Ummm do you like drive through the car wash with your windows open and have your laundry washed at the same time? Do they have super-sized dent-less tumble driers for the cars? I'd hate to be in the car during the spin cycle! LOL!
Arriving in Duluth, MN with its rich history, there were several on our to-do list. First up was a virtual geocache at the statue of the mini-Lady Liberty (GC89E9). These are scattered all throughout the country. I remember my hometown back in Orlando, Florida had one.
Next up was a puzzle cache called "Hurry HARD!" (GC16REQ). Something about the sport of Curling. Anyway, I hate these puzzle caches because most I'm usually clueless on how to solve them. But CLFM is the Master Puzzler! So we found and signed the log for that geocache.
The Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge virtual cache was next (GC7B69H). The Aerial Lift Bridge was originally built in 1905 as a gondola bridge. It was converted to the lift bridge that you see today in 1929-1930. The bridge span weighs approximately 1000 tons (2 million pounds!). The weight is offset by two 500 ton weights on each end that allow the motors to move the span up and down with little effort. The horn you hear from the lift bridge is actually made up of two Westinghouse Airbrake locomotive horns. The span is 15' above the water when down and can raise as high as 135' above the water if necessary. It takes approximately three minutes for the bridge to rise to the top. When large ships are entering, the bridge will start its ascent when the ships are approximately a mile and a half from the bridge.
Being on the bridge, I couldn't get a decent photo of the bridge from the side obviously. However, it did allow me a great view of a frozen Lake Superior with both lighthouses: the Duluth Harbor South Breakwater Inner Light on the right forefront and the Duluth North Pier Lighthouse way out to the end on the left side of the photo.
Then there's an earthcache for a giant piece of floating copper (GC19AXB). This huge chunk of metal was dredged up in 1937 from the Keweenaw Waterway in Michigan.
The next virtual was a monument dedicated to remembering three men who lost their lives one dark day in Duluth back in 1920. Clayton, Jackson, and McGhie (GCGMGH) suffered an injustice that day and this memorial was built to remind us and not repeat the wrongs of the past.
Back in 1920 in Duluth, Minnesota there was an old fashion lynching. A young white girl made a claim that some blacks from the traveling circus raped her. The local police arrested several of the workers and placed them in the Duluth city jail. The news of this alleged rape spread through town like wildfire. Soon, a mob formed in front of the jail demanding justice. The police made a valiant effort (they were ordered not to use guns to stop the mob) but were not able to stop the mayhem. Three of the young black men were dragged from their cells and were savagely beaten and given a "kangaroo court trial". All 3 were then hanged from a lamp post while the mob gathered around for photo opportunities. The picture even was used as a postcard for several years.
Turns out the girl "more than likely" made up the story anyway. Another black man was convicted of the rape, then freed after serving 4 years of a 30 year sentenced because the evidence was later believed to be false and politically motivated. Three of the men in the mob were convicted of rioting and served about two and a half years for rioting. None for murder.
Around the corner on the next block I spotted this great architectural building and took a photo. Turns out it was the Old Central High School built in 1892. After a new high school was built in 1971, this building was granted historical designation. Today the Old Central High School houses offices for the school district, Education Equity, Indian Education, and the St. Louis County Soil & Water District. It also contains an 1890s classroom museum.
Arriving over in Aurora, we stopped at another historic building for another virtual geocache. Centered in Saint Louis County, MN, Aurora was plated in 1898 and a post office established in 1903. A few years later this historic City Hall was built (GCG4WF). On the north side of town was another virtual geocache at another not-as-old building (GCG4WM).
Now the main reason for sticking around here in Minnesota was to go for the oldest geocache in Minnesota. "Alvin's Phone Line" (GC9FF) was hidden November 5, 2000. This was definitely ranking in the top 5 of most challenging I've ever attempted!! Bushwacking the scrubs and swamps of Central Florida for 6 hours in 98° temps is the complete opposite but just as tough. We definitely needed proper clothing, snow shoes and perhaps a snowmobile for this one. But us southern cachers only come with jeans and work boots.
We drove up before sunset and went in about 300 feet and quickly turned around. Our legs and ankles were already frozen from the thick snow that soaked our jeans and snuck into the boots with each step. CLFM sent a message to the CO. To our delight and surprise he got a call right back. He quickly started the conversation off with y’all are stupid. We got some much needed advice and his hospitality was great. Now back at the GeoJeep we pondered while thawing out.
Looking around at what we had, I noticed some heavy duty jumbo sized trash bags and duct tape I use on the job site. We quickly grabbed a few and rigged ourselves some plastic bag waders. You know what they say that duck tape fixes everything. I don’t know about that but in this case it was a savior. CLFM put on his jolly green giant knit cap he bought at the museum the other day and used a pair of clean boxers to cover his face. I wasn't so bold and just tightened my hoodie!
Now we looked awfully funny, but we weren’t wet and cold and that made all the difference in the world. Probably should invest in some snow shoes and winter clothing. But would we ever get the chance to use them again? Lots of caches and their attributes steered us wrong today but you better heed the warning on this one and read the logs. Hardest T3 ever! More like a T10 in the winter!
We got back to the GeoJeep and said "Damn, we gotta go back to take pictures!" NOT!! It's gonna take us a MONTH to thaw back out again! LOL
Heading south now down in Crow Wing County, we stopped for another virtual geocache in the town of Pequot Lakes. This one is called "The Bobber" (GC7B8N8) due to the fact that its water tower is painted to look like a fishing bobber. It is kinda hard to tell in this photo cause it's nearly 9 PM when we arrived here. Going on 14 hours of geocaching and we're not done yet.
Continuing southbound, we made a quick stop in Little Falls, MN for a park and grab cache (GC65TQ3) to claim Morrison County.
Finally, we arrived down in St Cloud, Minnesota at about 10:30 PM and checked into a Quality Inn to call it a day. After a LONGGGG DAY it was finally good to stretch out and get some sleep. My back was starting to ache again due to that hike in the snow. A couple of Advil and I was out quick.
Thanks for riding along. Come back tomorrow to see where we'll end up.