Grand Rapids, MN


(Andrew has hiked 4937 miles, 64% of his 7,700-mile hike across the continent)

The week of March 27th began with a difficult hike from the Gunflint Lodge area in the Boundary Waters to Ely, MN. Andrew knew he would have to remain on the changing-elevation, snow-covered trail to Ely because walking in snowshoes on the beautiful (and flat) frozen lakes was no longer an option. He also knew this 66 mile section of hiking would be through “deep snow, without structure.” (Andrew’s snowshoes sink 18 inches or more into the snow as the snow melts from the bottom). Shortly after leaving the Gunflint Lodge area, the metal tip of one of Andrew’s snowshoes broke. He tried to repair it with available materials, but the repairs did not hold. So, he was left with no option than hiking without snowshoes in three feet of snow. In five hours he traveled just four miles (under one mph instead of his normal pace of about 2.5 mph). He knew that he would not reach his destination and was concerned that we would become worried about his safety if he did not reach his destination by the expected time. Just then, he came upon some dog sled tracks. They were heading toward a lake and he knew the tracks would eventually turn toward Ely, so he decided to follow them. He spent the night camped out on an island in the middle of the frozen lake and was able to make it into Ely the following day. Andrew was very tired but also quite pleased that he was able to work through this difficult situation.

Andrew went into a hotel in Ely, MN and was invited for an interview on the local radio station in the morning. He was now prepared for the next 150 miles of his trek, which are on a bike trail. Road walking on this stretch was a welcome relief from the challenging snowshoeing on melting snowpack on the forest trails. Andrew also ate his “half-gallon challenge”. Though he passed the halfway point in Michigan, he did not feel that he was halfway through until he had survived the winter. So, he enjoyed the celebratory four pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

Andrew learned that this area in northern Minnesota is in the ancient Vermillion Mountain Range. He said that the mountains have eroded however, the land is rich in various heavy metals that have names that end in “ite”. Mining continues to exist on a major scale. Andrew passed the largest strip mine in the country the other day. After the metals are removed, a pit lake is left surrounded by the tailings.

On Wednesday, March 30th, Andrew hiked into Tower, MN. This is one of the oldest towns in the area. Andrew was surprised at the large size and population of the towns. He was kindly invited to stay overnight inside the local newspaper office because of a heavy rainstorm. The newspaper was started in 1905 and is still owned and operated by the same family. Andrew appreciated their hospitality. He found the original printing press on the premises very interesting. People ask if he is “the hiker” they have heard or read about.

On Thursday March 31st, Andrew hiked into Buhl, MN. He arrived in Hibbing on Friday and almost got to Taconite on Saturday night. He hiked to Grand Rapids, MN today (Sunday April 3rd) and plans to keep moving as the day is the nicest to date.

The weather has been mid- 40sF during the day and low 20sF at night. The snow is almost gone because of the rain and mild temperatures. He removed his snowshoes from his pack for the duration of the hike. He is enjoying the warmer temperatures and is able to occasionally stop during the day without getting cold. Normally, he would just hike continuously since he wears light clothing and stopping in the cold weather for any length of time has been too uncomfortable. Thus, for the past two months, Andrew usually made very short phone calls home from the outdoor pay phones. Also, the morning pack-up has become easier. There is no longer a need to run in place to keep his body warm. Andrew has welcomed the warmer temperatures. It is really beginning to feel like spring.

Posted in on April 2, 2005

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