08.09.13 Bears, bears everywhere! Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary

This is the decking humans stand on to view the bears below. This picture came from their website since I didn’t take one that showed so much of it.

When we left the Soudan Mine tour we headed for the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary which is about 30-40 miles from Orr, MN ad two hours north of Duluth, MN. They are open every Tuesday from 5 pm to 8 pm. Thousands of visitors come thee every year to see the black bears that inhabit the area and learn about and view their behavior, habitat and life cycles. Around 80+ black bears visit the sanctuary each season, including large boars, sows with cubs, yearlings and sub-adults. From their bear viewing deck visitors can observe bears feeding, playing and interacting in the surrounding meadow and woods.

We pulled up in the parking lot, bought our tickets ($8 each) and were loaded onto a school bus for the ride to the Sanctuary.  During the short trip we received a short talk on the history of the sanctuary and the bears.  When we arrived we were immediately escorted to the raised decking where everyone viewed the bears and volunteers were available to answer questions.  The bears roam free wherever they want to go (yes including highways and towns) during the day and night and make their way to the Sanctuary’s feeding place (where we viewed them) in the late afternoon each day where food awaits.   We saw several small cubs climbing up the trees to the very tops and just hanging out there.  We also saw around 20 adult bears all around below us eating and roaming.  A little girl that was there visiting told her daddy she counted over 30 bears.   It was a very fascinating experience being so close to the bears in their natural habitat and not feeling threatened. I highly recommend this as a must see stop if you’re ever in northern Minnesota.  Children and adults will enjoy this unusual experience.

bear pooh buckets
As we were preparing to get back onto the school bus for our trip back we saw this odd sight. I asked why there were buckets by all the tires and was told that the bears don’t like, their own poop so the buckets are filled with bear poop which keeps them away from the tires because it seems they love to eat the rubber on the tires!
bears 2
A baby bear climbing a tree
bears walkway
One of the walkways we viewed the bears from

bear molting  bears 1 bears 3 of them  bears one on tree bears several more

On our way back to the resort we stopped to eat at The Dam Restaurant.  The wait for our food was quite long but when we got it everything was delicious.  Roy got Cajun Walleye and I got a Chicken Caesar Salad.  We both ordered homemade blueberry pie for dessert and it was perfect!  All in all a great day full of adventures!

dam restaurant

Ya’ll come back now ya’ hear!

08.09.13 Soudan Iron Ore Mine visit!

roy rosalyn sudan mine
Roy and Rosalyn in front of the Engine House next to the Soudan Mine sign!
mine above ground tower
The tower part of the mine elevator that pulls it up and down the half mile shaft

Yesterday Roy and I set out on an adventure to see the Soudan Iron Ore Mine which is about 90 minutes from Kabetogama and the Bear Sanctuary which is only 30-40 minutes from here.  I was a little apprehensive about getting in a tiny cage elevator with twelve other people and going 1/2 mile below the ground for the tour. Most of the pictures I’d like to have taken I couldn’t because of the darkness and also my phone camera doesn’t have a flash.  I’ll have to be better prepared for occasions such as this in the future.  We toured all of the mine buildings that were above ground first and went into the engine house where the massive equipment is housed that runs the elevators bringing people up and down.   It was comforting to see a human man operating the equipment and how much equipment there was to ensure our safety.  We toured the location where the huge pieces of iron ore were crushed into tiny pieces for transporting. The Soudan Mine was first opened in 1882 and during its operation there were very few accidents compared to other mines. The mine stopped operating in 1962 and was donated to the state of Minnesota by the steel company in 1965.  There is still plenty of iron ore there but it became much cheaper to produce something like ore in a different location.

mine engine house n2
The engine house where the engine is that pulls the elevator up and down
Exterior view of some of the buildings that made up the mining facility
mine roy crusher house
Roy taking a stroll into the crushing house where the big rocks were crushed into tiny ones for shipping

We watched a video about the tour and then were given pretty blue hard hats to wear for the tour.  We went outside and twelve of us at a time were loaded in the tiny cage elevator for the trip down below.  The window in the elevator was maybe 6 inches from the wall of the mine so you saw the wall flashing by all the way down.  We went down at a rate of 10 mph however it seemed like we were flying down and it never seemed to end until finally we saw light again and we were down to the 27th level which is a half mile below the surface.  We were then loaded into this little train like thing with several compartments sort of like the miners would have been carried around in.  The roof and walls are all screened in and reinforced with these massive steel strips and bolts.  The temperature below as 50 degrees but we knew about that and had come prepared with a couple of layers of jackets, two pair of socks and gloves!! It felt quite comfortable dressed like that especially when the little train started going through the tunnel and the air going by us was very cold.   Our ride lasted several minutes and covered almost a mile of track. We arrived at a location in a huge open cave which was the former working area of the mile.  We learned from the guide who was a geologist about the working conditions of the miners and their remarkable mining methods.  This mine is called the Cadillac of Mines and he explained to us that this is because its and excellent working conditions at the Soudan Mine.

mine going into elevator
The twelve people ahead of us being herded into the tiny caged elevator
mine elevator
This is the elevator we rode
mine train ride
Down in the mine on the 27th level where we caught the train with individual seating cars.
mine our guide
This was our guide standing next to the walls that are covered in wire and reinforced with steel bands

Many dummies were set up throughout the open cave representing the miners doing various tasks.  The guide demonstrated to us how dark their working conditions were when he turned off all the lights and only had his one candle lit for the whole cave.  This was the conditions that they actually worked under which makes all they accomplished remarkable.  He blew out his candle for a few seconds and we got to see absolute darkness.  Your eyes don’t adjust to that and it was a little freaky! After the tour underground we road the little train back to the tiny caged elevator and went up the half mile trip to the surface.  I must admit that the trip up was a whole lot less frightening than the trip going down! This was a very interesting tour that I’d highly recommend.  It run very hour on 10 am and 4 pm and costs $12 per adult.  Not sure how much for children.

mine wall down in
This was one of the mine walls down below that had a light shining on it so I was able to get a picture of it

I’m going to write next about our adventure to the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary operated by the American Bear Association.  Ya’ll come back now ya’ hear!!