Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ely, Minnesota: The Coolest Small Town in America

Yesterday evening after work I hit the road for some more adventure. I headed up Highway 61 and then veered away from the North Shore and headed west on Highway 1. My destination was the fair city of Ely, Minnesota which was voted the "Coolest Small Town in America" by Budget Travel. I found a campsite at the nice South Kawishiwi River campground.

I woke up this morning after a great night's sleep and headed over to Bear Head Lake State Park. At the park I hiked a little over seven miles, practically every trail in the park. While the scenery was not the most exciting I've ever seen, I enjoyed the walk and saw some birds, frogs, and a turtle. I was able to chalk up three more miles in my Hiking Club book.

From Bear Head Lake I headed back to Ely and explored town a little bit. I got lunch at Dairy Queen and then headed over to the very interesting Dorothy Molter Museum. In case you're not familiar with Dorothy Molter, she is also known as the Root beer Lady. For years she lived at Isle of Pines on Knife Lake in what is now the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. She operated a small resort on the island until the area was designated a wilderness. After that she lived there and offered visitors root beer and hospitality for donations. She also happened to be a nurse and helped out many canoeists who ran into trouble on the lakes.

After the wilderness designation there Molter was informed that she would have to leave the area, but after some legal wrangling with the forest service she was allowed to stay until her death. I picked up a book about Molter called "Root Beer Lady" by Bob Cary. So far it's an interesting read and I hope to learn much more about Molter before I finish it.

My tour guide at the museum told me about a nearby waterfall that I hadn't before heard of, so after my tour I headed out of town to check out Kawishiwi Falls. The falls were more impressive than I expected. Finally, I checked out the famous Pillow Rock of Ely Greenstone before returning to my campground.

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