I left Duluth for Bluefin Bay in the late afternoon, after dropping off my mail at the UMD post office (where the lines are shorter than the Mount Royal office by a lot).
I passed a lot of places closed for the winter, parking lots unplowed because there will be no staff and no visitors.
Silver Bay reminds me of the environmental crisis there as the mining company rendered the water unsafe to drink. (The wax paper containers used by locals for water safe to drink, when the tap water wasn’t, are still in the UMD archives.) More info on the events can be found here.
When the plant first began operating, few questioned the discharging of materials into Lake Superior. Silver Bay was a mining town and the majority of its citizens relied on Reserve as their primary source of income. But by the late 1960s, residents and local sportfishing groups were detecting changes in the water. Their efforts to get the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency involved got the attention of the Environmental Protection Agency, who intervened and took Reserve to court in 1973.
This trial put the community of Silver Bay at odds. Reserve’s operations were tied to the livelihood of many in the community, but at the same time, the polluted water of Lake Superior posed an invisible threat to the lives of everyone. Results from federally-funded scientific studies revealed the damage the tailings discharge had caused: fish populations were harmed by the increase in water turbidity, while the presence of fibrous minerals—described in research findings as “asbestos-like” and thought to be carcinogenic—were detected by EPA chemists. Soon, the town’s struggle for economic well-being was squaring off with the town’s struggle for public health. Source.
The nearby tunnel, too, is something to see, the Silver Creek Cliff tunnel through 1,344 feet of rock.
Finally, I arrived in Tofte, where everything closes at 8pm except the restaurant attached to the resort — even the Bottle Shop attached to the Tofte General Store. Unpacking at Bluefin, starting the fire in the fireplace, using the Reader Weekly from my trunk as kindling. Cooking a quiche and eating a slice of pie. When I turn off the ceiling fan, I can hear the wind roaring over the lake, slamming into the side of my studio apartment.
I live in Duluth, but the Lake never fails to amaze me.
When I’m in Duluth, I spend a lot of time at the sauna at Essentia. I went looking for the sauna here, attached to the outdoor hot tub and swimming pool. I inched into the hot tub, the cold metal handrailings covered with a thin layer of ice. The “sea smoke” coming off the hot tub was plentiful.
A couple from Eau Claire joined me. I asked them for recommendations of things to do. They said that they came to the resort to disconnect — their phones will not work, and they do not allow laptops or tablets. They didn’t want things to do.
I commented on the sound of the crashing waves, not far from the outdoor pool. They reminded me to be careful — that a few years ago, while they visited, two men died, sucked into the lake. One was pulled in by a six-foot wave over the holidays. The other was pulled in trying to help.
I live in Duluth, but when I least expect it, the Lake never fails to frighten me.
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