I know some of you must have been worried. You perhaps had a sudden premonition that something must be wrong with Kathy over at Opening the Door, Walking Outside. Perhaps you fretted. Frowned. Momentarily thought about me.
Thank you. It’s all OK now. We’re back home, safe and sound. We’ve taken off our sopping wet clothes and we’re celebrating a dry house, safety, knowing where we are! After a very very hot bath, I’m sipping jasmine tea and attempting to decompress from this afternoon’s outdoor adventure.
Ready for a story?
It may be a long story with a slew of photos. Here was our mission, should we choose to accept it. Our friend Cathy drew a detailed back-country map with directions to reach the Rock Cut. The Rock Cut is way back in the bush, down crazy logging roads. You can’t reach it unless you have directions with mileages written on it. You turn here, you turn there, you say a little prayer, you turn the wrong way, you consult your map, you plan on spending the night in the car, you ask your husband if you can build a debris hut of leaves INSIDE the car if you’re stranded. He says, no, we’ll be walking if the car dies. You sigh and say another prayer.
So we have the infamous map. Thank goodness. First, we head off the wrong way. Bouncing along rough graded roads with Grandma’s 1995 Buick. You see, we couldn’t take the 1949 four-wheel drive Studebaker. It has no odometer. We needed the odometer more than the four-wheel drive. Or so we thought.
We headed off down the wrong road, turned back, followed the map even more closely. Up into the higher elevations we climbed. The rain gave way to snow. Yep, it was snowing up there in the high country. Pretty soon there was snow on the ground. Pretty soon the road began to look slightly challenging. We hit a couple somethings (maybe rocks, maybe holes, maybe minor wash-outs). The car moaned. We moaned. We only hoped we could discover the elusive Rock Cut SOON.
So we finally reached the Big Impassible Mud Puddle. See first photo. We might have made it, but we didn’t want to get stuck. Our map suggested it was only a mile to the Rock Cut. We set off through the rain and snow and mud on foot like troopers. We had traveled all this way; we would not retreat. We would forge ahead.
Except. We couldn’t find the Rock Cut. We looked and looked, climbing up roads and down roads. You can imagine how we felt. While we are looking for the Rock Cut in this blog, let’s take time out for a History Moment. To explain what the Rock Cut might be. And why we wanted to see it.
Here is the brief history. In the 1890’s several Detroit business fellows joined together with plans to create a 42-mile wilderness railroad from Champion to Huron Bay. They aimed to haul iron ore to the bay, from whence it would be shipped across Lake Superior to the Sault. The terrain, however, proved most forbidding. It was preferable, at that time, to construct grades at no more than 3-4%. The engineers of this project utilized grades up to 8%. (For you non-engineers, that means very steep grades.)
This little project became known as the Million Dollar Railroad. They built the railroad (with up to 1,500 workers at one point) and then constructed a huge wood ore dock down on the Huron Bay. And guess what happened?
The project failed. Here’s where two stories come into play. I don’t know which one is true. The local legend says that the locomotive made it downhill to the bay, returned and could not climb up the steep 8% grade near the Rock Cut. Other sources say that the trains never even ran at all. It was a failed venture. The company spent $2 million in four years and went bankrupt.
The Rock Cut is a place where they dynamited an almost-impenetrable wall of rock and workers carried away the debris in wheelbarrows. For all you history buffs, check out more information here or here. (The first site is rich in information; the second site has great old photos. Look under Photo History Pages, Huron Bay.)
Just when we were about to return home (and I already had the title of the blog: Our failed trip to the Million Dollar Railroad) Barry decided to hike up a hill. And hurray! He discovered the elusive Rock Cut.
Later we discovered the sign on a tree. The Boy Scouts put this sign up many years ago, to help challenged souls like ourselves find the way to the old cut.
And, finally, Barry snapped a photo of me. Maybe to prove we were there. We have to let our map-friend Cathy know that, despite our crazy detours and challenges, her map actually was correct. And we have returned safe and sound. We didn’t have to spend the night in the woods. The car still runs.
Even though the Million Dollar Railroad didn’t make it, we did! 🙂