August 2, 2014: Tower to Eveleth to Virginia to Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary to Tower
On which I experience the Iron Range, bears dining in a downpour, and a Lake Vermilion sunset
Having missed the K&B Drive-In the night before, we returned to Eveleth so J. could get his BBQ fix. We’d passed a place called Mineview in the Sky, which seemed to be uphill, so I assumed there might be a view. There was — of the junction of three former taconite mines. You know you’re in the Iron Range when you see signs like, “We support mining. Mining supports us.” I can only wonder what this area looked like 500 years ago, when mining wasn’t around to support anyone in the Iron Range.
After Mineview (and King of the Lode), we stopped at the Eveleth Harley dealer so J. could check out souvenirs for his Harley-loving brother, passing (but not stopping at) the U. S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
After the luxury and comfort of the Harley dealership (these seem to cater to affluent, middle-aged road warriors), we found the coffee shop in Virginia that I was looking for, the Shop Coffeehouse. Friendly folks, colorfully arty décor, comfortable seating, good WiFi. No TV, and I don’t remember intrusive music. I could go to a place like this within walking distance of the Flamingo. And I could have stayed here all day. Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, however, beckoned.
As we headed toward Vince Shute, the previously pleasant but somewhat hazy day started to turn cloudy. We had arrived at the sanctuary, boarded a bus, taken a ride to the observation area with a student guide, and seen some of the bears chowing down when the rain came. The bears cared not one whit. J., who must have been a Boy Scout, produced the ponchos he’d mentioned earlier, although even with a poncho it’s hard to stay comfortable in that kind of downpour.
With the rain coming down, the mosquitoes that soon set me in their sights were a bonus. The bears, intent on din dins, didn’t mind them, either. As long as we were there, they remained focused on their food, although a couple of adults did indulge in some growling. The one exception was a comical pair of youngsters hanging out in a tree, who posed for me.
We didn’t stay as long as we might have, especially as the cameras were also getting drenched. Soon after we were dropped off at the parking lot, of course, the rain stopped.
We had noticed a bucket placed next to every tire of each vehicle parked in the observation area, so before we left Vince Shute, I had to ask — why? The visitor parking lot attendant told us that bears are attracted to tires and will chew and/or shred them. The buckets contain bear poop, which deters them. I”m surprised the bears haven’t figured out they’re being hoodwinked.
At this point, the sun returned in time to set in all its pink glory over a lake we stopped at on the way back to Fortune Bay and over Lake Vermilion, which earned its name on this serene if damp evening.