Iron River, Wisconsin , “2nd largest county in the state and no stop lights” “Blueberry Capital of the World” – is one of those towns you ride into and everyone is friendly, truly, everyone you meet is friendly. I call these “Blue Ribbon Communities.” Why? It’s not only because its so obvious, the friendliness, but there is an underlining community pride, a tolerance of others, the towns are clean, pretty. But there is more, Blue Ribbon Communities have the Post Office, Library, Laundry, Senior Center, Grocery Store and Parks all centrally located for easy accessibility. I felt welcomed the minute a rode in!! Thank you IRON RIVER< Lovely stop!!!
I rode in from the west, from Burle, on the “Tri-County Corridor,” an ATV trail. Now some people protest the ATV crowd. But these mid west ATV trails are not at all like what I have seen in my previous travels. I picked up my first ATV trail “The SOO Line” in Remer. MN. It’s a railroad grade, rode 80 miles on that trail. My brother Don suggested it. Now I’m finding all kinds of ATV trails. These trails are like small well maintained roads, spotless, I have seen NO, none what so ever-litter! They are well marked and well maintained and the ATVer’s have been very courteous. Simply beautiful. Oh yes do not let me forget…… the Mosquito’s. I have been on and off an ATV trail ever since I left Remer, Minnesota where my family gathered for a week. Shade trees, water, grass, straight flat grades and the bridges thus far have all been horse safe, oh yes and mosquito’s. How unexpected to find this here in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but I am told it’s very popular. The states, in collaboration with snowmobile and ATV enthusiast, spend a good deal of money to provide the recreational trails. SO, I do not complain. My ride has been greatly eased by riding the lovely trails. The Tri-County Corridor runs along the bottom of Lake Superior from Duluth to Ashland, Wisconsin. Must have been about noon when I rode up to the Chamber of Commerce building and out walks a very enthusiastic and friendly Geri Dresen, that’s where it all got started. I began meeting people from home, twins! Look a like’s, sound a like’s of friends from Montana. Leading me to feel very much at home. In no time Scott Eisenhauer, very friendly Chief of Police finds me a place to camp next to the Iron River Community Center. At every street corner, (I am on foot,) people stop with interest and surprise. Iron River is not a large town, it’s really hard to tell what size the towns are. Everything is tucked in and around trees and tall grasses, ponds and lawns. Hidden from view are houses that peer out from behind oak, pine, popular and maple trees. The Iron River Community Center is not like the Community Center in Trego which has well wore hard wood floors and a double barrel wood stove. ( I taught my ballet classes at the Trego Hall) No, quite different, it’s more like a convention center. My two girls, Essie and Spirit are on picket lines filling already big round bellies with more luscious Wisconsin grass. And I have set up “home” out side the building on a large lawn. (I carry a pooper scooper and keep everything very clean). They have left the door unlocked so that I might have bathroom facilities, very thoughtful.
This is a major stop for me. Boxes with horse shoes are coming in, boxes of equipment I no longer need, will go out. Wash/repair/adjust saddle and pack gear. Clean up, update website, and find MAPS for the Michigan crossing. From here I strip off as much weight as I possibly can, travel very light, quickly, we shall dance across Michigan, lightly.
It feels exotic, the wet verdant landscape and bird sounds that resonate with in, more like I ‘m crossing the Cascade Mountains again, not Minnesota and Wisconsin. Wettest spring on record or so I have heard. “Never seen mosquito’s like this” “Never been this bad” “ahhhh” I think, “I have ridden in worse.” The horses are covered in bed sheets, (I purchase at thrift stores) fly masks and sprayed to keep them comfortable. It works very well. I have a screen tent and am quite comfortable, but it is they, my hard working Fjord Mares, who must rest at night. Most nights I find shelter. I now carry a mosquito netting large enough to put the horses under. But it is cool at night and the past few days have been over-cast, drizzling, wonderfully cool. Don’t get me wrong there have been more than enough miserably hot, sticky, buggie, long days.
I remember the thrill of having finally arrived, after thousands of arduous miles, cresting a mountain peak and there…the sight of the Pacific Ocean! I cried as I sat on my grey thoroughbred mare Honor who so courageously traveled those miles with me and Claire Dog in 2006/07. (a 5000 mile ride) Lake Superior, although I have had but small windows – openings in the tree lines to view her, is none the less thrilling to see, smell and the knowing we have made it thus far. I must point out I am doing a number of short hauls. Remember the Long Riders Guild of which I am a member, defines a long ride as one continuous journey of 1000 miles. Now it is near impossible to ride across this area without a haul the risk to the horses and drivers far exceeds my desire of riding a dangerous bridge, or through a city or over a freeway. Which I have done in the past and now have the sense not to. I will need two more hauls one across the Mackinaw Bridge between the Upper Peninsula (referred to as “PU” in these parts) and the lower mainland of Michigan. I will also haul around the Toledo, Detroit, Cleveland complex. I will stay away from that area, and that will entail a 150 or so mile haul. I have ridden many miles, care a great deal about about my horses and know the risk of riding such heavily traveled truck and car roads to attempt crossing such dense populations.
The horses, Essie Pearl and Montana Spirit are in tip-top shape, people ohhh and ahhhh at them. When the weather is hot I pull gear from their backs every two hours. Let them roll and wash with cool water which is everywhere!!! We swim in lakes when ever possible and I let them eat as we walk. I’m very proud of them, they deserve any and all attention to ensure good health and comfort.
We are off in the morning, Happy Trails Bernice
ride into Remer, ( Ed Streeper gave me a lift to Walker, MN. or I would never had made this meeting with family)
Remer, MN. I spent a week visiting with family, holding babies, enjoying the company of brother and sister-in-laws, sister Kathryn(grandmother to all) my brother Donny, niece’s and nephew’s. For the most part the entire week rained and stormed but a couple of fishing excursions, on nearby lakes, were managed. A Very nourishing family time.
June 17th – resume Soo Line ATV trail
chokecherry trees fill with berries, eat wild strawberries, lots of dandolin greens
June 18th – meet with five women whom I attended High School with in McGregor, MN. Had not see 4 of them since graduating from Elk River High. What a stop to much to write about!!!!
June 19th 20th – spend two nights at the barn of Franklin and Darlene Turnock sleeping, exhausted!! I needed sleep badly. It felt like a cave, an old dairy barn, low ceiling, dark cool like a cave. I slept all day while Franklin kept an eye on my two girls picketed outside his machine shop that he was busy working in all afternoon.
June 21st – Lois and Frank Klejeski, Moose Lake, MN. In barn. Draft horse enthusiast, fresh eggs, Newspaper reporter, Lois Johnson came out.
Very wet, swampy land. THE BIRDS!
June 22nd – Sue Jeffers lets me camp in her horse barn the horses have stalls and hay!
June 23rd – spend night behind Copper Kettle Bar, beautiful park like setting, soft ball field, pick-nick area, ate, nice evening.
Receive tip of another ATV trails head for Iron River, WI.
June 24th – many guests stop by to visit my camp here in Iron River, David Grote brings a fresh garden salad that I swear was the best salad I have EVER eaten, taste buds did not know what to do with the flavors, delicious.
Duluth is sending out TV reporter. Prepare for next stretch to Iron River, MICHIGAN!