Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spring Flowers, Red Squirrel, and White Pine

While walking back from the waterfalls in Munising yesterday, I spotted these incredible purple flowers.

I also spotted this red squirrel. Given the damage they have done to my house, they are not my favorite animal. However, this little squirrel was living in the woods and having a good time gathering nesting material.

Michigan's state tree is the Eastern White Pine. Before the lumber boom that took place between 1840 and 1910, at least 2/3 of the state was covered in pine. In the 1840s, Eastern states were beginning to exhaust their timber resources, and information about Michigan pine began to spread. Lumbermen flocked to the Great Lakes State. By around 1900 the lower peninsula forests were virtually all cut over; Upper Peninsula lumber production began to decline a few years after that.

For much of its history, logging was a winter activity. In winter, logs could be easily transported to river banks via sleds (or, in later years, by railroad.). In spring, when the ice melted, logs were floated down the river to saw mills. Log marks (the logging equivalent of “cattle brands”) determined ownership. Due to the seasonal nature of the business, logging camps tended to be temporary.

Many camps of this era accommodated sixty to one hundred men. Typically, there would be five or six main buildings, all made of logs. A bunkhouse, a cook shanty, a barn, a blacksmith shop, and a camp office and store would be among the buildings. The camp office and store typically included living quarters for the foreman and log scaler.

Logging camps existed all around the Grand Marais area. As many of you know, the chute was built at the "Log Slide." Logs were pushed down the chute into Lake Superior. From there they were bundled into "booms" floated down shore to the saw mills in Grand Marais. Rail road short lines, especially east of town, were also used to bring logs to the mills. Finished lumber was shipped out of town by both the rail road and schooners or barges that loaded from lumber docks located all around Grand Marais bay.

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