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Togo: Where the Pavement Ends and the North Begins

Togo: Where the Pavement Ends and the North Begins

Togo, Minnesota is a remote outpost in Itasca County, about thirty five miles northwest of Hibbing. Located in George Washington State Forest, a wilderness covering more than three hundred thousand acres, Togo is an outdoor paradise in warm and cold weather. This part of Minnesota is characterized by numerous marshes and bogs, punctuated with tamarack and black spruce trees, thousands of which are dead in the wet, low-lying areas. The result is acres of bare tree trunks, devoid of foliage — just stalks pointing to the sky like a scene from a post-apocalyptic disaster movie. In truth, it’s just a stage, a momentary snapshot in the natural renewal of the forest.

Togo’s motto is “Where the Pavement Ends and the North Begins,” and it’s a motto that couldn’t be more exact. There are a number of campgrounds in the area for anyone who wants to sleep under the stars among the pine, spruce, fir, and birch trees, and Togo is one of few places where there might be even more recreation in the winter. Snowmobiles are as common as automobiles in the cold months, and Togo is something of a mushing mecca where you can get sled dog training.

Togo, Minnesota

Togo had a post office, founded in 1905, and the town was reportedly named for Admiral Togo by Miles Nelson, the first Postmaster. An unsourced history of Togo states the original post office (not shown) is now a residence.

Togo, Minnesota

The building shown here is the former Togo Public School which reportedly became a residence after the students were gone, although it did not appear to be occupied when these photos were taken.

Togo, Minnesota

There are a few inhabited homes and some buildings in Togo which are obviously still in use, but the only business appears to be Junction Bar & Grill, where they have a Fourth of July parade, and they keep track of the hottest and coldest days of the year on a blackboard. At the time of this writing, the coldest day of 2015 was -35 on January 5th, and the warmest was a July day when the mercury reached 95.

Togo, Minnesota

Since 1955, the Minnesota Department of Corrections has operated a juvenile correctional facility near Togo known as Thistledew Camp, which focuses on wilderness training. There is also a boot camp for women in the Minnesota penal system.

If you’re looking for a scenic drive, a pure forest experience without truck stops or convenience stores or rest areas, the drive west from Togo to Effie, Minnesota on State Highway 1 is a trip you will never forget.

Togo, Minnesota

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2015 Sonic Tremor Media



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Bagley Lost Highway

Bagley Lost Highway

There’s an abandoned stretch of road sandwiched between US Highway 2 and Airport Drive on the outskirts of Bagley, Minnesota. A visitor to this website suggested this place to us after seeing our post on the lost highway in what was once McHugh, Minnesota, near Detroit Lakes.

Bagley Lost Highway
Image/Google Earth

Based on the map, it looks like US Highway 2 was realigned at some point, leaving this stretch of highway abandoned. If someone knows the details, please leave a comment.

Bagley Lost Highway

Bagley Lost Highway

This abandoned road stretches about six-tenths of a mile and parallels the railroad line.

Bagley Lost Highway

In North Dakota, we photographed another lost highway, created by a man-made flood.

Bagley Lost Highway

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church stands in the forest of the South Koochiching unorganized territory in Koochiching County, Minnesota, about 35 miles northwest of Hibbing. I made a five hour drive from the Red River Valley to photograph this place at peak fall color in October of 2015.

An autumn drive through the Iron Range to reach this place is a treat like few others I’ve ever experienced. The small communities along the drive have a particular character — adorned in the color of rust, it’s almost as if they’re carved into the landscape, and in some places, they are. Working-class neighborhoods line the streets, where men and women work largely blue-collar jobs, equally at home operating heavy machinery as they are working with their hands. A dugout on a local baseball field shows two shades of paint, one layer applied decades earlier, beneath a more recent application, and a banner reads “Spartans.”

I turned north off of Highway 169 between Grand Rapids and Hibbing, where the highway winds past granite outcrops, and aged piles of boulders and mine tailings dot the landscape, and it was very clear that this part of northern Minnesota is the home of can-do people. The unending wilderness was intimidating to a city-dweller like myself, and thoughts of what might happen in the event of a car breakdown or an adverse weather event were not easy to banish from my mind.

The last forty miles took nearly an hour as I drove on a winding, undulating, two-lane forest highway in a hard rainstorm that seemed to spring up out of nowhere. The drive took me through Togo, Minnesota, home to an abandoned public school, and finally I had arrived at this place.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

I was surprised first and foremost to discover this church in excellent condition. I had seen a photo of it on Google Earth, and it appeared to be in deteriorating condition. As it turns out, this church has undergone at least two restorations — one in 1995, and another in 2011-2012. There are two metal plaques on the front of the church listing donors for both projects. The restorations, in light of the remote location, are another example of the determination of the people who inhabit this part of Minnesota.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

The sign reads:

Built in 1917-18 by the Lucachick & Sorokie families and many other neighbors. The church land was donated by the Lucachicks and the cemetery land by the sorokies.

Work still to be done: window sills & frames, replace the front doors with original design wood panel doors, repair the dome, repair various interior features and foundation.

Please send your tax deductible donation to: St. Peter & St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Todd Lucachick
18469 Sugar Lake Trail
Cohasset, MN  55721

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox churches are fairly common in northern Minnesota, North Dakota, and across the border in Manitoba, too.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Technically, this church is located in Bramble, Minnesota, which is an unorganized community — really, more of a rural cluster of residences than a town.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

If you enjoy churches like this, please consider ordering our hardcover coffee table book, Churches of the High Plains.

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

St. Peter and St. Paul Russian Orthodox Church

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media



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Colors of Autumn in Tamarac

Colors of Autumn in Tamarac

Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge lies just north of Rochert, Minnesota, about twenty minutes northeast of Detroit Lakes. The US Fish & Wildlife website describes Tamarac like this:

“Tamarac lies in the heart of one of the most diverse transition zones in North America. Here Eastern deciduous hardwoods, Northern coniferous forests and Western tall grass prairie converge, creating a rich assemblage of both plants and animals. Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge was established as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife by Executive Order 7902, dated May 31, 1938.”

I went out looking for some fall colors on the roadside and found more than enough here. These photos were taken in the second week of October, 2015, on the hiking trail known as Old Indian Trail.

Old Indian Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Old Indian Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

The inscription on the monument reads:

“This trail was used by early settlers and Indians to reach the maple sugar and wild rice campsite located at the north end of Tamarac Lake. It extended east to the Ottertail River and then brached to the south and north the south branch followed along the west side of the Ottertail to the centuries old Indian crossing and campground at the outlet of Rice Lake now known as Mitchell Dam. The north branch followed along the Ottertail River to the outlet of round lake. Five miles north of this location the heavily used Yellowhead Indian trail joined the Ottertail. Look for this trail at the marker near the ancient Sioux burial ground.”

“Most of the maple forests in the vicinity of Tamarac Lake were used by the indians until the 1930’s. The trees were gashed into the sapwood and the maple sap was collected in birchbark containers placed at the base of the trees look for swollen bases on the larger maple trees along the trail the clearing to the north of this marker is the original family settler clearing of Mr. Ole Dahl who occupied the site in 1905.”

Old Indian Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Old Indian Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

I walked about half-way up the trail with my family and we encountered a dozen other hiking parties and photographers. This is a popular place in the fall.

Old Indian Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Old Indian Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Old Indian Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Old Indian Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Old Indian Trail, Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media

Canal Park and Aerial Lift Bridge

Canal Park and Aerial Lift Bridge

Canal Park in Duluth is a very enjoyable place to spend some time if you love the outdoors, the water, and drinking and dining.  The main attraction is really the aerial lift bridge, but there is a ton to see and do.  We visited for three days and had a great time.

Pictured above are the two lighthouses at the tip of each pier at the entrance from Lake Superior to the Duluth-Superior Harbor.  The ships travel the channel in between the two piers, under the aerial lift bridge.

This is the aerial lift bridge.  It is an amazing sight.  It started out as an aerial transporter — or gondola — bridge.  It was one of only two transporter bridges ever constructed in the United States.  Originally, a gondola hung from the superstructure, and vehicles would be loaded onto the gondola, and then transported across the harbor — like a ferry suspended from the bridge.  In 1930, the gondola was replaced with the lift bridge road surface — a roadway that raises and lowers every half hour to allow ships to pass underneath.

This lighthouse resides on the north pier and is a popular tourist destination.  It’s is a stone’s throw from the Comfort Suites, right on the Lakewalk.

In the photo above, you can see the lift bridge going up on the right to allow our boat to pass underneath.  The traffic in canal park gets pretty hairy every time this bridge goes up.

This small bridge is actually a draw bridge which breaks open in the center and raises in two pieces.  It marks the entrance between the harbor and the marina.

We took a Lake Superior and Harbor cruise on this boat, the Vista Star.  The Vista Fleet is a very affordable and fun way to spend an afternoon in Canal Park, Duluth.

When we woke up on the second day of our trip, a fog had rolled in off Lake Superior.

Below is a bird’s eye view of Canal Park.  You can see the lift bridge left of center.  On the left is Lake Superior, and on the right is the Duluth Harbor.

Photos by Troy, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse and the state park of the same name are about 40 minutes northeast of Duluth, just down the highway from Two Harbors.  It is a very enjoyable stop on the North Shore of Lake Superior, highly recommended if you’re in the area.

This is the former staff housing and restored lighthouse keeper’s residence.

This is the former Tramway cable house.  The concrete pillars to the left once supported a railroad track which ran all the way down to Lake Superior.  It was used to haul all the materials the keeper needed from ships on the lake up to the lighthouse.  In 1934, a road was finally built to the lighthouse, and the tramway fell out of use.  Today there is a very long wooden stairway which runs beside the old tramway, down to the beach.  It’s beautiful, and it’s also quite a workout.

See Also: Vintage View of Split Rock Lighthouse

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC


McHugh: Part Two

McHugh: Part Two

We followed Old Highway 10 to the southeast and discovered the spot where it intersects with the present highway 10.  Note the double lanes crossing from right to left.  Traffic speeds by all day, oblivious to this passing lane.

This short stretch is right out in the open and visible from Highway 10 as you approach Detroit Lakes from the east.

This is our third gallery of stuff from the lost highway. Go back and read from the beginning.

Photos by Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

McHugh: Part One

McHugh: Part One

This is a closed section of Old Highway 10 near Detroit Lakes.  It was bypassed and abandoned when Highway 10 was widened and improved.

Terry and I made a trip to the “Lost Highway’ in May of 2011.  The buds were just barely showing on the trees after a cold spring.  Within moments of our arrival, the owner showed up, graciously gave us permission to photograph the property, and clued us in to the history of the place.

This section of old highway 10 is one of the last remnants of a railroad stop known as McHugh, Minnesota.  He also told us one of the final standing structures from the town that was once McHugh collapsed in the winter of 2010 under heavy snow.

A vacant home stares down the railroad tracks from a ridge overlooking McHugh.

I had explored this part of the Lost Highway before, in the fall of 2010.  You can see the pictures from that visit here.  However I was unaware there was another section of Old Highway 10 yet to be photographed.  See it in part two.

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

US 10: Vanishing Lost Highway

US 10: Vanishing Lost Highway

This is the former US Highway 10 near Detroit Lakes.  It was closed in the seventies when Highway 10 was widened to four lanes, leaving this stretch blocked-off and abandoned.

Old Highway 10

Old Highway 10

Today, deer and snowmobiles are the only traffic.  These photos were taken in the fall of 2010.

Old Highway 10

Through every crack in the pavement, nature intrudes.

Old Highway 10

The hike through here is effortless and the photo opportunities in the fall are incredible.  I had to ask around on my Facebook for directions, but it was pretty easy to find with a little help from Google Earth.

Old Highway 10

We photographed another lost highway near Bagley, and one in North Dakota, created by a man-made flood.

Old Highway 10

In another century, this highway will be virtually indistinguishable from the landscape.

Old Highway 10

This visit to the lost highway was in the fall of 2010 and I was unaware of a deeper history waiting to be discovered.  In the spring of 2011, we would find out this was much more than simply a closed section of blacktop.  Continue the story here.

Photos by Troy Larson, copyright Sonic Tremor Media LLC

Moorhead Flood 2009

Moorhead Flood 2009

These photos taken on March 28th, 2009.  They originally predicted the crest for the the 29th, but I think this ended up being the day the Red actually crested.  These photos taken from the Veterans Memorial Bridge on Main Avenue in Moorhead.