We Went 2,341 Feet Underground!
Camping, Day 5
The Soudan Mine
Since it was another rainy day, we decided to head out to see The Soudan Mine. I didn’t know what to expect, but it sounded interesting. I had never been in a real mine before.
When I was little, my parent’s would take me to an amusement park in Burnsville. One ride that I’ll always remember is the Mystery Mine Tour. It was a fake mine shaft that shook and showed passing rocks. The doors opened and showed a mine scene while a voice over the speaker gave the guided tour.
For some reason, I loved it. I would beg to go and my Dad would take me. Every time, I would get afraid when the mine started to shake and I would climb up my Dad like a monkey. He would hold me in his arms and I would watch the rocks fly by the small window. Since I was so young, I thought it was real, even though my Dad insisted it wasn’t.
Driving up to the mine I was rewarded with a beautiful view that stretched for miles. I love a good view and this one did not disappoint. The buildings were older and made from brick, but they were well maintained.
We purchased our tickets, but since there were so many people there, our tour didn’t start for another hour. This gave us plenty of time to check out some of the other exhibits. In the main building, there were a lot of fun souvenirs. I purchased two books, one on mushrooms in our region and one about berries in our region. There were also a lot of historical photographs. I really enjoyed the rock exhibits. The kids liked the scale models of the mine.
We went to see the first visible building on the site, the hoist house. There they had giant machinery. One of the biggest things was an enormous spool winding up giant steel rope. This was attached to the cages which lower and raise people from the mines.
Since it was getting close to our tour time, we went back to the main building to use the bathroom and wait for our tour to be called back. We had more fun in the gift shop while we waited.
We started our tour in a theater room. While we waited we watched a short video with different facts on the screen. After that, our tour guide talked to us about what to expect and highlighted safety rules. Then he led us to get our safety hats on and filed us toward the mine shaft.
The shaft itself was outside. It was open to the air and quite small. Just like in mining days, we were packed into the small cage like sardines in a can. Unlike in the mining days, we were not each loaded with mining equipment. Our cage descended into the ground. I was close to the front, so I could see the rocks flying past the window. I had flashbacks to the fake mine tour as a child. Periodically I could see different levels of old mine shafts. We were going down so fast that I could only see them fly by for a brief second. Our guide chatted calmly, cracking jokes about past tours with geologists being packed in at an even larger number because they all wanted to go down at once. It made me feel at ease and not so afraid and aware of the fact that we were sinking deep into the earth.
Arriving at the bottom, the door opened to a cold, semi-dark room. It was about 15 feet deep before us. To the right, the tunnel was full of a bunch of utility equipment, to the left, a long tunnel spanned into the distance. Behind us was an opening to a laboratory that was bright big and modern. The ceiling was maybe three stories high on the modern side.
In the middle of the room was a train ride. Our tour guide led us away from the doors and off to the side to begin our tour. He talked about how the temperature was a comfortably cool 51 degrees year round and gave us some interesting facts about how deep into the ground we were. Then we all climbed about the train. We were cautioned to keep all extremities inside the car at all times, lest we wanted to lose a hand or an arm. Although we were able to enjoy a fun, windy ride to the next tour site, I was amazed at the fact that the men who used to work there walked so far in complete darkness.
Arriving at the end, we were led upstairs to a giant cavernous room. I was amazed at how beautiful it was. It was basically just a giant room full of rocks, but there were lights highlighting the walls in different areas with mannequins as pretend workers. Although our path was smooth and well lit, the original workers would have had to climb over and around rocks in the dark. They would have had to avoid the holes in the ground to keep from falling into the lower tunnel. Thankfully for us, there were wooden barriers built around each one, but these did not exist in mining days.
I loved hearing facts about mining life and the stories of the men who had worked there. I found out that women were not allowed anywhere near or in mines. There were tales of deaths and superstitions so strong that when the owner of the mine, unaware of the superstitions, brought his wife to work, all the men quit and walked out!
Returning on the trains and the elevator cage going up was just as fun. I think it might have been more fun because I was less afraid. The temperature outside was considerably warmer once the doors opened. A whoosh seemed to envelop us. The children were giddy after the excitement of being 2,341 feet under4ground and 689 feet below sea level.
We walked the grounds and checked out the other buildings and sights. After having been underground, I enjoyed seeing where all of that iron ore was going. We followed it all the way down to where it was put into train carts.
Our whole family agrees that this was their favorite part of the camping trip. I really recommend checking out the Soudan Mine if you’re in the area. If we’re ever in the area again, we’ll probably go back!
We stopped at a grocery store on the way back to the campsite. There, I was able to find a safe cream for my tea! That, mixed with the maple syrup I found at the farmers market, made for an awesome dandelion root latte.
Nate cooked up the remainder of the meat for dinner. He and the big kids enjoyed a feast. Princess and I happily ate the fruits and veggies I found at the store.
After dinner, Cat and I played with my glass globe. I’m pleased with the way the images turned out. I think I’ll use it more in the future. Mr. Awesome found a toad! All of the kids were thrilled with their new friend. I had to convince them that he would be happier staying there, in the wild, rather than at home, cooped up inside.
Have you been to the Soudan Mine? What was your favorite part?
Check out our video!