The Smoldering Trestle

Well, here it is eleven months later, and the Ham Lake Fire is still burning. Just a small part, but it will become worrisome if it isn't out by summer. There is an old railroad trestle that the Pigeon River Lumber Company built by laying logs across a ravine, just northeast of Bridal Falls. It was perhaps 200 feet long and 15 to 20 feet high. Just solid logs. They spread gravel on it to fill the gaps, then laid ties and tracks. Most of the track was later pulled up, maybe to be used again, or maybe just scrapped. I don't know, but I remember hiking there as a kid, and seeing some pieces of track near the south end. The trestle has served mostly as a snowmobile trail in recent years.

Then, last May, it caught fire. Smoldered, mostly. And it smolders still. Parts of it will jump into flame now and again. We visited it several times this winter and it was fun to see the plumes of steam and smoke amongst all the snow. Even the gravel was hot. The U. S. Forest Service finally decided they would blow it up to get at the hot spots. It seemed to help some, but it's still not out.
Recently, our neighbor John and I took our ski-doos down to check out how it looked all blown up. It looks mostly the same. But there were some exposed areas of burning log that perfectly resembled small ovens. Two days later, with these ovens in mind, Barb and I rode back to the trestle with a pack of bratwurst.

When we arrived, the sky was full of ravens and eagles. There was a kill just to the west, and the birds were pretty intent on cleaning it up. Two of the eagles chased each other, chirping and whooshing by. Every so often, the lower one would flip onto its back, talons extended. Then they would seperate and come back together. Eventually, they tired of this and lit on trees to contemplate their meal, or maybe just to rest.

We hiked across the trestle. After carving some forked sticks, we roasted up several brats until they blistered, then stood around the smoking trestle enjoying our lunch. Because of this stubborn remnant, the Ham Lake Fire is the longest burning wildfire in Minnesota's history.