The marble and the manhole cover

Found a marble in the sand at the end of Minnesota Point, miles away from the nearest tiddlywinks game. (Photo by Jennifer Moore)
Found a marble in the sand at the end of Minnesota Point, miles away from the nearest tiddlywinks game. (Photo by Jennifer Moore)

Manhole covers don’t belong in a river bottom.

Marbles don’t belong on a beach.

But that’s where you find such things in Duluth.

There are all kinds of secret nooks and crannies in this city and most of them involve water. Jen and I like to explore these places whenever time and weather allows us. It’s good exercise and we usually discover beautiful and strange things.

Take Tischer Creek, for example.

I’ve probably driven over Tischer Creek on the Superior Street bridge a hundred times in the last year. It’s a wide concrete bridge always busy with buses, pick-up trucks and commuters heading back into their comfortable east side neighborhoods.

But sometimes I see multiple vehicles parked on the extra-wide bridge deck.

“There must be something down there,” I told Jen one day.

So we decided to check it out.

Guess what? There is something below the Superior Street bridge at Tischer Creek: An amazing river canyon filled with waterfalls, roaring rapids, steep cliffs, soaring pine trees, a foot bridge network and rock stairways. Disneyland couldn’t build a better river canyon.

While wandering through this little crack of wilderness I found something to remind us we were still in the middle of city. A stray manhole cover. The rusty chunk of iron sat in a shallow set of river rapids like a dead tree stump. Nearby a waterfall maybe 20 feet high spread itself across a rock wall. A downed pine blocked a foot path.

Manhole covers don’t float, so how did this get here?

I find myself asking that question a lot in Duluth: How did this get here?

Two weeks ago, Jen and I decided to explore Minnesota Point, a chunk of beach that rolls out five or six miles beyond the aerial lift bridge.

At the end of the road, near a small airport, a trail takes hikers into a quiet, wooded area. The trail branches out in different directions. Hikers can can turn left for the roaring waves and endless views of Lake Superior or turn right to watch the hustle and bustle of Duluth-Superior Harbor. Jen and I hiked out to the end of the point where a giant ore boat made its way through a ship canal. We stood in the wind and sun on a concrete pier and witnessed the slow motion departure. It was like somebody tipped over the IDS tower and set it adrift.

On the way back, we climbed over a sand dune near the Lake Superior shore line. I looked down and saw something odd: A marble.

Yup, there in the sand was a small, brown and white marble. The glass ball had lost its shine, but its weather worn colors were still as strong and bold as beagle coloring.

Marbles don’t float, so how did this thing get here?

I put the marble in my pocket, took it home and plopped it in a jar with my Maine sea glass collection. It seemed like a worthy place.

The manhole cover?

That won’t fit in my pocket, but I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it.

It must have been a long journey for this manhole cover to find its way to the bottom of Tischer Creek.
It must have been a long journey for this manhole cover to find its way to the bottom of Tischer Creek.
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